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Opinion: The return of ‘Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’ is important

After a prolonged hiatus, season 4 of satirical news show “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” premieres Sunday on HBO.  If you don’t have HBO, the main story segment will be available on YouTube for free on Monday morning. Don’t know who John Oliver is? You should.

John Oliver is a comedian-turned-journalist, although he often insists what his show does is not journalism. Whether he is in denial or not, the show presents stories investigated thoroughly by their team of, well, journalists. Oliver presents these pieces and adds his British charm, humor and curse words, all of which HBO has embraced. Every week the show airs, “Last Week Tonight” brings major issues to light. It often brings up injustices around the world that you probably have never heard of, or goes deep into the events we have heard of. No matter what they choose to report on, the “John Oliver Effect” soon follows.

The “John Oliver Effect” is the phenomenon where an issue investigated by the “Last Week Tonight” team is quickly addressed by those in power due to a spike in public awareness. The effect is so powerful, in fact, that TIME did a story on the real-life changes the show has made. Citing five stories just from its first year on the air, TIME showed how each led to change in legislation and public agenda for issues such as net neutrailty.  

Now it’s heading into its fourth season with a hefty average audience of 4.7 million HBO consumers, according to The Hill, not to mention the show’s nearly 1 billion views on YouTube, and millions more on Facebook. Oliver beat late night host Jimmy Fallon by 1.5 million live viewers in 2016, according to Nielsen.

“Last Week Tonight” gained major popularity with its coverage of Donald Trump last year. The episode, which aired on Feb. 28 before he even recieved the Republican nomination, has received about 100 million views at time of publication.  Prior to this episode “Last Week Tonight” steered clear of the election to avoid delving into the chaos. But with Trump’s popularity rising they set out to tear him down with fact.  

The “John Oliver Effect,” however, obviously did not have enough effect to hinder his election.  The result of the election led to an early end of Season 3, a decision that seriously disappointed me. I’ll be honest: I was heartbroken by the election, and so was John Oliver. I looked forward to each Sunday night to hear their takes on the week’s news. After the first four days post-election, I desperately needed John Oliver to pick my spirits up. He did … for about 20 minutes. Then he announced that the show was going off the air earlier than planned, to come back sometime in 2017. It was later announced the new season wouldn’t start until February.

So now the week is here. I have been waiting for this for nearly three months, eager to hear what “Last Week Tonight” has to say about the Trump administration and transfer of power. A lot has certainly happened since the election, from Russia’s alleged attempts to sway the election to the Women’s March on Washington to the executive orders on immigration. There are countless events “Last Week Tonight” can go in depth about, most of them likely worth the comedic rage Oliver has made a career portraying.  I don’t care if you’re liberal or not, this liberal comedy show is worth a half hour of your time each week. The “John Oliver Effect” is about to make a comeback.

“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” returns to HBO on Sunday at 11 p.m.

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