Last night I went to BBC Television Centre to watch the first unbroadcast pilot of 10 O’Clock Live, a new weekly topical comedy show coming to Channel Four in January. Presented by Jimmy Carr, David Mitchell, Lauren Laverne and Charlie Brooker, it follows on from the channel’s irreverent Alternative Election Night coverage earlier in the year.
Although it’s a team effort, Jimmy Carr is essentially the main host, introducing the hour with a selection of the usual sorts of satirical gags you’ll find at the top of Have I Got News For You or Russell Howard’s Good News. He gets to sit behind a big desk of his own, and pops up throughout the show with comic set pieces, which in the pilot included a charity fundraiser for Ireland with a mascot called Spudsy and a droll “leaked police memo” about how to handle student demonstrators, neatly tying together the week’s biggest two stories. Carr also interviewed science writer Michael Brooks about his book 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense, which was reminiscent of the kind of interviews Jon Stewart often has on The Daily Show.
Lauren Laverne’s job mainly seems to be audience interaction, by heading into the studio audience to seek out opinions, reading out comments from Twitter and promoting a live Facebook poll. She also fronted an interesting pre-recorded piece about futurology.
Like in the election special, Charlie Brooker probably appears the least but his input is very funny. His main role seems to be on a Newswipe-style “all you need to know” VT about a topic (in this case, Wikileaks), which introduces a round table discussion moderated by David Mitchell, where Brooker is one of the guests. In the pilot, they were joined by lawyer David Allen Green, Guardian journalist Afua Hirsch and a security expert (whose name escapes me) in a very lively debate about freedom of speech.
In this section, David Mitchell excelled. You know those bits on Would I Lie To You where he completely destroys Lee Mack’s flights of fancy with the furious power of reason? Yeah, that, but with some guests who have wandered in from the Newsnight studio next door.
The whole hour made for an entertaining enough show, but if there’s one reason I’m glad this show exists, it’s as a wider platform for Mitchell’s logical, calm and witty rants. As well as the previously mentioned discussion and an interview with housing minister Grant Shapps which Paxman would be proud of, he had a section which would be familiar to viewers of his Soapbox web series, in which he presented a reasonable argument for going to war with the Cayman Islands.
Each episode ends with the four presenters sitting around the table with the following morning’s newspapers in front of them, having a quick chat about the week’s news. It looks like a regular part of this section involves Carr injecting with whatever news has broken during the hour the show has been on air, no matter how banal it might be.
This is quite a bit more highbrow than Channel Four’s recent attempts at topical comedy, such as The TNT Show and Stand Up for the Week, with its discussions on serious topics and an interview about quantum physics, and feels like exactly the kind of thing Channel Four should be doing. While much of it is more interesting than funny (Friday Night Armistice, this is not), I’m looking forward to the series which will run weekly for the first few months of the new year.
Update: Ten O’Clock Live starts on Thursday the 20th of January at the unsurprising time of 10pm. You can follow them on Twitter: @10oclocklive