Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

John Oliver diagnoses your local news' product integration ailment with a fake Nazi sex blanket

John Oliver
John Oliver
Screenshot: Last Week Tonight

You really get the sense that John Oliver likes to break up Last Week Tonight’s endless examination of seemingly unsolvable global injustice by occasionally wasting some of HBO’s money. And by saying “wasting,” we of course mean, “inventively screwing with two-bit hucksters by beating them at their own predatorily grifting game.” That’s what Oliver and his LWT accomplices have apparently been up to all this past week leading up to his Sunday story about how sketchy paid advertisements have crept their way into your trusted local news broadcasts. You know, since Oliver took a healthy handful of “business daddy” HBO’s cash and purchased suspiciously available Texas, Colorado, and Utah newscast airtime to shill for what Oliver happily described as a “Nazi-era fuck blanket.”

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But let us back up a bit. As Oliver notes, the FCC’s rules about so-called sponsored content on local stations are getting more blurred each year, with your hometown anchors and correspondents transitioning from actual news stories to thinly veiled, fleetingly labeled, uncritical, and unvetted pitches for whatever sketchy sellers (often of medical products) pony up enough cash. How sketchy? Well, what about the alarmingly large and invasive-looking “vibrating taint-missile” that promises its electronic ass-ramming technology will treat erectile dysfunction? Or the lady in Colorado who scoffs at the idea that her spa’s vagina-regenerating laser treatment (where, again, she shoots a laser into your vagina) will cause any side-effects other than a “mild sunburn.” Of the vagina. As Oliver explains, it’s worrisomely easy for these hucksters to pay their way onto local news shows where their self-scripted banter makes it sound an awful lot like your friendly neighborhood anchor is signing off of some spurious, pseudo-scientific nonsense.

How nonsensical? Well, how about a product called the “Venus Veil,” which promises to “draw out the natural alkaline undercurrents of the vagina” to “initiate a low grade state” of what its inventors call “microdeath?” As Oliver stated, with the canary-eating-cat grin you know spells serious comeuppance, no reputable local news station would ever, ever fall for something like that. Especially since the Venus Veil’s smiling pitchwoman assures would-be purchasers that the snuggly sex aid is based on the field of “magneto-genetics,” a field pioneered by German scientists some “80 years ago.” (Do the math. We’ll wait.)

Well, here’s to you, ABC4 Utah, KVUE Austin, and Denver’s folksy Mile High Living, all of whom allowed an Oliver-hired actress to smilingly hawk the Venus Veil and its “self-contained magnetic field that re-stimulates blood flow” to your down there area, right next to your actual news reports. Stressing the vital nature of local news in people’s lives and the health of our democracy, Oliver—while clearly having fun—decried how utterly, dangerously simple it was to get his “obvious bullshit” a prime spot in people’s living rooms. Of course, he had to hire that actress (who deserves some serious work out of this), and design a website (venusinventions.com), but, in the end, all it really took was a few thousand of HBO’s bucks to get ABC4's “chief medical correspondent” to nod along while Oliver’s operative smilingly extolled the medical benefits of draping a fuzzy blankie over your crotch and waiting for those German magnet waves to get things cooking.

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.