Fixing 10 O’Clock Live

In Comedy on March 26, 2011 at 10:40 pm

When it first started, 10 O’Clock Live was bloody terrible. Admittedly, many of us were expecting the worst and had more than a large chunk of ill will towards it, knowing More4 had scrapped the legendary Daily Show at the same time. Parts have since improved, others got even worse, so I have a few suggestions on how this show can get the best out of its talent.

While the idea of interviewing politicians and having serious debates in a comedy context is hardly new, the live format really does not help in this situation. There is a damn good reason TDS is pre-recorded the same day and they are taking full advantage of the internet by regularly putting uncut and extended interviews on the Comedy Central website. If there is a particularly fascinating guest, these extras can be longer than the show itself.

Any time David Mitchell even approaches an interesting point in the 10 O’Clock Live interview segments, he slams them shut like a piano lid on fingers in full flight. I realise this is partly because he has zero experience as an interviewer, let alone in the live television environment with people barking in your ear about cutting to commercials. The one and only member of the cast with these skills is Lauren Laverne and it shows when moderating the final round-table discussions. She can move seamlessly into a break rather than just barking ‘We’re out of time!’

Since the beginning people have asked if Laverne can be given something to do other than read out a satirical monologue clearly written by someone else. Solve two issues in one fell swoop – put Laverne in charge of the debate and maybe even the political interview, so she can play to her strengths and hide Mitchell’s understandable weakness. In turn, it frees Mitchell up to do what he does best: monologues and sketches.

Here is where my next suggestion comes in. Jimmy Carr can’t act. At all. And he most certainly can’t do voices or characters. The only joke in the current sketches is the fact they are obviously rubbish, therefore we are meant to laugh along with Carr at his inability to get through it. He is becoming the Jimmy Fallon of Channel 4 and nobody wants that. For those who don’t watch Saturday Night Live, Fallon famously giggled through every sketch and spent more time looking at the audience than his co-stars. So either give Mitchell the sketches or, even better, lend his expertise to it so Carr can play straight man. Or mute. A mute character would be good.

This leaves Carr primarily with the opening newsround, or noos round as he would have it. For anyone who is on Twitter, this is just a recap of the week’s most well-worn memes. Only usually not as funny. This seriously needs more work and my suggestion would be…. make it better? Some of the jokes are so obvious that the audience is tittering way before the punchline.

The audience is my final point. I have this issue with The Daily Show as well, so not just 10 O’Clock Live, but the whooping and cheering at EVERYTHING is infuriating. At the beginning they put Charlie Brooker – unaccustomed to an audience during his pieces to camera – right off his timing. He has steadily got used to their presence and I was very pleased to note they kept fairly schtum during the excellent piece on Sky’s Japan coverage. However, applauding every time a Tory is insulted or someone swears is just childish and not helping the performers at all. I still feel Brooker is at his best with these written segments in a pre-recorded environment, but he’s on a learning curve and doing much better already. Here’s hoping the whole show does, too.

  1. It’s a generous review. The big problem with 10 o’clock live is that it’s the least good thing that each of its contributors have ever done (with the possible exception of Lauren Laverne). And it’s incredibly hard not to be painfully aware of this when you watch them struggle uncomfortably before your very eyes.

    While we ought to be very wary of damning anything before it’s had the chance to find its feet, 10 O’Clock Live would have to improve so much that it’s very hard to imagine it ever living up to the hopes of its creators and its participants.

  2. True, but I think it’d be an improvement. People keep saying we should give it time to find its feet, so at least make it better!

  3. It’s interesting that everyone has an opinion on this show, and means it must be doing something; whether wrong or right, or both. Surely, someone so versed in twitter though must be able to garner that opinion is massively skewed on this show.

    Just a cursory look at the Twittersphere, and you can see some people say the only good bits – and the only reason they watch – are the Jimmy gags and the dressing-up. They like the fun. Others, as you, cannot stand the one-liners and consider him to be trivialising the news in an unsophisticated manner. Again, some – and as far as I can tell the place where most consensus lies – regard Mitchell’s ability, dexterity and wit when conducting the interviews and debates, to be by far the superior part of the show. Though I grant most discourse does seem in favour of these being longer so as to avoid the abrupt cut-off. Similarly, people are divided over Lauren, she is at once a useless piece of window-dressing to be gotten rid of, or, as in your case, an adept presenter and host, not yet put to her best. With Charlie, some thinks he rants, moans, and is over-reliant on sex gags, whilst others consider him to offer a refreshing antidote to the news.

    What we all must bear in mind, is that a show of this nature will never sway majority opinion in it’s favour and will never please everyone. It is a comedy and current-affairs co-commission. It is designed to bring people who are non-political but like comedy into political discourse, and vice-versa. It is not perfect for your regular Question Time viewer, and neither does it 100% suit, say the average Skins viewer, that’s why it straddles both (not to mention directly competing with them too).

    The Daily Show is probably an unfair comparison. The respective “decommission” and commission of the two shows were not connected, and carried out by two separate bodies. Also, TDS had series upon series to build up a cult following of niche viewers (it, like 10 o’clock live, is a niche show). And even after this, its figures averaged 600,000 in the UK. Three times less than 10 o’Clock Live atm (all formats considered).

    I am as gutted as you when it comes to the loss of TDS, but I have hope for UK TV and the 10 o’clock live show, with a bit of luck this new LIVE format, will get a recommission and an opportunity to assess, regroup and build on it’s first experimental foray. It will, however, never please everyone. And implementing your suggestions, will just as quickly inspire someone else’s rebuttal. It needs to find it’s way, and it needs to find it’s audience. I think patience will be rewarded. And I think that C4 experimenting with a topical comedy show that isn’t just another panel show, littered with same rotating comedians, should be commended and encouraged.

  4. Good points, overall. It still needs to find its feet and I just hope that it will be given the chance to – it feels like most things these days are scrapped if they’re not an instant hit. The audience especially irritate me at the moment with the mindless whooping. I think how out of control, laughing at anything for the sake of it, they are became apparent when they laughed at some of the nasty Rebecca Black bullying tweets. Charlie had to remind them that it wasn’t funny…

  5. Some interesting ideas. I think that whatever people think of this show, they seem to be united in thinking that the screaming audience is really annoying. I hope they manage to get rid of them in the next series.

  6. Great analysis. I really want to like 10 O’Clock live, since I’m a fan of all involved, but I find it really hard, and you’ve nailed several problems with it.

    Even now, a year later, the show still isn’t great, but they seem to be warming into it. Hopefully this will continue and season 6 in 2019 will be great. 😀

    p.s. unrelated, and probably unwanted, but I’m slightly unnerved by the name of your blog. I’m sure you have your own legitimate reasons for choosing it, but the inclusion of Lolita in the name is… odd. (If that’s how it’s meant to be read)

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