HBO said today that it has renewed its much-ballyhooed late-night show Last Week Tonight With John Oliver — killing the dream of the many who’d been hoping Oliver would return to Comedy Central to take over The Daily Show after host Jon Stewart announced last week he is stepping down.
Oliver’s name has been much in the news since Stewart made the surprising-but-not-really-when-you-think-about-it announcement he’d exit the show sometime this year, publicly acknowledging the restlessness his fans had noticed since he returned to the show after taking a hiatus to shoot Rosewater. Oliver, who’d filled in during that hiatus to rave reviews and solid ratings, topped most lists as to who would/should replace Stewart on the show Stewart had turned from a fairly sophomoric 5 Questions franchise under host Craig Kilborn into a force with which Washington had to reckon.
Stewart’s fuzziness as to when he actually would bow out this year, coinciding with the knowledge Oliver’s deal with HBO was ending this year, fueled the speculation. Viacom Entertainment Group President Doug Herzog, who oversees Comedy Central, added more lighter fluid when he dodged a question about Oliver as Stewart’s replacement in an interview with the Associated Press, using that old “he’s got a job” gag. “Yeah – through 2017,” HBO added this morning, like it meant it to sting.
While industry navel lint gazers mulled how Comedy Central went from having a late-night stable (Stewart, Oliver, Stephen Colbert) that was the envy of the industry to this predicament — “horrific estate planning” seems to be the general consensus — Washington waits to see what will be the fallout. So influential has The Daily Show become under Stewart that even wonky Washington tomes like the Hill weighed in on Stewart’s pending departure and possible replacements (the Hill had Oliver at the top of its list too), and various politicos mourned the potential platform loss on Twitter:
Even Fox News Channel star Bill O’Reilly can’t stop talking about it — he’s done a segment on Stewart three days since last week’s announcement. Most recently Stewart declared last night that the obsessive media coverage of Stewart’s coming exit from The Daily Show proves the media has a liberal bias – because Stewart reasoned, he himself would not get the amount of coverage if he, O’Reilly, were hit by a bus. “I think the media would mist over 19 years O’Reilly has been doing this every night – cogent points blending drama with humor, interviews with the biggest people in the world,” he said of the news coverage that will ensue when he dies. “Why would I not get the same treatment that Jon Stewart has gotten?” O’Reilly wondered.
On Thursday, Fox News Channel ran promos informing FNC viewers that Stewart’s coming departure from The Daily Show had upset O’Reilly, and he would discuss it on that night’s show, marking the second consecutive night FNC’s brightest star had waxed eloquent about his made-for-TV crosstalk partner. One night earlier, he’d told his viewers about Stewart’s announcement. “We wish Stewart well. I’ll track him down in a few weeks no matter where he is. We’re coming for you,” he warned. “But, the left – they’re losing a big thing.”
Unlike Comedy Central, HBO wasn’t about to let a major political influencer like Oliver slip through its fingers.
Already since his recent second-season debut, Oliver’s got himself declared a geographically challenged oxymoron with little nuts by Ecuador President Rafael Correa, after Oliver instructed his viewers to tweet insults at Correa to help him with some much-needed skin thickening. Last season, Oliver’s accomplishments included bunching the undies of the Kremlin and making the Supreme Court go viral, with dogs stepping in for the justices because no TV cameras are allowed. His greatest accomplishment politically, however, might have been convincing his fans the loss of net neutrality is as sexy a topic as Janet Jackson’s right nipple – causing “net neutrality” to break the Jackson nipple’s record for most comments to the FCC on a single topic and shutting down the commission’s website, which was widely covered by the media.
Oliver is, as the polls showed, the successor to Jon Stewart — he’s just not going to succeed him on Comedy Central.