Channel Four’s new weekly live topical comedy show launched tonight. 10 O’Clock Live features a mix of monologues, debates and interviews, presented by Jimmy Carr, David Mitchell, Charlie Brooker and Lauren Laverne. As you might have seen, I went to see the pilot last month which you can read about here.
And a few things have changed since that pilot. Most were cosmetic, for example Jimmy Carr’s opening routine has been moved from the desk to a plinth in the middle of the studio, making it more like the monologues seen at the top of American talk shows. Lauren Laverne appeared to have a slightly more prominent role than before, introducing the start of the programme and chairing the round-table sections involving all four hosts, which she did well. She was also given a pre-recorded sketch, but unfortunately it was the low point of the show, a spoof of American news which was not only cringeworthy but was also wide of the mark – American news is worthy of parody (see Glenn Beck), but the sketch failed to find any targets or laughs. In the pilot, she did a pre-recorded interview, perhaps something she does better than comedy – although, to be fair, the material was at fault, not Laverne. In the pilot, she also went into the audience seeking out opinions, something that didn’t happen in tonight’s show.
Carr’s opening gags weren’t too bad, with a couple of hastily written lines about Alan Johnson’s resignation and some fairly strong satire at the expense of the Catholic Church. He also performed a travel show-style piece on Tunisia, which again wasn’t too bad (though not especially great either) and then interviewed Professor Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist. Carr did quite well here, injecting some humour into an interview on a sober subject, although like a few of the segments in the programme, it didn’t feel like there was enough time to properly explore the subject.
Mitchell seemed a little nervous during the opening debate on banking, but soon settled into the show. The Soapbox-style rant on Jeremy Hunt’s plans for a local news channel was a particular highlight and will be the regular section of the show I’ll be looking forward to the most each week. He also interviewed Government minister David Willetts about tuition fees, making some good points but only really hitting his stride, again, as time was running out.
As before, Brooker was fantastic during the scripted parts and subdued at other times. His pre-recorded piece on Sarah Palin could happily have appeared in an episode of Newswipe, and the excellent look at the media’s coverage of Tunisia was probably the highlight of the hour. As before, the programme ended with the four around the table, looking at the following day’s newspapers while some of the best tweets sent to @10oClockLive scrolled across the screen and the results of a poll on the show’s Facebook page was announced.
It was hit-and-miss but the hits were very good indeed and the misses can hopefully be ironed out in time. It lacked consistency in not only quality but also tone, really quite highbrow at times and mainstream at others. Of course, it was the first episode of a live topical show and these things tend to take time to bed in, it wasn’t a bad debut and can only improve as the team gains confidence in the coming weeks.