John Oliver pointing in 'Last Week Tonight.'

‘Last Week Tonight’ Is ‘Opening the Vault’ to Remind Us Just How Little Has Changed in 10 Years

If you’re like me, you logged onto Max on Sunday, April 28 for your weekly dose of Last Week Tonight and found yourself asking, “Wait … Is there no new episode this week?” There was not. But the good people behind the show’s scenes gave us something else: the entirety of season one, ready to watch for free on YouTube.

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The announcement, which was made on Twitter/X, also said that seasons 2 through 8 will all roll out on YouTube over time, with a new season popping up whenever Last Week Tonight has an off week. Considering Max is only streaming the previous season, 9, and the ongoing season 10, this arrangement works out incredibly well for all of us.

But there’s another question that’s bound to come up shortly after the giddiness of “Wow, vault unlocked, yay!” settles down. After all, as its title suggests, Last Week Tonight is a show that covers current events, and its first season aired ten years ago, starting on April 27, 2014. How relevant could these ten-year-old stories possibly be to our current lives? Is watching 24 episodes of decades-old satirical news worth your time?

By the Last Week Tonight’s own admission, “Trust us, some of this is still completely relevant. Some.” But that’s their typical (and very endearing) self-deprecating approach. The truth is that what remains relevant is very relevant.

Ten years, oh boy

The advertising for Last Week Tonight‘s current tenth season very knowingly poked at how much John Oliver has visibly aged over the last ten years. Oliver even has more giddy energy when you watch the first season, which gives the advertisement an additional punch. But who among us can’t empathize here? The last ten years have been rough. I sometimes look at pictures of myself before COVID and think, “What happened to me?

You get the same kind of bizarre temporal whiplash while scrolling through the actual stories covered by Last Week Tonight‘s first season, which started almost exactly ten years ago. Several main stories—namely student debt, the death sentence/executions, and the Supreme Court—continue to be such relevant talking points that they were revisited by the show this very season. While Biden is at least trying to cancel more debt—which, as Oliver’s latest story points out, addresses only a tip of the iceberg—things with the Court are obviously more dire than ever. Last Week Tonight‘s plea from ten years ago to pay close attention turns out to have been incredibly sage advice. (Rewatching the season 1 segment made me feel cheated we never got an updated version of the Supreme Court dogs, though.)

Meanwhile, another episode in season one was about the importance of maintaining net neutrality, which would crumble under the FCC’s watch in 2017, three years after the segment aired. However, just last week, the FCC finally voted to reinstate net neutrality, making Last Week Tonight‘s segment about what it is and why it’s important shockingly timely.

That’s just naming the most obvious ones. Scrolling through other stories covered by the show’s first season, you get climate change, the wealth gap, prisons, and more. Several of those stories remain not only relevant, they’re more dire than ever. Other stories are fascinating to peak at, to see how situations developed—for example, the segment about Dr. Oz focuses on his penchant for shilling so-called “miracle cures.” We now all also have Dr. Oz’s failed campaign for Congress in 2022 as a mental touchstone, eight years after the segment.

Hell, there are even segments on both Gaza and Ukraine. It’s genuinely spooky, in a sense.

The world has changed a lot, but several of the underlying issues that threaten our well-being—as well as who is generally doing the threatening—haven’t changed much at all. But, of course, that doesn’t mean that the work we have all done in the last decade has been for nothing. Federal protections for same-sex marriage were finally enshrined in legislation. Discussions around transgender identity and rights have moved into the mainstream. A not-Democratic-socialist president is talking seriously about student debt relief. Net neutrality’s been reinstated.

If anything, the continued relevancy of the decade-old Last Week Tonight segments can serve as a reminder of what we need to focus on and what still needs to change. That work is still important and praiseworthy, even if the last ten years have aged us disproportionately.

(featured image: Max)


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Author
Kirsten Carey
Kirsten (she/her) is a contributing writer at the Mary Sue specializing in anime and gaming. In the last decade, she's also written for Channel Frederator (and its offshoots), Screen Rant, and more. In the other half of her professional life, she's also a musician, which includes leading a very weird rock band named Throwaway. When not talking about One Piece or The Legend of Zelda, she's talking about her cats, Momo and Jimbei.