TV Column: John Oliver will fill in for Jon Stewart on ‘The Daily Show’ over summer


John Oliver will fill in for Jon Stewart for two months on “The Daily Show.” (Comedy Central)
March 5, 2013

John Oliver has won the Comedy Central lottery by being picked to fill in for Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show” for two months this summer. That’s because Stewart will head off to direct his first feature film, “Rosewater.”

That flick, Comedy Central said in Tuesday’s announcement, details the real-life, 118-day imprisonment of journalist Maziar Bahari, who was charged by the Iranian government with spying shortly after being interviewed in 2009 by “Daily Show” correspondent Jason Jones, who traveled to Iran to file a series of reports for the show. (Bahari would later appear as a guest on “The Daily Show,” in June 2011.)

The flick is called “Rosewater” because a guy who interrogated Bahari smelled like rosewater. We’re guessing the title will be changed, after the young-guy focus groups are tested.

Anyway, Stewart optioned the book that Bahari wrote about his experience; Stewart has written the script; and Stewart is also producing the flick, in addition to directing.

Oliver will take Stewart’s place for the eight weeks of original “Daily Show” episodes that have been scheduled during Stewart’s break.

Oliver joined “The Daily Show” in 2006. His stand-up series, “John Oliver’s New York Stand-Up Show,” premiered on the cable channel in January of ’10 and aired its third season last summer.

Stewart, of course, is no newcomer to the movie biz. He’s had roles in several movies — most famously “Death to Smoochy,” in which he plays a two-faced TV suit (redundant?) named Marion Stokes.

Philbin’s ‘Rush Hour’

Speaking of interrogation: One day after Barbara Walters got Rege Philbin to cough up confirmation that he would host a talk show on the new Fox sports network, that new network — Fox Sports 1 — revealed a couple of details.

Philbin’s show will be called “Rush Hour” and will debut with the network’s launch on Aug. 17 in 90 million homes.

“Rush Hour” will air live weekdays (at 5 p.m. Eastern) and will originate in New York City.

Rege will lead a panel of sports professionals, celebrity guests and die-hard fans who will engage in “unpredictable” talk about sports.

History’s funny numbers

Did the History channel commit a sin when it boasted about ratings for “The Bible” and “Vikings”?

On Tuesday morning, when final stats came in for the network’s Sunday unveiling of the two programs, the basic-cable network sent out an announcement that “over 18 million tuned in!” to “Vikings” — the network’s first original scripted drama series.

According to Nielsen, the unveiling of “Vikings” on Sunday at 10 p.m. averaged 6 million viewers, and topped all broadcast networks among 18- to 49-year-olds, who are the currency of most commercial TV.

But History coveted its broadcast competitors’ viewer tonnage — is that a Ten Commandments violation of some kind? — and instead reported the number of people who had watched as little as one minute of “Vikings,” which, where we come from, is called “channel surfing.”

The Reporters Who Cover Television did not look kindly on History’s e-mail and issued pointed tweets smiting the network for its rannygazoo:

“Is history trying to rewrite history?” wondered the L.A. Times’s Joe Flint in a reply.

“In other press release info from History, I’m now 9-foot-7 in total height,” snarked Variety’s Jon Weisman.

“To quote Sam Cooke, History don’t know much about history — or math, apparently,” Variety’s Brian Lowry said unto Twitter.

And History repented. Big time:

“Dear reporters, a quick apology for not clarifying key information in our releases sent earlier today, which included new information we had received this morning re the cumulative viewership for each of our big premieres. We heard your Tweets and read your emails, and are humbly reissuing the releases sent earlier. Thanks for your comments and advice. Thanks for your coverage above all.”

(“The Bible,” meanwhile, did in fact average 13 million viewers. That caused show creators Roma Downey and Mark Burnett to boast: “Today, more people are discussing God’s chosen people — Moses and Abraham — in one day than ever before” — and TV suits around town to fire off memos wondering why their minions hadn’t brought them pitches for big-ticket religious projects.

Can an update of Downey’s long-running CBS series “Touched by An Angel” be far behind?

Even more Foxworthy

Speaking of the Bible, Jeff Foxworthy, host and producer of GSN’s “The American Bible Challenge,” has been tapped to host the CBS summer competition series “The American Baking Competition,” in which amateur bakers compete.

Set to debut May 29, “The American Baking Competition” is based on the successful British series “The Great British Bake Off.”

In addition to Foxworthy, the show will feature a guy named Paul Hollywood, who apparently is big in U.K. baking circles and is a judge on the U.K. version.

Foxworthy is a slam dunk for CBS, being very popular in fly-over country that plays to the network’s strength. And when not hosting baking shows or Bible competitions, he’ll play a bounty hunter on a new animated series for the CMT network.

To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes, go to washingtonpost.com/tvblog.

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