If you missed Last Week Tonight with John Oliver last night, he's back in his studio with a limited, vaccinated audience after 18 months. The Main Story about Belarus, notably its profoundly dictatorial leader of 30 years, Alexander Lukashenko. It's a fascinating report, interlaced with a great deal of humor.
If you missed Last Week Tonight with John Oliver yesterday, the Main Story -- and this should not come as a shock -- was on Afghanistan. Less about the current situation, but more how we got there and what we did while there, along with what's next. It's a good look at it all, though I almost didn't embed it because, good as it was, I found it more surface than I expected even in a short piece. And in an effort to be fair (always a good thing), I felt it bent over much too much, considering it was a Republican administration that got us involved and Republican pressure over the years that had the largest weight in keeping us there. And also, once again, they made a fair criticism but without acknowledging that conditions had changed to rectify that.
(In this case, it was angrily pointing out that evacuation planes had left that were partially empty. What the show failed to report is that the very next day, President Biden issue a Presidential Order -- not just a mere goal -- that no plane could leave Afghanistan unless it was full. And by the way, though I don't recall the specifics of the plane leaving that hadn't been full, my recollection is that it wasn't due to military incompetence, but that outside issues -- perhaps airport regulations? -- required that the planes leave.)
All that aside, the report overall had more good in it than annoyances, plus its share of humor, so here it is.
Bear with me, it's worth it. Really.
Henrik Lundqvist retired today after 15 seasons as the goaltender for the New York Rangers in the NHL. born in Jämtland, Sweden, Lundqvist helped lead the Swedish Olympic team to the Gold medal in 2016. During his years in the NHL, he won the Vezina Trophy as best goaltender in 2012.
So, on the occasion of his retirement, it's only proper to honor the 39-year-old Swede with his appearance in a "This is SportsCenter" ad for ESPN, one of the more off-beat and funny, which is saying a lot for the long-running series of ads are very off-beat and funny.
If you missed Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on Sunday, his Main Story was on opioids. Actually, this is their third story on opioids, this time focusing on how the government settlement with the Purdue company may actually leave the Sackler family with more money over time despite their multi-billion dollar penalty. It will not shock you to learn that he was outraged by this, almost with humor laced through. And with a wonderful Last Week Tonight twist at the end.
If you didn't see Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, his Main Story was on housing discrimination, mostly from the perspective of the government over many decades. It's a longer piece than usual, over half-an-hour, but very good. Infuriating for the most part, but he's able to get some good humor in. Along with a nice moment with old film footage of two women, Rose and Angie. My only quibble is when he gives his "solution" to all the problems -- he presents it with such certainty, but in the end he doesn't really offer a solution, only a suggestion on how to start a discussion for a solution. It reminded me a little of Steve Martin's joke on how to make two million dollars. "First," he says, "get a million dollars..."
I don't like to overpraise something too much in advance, especially for its humor, but I’ve looked at it about a dozen times – and burst out laughing each time. The picture and caption are just perfect together.
This is a fun satire about all the billionaires riding into space -- but ultimately it's a promo for the new Jon Stewart show that will be starting on Apple TV+ in a little over a month. The video really has next to nothing to do with that, other than it's good satire about the something ludicrous in the news.
I don’t know if you get Apple TV+ or not. If not, you can skip all this. Though...if it's of interest, you can wait a little over a month until all the episodes drop and then sign up for a month to binge-watch the show and also the first two seasons of the wonderful comedy series Ted Lasso (which is beginning its second season next week on July 23). Apple TV+ only costs $5 a month.
If you do get it, though, last night they premiered a new 6-part series called Schmigadoon! It’s an affectionate spoof of musicals (with, of course,” Brigadoon as the starting point, but Rodgers & Hammerstein flow through it all, and I’m sure others will, too.) The premise is two hikers get stuck in a town that’s a 1940s musical. It stars Cecily Strong of Saturnday Night Live and Keegen-Michael Key, and a good cast that includes several big Broadway stars -- I'll let it tell you know who's in it. Plus, it has a great final joke.
The first episode was a total joy. In fact, from the moment it started I was burst out laughing – because they start with an overture.
I have no idea how well it will develop, but it’s only six half-hour episodes, so it’s not like they have to stretch the the story and can move it along briskly enough. It's written by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul, who together wrote such films as the Despicable Me series, The Lorax, Horton Hears a Who, and The Santa Claus 2. Paul wrote all the songs (which so far, after one episode, are wonderful) All episodes were directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, whose films include Get Shorty, all three Men in Black movies, Wild Wild West and The Addams Family and its sequel. And the orchestrations are by Doug Besterman, who did the stage musical of The Producers, so they’re rich and full. So, the credentials are top notch, all around.
The details and homages are wonderful, especially if you know musicals, but many are broad enough that even if you only know the genre tangentially you'll be able to pick many up. And It’s overflowing with homages.
I thought it said that there will be a new episode every Friday, but the first two are posted. I assume that’s just to start things off. (And no, I only watched the first one, but I’ll watch the second episode in a few days.)
t's the Fourth of July, and there's no way we can't have a little Stan Freberg presents the United States of America. Here's a selection on Thomas Jefferson trying to pass the Declaration of Independence and coming upon a reticent Benjamin Franklin, ending with the song, "A Man Can't Be Too Careful What He Signs These Days."
(For those who might be of more recent vintage, the reference to "Every Saturday evening, I have to bring out the mag" is to the Saturday Evening Post magazine. It had been founded in 1728 under the name , The Pennsylvania Gazette. Benjamin Franklin too it over the next year. With a short hiatus in 1800, the publication officially became the Saturday Evening Post in 1821. It's still published today, though no longer weekly.)
Okay, now back to the comedy.
If you didn't see Last Week Tonight with John Oliver last night, his Main Story was on health care. More specifically, it was about something called Health Care Sharing Ministries. And I'm guessing by the name you can tell it's a feel-good concept that probably doesn't actually provide the same insurance as...well, insurance. And you'd be right. It's a very good story -- funny and substantive. And it comes with one of those wonderful twists that Oliver and his show do so well.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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