TV Recap: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Written by DJ Chapman


Season 1 of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver set a high bar for presenting news stories in a “one man show” format. Season One covered so many interesting stories Season 1 (who can forget the Fifa story?) one had to hope Season 2 could bring the same flair by doing, “more of basically the same.” By these standards the Season 2 premiere did not disappoint.

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After John Oliver welcomed the audience back after a three month break, he did a great job covering the major stories since the show’s break. Thankfully the series has maintained the pacing it had in in Season 1 — there’s 8-10 minutes on last week’s stories; followed by 15-18 minutes covering the show’s major story (usually an ongoing issue in the world), and then a short 3-5 minute wrap-up. Because Season 1 was so successful it didn’t make sense to change the format up for Season 2. And the format definitely holds up. At the end of the episode I always feel like I am wanting more which is probably a good thing because it makes me look forward to next week.

This week the major topic was pharmaceutical companies marketing to doctors. What makes Last Week Tonight so different from other comedy news shows is that the issues the show tackles are not always political in nature. It is a good mix of entertaining and informative, I actually like that during the long segments I find myself intently listening more than laughing, it is sometimes nice to actually learn something instead of just laughing at silly people. I would assume most people wouldn’t think about pharmaceutical companies marketing to doctors, but there is a lot of information there that is deep and interesting.

Additionally what makes the long segments interesting is that it is not just 15 minutes of John Oliver taking shots at pharmaceutical companies, but presenting information so you can form your own opinion. The balance of information and comedy seems so perfect that you will forget you are even watching the news presented to you by a comedian. My favorite part of the show is after all the depressing facts and information, Oliver offers a silver lining that makes everything seem not so hopeless. In this episode it was a website where you could find information on if your doctor is taking money from pharmaceutical companies, and if so, how much.

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The last part of the episode was equally fantastic as the rest. John gave the viewers a homework assignment of sorts —  blasting the President of Ecuador on Twitter because he is overly sensitive. Oliver pull these kinds of antics to end with some levity. It is always the perfect punctuation on the show.

The Season 2 Premiere of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver was everything you could hope for: A great opening, informative middle, and hilarious end. The show can remain successful as long as it does “more of basically the same,” which at this point could be the tag line for the show. It would be interesting to see how the show would play if it were longer. It would certainly take a lot of stamina for Oliver to present that much information by himself for longer than 30 minutes. Time will tell, but for now Last Week Tonight is the perfect way to end any week.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver airs Sundays on HBO.