Last Week Tonight with John Oliver has a history of using the comedy monologue format to draw attention to political and cultural topics. The show is incredibly good at making big ideas and complicated conflicts more accessible for general audiences. This past week, Oliver talked about the long-running NBC franchise Law & Order. He reflected on the show’s relationship with the police and how the procedural's popularity has apparently skewed public perception of law enforcement. This caught the attention of many, including Law & Order: SVU alum Diane Neal, who went on to blast the NBC shows days after the segment aired.
It seems that Diane Neal really connected with John Oliver’s appeal. After the discussion went viral, Neal tweeted about it while also asking those who'd been victims of sex crimes to tell her about their experiences with law enforcement. Neal replied to an individual that shared their story with her and didn't hold back when sharing her thoughts:
I agree. If #OliviaBenson #svu were real, there would be a LOT more justice. I’m embarrassed to admit, I used to think the way it worked on the show was like real life. Then I found out the hard way I was wrong. Thank you for sharing the story of your real experience. #iamsorry https://t.co/5ztHNfHnNwSeptember 12, 2022
On his show, John Oliver specifically called out the show for misrepresenting the police force’s response to sexual assault cases. On Law & Order, the characters fight tooth and nail to help victims receive justice for wrongdoing, while Oliver argues that this does not reflect true attitudes held by police or accurately reflect the justice system. During his Last Week Tonight monologue, he explained:
Those stats are admittedly damaging, and it’s interesting to see a cast member from the show speak out about how Law & Order's producers portray the numbers in their fictional universe. At the very least, one does have to applaud Diane Neal for getting candid about her former show and the shortcomings that she believes it has.
This is not the first time that John Oliver’s material has attracted widespread attention. Famously, Hotstar censored Oliver's piece on India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He also went after the WWE’s labor practices, which prompted a negative reaction from wresting organization, and Oliver remains a controversial figure in China following his comments on the President of People's Republic of China, Xi Jinping. Clearly, Oliver is no stranger to controversy, so I’m sure he had no reservations when it came to going after L&O.
Regardless of the host’s criticisms though, Dick Wolf's Law & Order franchise isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The shows are all still doing well when it comes to viewership and, just recently Mariska Hagitay teased the crossover event between Law & Order spinoff shows SVU and Organized Crime, which will occur this month. As for Diane Neal's SVU, it's heading for its 24th season, so it’s popularity clearly isn’t dying down.
Only time will tell if John Oliver’s think piece generates any long-term discussions about Law & Order and its merits. But he definitely has given us, and Diane Neal, a lot to think about.
Last Week Tonight airs Sundays on HBO, and HBO Max subscribers can stream all past episodes of the show. In addition, the Law & Order will return for their respective seasons on September 22 on NBC starting at 8 p.m. ET. For more information regarding upcoming shows airing this fall, check out our 2022 TV schedule.
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