10 O’Clock Live ended as the series began; patchy, awkward in places but frequently enjoyable. It lacked genuine satire and had only a few outstanding moments, but the bulk of the hour was filled with decent topical humour.
The show could be so much better than it is though, and while I hope it gets another series, I’d want it to be with the caveat that the show refocuses itself on becoming a biting, satirical comedy that plays to the host’s strengths rather than being just a weekly series of jokey conversations about the news.
Week in Review
Jimmy Carr’s monologue this week opened with some good jokes about the Prism revelations: ‘The CIA will never get their hands on my private emails because I’ve hidden them on a bomb making website in a folder I’ve labelled kiddy porn,’ and ‘Edward Snowden said ‘I don’t want to live in a world were everything I do is recorded.’ Well, a bit of good news Edward: you’ll be dead in a week.’
The GCSE syllabus, he said, was to be changed to give less focus ‘on running away to France with 15-year-old girls,’ and the UK remaining in the EU was ‘in the national interest…the national interest of Germany.’ We also got a terrible joke about a gay soldier and another stupid stereotype-based joke about video gamers.
Any new series of 10 O’Clock Live should drop these bits. Carr can be funny, but as I pointed out last week, his jokes about gays and gypsies sit uncomfortably alongside satire. We can get everything shown in these monologues from a thousand other shows; pretty much anything topical, be it Graham Norton’s show or Have I Got News for You. 10 O’Clock Live should strive to offer something different from run-off-the-mill topical one-liners built around double-meanings and stereotype.
Charlie Brooker this week spoke on the Prism scandal. There was a little introduction about the queen’s ‘impromptu tribute to the Night of the Living Dead’ with her visit to the live BBC studio, to see if it had been ‘thoroughly de-Savilled.’ He moved on to mock the TV news’ representation of the internet – ‘furtive typing, matrix style number cascades and scrolling gobbledegook’ – pointing out that they should have depicted it instead using ‘a funny cat video, a pirated movie and a mouse filled with spunk.’
There was some more stuff about dodgy surveillance, and how the US population themselves aren’t being spied on in Brooker’s view because Americans’ conversational skills are so awful ‘even the CIA couldn’t listen to that shit for five minutes without hanging up and joining Al Qaeda.’
It wasn’t great but Brooker’s bits are the best part of this show and are usually always the highlight. The section plays to his strengths as a satirist. There are really only three parts of the show that do this, making full use of the hosts’ ability; Brooker and the Newswipe, Carr and the monologue, and David Mitchell and, to an extent, the interviews. That leaves over half the show that is often scattered and rambling. Before the next series, they should sit down with Brooker and say ‘What else do you want to do each week? A pre-recorded bit? A piss-take of the week’s TV? Something from your Gameswipe show?’ Right now they are squandering the talents of one of the best satirists we have in television.
Roundtable on Prism
Brooker makes a good point about how the only mistake made with Prism was trying to keep it secret, implying that we are all happy to accept massive violations of privacy when it’s done openly. ‘The only problem they’ve made,’ he said, ‘is making it secret. If I was playing angry birds and it stopped and said ‘I’ll give you another three levels if you stop and let me get a look up your asshole’…’
‘Law abiding citizen have nothing to fear,’ Carr said, ‘but what about me? What about the rest of us?’ ‘Treason has never been less cool,’ Mitchell argued. ‘Treason has never been nerdier.’
The roundtables I think should be scrapped. Have one at the start and one to close out the episode but get rid of them in the middle. Occasionally you get a decent idea or a funny line but it’s too random whether or not they are worth watching. If Brooker’s got an idea about people voluntarily giving up their privacy then work it into a scripted segment, don’t just throw some people together and hope it comes out naturally. The discussions often ramble on and are just…sort of…maybe…funny? Like in this episode, it ended with a kind of funny mock argument between Brooker and Mitchell but it didn’t quite work. I feel like I’m constantly leaning forward with these bits, straining to see something enjoyable which is just out of focus.
Debate on free speech
The debate was good this week. It started with a strong bit that made use of the show’s set-up and talent. Mitchell tried out a Twitter joke that got someone arrested, and handed it to Carr to see if he could make it work with his monologue set-up. It was fun and interesting and it made a good point about that absurdity of the issue; people being arrested for bad jokes.
The debate focused on the issue of free speech on the internet, in the wake of a number of arrests of people who said offensive things online. Mitchell was clearly passionate about the subject and it came across and made the debate livelier. The panel was decent too, with comedian David Baddiel, Richard Bacon – who was on the receiving end of some abuse from trolls – and a social media lawyer, Rupinder Bains.
