John Oliver: Terrifying Times Troy Miller

The full-on version of John Oliver’s Comedy Central special finds the comic liberal, huggable and not especially trenchant, which is not to say he isn’t pleasant company. As alumnus of The Daily Show, he’s obliged to run down some by-now-familiar beefs about America and justice and the third world, etc. To say that he’s left is putting it mildly but unfortunately, he puts everything so mildly that you cry out for something a little more caustic. To be sure, the man has his moments ("Kenya has three apples. America wants those apples. How many apples does Kenya have?”) but most of the time you can’t shake the feeling that pop political commentary is becoming mired in the same ultra-basic slam-dunks so universally accepted that nobody develops the nuances. Still, Oliver’s game for fun, and while he doesn’t exactly knock it out of the park he knows how to keep you watching and liking him. A few too many British jokes overestimate the appeal of kicking the stiff upper lip but otherwise his "I’m a nerd and I’m not hiding” persona is refreshing enough to get by. The story of his flight from an athletic dream to a comedic one is worth the drive to Acton, as are the appearances of "Dr.” Andy Zaltzman offering dubious scientific knowledge. You won’t be convulsed by this but you won’t lose interest or resent the man on stage either. Extras include clips of Oliver from The Daily Show (most of them underwhelming), a much funnier taping of A Political Animal and some intermittently amusing radio interviews with Oliver and Zaltzman. (Paramount)