This show can be a little too loose at times and episode four certainly had that problem. It felt like a collection of insubstantial conversations on a variety of unconnected subjects. It was probably the weakest episode so far, with little substance and a lot of jokes that didn’t quite work.
Week in Review
Like every week, this bit was just a collection of hit and miss one-liners. The monologue leaned a little too heavily on shock value, with, for instance, a joke about the girls who escaped from captivity in the US that relied mainly on the ‘off-limits’ subject matter to get a laugh.
The audience in previous series’ of this show have been criticised for being annoying and they were pretty bad here; overcompensating for Jimmy Carr’s jokes falling flat by whooping and cheering.
Charlie Brooker’s section was a little microcosm of the episode, lacking any bite, filled with weak jokes and being just generally underwhelming. It was basically a recap of things that happened this week, with some okay one-liners splitting things up. Prince Harry is in America, Star Wars is in the UK, and the Tories don’t want to be in Europe. That last one has plenty of scope for satire but, no, we just got a series of jokes based on David Cameron’s use of the phrase ‘in-out.’ The whole Newswipe was just a longer version of Carr’s monologue.
We didn’t even get any creative similes, which Brooker usually packs into everything he does. I’m struggling to find a really funny joke in the whole bit; C-3PO standing for ‘category three pedo’ was maybe the best. There was a little bit about a Star Wars kinect video game but it just felt randomly stuck in, like a left over bit from an episode of Gameswipe.
Roundtable with Henning Wehn
They changed things up a bit this week, bringing in German comedian Henning Wehn for the roundtable. I’m glad they are doing this but I wish they’d take it further and start making serious changes to the show. What they’ve done here is stuck with the same struggling format – too many roundtables; too many bits where comedians sit around a table awkwardly talking – but added one element. I wish they’d come up with whole new bits.
Like I said, I’m glad they made the change, but it didn’t really work. There were too many people involved in the conversation, and too many subjects to talk about. There was no focus. It was awkward. There was a bit at the start where a Carr joke flopped, and then Wehn sort of stumbled a reply to a question and there was a moment of dead-air; it was a little embarrassing.
The bulk of the conversation was about Europe, with David Mitchell arguing that the UK is ‘wanty and needy’ – ‘the horrible dwarfs’ – and that we should stay in Europe because it will give us ‘greater opportunities for slagging each other off.’
Wehn argued that we all need a common enemy, to unite us against the Chinese, and Mitchell makes a joke that is basically the conclusion of Alan Moore’s Watchmen, but I won’t tell you what it is because that would spoil Watchmen. Go read Watchmen.
Debate with Ken Livingstone and Toby Young
Quite a straight debate this week that was light on comedy. It was interesting enough, though a little bland. Mitchell sets it up by saying that the party leaders are ‘Clegg, Foggy and Compo all in the same wheelbarrow careening down a hillside and none of us care.’
Ken Livingstone is in Ed Miliband’s corner – ‘clutching Miliband’s inhaler and allergy tablets’ – and he argues that Miliband is a socialist who stood up to Rupert Murdoch. Yeah, he did stand up to Murdoch; after Murdoch had cut the Labour Party loose and switched his newspapers’ allegiance to the Conservative Party, and after Murdoch’s organisation hacked into a dead child’s phone and became the most hated company in the country. Very brave, Ed, very brave. Really went out on a limb there.
Toby Young said a lot of sensible things, which is a surprise because I’ve always found him to be a bit of a dick, and then Mitchell said something sarcastic about how being attacked by a dog means you’re standing up to it, which doesn’t really work but the audience applaud anyway because they think they’re supposed to.
The debate closes with Young and Livingstone making a bet, and Mitchell saying ‘at last, you’ve done something to make it interesting,’ presumably talking about the political situation but it could apply equally to this debate, which dragged on and got a bit boring.
The structure for this bit was talking about people who had a good or bad week, but it was just another roundtable really. They spoke about Chris Huhne being released from prison, mainly via the medium of prison rape jokes.
Carr then made a joke about the hierarchy of prison criminals, a joke which you hear everytime someone famous goes to jail for something small, and then they showed an old clip of Huhne saying something which, in light of his crimes, makes him look foolish. There is scope here to make something funny and insightful out of such a situation – a politician caught out by his own words – but in this format it just peters out with some bad jokes.
Then there was a clip of a drunken BBC radio host which you probably saw on the internet a couple of days ago. I don’t understand why they do this; what can they possibly say about such a thing that is worthwhile? There’s nothing to satirise and the jokes made about it are no better than those you’d find in the comments underneath an online article about the video. It’s so insubstantial.
After the break, another funny clip, this time of astronaut Chris Hadfield singing Bowie in space. This wasn’t just on the internet, it was on every news broadcast on every channel. There’s nothing to satirise and it’s not even some ridiculous pop culture absurdity that you can mock. It’s just a cool clip we’ve all seen.
Carr makes a joke about how it’s a tough gig because there is no atmosphere in space and then the episode finished with a bit about tomorrow’s front pages and The Guardian’s Operation Yewtree bingo card.
10 O’Clock Live still has a lot of problems and it can often feel very weak. Right now, it’s the sort of show you watch if there is nothing else you really want to do, which is fine I guess – a reasonably entertaining and funny show – but I think it can be a lot better than that. It certainly has the talent. I’ll keep watching in the hope that the show closes its series as an unmissable satire and not just a sometimes funny recap of the week’s events.
- ‘The new Star Wars films are to be shot in Britain, which is expected to give a huge boost to the unemployed, because it means they’ll have a new film to download and watch one afternoon a few years from now.’
- ‘The Eurovision Song Contest was the best day of the year…Poorer countries would spend their annual GDP on a keyboard.’
- ‘Excuse my own fucking Frank Spencer impression.’
- ‘You’re a megalomaniac and you’re trying to say to people ‘I’m still humble inside,’ so you lie about what it feels like to be given an award and cheered.’
- ‘If you’ve tuned in for fighting tips: blind immediately.’