The next Edward R. Murrow wants to remind you to be sure to tip your waitresses.
The sad truth, even for those of us who are its more ardent fans, is this: Satiric “fake” news is getting stale.
Which isn’t to say that the genre can’t still have it’s moments; it can and it does. But more often than not, the lot of it is beginning to feel like a constant tired rehashing of overplayed memes and schticks.
The Onion can still make me chuckle here and there, but the truth is I rarely go the site an longer — not because any random headline from today seems like the exact same headline from something they published five years ago, but because it seems exactly the same as all the other headlines on the site above and below it.
Jon Stewart still has the ability to absolutely nail it when he wants. But even he has admitted the reason he’s stepping down this year is that he doesn’t have enough gas left in his tank, and The Daily Show’s current downward spiral in quality reflects this. Colbert was brilliant to the end, but he ultimately suffered from the fate of all indie prodigies who gain wide mainstream appeal: he went commercial and walked away for a bigger paycheck. The man chosen to take Colbert’s time slot, Larry Wilmore, seems to be a sadly milquetoast attempt to give Comedy Central’s white viewership a “safe feeling” black comedian, which has resulted in a sadly milquetoast “safe feeling” show. (Seriously, can you imagine how much more electric and all-round awesome the Colbert-replacing Nightly Show might have been under the helm of an angrier Wyatt Cenac or a more sardonic Michael Che? But not Jessica Williams, because I am really wanting her to replace Stewart.)
However, there is one notable exception to all this fake news staleness: HBO’s John Oliver.
And what’s amazing is the twist that Oliver has come up with to keep his satirical news show fresh: He’s doing actual journalism. Seriously. In addition to hiring comedy writers, when Oliver was developing his show he also hired actual investigative reporters.
The results are somewhat astounding. While he’s is not as funny as either Stewart or Colbert when those two were at their peak, Oliver makes up for it with his weekly long-form segments which are — I swear to God — consistently the best reporting on cable television today.
And if you don’t believe me, take a look for yourself…
Here is Oliver’s reporting on amateur athletics and the NCAA:
Here is his piece on ALEC and state legislators:
Here is his piece on the food lobbying industry fighting greater accuracy requirements in sugar disclosures:
Here’s the best thing I have ever seen or read on state lotteries:
Here’s his reporting on elected judges:
And the truth is I just totally picked these at random. The rest I didn’t embed are all equally informative, entertaining, and important.
And if you don’t get HBO, no worries. HBO puts his long-form pieces up every week after their Sunday airing, so you can watch them for free whenever you have the time.
If you aren’t watching Oliver, you ned to start. As I said, he’s doing the best journalism on cable television. Sure, that’s a pathetically sad indictment of the state of today’s cable news, but that doesn’t make his accomplishment any less amazing.
[Picture via Wikipedia.]