Satire thrives when things in our society go wrong, and satire of the media is particularly good in these circumstances, because the media in these circumstances tend to go fucking insane. It’s a shame then that 10 O’Clock Live decided to forgo any discussion about the attack that took place in Woolwich around eight hours before the show broadcast. I imaging most people watching were looking forward to the episode specifically for this reason.
The argument against talking about the attack is that it would be in bad taste. But this is a satire show; its job is in part to discuss uncomfortable things. And it’s not automatically in bad taste to make jokes around such events; it all depends on the context. Take, for instance, this outstanding clip from Chris Morris – of Brass Eye fame – in which his newsreader character conducts an interview supposedly on 9/11 with a journalist in New York. It’s hilarious, and mocks the laziness of journalists. Jokes, and especially satire, about horrendous events can be legitimate if done right.
Of course, it could be that they just didn’t have the time to put something together, but as the programme is live and covers current events it needs to be able to talk about something that happens on the day. The Daily Show in the US wouldn’t ignore a developing story. Neither would a newspaper or a current affairs show like Newsnight. 10 O’Clock Live shouldn’t ignore one either.
But they did, and so episode five opened with a George Michael gag instead, which we probably heard the last time George Michael crashed his car. I liked this week’s episode, especially two outstanding straight-to-camera bits from Charlie Brooker and David Mitchell, but I feel that they missed an opportunity.
Week in Review
Jimmy Carr made some decent jokes about the swivel-eyed loons of the Conservative Party and followed it with a bit about Google’s corporate tax avoidance, prefaced with a coughed acknowledgment of his own tax avoidance. Carr really can’t do these jokes. It is not at all credible to have someone who avoided tax for years satirising someone else avoiding tax. They need to keep him away from this subject if the show is going to keep its integrity.
Then we got some jokes about how Scotland is full of tramps and heart disease. As I said in my first review of the show, this is incredibly lazy comedy. A story about Scotland? Heart disease. Liverpool? Thieves. Wales? Sheep shaggers. Ireland? Potatoes (and Carr actually makes this joke later in the show). These are the first things that come to mind when trying to make a joke about a city or a country and it so weak to go straight to that completely drained well.
Likewise, we get a joke about people who play video games being lonely virgins which is equally overused and equally as idiotic (the average age of people who play video games is 37). The review did end though with a decent grammatical joke about ‘fewer and fewer’ teachers.
It would have been great to have Charlie Brooker rip apart the news coverage of the attack in Woolwich, and the media’s masturbatory excitement as they began to realise it might be a terrorist attack, but they decided not to cover the story. We’ll probably get something next week at least.
The Newswipe was good this episode all the same, discussing Nigel Farage’s trip to Scotland, and showing a clip of a ‘spluttering major in a UK gold sitcom’ on the BBC defending UKIP and its leader. Brooker also mocked the Tories stance on gay marriage, reading from the ‘aggressive homosexual agenda’ which included lesbian wind farms and Tom Daley on a £10 note, and then showed a clip of Jeremy Irons saying fathers will marry their sons next, which won’t be stopped by incest laws because it’s not incest. Brooker disagreed though, saying it was incest, ‘but only in three ways: morally, legally and actually.’ The Newswipe ended with a great rant from Brooker about the evils of Google, which you can find below.
Roundtable with Gyles Brandreth
They added someone to the roundtable again, and this week it was former MP and comedian Gyles Brandreth. I still think there are too many people around the table but it is better than just another discussion between the four hosts. They talked about the Tories stance on gay marriage and Gyles let us know what MPs really think of their constituents: they have contempt for them.
The gay marriage discussion was a bit lightweight, but they moved on to a better bit where they picked apart the various Conservatives trying to wrestle the PM crown from David Cameron. David Mitchell says Boris Johnson is like a mascot of a sports team with a cartoon name – ‘we shouldn’t make him a centre forward’ – and then they showed a clip of journalist Max Keiser calling George Osborne a liar over and over again, before Gyles defended the chancellor as a ‘wonderful human being.’ ‘Is he?’ someone asked. He’s not, no; he’s a cunt.
Scottish independence sketch and Good Week/Bad Week roundtable
A light blew out in the studio, leaving Lauren Laverne struggling with the autocue, with the rest of the hosts getting a huge kick out of it. It was quite funny to see that because usually when something goes wrong on a live show everyone panics, but these guys are all comedians so they thrived in it.
To cover, they cut to a sketch on Scottish independence, from Facejacker’s Kayvan Novak, playing an American reporter. It was okay. Other satire shows – The Colbert Report, say, or Brass Eye, – uses these types of character interviews to mock the people they are interviewing, or to ridicule ideas by bouncing their ridiculous character of the guest. This sketch was really just ‘look at this funny character!’ They could definitely be doing more with it.
Next they had a debate about Google’s tax, with Carr saying he’s not sure if he’s the ‘most qualified or the least qualified’ to talk about it. Most qualified, Jimmy; least credible. There was a nice little bit from Brooker bemoaning the ‘fun’ atmosphere at companies like Google, saying that ‘work is supposed to be shit and you make your own fun.’
