Saturday, 18 February 2012

10 O'Clock Live (Channel 4, 15/02/2012)

I reviewed this solo last year; let's see what two of us make of it this time around... (TM)

David Lichfield:

There’s been a long lineage of regular satirical programming on British TV that stretches back through iconic shows such as Brass Eye, Have I Got News For You to the 1960s and That Was The Week That Was. Ten O’ Clock Live, which has recently returned for a second series, is television’s latest attempt to weld current affairs and comedy together. Many said that the first series was an inconsistent affair, with the output of Charlie Brooker, Jimmy Carr, David Mitchell and Lauren Laverne not hanging together entirely coherently. For me, the show was certainly too long and could have benefitted from a more robust editing process. With the Guardian-friendly image of both Channel 4 and the show’s presenters, you could easily accuse 10 O Clock Live of political bias. But then again, right-wingers aren’t known for their riotous and sharp sense of humour, and where’s the fun in pro-establishment comedy?

Frankly, 10 O Clock Live remains something of a mess, with the key highlight remaining Brooker’s own short segment. During the last series, his venom and acerbic wit were largely the only parts of the show that demanded the attention, and because they are placed so early on into the show, it’s still easy to feel your attentions wander as we move from this segment into the largely unfunny Jimmy Carr sketch carried out in full costume complete with equally mirthless accent. When Carr drops the comedy, he can actually be an engaging political debater (he has a degree in political science) but the show goes for the humorous angle too often, particularly when an interesting debate is taking place, presumably just to fulfil the ‘comedy’ aspect of the programme.

10 O Clock Live still feels somewhat confused, and the employment of four presenters with similar political views but somewhat clashing styles makes the show feel rather cluttered. Mitchell’s interviews with important political and social figures can seem rushed, and the presence of an audience somewhat distracting, whilst it’s still difficult to see Lauren Laverne as something other than a music presenter. However, she does perform a pivotal role in keeping things flowing tightly. The show ultimately could benefit from dropping Jimmy Carr’s pantomime monologues and the other sketches that it incorporates into it, emphasising the serious nature of Mitchell’s interviews and trying to move away from the whole area of people talking over each other. Otherwise, I’ll continue to stick the kettle on after crown jewel-type moments like this.

Tom May:

10 O’Clock Live remains a welcome if imperfect stab at topical satire, two weeks into its second series. The rapport between the four seems a bit more natural than in series one; their personalities are coming into clearer focus. Carr is much more effective during the roundtable discussions, displaying a quick wit that belies the often tiresomely predictable ‘shock’ tactics of his solo gags to camera. There was an interesting moment when Brooker got angry at him for a “gross misrepresentation of a fine computer game” as being all about “shooting prostitutes”.

Laverne had the easy target of Republican primary candidates and couldn’t fail to elicit laughs via Gingrich’s “delightful, whimsical ideas”, Romney’s post-death conversion of his father to Mormonism and Santorum’s backhanded compliment to gays, claiming “it’s not man on child, man on dog, y’ know”. American provincialism was easily parodied with attacks on Romney running thus: “Just like John Kerry he speaks French too...”  “You sick bastard”, as Lauren said! She could have been more outspoken regarding The Sun’s page 3 girls though; Carr alluded to her dislike, yet she said nothing: missed opportunity for some arse-kicking feminism.

There is such idiocy out there in the media that there should never be a lack of material for programmes like this; e.g. the Aaron Ramsay ‘correlation’: every time he scores a goal, a celebrity dies. Plus, there was lucid highlighting of the ludicrous terminology deployed by the tabloids – ‘boasted’, ‘claimed’; absurdity in the thought of anyone uttering “performed a lewd sex act” in speech!

The guests were not overly memorable; a bland Times journo Hugo Rifkind and the gargantuan ego that is George Galloway, talking smugly about the “delectable” – eugh, what a word! – Argentine PM Cristina Fern├índez. Mitchell justly pulled him up on this. It is frustrating that Galloway’s message is largely agreeable, but you resent the messenger; he spoke sense concerning Argentina’s greater democracy compared with its days as a fascist junta and counselled against the absurd aggressively rhetoric harking back to the Falklands War. Yet his credibility is undermined by his simplistic, black-and-white stance on the Israel-Palestine problem.

The highlight was undoubtedly Brooker’s poem about The Sun, a withering – and often rhyming – roll-call of the vast variety of people who have reason for grievance against that sordid rag. It echoed Jimmy’s famous ‘forces of anarchy’ rant in David Nobbs’s The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin. The paper's stance, going after anyone to sell papers, is reprehensible and has coarsened and soured public life in the UK in the forty-three years since Murdoch’s takeover. He also rebuked David Cameron – with his soft-soap ‘interview’ in Now magazine coming in for suitable ire.

Overall, it was not quite as funny or satirically dexterous as last week’s edition.  However, it is at least a satirical programme that can address important issues; though Carr’s skit on the NHS could have been more mordantly funny considering how high the stakes are.