Friday, 21 January 2011

10 O'Clock Live

10 O'Clock Live is an attempt by Channel 4 to give the nation a new flagship topical satire show. It continues in the grand tradition of British political satire (think That Was The Week That Was, Spitting Image or Have I Got News For You), but it is much closer to current American market-leader The Daily Show in format. Filmed live in front of an often vocal audience, last night's debut combined stand-up, sketches, interviews and round-table 'debates' of a sort between the four hosts.

And they are good hosts too; Charlie Brooker, David Mitchell, Lauren Laverne and Jimmy Carr (in order of personal preference, sorry Jimmy) are all intelligent, well-informed and amusing in more or less equal measure. I did sometimes wonder if they were too much of a 'right-on' liberal bunch though, as they were at pains to show off their lefty credentials in front of a partisan audience. Maybe that's inevitable when you're satirising a Conservative (sorry, Conservative-led) government though, and certainly a show like this needs time to bed in and find its own voice.

Carr in particular is well practiced at performing live, so it made perfect sense for him get proceedings underway with a little stand-up. The material, more political than his 8 Out of 10 Cats routines, was right up-to-the-minute in terms of content, covering the resignation of Alan Johnson just hours earlier ("Johnson out, Balls in"), before taking aim at, in quick succession, Tory health reforms, Tony Blair, the Pope, and al-Qaida.

The quickfire nature of that opening was good, and necessary to get show moving, but it shouldn't have been allowed to permeate the rest of the show the way it did. The remainder of the hour-long run time saw guests hurried through answers, interviews cut short just as they were getting into stride, and the afforementioned debates which generally failed to go beyond the hosts prepared one-liners. Pace is good, looking like you're hurrying is not.

Despite this David Mitchell shone in his sections, both as savvy political interviewer, and in a hilarious rant against Jeremy "C-word" Hunt's proposed 'hyper-local' TV channels, which was the high point of the show. He does this grumpy-man-getting-mildly-irritated-by-the-world schtick to good effect on his vodcasts, but this seemed another step up from those.

Charlier Brooker meanwhile seemed restrained, presenting one polemic against Sarah Palin that could have come straight off his BBC4 Newswipe show, and not a lot else. But if Brooker was underused then Lauren Laverne was downright neglected. Given the role of holding the boys in check, and only starring in one of the less successful skits, this appeared to be a bit of a blow for gender equality. That is easily remedied though, and in Laverne they have a woman more than capable of standing

Next week I'd love to see them cut down on the skits, which were hit and miss, and give us more time to see these four riffing off of one another and going into a little more detail on the topics of the week. It would be a rare brave producer though, who cut down the safe scripted sections in favour of improvisation and open debate. Watch this space, it's going to be very interesting how 10 O'Clock Live goes from here.

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