Even a power ballad can’t help this
By Kevin McDonough
United Feature Syndicate
"John Oliver: Terrifying Times" (9 p.m., Sunday, Comedy Central) provides the "Daily Show" correspondent an hour to make observations, mainly about politics. He offers quips about the differences between the British empire and 21st-century America, and he explains, in a too-contrived reminiscence, how a sporting-event embarrassment inspired him to become a comedian.
Oliver explains how classic-rock power ballads can milk emotion out of any situation, particularly when it’s shown in slow motion. He demonstrates this by playing a snippet of a rather uninspired piece of oratory from President Bush and then replaying it accompanied by Bette Midler’s "The Wind Beneath My Wings."
While I can’t deny that Oliver is a clever guy, I didn’t laugh once. It’s difficult to credit political discourse, even "fake" political discourse, when it takes place before a packed house of like-minded fans. And it’s hard to find much mirth in the 4,000th observation that Bush is not a terribly good speaker.
However flippant, Oliver’s routine and accompanying Powerpoint presentation have the atmosphere of a lecture. His material and observations would probably seem more trenchant on the page.
Free of the tightly scripted and structured confines of "The Daily Show," Oliver tends to ramble on. And while he made a good point about the manipulative nature of rock ballads, his meandering chat reminded me of how much "The Daily Show" relies on its own thundering score to punctuate jokes and make matters seem zippy even when they lag.
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- On two hours of "48 Hours Mystery" (CBS): dreams of murder (8 p.m.,r), a news anchor gets too close to a story (9 p.m.).
- A rodent embraces his inner chef in the 2007 animated comedy "Ratatouille" (8 p.m., Starz).
- Amy Adams hosts "Saturday Night Live" (10:30 p.m., NBC, r, TV-14), featuring musical guest Vampire Weekend.
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- Thomas More defies King Henry on "The Tudors" (8 p.m., Showtime, TV-MA).
- Screenwriter David Haig stars in the "Masterpiece Theatre" (8 p.m., PBS) adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s "My Boy Jack."
- Beset by personal tragedy, John Adams begins a correspondence with his old rival Thomas Jefferson on the finale of the seven-part drama "John Adams" (8 p.m., HBO).
- Star-spangled impersonations on "Tracy Ullman’s State of the Union" (9 p.m., Showtime).
- Kitty and Robert turn a corner on a new episode of "Brothers & Sisters" (9 p.m., ABC, TV-14).