Last night I fell asleep towards the end of Channel 4’s ’10 O’Clock Live’. I was more tired than bored. But then again, usually I only fall asleep in front of things like horse racing or rom coms.
Adrian Mole’s serial killer comedy ‘The White Van’ never got published, and to all but Mole himself it was clear why. This programme has the same problem – it wants to be serious and funny at the same time. During the last episode I had that same sinking feeling I got when watching ‘That’s Life’ in the eighties – one minute hearing a story of child abuse, the next looking at a vegetable that vaguely resembled a nob or a foreign shop name that was rude. I was never quite sure what emotion I was supposed to be feeling.
In an age when everything has to be instant, ’10 O’Clock Live’ moves way too quickly. The serious discussions with David Mitchell just get going, then suddenly we’re whisked off to Jimmy Carr and a beach ball. Perhaps less content would make things flow a little more smoothly. And four big name presenters do give the show the ominous feeling of a supergroup – you can have too much of a good thing.
Charlie Brooker’s material is generally reminiscent of ‘Newswipe’, but it’s obviously difficult to come up with a good amount of it in such a short space of time. Jokes about Nick Griffin being a fat bastard and Richard Keys being hairy like a monkey are cheap shots – odious as these people may be (one more than the other), this kind of thing brings the show down to their level. David Mitchell interviews reasonably well, but isn’t quite insightful enough to really probe his subjects. But one day ‘Question Time’ will surely be his. Comedy-wise, he seems best reacting off the cuff on panel shows, or playing Mark Corrigan in ‘Peep Show’. Lauren Laverne’s role has yet to be defined properly. Is she the anchor? Is she another comedian? As culture and music are her areas, something along these lines would be better material for her to work with. That leaves Jimmy Carr, the best performer in the show. He seems more measured and calmer than the others, as if he’s just being himself. He joins in discussions naturally and without talking over others, seems to have thought carefully about the topics covered, and delivers some killer one-liners.
Apparently there are to be fifteen shows, so there’s plenty of time. The format is bound to be tweaked over the coming weeks and it may well become a Channel 4 staple, in much the same way that ‘Have I Got News for You’ has filled the current affairs/satire role for the BBC so well. But this will mean deciding what the show wants to be primarily – funny or serious – and also making the best of its four talented presenters.
Saul Pope is the author of two works of fiction set in Russia: ‘New Holland’ and ‘Russia, The Man and Jonathan David’. He also writes for the football magazine ‘When Saturday Comes’….and watches a lot of crap on TV