Political shows have dominated in this category over the last four years and they have only taken on added significance in 2020. All the series in this year’s category were among the first to transition to working from home in the wake of current events, and in the case of “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” and “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” they have provided comfort and information to audiences who have felt a lack of both in the government.
So it’s no surprise that “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” the winner in this category for four years straight, secured its fifth win in the Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series category at tonight’s Emmys. The popular British host has regularly won for Outstanding Variety Series consistently as well, so this recent win seemed like a no-brainer.
Oliver’s show has been quick to discuss the pressing issues of an incredibly fraught year. His show has examined the protests around the Black Lives Matter Movement, has looked at the coronavirus pandemic, and recently looked at the state of the U.S. Postal Service. Oliver might have eschewed the wacky stunts and hijinks of season’s past this year — no wax presidents or Armie Hammer — but his show has remained incisive and confrontational about many topics that audiences have been clambering for proper information on.
Oliver’s win for this year came for an episode the team submitted involving Slapp lawsuits. In the episode, Oliver touches on the lawsuit brought against him and the show by coal baron Bob Murray. A song and dance ensures that is both hilarious and educational.
Despite Oliver’s win it was assumed that this category could be fair game for any of the nominees, all of whom have stayed in production throughout the run of the pandemic. “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” was one of the first late-night shows to figure out a socially distanced format, which many thought might translate to a win. Going further, this season marks the fifth anniversary since host Trevor Noah took over the show from long-time host Jon Stewart.
“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” has been on HBO for seven seasons starting in 2014. Oliver initially got his start as a correspondent on “The Daily Show” during Stewart’s tenure. The series has been a regular ratings draw for HBO, this in spite of Oliver recently ribbing the network’s new streaming service HBO Max.