Just because John Oliver was so brilliant sitting in for Jon
Stewart on The Daily Show, that doesn’t
mean he should have cloned it for his HBO series, Last Week Tonight. Oliver brought his charmingly wry, acerbic
delivery to the premiere of his own series, but the new show is disappointingly
like the old one, but without bleeped words or commercials. The problem isn’t
the weekliness of the show; it’s the too-familiar approach, with Oliver sitting
at a fake-news desk.
Of course that means there were some genuinely funny,
skewering moments, especially Lisa Loeb in a parody of Oregon’s too-cute-to-live commercial for the state’s failed
heath care website. But the main segment — going after American news’ failure
to cover the Indian elections — was so slavishly like The Daily Show’s signature, deconstructing the media, that it made Last Week seem like a missed opportunity.
Why not include a glimmer of something fresh and original? Even his interview
with former NSA head Keith Alexander, while clever (suggesting the NSA adopt
the tagline “The only agency in government that really listens” was great)
has the same Daily Show-Colbert Report
editing that left out too much of the subject’s reactions.
The one non Daily Show
trick was adapted from typical Fallon-Kimmel internet stunts. Oliver asked,
while pretending not to ask, viewers to put fake labels on food in the market —
“Kellogg’s Mini Wheats, Literally Better than Nothing” – and upload
photos to Facebook.
Oliver himself is always worth watching, and there’s every reason to think he’ll become
more inventive as the series goes on.
Meanwhile, HBO has put the episode online — worth watching
even if it does induce a bit of deja vu.