Why 'Last Week Tonight With John Oliver' Was 2014's Best Show

December 8, 2014 5:19 PM

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Over the past year, the following things happened on television, each wonderful in its own right. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson amplified our obsessive viewing habits with "True Detective," "Broad City" redefined friendship comedy, "Orange Is the New Black" and "House of Cards" proved Netflix's dominion has far from waned, "Game of Thrones" kept the shocking deaths coming, "Veep" and "Silicon Valley" put Sunday comedy on par with the night's prestige dramas, Maya Rudolph hosted a variety show, "The Normal Heart" honored Larry Kramer's legacy, "The Good Wife" said goodbye to Will and hello to Alicia's political campaign, "Transparent" built a world at once simple and radical, "Black-ish" showed there's still hope for network comedy, "The Comeback" returned after nine years and Shondaland demanded our calendars stay clear on Thursday nights. All of these programs, with their illustrious casts and revered showrunners, were noteworthy, as expected. But the year's most surprising contribution to television is a show that bucked conventional formats, left us buzzing and paved the way for a burgeoning dynasty: "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" is 2014's crowning achievement.

Seen as HBO's attempt to cut a slice of "The Daily Show" pie (hosted by a "The Daily Show" alum, no less), "Last Week Tonight" debuted to mild fanfare. The 1.4 million viewers who caught the April 27 premiere gave HBO something to celebrate, but the glory is in the details: By September, Oliver's sh...

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