Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Sponsored Content
May 24, 2021 4:46 AM - Season 8, Episode 13 - Subscribe

This week once again comes to us from the White Void of Sad Facts. The Supreme Court is on track to review Roe vs. Wade, to the chagrin of practically every non-conservative. In Philadelphia, Larry Krasner, running in favor of police reform, won a primary for D.A. and is set to go against Republican Charles Peruto. Along those lines there is a brief recap of cartoon character candidates in the news, such as Andrew Giuliani. And Now: San Francisco City Council Meetings' Public Comments Are A Joy To Behold. The main story: sponsored content (21 minutes), specifically in local news programs, revenue source for local stations that, due to vague FCC rules that suffer from lax enforcement, often is insufficiently identified as paid programming. Many examples are given, including three that Last Week Tonight produced themselves and got placed for a mere few thousand dollars, for the "Venus Veil," a fake product that is the "world's first sexual wellness blanket."

That police loving cartoon character running for Philadelphia D.A., Charles Peruto, posted a 35-minute address to voters on Youtube. If it is of interest for some reason (maybe you have party guests to chase off), it is here. He claims to understand black people "pretty good."

F.37: "I Hope The New Different Rich Idiots Don't Fuck This Up," CORPORATE PARENT (referring to AT&T selling their media holdings)
posted by JHarris (10 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Personally, I think this was the strongest episode in some time. I mean, LWT always does well on content, but sometimes the make-it-funny angle has to rely on off-topic jokes to make a difficult story palatable. And maybe because of COVID, they haven't done as many of their old subversive make-a-toy-bad-thing bits, like their fake prosperity gospel ministry, or their online storefront for InfoWipes, recently.
posted by JHarris at 10:42 AM on May 24, 2021 [2 favorites]

I loved seeing a return to their fake branding stuff, and it reminds me of why I'm so glad to be out of media these days. I lost it at the joke about the hand gesture and bringing a ham to orgasm, because that was exactly what I'd cued in on in that guy's video. But the bits with Clooney were the best part, especially his "that's not how you do it" when Oliver was explaining the hand gesture, while lying on his massage table. And I don't even like Clooney.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 12:46 PM on May 24, 2021 [2 favorites]

Does that mean that PCBWay is not the best go-to place for printing custom PCBs? All those youtubers have lied to me.
posted by Marticus at 3:21 PM on May 24, 2021

I've been pitched a lot of scam products (as part of a startup in a sketchy field, mostly air purifiers and the like) and they all certainly have a similar patter and construction.

But that the scam ecosystem is still healthy means that there must be enough takers.

Agreed, highly effective use of a guest Clooney.
posted by porpoise at 6:37 PM on May 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

The parts about the horrible political candidates were solid, the Clooney cameos were awesome, but my favourite part was imagining those local news hosts withering up in humiliation when they realized how easily they'd been had.
posted by orange swan at 7:26 PM on May 25, 2021 [3 favorites]

The thing is, and I think this is why LWT didn't go after the newscasters specifically, it doesn't matter whether they've been had or not. Their job here isn't to query the person they're talking with, it's to make them and their product look good. Whatever reservations they had are immaterial, and expressing them would probably also get them fired, and for what? The piece would simply not be aired. They'd just get someone else to give the product the puff piece they're looking for.
posted by JHarris at 8:14 PM on May 25, 2021 [4 favorites]

I'm really conflicted.

Given that the news hosts also had titles like medical or science in it, their competency for the position should at a minimum be able to assess claims as bogus/ not bogus - and if borderline, to ask relevant questions to determine the bogus/ not bogus line for the audience.

Then again, these people have bosses. Having been fired for an internal whistleblow (this operational director's claim is bogus, here is the proof) I sympathize and forgive the anchors, but my already low respect for them zeroes out.

I used to date this girl in college who barely passed the requisite basic science class requirements for a BA in a liberal arts college - and only with immense coaching. She ended up with a job title of "Science Advisor" to a member of the US congress for a number of years.

Holy shit. Googling, apparently she's an Energy lobbyist now.
posted by porpoise at 11:04 PM on May 25, 2021 [4 favorites]

I posted some information on a figure from last week's episode, Marion Hammer, in last episode's thread.
posted by JHarris at 12:58 AM on May 26, 2021

When I wrote my comment about the "local news hosts withering up in humiliation" above, I had a thought about widening the scope of who was to wither, and I should have followed through on that rather than just quickly posting so I could move on to something else I wanted to do, because really everyone involved should: the owners/executives who mandate that kind of paid advertising, as well as all of the local news production staff involved in making it happen, because surely they have some latitude as to which products get spots and as to how to handle their treatment on air.
posted by orange swan at 8:20 AM on May 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

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