Episode three of 10 O’Clock Live was probably the best so far this series. It’s still problematic in places, but it’s getting better and they seem willing to toy around with the show’s various elements each week to try and improve them.
The episode opened with the introductory roundtable and a verbal ramble by David Mitchell about the grammatical impossibility of showing a lack of respect to the Respect Party, before a Jimmy Carr joke about Operation Yewtree lead into his week in review. Speaking of which…
Week in Review
The review was funnier this week, with more variety in the types of jokes and one-liners. He discussed the building of high speed rail (‘which is good news for the economy…of Poland’), the Syria conflict (‘President Assad has got some nerve – most of it in gas form’), and Operation Yewtree (‘This year’s Wandsworth prison panto is going to be amazing’).
These monologues are pretty insubstantial. They can be funny, I guess, and most topical shows have them, but I really wouldn’t miss them if they were removed. I can’t imagine too many people are tuning in each week to see them. It is a gentle way to open the show though.
Charlie Brooker was on form for the Newswipe, packing in jokes with his quickfire delivery and building descriptive simile on top of descriptive simile; so many in fact, that I imagine anyone at home trying to write them down verbatim for, say, a TV review, probably got a bit annoyed.
Last week I criticised the Newswipe for lacking bite but it was better this week, mocking the ‘triumphant, affable pub landlord’ Nigel Farage, but also offering some criticism of his party and its scattergun approach to fielding election candidates.
There was also a little about Alan Sugar – a water buffalo straining to shit at the side of a lake – and an incredibly hilarious description of every apprentice candidate.
The whole section was really funny, but it’s still lacking some of the genuinely outstanding satire from Brooker’s solo shows (or from his outstanding column in Monday’s Guardian). I don’t think 10 O’Clock Live can afford to squander the Newswipe, because the rest of the show is lacking in satirical bite, and this part is the best bit they have for delivering satirical content. I think they need to come up with more Newswipe type parts – focused and scripted satire (but not sketches) – to take some of the burden of the Newswipe.
Roundtable on the Queen’s Speech and other assorted things
The panellists next discussed the Queen’s Speech, and Lauren Laverne asked them what laws they would like to pass. Carr would like to change the tax system back to how it was last year, before his…difficulties. ‘You know what angers me?’ Brooker asked. ‘Several things,’ Laverne replied.
But no, it’s people filming things vertically instead of horizontally. Mitchell and Laverne though argue that TVs should be vertical and that it’s humans that are the wrong aspect ratio.
Mitchell’s new law is to stop comedians making laws, which is a very David Mitchell appropriate thing to say, as is his view on what should be done with Abu Qatada: ‘I don’t think it should be up to me.’
The conversation then wandered off into all kinds of irrelevant nonsense but closed on a nice line from Brooker that he spends each week waiting for the studio audience to kill him. Brooker’s built up a pretty funny persona over the years.
Debate on minority parties
The debate this week struck a much better balance with its guests, and was interesting as a result, mainly because you could actually hear what people were saying. A week after UKIP’s success in the local elections, Mitchell noted that the government ‘still haven’t arrested any gypsies’. So do minority parties make any difference?
George Galloway talked first. He often says a lot of really intelligent and insightful things Galloway, and it’s just a shame that he also says so much bullshit, and that it’s all coming out of the mouth of an egomaniac. He thinks minority parties matter, obviously. Mitchell wonders though if they are just a ‘vanity project for a high profile charismatic figure’.
He asks pollster Deborah Mattinson a question and she responds with ‘that remains to be seen.’ ‘Well obviously the future remains to be seen; I’m asking you to guess,’ he replies. This is what Mitchell excels at; cutting through the rhetorical bullshit that can dominate political debates and politics in general.
John Sergeant was the other guest and he spoke in defence of the political system, deciding for some reason to be the voice of the establishment and its suffocating hegemony (but then, he spent most of his life working for BBC News, so he’s got lots of practice).
Mitchell ended the segment with a line about how everyone is in agreement that Margaret Thatcher was great, which is the same joke that closed out the debate the first week, but I’ll give him a pass because the debate on the whole was much improved.
Roundtable on royalty, and elections sketch
Another roundtable. There’s too many of these. I wonder what happened to the David Mitchell soapbox segments from last series. The roundtables can be enjoyable but they should be extra things; not the bulk of an episode. I think they need more ideas. Think of all the various bits in Brooker’s Screen and Newswipe shows; the piss-take of adverts, the exploration of TV production and its flaws, the fantastically directed and devastatingly insightful Doug Stanhope bits, the David Firth animations, the little Adam Curtis doc, the Barry Shitpeas and Philomena Cunk parts, the Tim Key poetry. And those shows are only 30 minutes long.
The roundtables also descend often into debate about all kinds of nonsense. A little bit about a funny video can be fine, but there’s too much weak discussion. It’s supposed to be a satire show, and, yeah, it’s also about sending-up pop culture, but Justin Bieber dildos and a whole discussion about women with moustaches? It’s really weak.
The sketch with the American reporter – by Fonejacker’s Kayvan Novak – was okay; like the interviews from The Daily Show or The 11 O’Clock Show. Brooker used to write for Brass Eye, which was great at using interviews to satirise various subjects, so it might be interesting if this show could start doing more things like this. Just little sketches though; I wouldn’t want it taking over the whole show.
The show closed with a discussion about 3D printed guns. That’s something worth talking about; there’s something to dig into in the absurdity and dangers of it. But they wandered off and started talking about dildos and meat. A little rambling discussion can be fun; too much and the show feels aimless.
The episode ended with a look at tomorrow’s headlines, which is something I’m glad they’ve brought back from last series.
I’ve been quite critical above, but it was the best episode so far; funny and with some satirical bite. I think it can still do better though and I hope they keep trying to come up with new ideas, and lean towards satirical and ambitious content rather than weak comedy and discussion.
- ‘Look at this year’s Apprentice prick payload. Look, there’s a bearded schoolboy, a GMTV Thunderbird puppet, this fucker, a prototype Emily Maitlis, someone of Mad Men, a photo in a hairdressers, Brian Paddick, Gok Wan I think we can see there, this drawing of a cat, and a terrifying Jimmy Carr sex doll. Terrifying but sexy.’
- ‘It’s so nice and refreshing to see a 71-year-old cultural icon on the front of the paper who isn’t outside a police station with a coat on his head.’
- ‘Blair is hard to buy for because John Lewis don’t sell a machine that silences the screams of a thousand dead Iraqi children.’
- ‘How unpopular do you need to be to lose to a BNP candidate who is blacked-up?’
- ‘I’ll tell you who don’t have an immigration problem: Syria and North Korea.’
- ‘So the Queen’s stepping down and she’s giving the job to Prince Charles – it’s nepotism, isn’t it?’
- ‘The only question you haven’t asked, David, is what will their child look like…’ ‘– when he’s dead! I’m such a keen royalist I want to see pictures of them all dead. I want it on a tea towel.’
- ‘That’s all we’ve got time for this week…’ ‘We don’t get to do the Star. Don’t by the Star it’s shit.’