“Welcome! Welcome! Welcome!” John Oliver exclaims with his signature opener as he introduces his newest season as host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight.” Over the past seven years, the late-night comedy program has become known for its savvy political satire, cementing itself as a staple of late-night comedy. In its first show of the new decade, Oliver was quick to note what global events transpired during the show’s nearly two-month hiatus: “We nearly went to war with Iran, the UK elected ‘BOJO’ Prime Minister and the Coronavirus has started spreading around the world, and if you happen to feel like you’re getting sick right now you DO have it and you only have hours to live.”
“Last Week Tonight,” more so than other late-night programs, has been able to maintain a steady, high-quality production of informational comedy through formatted segments that debut every Sunday. The show’s noticeably consistent strengths are its larger segments, those which tend to grapple with relevant issues without sacrificing comedic material. In a late-night landscape where seemingly every comedian has a Trump impression, Oliver and his writing staff lay off the easy dunks in order to make an even greater political statement. While the show’s segments can be bleak in topic, each weekly piece intends to expand upon a political issue that may be unknown to the general public. In past seasons, segments have created social action that has ranged from harassing FCC commissioner Ajit Pai over net neutrality to a highly-publicized legal battle with a West Virginia coal CEO.
From the vantage point of February 2020, there is still no guarantee that HBO will renew “Last Week Tonight” for additional seasons. HBO has been generous to give “Last Week Tonight’s” creators expanded agency in the show’s production. Oliver has expressed that he has “full creative freedom, including free reign to criticize corporations.” After all, HBO is owned by AT&T. Whereas conflict of interest could present an issue when discussing the prevalence of matters like robocalls or joking about the demise of “Game of Thrones,” (which also aired on HBO), “Last Week Tonight” maintains its “No B.S.” slant.
In particular, his new season represents a turn for the series as John Oliver recently obtained dual citizenship with the United States and the United Kingdom. While the question of Oliver’s citizenship was never an important factor in his expertise as a host, his backstory as an immigrant sets his comedic backstory apart. His new American identity grants a more personal, caring tone than in seasons past. Despite the inherently depressing flaws of American society which he carefully lays out every week, John Oliver believes he is a patriot, holding a soft spot for the ideals and pursuits of a more perfect union. “It was a big deal,” he stated in a recent interview with Stephen Colbert on “The Late Show,” “not just choosing America, but choosing America NOW.” The landscape for this year’s season of “Last Week Tonight” should present many ripe prospects with the inevitable fallouts from Brexit, the summer Olympics in Tokyo, the upcoming Democratic National Convention and, of course, the Presidential Election.
How Oliver intends to use his new perspectives from U.S. citizenship in order to engage audiences is sure to be provocative and hilarious, culminating in the continuation of the finest that satire television currently offers. That’s just so long as Ajit Pai and the FCC have nothing else to say about it.