10 O’Clock Live is back with a third series of weekly satire and debate. The first two series received mixed reviews. Some people really didn’t like. It’s got 6.9 on IMDB –compared to, say, The Daily Show’s 8.5. Right wing newspaper writers think it’s biased and smug. Even The Guardian accused it of having a liberal agenda.
I don’t think any satire show can avoid accusations of bias. Most people who work in the arts lean left, and that’s going to filter through to their work, but aside from putting some Richard Littlejohn type of cunt on the show, I’m not sure there is much 10 O’Clock Live can do to address this. As Stewart Lee says, there aren’t many right-wing comedians. And in any case, satire doesn’t need to be impartial; just funny and critical. 10 O’Clock Live does a decent enough job of both in my view, though I’m sure many disagree.
The show starts with Charlie Brooker, David Mitchell and Jimmy Carr discussing the week’s events, with Lauren Laverne serving as a chair, corralling the debate. It can be quite awkward and fumbling at times, but the four of them seem to actually like each other, and there is a nice chemistry between them. It helps that all four are different in approach; Mitchell plays an intellectual who dislikes the modern world, Brooker is a misanthrope, Carr is the offensive comedian and Laverne is a kind of neutral anchor for the debate.
Week in Review
Next up, Carr does his review of the week. It’s okay; pretty standard jokes indistinguishable from those you’ll find on Have I Got News for You or any topical show in the world. The most common formula for these types of jokes is taking a current story and looking for a double meaning in a word somewhere. So, Carr makes a joke about cosmetic surgery being ‘eye lifting,’ one about Margaret Thatcher being a pin-up – for miner’s dart boards, and one where Woggle – the things Scouts wear – is misinterpreted as a racial epithet, because it sounds a bit like wog.
Jokes based on stereotypes are also really common in these bits. Any time Liverpool is mentioned on HIGNFY you can bet there’s a thief joke coming. Here, we had jokes about Scottish people being drug addicts and the ‘living dead’. I find this to be really lazy, and particularly annoying because it often comes with an ironic wink as if that makes it okay. It is really widely spread though.
This is usually the best part of each episode, because it’s effectively just a mini-Newswipe. Here, Brooker takes a look at the media coverage of the Boston bombings. He talks about the internet sleuths who identified random people as bombers based on their suspicious carrying of bags. Their research ‘mainly consisted of using Microsoft paint to draw a circle round the brown guy’.
There’s one joke about a Chechnyan crossing the road that completely, er, bombs, but that aside it was an enjoyable piece, ending with a concluding joke about the London Marathon winner being ‘brown, alone and already on the run’. It’s always fun to see Brooker rip apart the idiocy of media coverage of breaking events, whether it’s the mainstream media or the internet.Roundtable on Boston
Brooker then sat down with his co-presenters to discuss the events in Boston. ‘I don’t know what his escape plan was,’ Carr says of the bomber and his hide-out in a boat. ‘Presumably it was a high tide.’ ‘Jimmy, what do you think of avoiding a-ttacks?’ Brooker responds, in the first of two references to the tax avoidance scandal Carr got caught up in. He evades – or is that avoids – the point by making a joke about Jimmy Saville, but there is legitimate questions to be asked about how undermined he is as a satirist now. Angus Deayton had the same problem after his little cocaine and hookers problem.
Carr is the only one on the show who turns up with pre-prepared jokes that aren’t just funny observations – although he does have a habit of shoehorning-in cheap one-liners. And he has a natural, smooth screen presence that contrasts well with Mitchell and Brooker, who are both very similar, but I’m not sure he would be a major loss to the show if he did have to leave.
The conversation ends after Mitchell makes an ill-thought out joke about Chechnya being not a real country while Czechoslovakia is a former country, which doesn’t really work. They could do with rehearsing these roundtables a little more, though I guess they want to keep the spontaneity.
Roundtable on Luis Suarez, and Margaret Thatcher sketch
Another debate follows, although it’s really just an excuse to make some jokes about Suarez and his chomping on Ivanovic. ‘I can’t imagine how distressing it must be to have the prime minister comment on something bad you’ve done,’ Carr says, in another wink to his tax dodging. ‘If you’re watching David; get back to work,’ he says with a hint of genuine anger.
There’s a sketch that follows about The Book of Maggie – the biggest hit since the General Belgrano – with Les Dennis playing all the roles. All that guy does now is play himself in an ironic way.
Mitchell next chairs a debate about Thatcher, with the ridiculously intelligent Owen Jones, Dragon’s Den’s Theo Paphitis, and Katie Hopkins, who is still on my fucking television for some reason, six years after she lost The Apprentice.
Mitchell is a good chair, more than capable of keeping pace intellectually with his guests, but funny enough to soothe the debate, but it does get a bit lost and jumbled at times. Hopkins acts like the squawking idiot she is and Paphitis and Jones start ignoring her and have a conversation amongst themselves. They are usually quite enjoyable these debates on 10 O’Clock Live, and they often get decent guests on as well.
The episode ends with a closing conversation between the hosts. It’s a little rambling, and a little awkward at times, but I enjoy watching it. And you could say the same about the whole show. It’s funny enough, with a lot of decent satire, and I think we should be thankful that we have a show on TV willing to challenge the news and broach uncomfortable subjects; like, this week for instance, the celebrating Americans in Boston after the bomber was caught. Has any other show on British TV in the last two weeks even touched on that? 10 O’Clock Live is always going to be patchy – it’s a live show after all – but I’m glad it’s back.
- ‘You never hear about all the good things she did; like all the mining disasters she averted.’
- ‘We’re a bit like JLS.’ ‘We’re not.’ ‘Well, that’s such a Marvin thing to say.’
- ‘So, he’s fleeing for one of two reasons. Reason one: a bomb’s just gone off. Or reason two: any other reason. I don’t know, maybe he forgot to Sky+ the last episode of Broadchurch. I’ve not seen it myself but according to CNN the murderer is a dark-skinned male.’
- ‘Is poetry an appropriate way for a police force to communicate?’
- ‘Hello how are you smiley face don’t have a war frowny face.’
- ‘Mike Tyson is a convicted criminal…’ ‘I saw him hit a guy. And he didn’t give a shit. He hit Frank Bruno.’
- ‘If it tuned out being a serial killer was good for your backhand we’d let Murray go mad.’
- ‘Here are some adverts; paid for by plutocrats.’