John Oliver never shies away from difficult or tangled subjects on "Last Week Tonight." He's tackled the net neutrality debate and the importance of the bills passed by state legislatures, neither of which are particularly sexy on the surface. But on Sunday he faced perhaps his greatest challenge -- explaining the particulars of why the nation's rapidly aging and deteriorating infrastructure is such an important topic and one that requires government oversight and engagement immediately.
Time is no object to the show's commercial-free HBO format, and Oliver devoted nearly the entire program -- 21 minutes -- to the subject. But even that wasn't enough to make the subject sizzle with that irresistible magnetism the best hot-button topics exude. And it hasn't helped that nearly every politician uses the same excuse as to why the government is consistently failing to maintain the roads, bridges and dams that allow the country to go about its business: It's just too unsexy.
Well, there's nothing more sexy than a bunch of movie stars, so that's exactly who Oliver turned to. Taking his cue from the countless Hollywood blockbusters that feature the nation's infrastructure getting blown up, crumbled, vaporized and flooded, he and his writers came up with their own blockbuster -- complete with an all-star cast of performers.
In "Infrastructure," the nation's backbone is steadily and efficiently maintained with a minimum of fuss. And it's all thanks to the conscientious efforts of public servants played by Ed Norton, Campbell Scott, Hope Davis, Dan Hedaya, Vincent D'Onofrio and others.
Of course, we wouldn't dream of revealing which Important Actor has been cast in the pivotal role of dam inspector. But we'll just say he should keep awards season free and clear.
If Oliver's efforts don't move the needle at least somewhat for public awareness of the impending infrastructure crisis, then there really is no hope.