My "Journo-less" Summer...So Far (Part 2 of 8)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014
This is the second installment for my personal journalism-related observations of the current summer promised, here's a new television program that involves a familiar face from a "fake news" show:

2. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:

Jon Stewart, Comedy Central's potentate of puerile political punditry, unleashed upon the American television viewing public yet another fake news presenter (Stephen Colbert being the first and Larry Wilmore waiting in the wings for his January 2015 debut when Colbert moves over to replace David Letterman on CBS) who appears to be more passionate and focused than the news anchor choices on television today.  Although this show started in April, I'm including it into this "summer-y" piece because, in its short run, it has quickly become my "must see" program.

John William Oliver (we now know his full name courtesy of an angry Thai military government), a Brit by birth, was first introduced to Stewart's viewers back in 2006 as The Daily Show's "senior British correspondent" for their phony reporting spots related to the United Kingdom or that state's royal family. However, it wasn't until the primary host took a directing sabbatical during the summer of 2013 that we got to see more of his talents when he substituted at the anchor desk during that eight-week absence.  Because of very favorable reviews, HBO offered him his own weekly show that is pretty much the same show he just left (with some noticeably "relaxed" standards).  For example, since he is now on a premium cable channel that has very little government oversight, there is no "bleeping" out his constant "F-bombing" that was mandated on the basic cable program. I'm not sure why HBO really needs to do that--I had a similar complaint about such "over-the-top" language in a review of their news-based series The Newsroom.

Despite his affinity for crude language, the subjects he has covered have been a potpourri of politics, sports, and social issues from both American and international sources in very entertaining and well-researched rants. Whether he is goading internet "trolls" to flood the FCC's email accounts on the importance of net neutrality, condemning the heavy handed tactics employed by the Federation of International Football Associations, or FIFA, to guarantee their own financial success despite the hardships on World Cup host countries, or using Muppet-like characters to highlight the problems seen the for-profit US prison system, he applies a comedic spin that keeps the viewers' interest in the face of some pretty boring--but important--subjects.

Humor is also incorporated into his various one-on-one interview segments, so far scoring sit-downs with the likes of former director of the National Security Agency Keith Alexander and theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking. Perhaps the most creative segment he has done involved the in-studio enlistment of the 1990s Europop musical band Right Said Fred in a scathing critique of Bashar al-Assad. In that appearance, creative license was taken with the lyrics of their one major hit (the 1991 single "I'm Too Sexy") to reflect recently released humorous anecdotes from the Syrian president's personal life and the outright brutality of his regime against the people he leads during the current civil war.

With just one weekly appearance on Sunday nights, I find it easier in my advancing years to stay up late for a single show than it is for the four required for Stewart's Monday-through-Thursday schedule (I'm normally asleep before Colbert's theme music comes on). Because of Memorial Day and 4th of July holiday breaks, I had to endure two entire weeks between episodes (thankfully, Oliver posted web exclusive videos on the show's robust YouTube channel to cover those absences and maintain a presence with his fans). I am well aware of all of the options I have for viewing television programs in the 21st century (DVR, on demand, online) but my 20th century paradigms remain strong and I simply feel that directly viewing the initial showing is the best way, especially if it will be used in discussions around the water cooler on Monday morning.

It's simply a throwback to a more primitive age--one where the concept of time shifting was truly in the realm of science fiction--when viewers had just one chance to see a program when it was aired and sometimes had to endure life's cruel twists (power failures, severe weather coverage, a special report about peace breaking out in the Middle East, etc.) in pursuit of their entertainment. It wasn't that bad with the prime-time programming (there was always the summer rerun season or syndication) but if you missed out on A Charlie Brown Christmas, then you had an entire year to curse your horrible fate. By the way, you don't need to ask what videos were at the top of my shopping list when I purchased when I got my first VCR (no, it wasn't porn). In conclusion (and on the subject of lurid activities), I must end with this impassioned plea...#GoGetThoseGeckos!


Here is the previous posting in this series:

1. The Al Jazeera Reporters

Coming up next...hard hitting reporter, truth seeker, Curves membership. Nothing yet? How about justice hunter, philanthropist, has a Gmail account? You'll be shocked!

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