Since leaving The Daily Show, John Oliver has found a voice of his own rather handedly on HBO’s comedy news series Last Week Tonight. But just how good has the comedian been performing for the network? Turns out, good enough to have just landed himself a substantial renewal order apparently.
Following Jon Stewart’s bombshell retirement announcement from The Daily Show last week, one of the many – albeit outlandish – rumors circling was that Oliver will be leaving his show at HBO in order to take over for Stewart - something Oliver did (temporarily) back when Stewart left to go shoot his debut feature film, Rosewater.
Variety is reporting that HBO has officially renewed Last Week Tonight for two additional seasons, through 2017. At the moment, it’s unknown what the number of episodes per season will be, but one would assume things will remain mostly the same from previous seasons. Moreover, this renewal just about squashes any potential for Oliver to leave HBO for his original home. But, the fan outcry for Oliver to take over Stewart’s chair does leave one with a sense of concern.
The best thing Comedy Central can do in its search for a new Daily Show host is find an un-established talent that can make the show their own the way Stewart did back in 1999. The fan outcry for names like Amy Pohler, Tina Fey and John Oliver are fun, but all they do is cause fear in a network that needs to be trying new things in order to success, and that’s dangerous. Following the shake-up at CBS that left us with more of the same in Colbert and Corden over something fresh like what we saw through the hiring of Larry Wilmore on The Night Show, the last thing we should want for The Daily Show is an established name.
Right now, Comedy Central has a real opportunity to deliver a clear message that it’s more interested in growing fresh talent over seeking out a quick buck – but it will be harder for them to do that when the audience it caters to refuses to look outside the norm for its next favorite. If it’s not an established name, it’s someone like Jessica Williams; who, while popular with fans, is simply far too green to take over for Stewart. Somewhere in the talent pool exists a middle-ground talent with years of experience, but no established legacy. That’s what The Daily Show needs.
The reason Oliver was able to turn Last Week Tonight into the viral video generator that it is, is because he was a man that had the voice and experience but no legacy. He took the Daily Show’s simple first-segment format of fake news and expanded it into a weekly, episodic narrative told over 20 minutes. Of course it helps that HBO doesn’t have commercial breaks, thus allowed Oliver to go that way with his show, but the man earned his two season renewal. Strong voices like Oliver’s are what can propel a simple variety show into something great, and HBO’s confidence is proof of that.
Last Week Tonight airs Sundays at 11pm on HBO.