Mitchell argued convincingly that allowing offensive abuse is the price we pay for having real free speech, and the debate was nice and gentle, with guests willing to defer to each other and ask questions. I did have all the humour sucked out of it by one point but Mitchell brought it back with a joke about an OXO advert actress being targeted by people working for Bisto. The debate wrapped up, and Mitchell cued the adverts with a customary little dig: ‘Anyway, buy some of these products please.’
I like the debates. Others don’t but I think its something we don’t really get on other shows; a mix between serious debate and comedy with some satire from Mitchell. The best bits though are usually Mitchell’s intros, or when he’s really enthusiastic about something and his own opinion comes through. Which is why any new series needs to give Mitchell his own section, one similar to Brooker’s Newswipe. He excels at little satirical and intellectual rants and confining them to debate intros and awkward roundtable conversations is a waste.
Good Week/Bad Week
This section each week has been pretty feeble. Here, we had some jokes about Simon Cowell having eggs thrown at him, all of which were poor, and some funny exam answers that you probably read in a chain email in 2005. It’s just topical and really insubstantial humour. Think back to previous episodes; can you remember what the good week/bad week bits were about? Or what any of the jokes were? Now, think about the Newswipes; can you remember those? Those stick in the memory because they are good, funny satire presented in an interesting style; these roundtables are completely forgettable.
Kayvan Novak was back this week doing his American journalist bit. It was a little better than it has been in previous episodes, with little jokes about the hypocrisy of the (US) commercial media and their often embarrassing attempts to report on counter culture.
This show desperately needs new segments but I don’t think these sketches are really strong enough. Novak’s character is too broad. If there is another series, I’d hope they’d try various different things out before episode one, and then come up with a structure for the whole series: ‘Okay, we’ll do these four regular segments each week and have one different one each episode. And these are what we will pencil in for those slots.’ Something like that. This series, everything seemed a little unstructured – Novak one week, no Newswipe the next, lots of roundtables, some stand-up. I’m glad they tried new things but another series should build on that experimentation.
The show closed with a light bursting in the studio. ‘Worse case scenario we set fire to an audience member and it’s not the end of the world,’ Carr said. We got some throwaway jokes about some nonsense and then the last paper review of the series. Mitchell and Brooker drew some dicks on the newspapers. ‘Jizzing on The Times,’ Laverne said. ‘That is satire,’ Brooker replied. End of the show; end of the series.
It’s quite possible that was the last ever 10 O’Clock Live. Viewing figures for previous series’ were ‘uninspired’ and the first episode of this series opened with the lowest launch audience to date and failed to meet the 12 month slot average for Channel 4. It doesn’t bode well that for this episode the channel was willing to bump the show to 10:30 to make way for Dates. Normally, a channel schedules new shows to start after old ones end; Channel 4 apparently didn’t give a fuck about screwing the last episode of this live show in such an absurd manner.
It’ll be a shame if we never see this again, but it’s kind of understandable given that the show never reached its full potential. There were times this series where the programme was just a rambling, awkward conversation.
If it does come back – and I hope it does – I wish they’d make some major changes. I pointed out in a previous review the many different and excellent sections a show like Brooker’s Newswipe has. There is no reason 10 O’Clock Live can’t be like that. They need to come up with new, original segments. They need to give Mitchell his own section, and give Brooker more to do. Get rid of the filler, like the roundtable discussions and Carr’s monologue. Take risks. Many, many more risks. Look at the heat programmes like Brass Eye took. It’s a damning indictment of this show that nobody at the Daily Mail or the Sun hates it. If you can’t even piss off the tabloids then you need to sharpen your satire.
10 O’Clock Live should be – could be – an irreverent, edgy, risk taking live show that people watch every week because it’ll probably be a taking point the next day. Instead, too often this series it was just bland. I did enjoy watching it, but it feels like a massive missed opportunity and a waste of some very smart and funny people.
- ‘The debate over privacy: is it privacy or pryvacy? It doesn’t matter because it’s defunct.’ [That joke doesn’t really work in print]
- ‘So let’s get this straight granddad; you took all your personal information and you gave it to a giant corporation called Apple because they said they’d keep it safe inside a cloud? A cloud? No offence granddad but you sound like a fuckwit.’
- ‘What does that mean ‘he’s got the codes to enter your anus’? My anus doesn’t have any coding system.’
- ‘Maybe the reason people who use computers are shy and look down a lot is because the rest of the world is so horribly judgmental.’
- ‘The internet has been great for trolls because there are so many more servers than bridges.’