Written by Media, TV

10 O’Clock Live

So what to make of Channel 4’s new “it’s not The Daily Show that we just cancelled” comedy current affairs series?
Well it’s not all bad, and it’s not all good. There seemed to be quite a few first night nerves and a generally quite disjointed feel to the programme, but that’s something that will probably have come together much more later in its fifteen week run.
In general it just about walked down the news/comedy line OK. It was unfortunate that the really big news of the week was the following day, but they took on Tunisia and the Alan Johnson resignation fairly decently.
I think I was most disappointed in Jimmy Carr who was there purely to make gags. His style of rapid-fire jokes doesn’t really lend itself to a more in-depth look at what the stories really mean. And it was odd that Carr made a series of just silly jokes about Tunisia without getting into what it actually was about. Yes, superficially most people know that tourists have been leaving the country because there have been riots. But it was left to Charlie Brooker, in an entirely different segment later in the show to try to explain the context of Tunisia.
It’s that careful weaving of both news and comedy into The Daily Show that means that it remains on the pedestal that it sits.
When I said that I was most disappointed in Jimmy Carr, I lied. TheIone truly bad sketch was the “World News Now” piece that featured Lauren Lavergne. It was simply awful, and it’s best not to think about it any more.
David Mitchell was given the interviewer role and it did feel a little uncomfortable. I suspect that he’ll get better in time, and he clearly knows what he’s talking about. The live aspect of the show meant that he had little time to breathe, and both of his big set pieces about bonuses for bankers and student fees, the conversation came to a crashingly violent end when time ran out and we had to go to a commercial break.
And that was the other flaw, the show had no real theme. So we lurched backwards and forwards from Sarah Palin to bankers’ bonuses to Tunisia to student fees to Alan Johnson and so on.
I thought that perhaps they could have done with a few more pre-recorded pieces, and a thematically stronger structure rather than just desperately trying to cram in every gag that could as though they were at a recording of Have I Got News For You.
In the closing roundtable amongst the presenters we got a few random Tweets or emails scroll past in a way that I’m sure David Mitchell has railed against in Mitchell and Webb. Hmm. The pointless unscientific and otherwise worthless survey should be dropped immediately. Even in a comedy show about news, if you can’t do a survey properly (robust samples weighted across the population – not an opt-in one on their website) then they shouldn’t do them at all. And they probably don’t need to desperately try to make gags about the next day’s newspaper headlines at the end. Or if they do, make them good ones.
As an aside, this was the first time I’ve seen those fancy new Capital Radio ads “in the wild” rather than on YouTube. Obviously I saw them a 32x speed, but it’s nice to see them getting an airing. I’m not 100% certain about the targeting, although I’m sure that C4 has been selling 10 O’Clock Live as 15-34 buy.
Perhaps the programme’s biggest issue is its scheduling. At 10pm, it’s up against the two main news programmes which means that it’s already losing some of its audience – people who care what’s actually happening. I know that survey after survey in the US shows that x% of people actually get their news from Jon Stewart. But the reality is that many will also watch network news broadcasts. In the US Stewart is up against the local news shows at 11pm.
Not only is this up against the main news programmes, it’s also up against Newsnight and Question Time. Some news junkies already have to make an unenviable choice at that time about what to watch – both with their competing Twitter hastags – and Sky+ can only record two shows at once (And for younger viewers, E4 is showing the new series of Skins at 10pm on Thursdays too – they even promoted it straight after 10 O’Clock Live).
It’s not terrible, but not great. The scattergun attitude to subject matter needs refining, and undoubtedly confidence will come in the future. If I was C4, I’d move the programme to Friday night where I notice they’re already carrying a late night repeat. Give David Mitchell’s interviews more time – this is an hour long show after all – and I’d add in a couple more pre-recorded bits.