Debate on gay marriage
Mitchell opened the debate this week with an outstanding, insightful excoriation of David Cameron, New Labour and cynical politicking, before introducing his three guests: journalist Milo Yiannopoulos, businessman Ivan Massow, and Amy Lame, who is a number of things according to Wikipedia, but I normally see her on shows like this, so I’m going with TV person.
It was an okay debate, without much shouting. At one point, Mitchell summarised a point about churches maybe being forced to marry gay couples, and moved the debate on. I’d rather have heard more about that point actually, but I’m glad he’s willing to take hold of the debate and keep things controlled. He also introduced some good talking points, like the hypocrisy of libertarian conservatives on gay marriage. ‘And now some adverts,’ Mitchell said, ending the debate after some reasonably interesting discussion. I like his commitment to mocking the commercial break each week.
Laverne closed out the show with a final roundtable, discussing David Beckham’s retirement from football. ‘Bowed out on a high,’ she said. ‘Are you saying he’s on drugs?’ Mitchell asked. Carr said Beckham shouldn’t have retired, and instead should have just gone ‘in goal for a bit, get your puff pack…you don’t need to go home.’
Laverne then went to Booker to discuss the new Xbox One launch. Brooker could do a whole fantastic bit on this. He clearly loves games and there is so much to take the piss out of. I really wished they’d cut down on the debates and play to the hosts’ strengths more. ‘I’m tying to shut out the fact that there is a world out there with other people in it,’ Booker said about the console’s new social functions. And then Laverne ended the show as they ran out of time.
10 O’Clock Live really squandered an opportunity this week. A live satire show, broadcast just hours after a terrorist attack; this could have been the episode that made the series, which had newspapers talking about the worth of the show. I mean, they might have fucked it up, but it’s worth the risk surely. They could have satirised and criticised the media and discussed the nature of the attack – is it, for instance, in anyway helpful to label it a ‘Terrorist Attack!’ and make it a huge national event? There are also lots of uncomfortable facts about the attacks that the show could have addressed.
Even if they’d just done a little bit it would be worthwhile tuning in. It was a good episode, and maybe it’s more responsible to wait till next week to cover the events in Woolwich, and maybe the attack will lead the news all the way till next Wednesday and give them time to prepare, but I feel like this was the opportunity for the show to realise its potential, and it missed it.
- Nigel Farage got ‘the kind of hospitable welcome only a reincarnated Jimmy Saville might receive.’
- ‘Margaret Thatcher; give me a break.’ ‘She has now given you a break.’
- ‘Charlie, do you think crying makes him less or more of a man?’ ‘Less, but only in strict physical terms; he’s cried a little bit of fluid. There’s less of him.’ ‘So you think that drinking would make him more than a man?’ ‘Yes… Defecation: less of a man.’
- ‘What could possibly be evil about Google? They are only a huge multinational, controlling our access to information while collecting data about who we are, what we buy, what our emails say, who we’re friends with, who we sleep with, who we really want to sleep with, our hopes, our fears, our innermost dreams, and what you – yes you! – masturbated to at precisely 2:13AM last Sunday. The cynical fuckers even know were we live because they’ve sent ominous little buggers with giant cameras on top down ever road in the land to take photos of our front doors like a mad blackmailer would. Not that cameras on wheels are enough for Google, no. They recently shat out a load of terrifying promos for the eerie new Google Glass system which means you can now put Google on YOUR FACE and give them access to everything you see and hear so even your firstborn’s first fucking memory is going to be a parent looming over them with a machine on their face monitoring their every move. You know, that baby should count itself lucky Google Glass doesn’t automatically push a cookie through its eye socket directly into its little infant brain so Google can harvest its first impressions of the world and feed them into its fucking database.Having said that; Google is better than Bing.’
[Typed that whole fucking thing out, just for you dear reader, for you and for future historians looking for information about the inevitable Google Apocalypse. Also typed out, below, another whole fucking thing, just for you dear reader, and because it’s a perfect, hilarious summery of modern politics and is everything I wish 10 O’Clock Live could become, for 60 minutes rather than in small, short bursts.]
- ‘When David Cameron became leader of the Conservative Party he thought it was very important for him to try and seem nice. ‘How should I do this?’ he thought. ‘Abolish tuition fees? Increase the welfare budget? Keep the libraries open? But those wouldn’t just be seeming nice, he realised, they’d involve actually being nice… ‘He wanted to be sincere, so he stared into the depths of his soul and found several thousand fathoms down in the inky gloom, a tiny glimmer of light. ‘I don’t hate the gays!’ he realised with a shock. ‘I really don’t. I’ve tried but it turns out I don’t. Well that’ll do. I’ll make the Tories pro gay marriage. It’ll seem so incongruous and modern it’ll completely scramble everyone’s preconceptions about us. It’ll be like the Green Party proposing tax breaks to foie gras importers, or the Lib Dems getting into power. While we are pro gay marriage, all our policies of burning pensioners to help heat Google’s offices and making blind benefit claimants prove it by throwing darts at them and taking away their welfare when they flinch, will be ignored. This is the cleverest political idea since Tony Blair banned fox hunting instead of having socialism. But enough of my rigorously impartial summary of the situation.’