Last year, comedian John Oliver sat in for “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart while he headed to the Middle East to shoot his feature directorial debut Rosewater. The regular correspondent filled his shoes nicely, receiving plenty of praise from fans and critics. But now Oliver finds himself on HBO with his own version of “The Daily Show” in the new Sunday night show “Last Week Tonight,” and while the hilarity is there, it’s far too short and doesn’t seem like anything new.
“Last Week Tonight” only airs weekly for a half-hour on Sunday nights, and unfortunately, that seems to be the biggest obstacle the show will have to overcome. The show moves at breakneck speed, trying to cover the relevant and important headlines from the entire previous week. With an entire previous six days to cover, an hour-long format, much like “Real Time with Bill Maher” would be preferable. Otherwise, this simply feels like an extended version of the first 20 minutes of “The Daily Show” without any time to really dig into the details of each satirical news story.
Thankfully, Oliver’s dry sense of humor and British charm makes the show come together nicely enough. But again, it all seems to be over too quickly, and without ample time spent on some truly important stories. What’s great about “The Daily Show” is they don’t have to hit a bunch of stories in a single episode, because they have three more each week that they can fill with both satirical news commentary, person of interest tales and comedic fodder. But “Last Week Tonight” seems desperate to get through material before Mom and Dad come home and find an HBO show being filmed in their bedroom.
There’s no doubt that fans of Jon Stewart and John Oliver’s work for “The Daily Show” host will enjoy this show, but it also seems like there’s needs to be more of it, or a slightly different formula to make it stand out and be worth watching each week. The interview segments feel lifted from “The Daily Show,” which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but there’s much more that can be done, especially if this was an hour-long program.
There’s a part of me that wishes something like “Last Week Tonight” wouldn’t have been created with John Oliver until Stephen Colbert headed over to “The Late Show” when David Letterman retires in 2015. John Oliver would have made a perfect replacement for a show to air after “The Daily Show,” or even to pad out an hour-long version of the show that he and Stewart could co-host, with a format that could even more effectively skewer cable news.
“Last Week Tonight” is hilarious, fast-paced and a fine achievement for John Oliver as a comedian. However, the show would be better served airing more than one night a week (which isn’t exactly possible or favorable on a network like HBO) or by being extended another half-hour. That’s likely not going to happen, so hopefully some slight reworking can be done to prioritize more important stories and slow down the too rapid pace of the show.
If you want to watch the first episode of “Last Week Tonight,” it’s available on HBO’s YouTube page right here.
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