Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

What’s wrong with 10 O’clock Live?

When Channel 4′s attempt at a satirical news show was launched, more than a few commentators urged caution before condemning it outright. After all, comedy takes a while to settle in. It is well known that the initial reviews of …

Tue, Mar 8, 2011, 15:56

   

When Channel 4′s attempt at a satirical news show was launched, more than a few commentators urged caution before condemning it outright. After all, comedy takes a while to settle in. It is well known that the initial reviews of Fawlty Towers were appalling. One of the most famous notices in British entertainment history related to Morecambe and Wise’s first appearance on TV.  ”Definition of the week: TV set – the box in which they buried Morecambe and Wise,” a wiseacre remarked.

There was, surely, every chance that, as the weeks passed, the comics would find their feet and the show would take off. It hasn’t really happened. David Mitchell tries very, very hard, but, though he raises the odd titter, a faint sense of desperation hangs around his segments. Charlie Brooker isn’t doing badly, but, with only one or two monologues a week, you couldn’t say he was working his bum off. Jimmy Carr’s skits are unspeakable (though his straight-to-camera pieces are okay). And… Well, we’ll come to that in a moment.

There are, it seems to me, two main problems. The first would be an easy one to solve if they hadn’t saddled themselves with that title. Why does it have to be live? Tension can be useful in TV, but, stuck in a busy, complex format, the presenters always appear to have one eye on that floor manager whirling his index finger. The main objective appears to involve getting through the material as quickly as possible. One can live with the fluffs, but the shoddy, hurried delivery is less easy to excuse. Shows such as Have I Got News For You have remained topical without going out live. Please, allow these guys some space.

The other problem is more tricky. Why is Lauren Laverne on the show? One approaches this topic with some cautiousness. A streak of misogyny still permeates the world of comedy and, by singling out the sole woman, it could look as if we were entertaining absurd notions about the unfunniness of women. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are dozens of funny British — and Irish — female comics who could do the job superbly well. Sarah Millican, Natalie Haynes, Carrie Quinlan, Susan Calman and Josie Long all jump out as obvious candidates. If the producers allowed themselves to (shock horror!) employ an older person they might consider Jo Brand or Sandi Toksvig.

Lauren seems like a nice person. But here’s the thing. To this point, I wasn’t aware she was even supposed to be funny. She’s an arts presenter, musician and DJ. Why not hire Margaret Beckett or A S Byatt? They seem equally qualified. It’s all very puzzling.

Anyway, I will keep watching. It can only get better. Can’t it?

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