Oh Channel 4, back in the eighties you truly did make efforts towards programming that was not only sincerely entertaining, but also highlighted the social and political inequities of the Thatcherite system. Soaps such as 'Brookside', films that highlighted the situation of minorities and extent of social deprivation such as 'My Beautiful Laundrette', and biting satire (at least the stuff not featuring Ben Elton) such as the 'Comic Strip Presents'.
Nowadays Channel 4 seem perfectly happy with racist and wildy inaccurate 'documentaries' about gypsies and the traveller community and thoroughly bizarre game show formats, often with the unwanted addition of a bitchy voice-over. Perhaps out of a slight sense of guilt, Channel 4 tried to redress this balance towards alternative, left-of-centre programming, by last year commissioning a new weekly satire show '10 O'Clock Live' starring the comedians Charlie Brooker, David Mitchell, Jimmy Carr and Lauren Laverne. It was shit.
After it finished its run last year, there was much discussion about whether it would be renewed for another series. And amazingly enough, it has been, though with no heedance whatsoever to the widespread criticism and suggestions for improvement levelled at the programme. As I'm a helpful/dickish guy Channel 4, I'll give you some tips.
Firstly, cut down on your number of presenters. Charlie Brooker is of course suited to satirical news discussion given the brilliant and often savage Newswipe and Screenwipe on BBC4 and generally the segments he presents on the programme often feel like they could have been lifted verbatim from one of these shows. Mitchell too can be witty and insightful, and is no stranger to proposing a argument whilst making it funny, as his online SoapBox series proves. My main beef is with Carr and Laverne. They are just not suited in anyway for current affairs satire. Their pieces, (in Carr's case especially)are often stilted and awkward and feel more like a group of right-on students at a secondary school have tried to mount a daring lampoon of the educational system by calling the headmaster a poo-head. This stilted awkward feeling only increases when they all the presenters gather round the table to argue and discuss the current affairs issues of the day. Irritatingly they seem to take this part seriously. This makes it far from looking like a bunch of comics riffing off each other to make jokes about whats happening in the world, like it would be on Have I Got News For You, but more like a group of close, but mis-guided friends trying to opine seriously on something they know fuck-all about. Or perhaps more accurately, like an episode of Question Time where the panel entirely comprises of celebrity guests.
The awkwardness that seems to surround 10 O'Clock Live like an invisible fog is only exacerbated by the fact that it is LIVE. Why would you do this? There's no feasible benefit to recording live, unless you actively want your presenters to occasionally fluff lines, leave gaps and dead air, and sometimes say things that, oh, I don't know, aren't funny? HIGNFY or the Daily Show don't record live, and are all the better for it, the semi-scripted material complimenting that of the actual discussion and improvisation. The only reason I could possibly think of 10 O'Clock wanting to do something so risky is that it would be able to present itself on the forefront, cutting edge, the beating heart, the racing pulse, the blah-blah-blah of current affairs satire, which doesn't really work when the show you present is as about as awkward as someone shitting themselves at a funeral.
Overall, 10'O Clock Live. That was the week that was it is not.