Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Killjoy John Oliver returns, warning us to prep for the next pandemic already

John Oliver
John Oliver
Screenshot: Last Week Tonight

Last Week Tonight blessedly returned for its eighth season on Valentine’s Day, with host John Oliver assuring everyone that literally nothing has changed when it comes to his multiple Emmy-winning HBO gig. The global pandemic’s still raging, requiring Oliver to broadcast from the off-white, audience-free void he likens to “the Pillsbury Doughboy’s ass crack.” He took some time at the top of the show to run down all the ways the former president was—and the current, coup-excusing GOP is—the equivalent of a human vomit-belch. And, in his first main story of the season, Oliver laid out a comprehensively depressing examination of a pressing worldwide issue with no clear and easy solution in sight. As Oliver confessed of his penchant for bumming everyone out with inconvenient facts in his study of how we as a species should be preparing for the next global pandemic, “I know you might be thinking right now, ‘John, shut the fuck up. No one want to hear any more about the coronavirus.”

But continuing to talk while people wish fervently and passionately that he’d stop is John Oliver’s métier, so he, indeed, continued to explain how, with the potential end of the COVID pandemic somewhere in sight, we have to resist the urge to get back to “normal.” Again, shut the fuck up, John. But Oliver soldiered on, explaining, “Look, we are the show we are,” and urging those HBO viewers who “want to watch a British person to do something hot or interesting” to switch over to Netflix for some Bridgerton. “Lot of jizzing in blankets on that show,” he promised, “However much you expect, there’s significantly more.”

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For those willing to stick with Oliver as he delves deep into the respiratory system of various ill-used, cross-contaminating animal species, his story was another swift kick in the rosy outlook of those thinking that once this whole COVID thing is past (which, again, it is definitely not), then we can all go back to blithely ignoring everything we’ve learned over the past year. Oliver, as is his way, put forth a handy primer of just how fucked we are when it comes to the transmission of viruses, our species-specific love of deforestation, factory farming, and unwise ownership of exotic wild animals as cuddle-buddies (looking at you, Paris Hilton and your kinkajou, Babylove) the main culprits. As ever, his story also showed enough daunting but theoretically possible mediation of this accelerating microbial deathtrap to make viewers realize that we, again as a species, don’t have the greatest track record when it comes to putting the big picture of planetary survival in front of our own convenience and comfort.

Oliver even brought in a guest in the form of a sickly yellow, as-yet-unidentified virus (who sounded suspiciously like a certain former NBC page) to remind everyone that, unlike us, viruses are adapting in order to change, survive, and dangerously thrive. (The virus, having returned from a trip to the Mall Of America, boasts about how much it’s learned, promising—to Oliver’s horror—that it’s going to be the one to really take down Tom Hanks this time.) Warning viewers that now is the time to not get complacent but to “remember the way we feel right now and act accordingly,” Oliver practically pleaded with us to not be us, essentially. Welcome back, John. Good luck and all that.

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.