Not The 10 O'Clock News

Liam McCloud on Channel 4's new topical show

With the likes of Jimmy Carr and David Mitchell, it’s clear Channel 4 is pulling out all the stops in its first live news-based comedy debate programme. Add political weight with appearances from MPs, bankers and environmentalists, and the much-hyped 10 O’Clock Live is 100 miles from the bubbly attitudes of Russell Howard’s Good News.

The headlines segment played perfectly to Carr’s quickfire one-liners but the debate on bankers’ bonuses left more to be desired. Try as you might there’s little to laugh at about sweaty-palmed businessmen receiving £7 billion while the rest of the country suffers. The debate isn’t helped by the panto crowd booing and cheering at every other sentence, often obscuring the speaker.

Much stronger was Charlie Brooker’s all-too-short piece on Sarah Palin, where he remained as concise and cutting as ever on the potential presidential candidate, outlining her rise to power and far-right attitudes without being bogged down by cheap shots at the woman’s personal life which other comedians indulge in.

The stars seemed at their most comfortable when gathered together at the newsdesk, allowing the natural chemistry to flow between a group of witty, insightful people. The other advantage is that the newsdesk provides Lauren Laverne with something to do other than reading from the autocue and looking pretty. Her sole segment consisted of a rather stale World News piece alongside an obnoxious and over-the-top parody of an American anchorman. Before this, I had only experienced Laverne on panel shows which likewise shafted her aside as the token female. While this show may appear hard-hitting and progressive, it still affirms the opinion that women are cruelly overlooked in comedy.

While 10’Clock Live contains a great deal of debate and hype about public issues (usually to thunderous applause), there’s no real substance to it. You can understand this level of pandering where celebrities are involved, as any kind of pressure sends them running a mile. But politicians and figureheads have always been fair game to reaming, just ask anyone who’s ever sat in front of Jeremy Paxman. If the show does find its feet, then it should start by pushing the guests a little further, albeit in good humour.

On the evidence of the first episode, 10 O’clock Live is clearly a mixed bag. The elaborate and colourful set can be distracting and looks wholly at odds with a live news debate. Issues such as environmentalism and tuition fees feel dated, and addressing the Tunisian riots with a mock holiday advert largely misses the point. The challenge for the coming weeks will be for the show to strike the right balance between comedy and politics.

Published: 21 Jan 2011

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