Rich Howells

VIDEO: Scranton briefly referenced again by John Oliver on HBO’s ‘Last Week Tonight’

VIDEO: Scranton briefly referenced again by John Oliver on HBO’s ‘Last Week Tonight’
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While it has been seven months since comedian John Oliver’s news satire program “Last Week Tonight” featured Scranton on HBO, but it’s clear that the Electric City left an impression on him.

Oliver ended last night’s show with a segment on some of the last remaining brick-and-mortar Blockbusters in Alaska. With business dwindling at these independently owned rental stores, he decided to help them out in the silliest (and most expensive) way possible. Actor Russell Crowe recently hosted a “divorce auction” in Sydney, Australia on his birthday and wedding anniversary that included props from movies he starred in, so Oliver used HBO’s money to purchase a few, including a leather jockstrap he wore in the boxing film “Cinderella Man” for a whopping $7,000, and donate them to the Blockbuster in Anchorage so they could put them on display and hopefully draw customers in.

Oliver asked the manager of the store to call them in the next 48 hours to let them know they were interested because, if not, he would send the movie memorabilia elsewhere.

“I really hope the Internet is good enough up there for you to see this in time because, if we do not hear from you in the next two days, I know a transportation museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania that I am sure could make room for a new exhibit,” Oliver said.

Watch the segment below:

The Emmy-winning host was referring to the Electric City Trolley Museum, where an “irresponsibly large” train set currently resides. Last June, the show poked fun at the now-viral Talkback 16 segments regarding Northeastern Pennsylvania news station WNEP-TV’s backyard train, amused by viewers getting so disproportionately passionate about how much they love or hate the little model train that runs in WNEP’s backyard during weather reports. After one viewer criticized him for making locals out to be “clowns for his entertainment,” the former “Daily Show” correspondent emphasized that he actually loved it and thought that the people of Scranton “deserve a better one… a bigger one… an almost irresponsibly large one.”

In September, Oliver made his HBO team build a 16 foot tall and 18 foot wide spinning model train display that includes replicas of NEPA landmarks, including the famous Electric City sign, along with a working waterfall and fireworks. WNEP traveled to New York, picked it up, and donated it to the Trolley Museum, holding a dedication ceremony soon after that was attended by “Last Week Tonight” mascots Mr. Nutterbutter and Traffic Zebra. It now features a funny cut-out of Oliver’s head on its tunnel.

Last Sunday’s show wasn’t the only recent mention of NEPA. The week before, “Last Week Tonight” produced a segment on crisis pregnancy centers and how they implement deceptive methods to trick women into thinking they offer all their available options, including abortions, when they are actually run by evangelical Christian organizations presenting their own misleading information. Oliver criticized how some news organizations are covering these centers, using a report by Haley Bianco of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre station WBRE/WYOU as an example. She talked about the opening of two Care Net facilities in Schuylkill County in 2016, comparing them to Planned Parenthood.

“No! Don’t say that! Because if you want all the options available to you, those two are not remotely the same. That’s like saying, ‘Hey, our town doesn’t have a youth sports league, but we do have a large scary man in sweatpants who will chase your kids around. He too operates out of a van.'”

Watch the full segment below, with the WBRE/WYOU clip starting at the 16:40 mark:

He also went after Sinclair Broadcast Group in episodes airing last year and this year for injecting conservative political views into their news reports, forcing local news anchors to read off a biased script “like members of a brainwashed cult.” Sinclair owns Fox 56 WOLF-TV, though he did not use a clip from the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre station directly. Not all mentions of NEPA news can be positive, but it’s good to see Oliver and his team are watching and keeping everyone in check.

See NEPA Scene’s photos of the Scranton train set dedication at the Electric City Trolley Museum last year here.