John Oliver thinks the E.T. ending is fundamentally flawed. The Last Week Tonight host stopped by The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon this week ostensibly to promote his show—which just returned to its studio after two years away. But really, Oliver had a much more important issue to discuss. Oliver’s spent much of his career in the news satire space—delivering heavily-researched reports on often devastating topics, and presenting them through a series of thoughtful jokes, rants, and sometimes a call to action. But he is also, quite famously, a man who loves to drop a hot take.
And Oliver thinks it was a missed opportunity for Elliott to not leave Earth with E.T. at the end of the movie.
Every late night interview with John Oliver covers a wide variety of topics, with transitions that few of us in the chatty community could even dream of. And this interview with Fallon is no different. The interview bounces between vignettes about Oliver’s dearly-departed grandmother, his toddler’s love of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and meeting Drew Barrymore, before settling on the topic he’s clearly spent a lot of time thinking about. (Barrymore, famously one of the stars of E.T., is the connective tissue here.)
Oliver shared that the Steven Spielberg film is the first film he ever remembers seeing and was bereft at its ending. What’s the problem? Elliott broke the cardinal rule of rom-coms—of which, Oliver can agree, E.T. is not—and didn’t ditch his family for the titular alien.
“What’s he staying for? His family?” Oliver asks Fallon, who doesn’t quite grasp the issue at first. “An alien you just made a key connection with is leaving, invites you to come, and you stay? Even at that age I understood that the fundamental law of rom-coms—if you can call E.T. that, which I’m not sure you can—is you get on the plane at the end.”
To further mock Oliver specifically, the film ends with E.T.’s spaceship taking off, leaving behind a rainbow. Most viewers likely found it a bittersweet ending. But Oliver told Fallon that the rainbow “felt sarcastic.” Sure, Oliver knows the logic is a little shaky considering Elliott is 10 years-old in the film, but an opinion is an opinion and we have to respect that.
He added that he hopes there’s a director’s cut out there with his preferred ending. Something tells me Spielberg feels pretty good about the movie. Oliver can always ask the director himself—along with E.T. producer Kathleen Kennedy, Barrymore, and Henry Thomas—at the TCM Festival screening in April.