It’s news Jim, but not as we know it

Channel 4’s brave new topical comedy concoction, _10 O’Clock Live_, came in for plenty of flack after its first outing. Live it certainly is, but does it really deserve a kicking?

Fronted by David Mitchell, Charlie Brooker, Jimmy Carr and Lauren Laverne, the show’s executives have decided to keep the tone familiar, with each of the presenters playing their usual roles: Mitchell, the self-deprecating intellectual; Brooker, the bitter, twisted bad-boy-in-rant-mode; Carr, the deadpan, eccentric gagster and Laverne, without being too harsh, is to all intents and purposes the show’s token woman.

There’s no denying that one result of the show’s casting is the absence of any real linear progression. The show plays out as a haphazard, cobbled-together mosaic of each of the presenters’ ‘best bits’. It’s a multi-faceted and fast paced live show filmed on many different cameras and tinged with a foreboding sense that everything could, in the time it takes Jimmy Carr to drop a pithy one-liner, go disastrously awry. The program is a huge risk for Channel 4 and the nervousness of this risk has been evident in the performance of the team of core presenters. But for this viewer, the risk is beginning to pay off.

Sure, things go wrong, but that’s to be expected: it’s live. Laverne seemed to be unaware that married couple Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper had already served together in the Shadow Cabinet. Bit of a gaffe there, Lauren! There are the inevitable verbal fluffs and awkward moments when you are just too aware of the camera sweeping across the studio to find something, anything, to film, but this almost doesn’t matter. Part of the show’s charm lays in its haphazard production and the very fact that the show is live gives it a different, fresh and contemporary feel.

At its best, _10 O’Clock Live_ feels like televised Twitter. It’s so up to date that if you reached out your hand to the television screen you’d probably fall headlong into the studio. You feel caught up in the swirl of information. You feel like a part of it, and that’s exciting.

On the news-comedy spectrum, the show sits closer to _Have I Got News For You_ than it does to _Newsnight_, but it is somewhat reductive to forge lazy comparisons between _10 O’Clock Live_ and other established TV shows. Mitchell and co are trying to carve the show in its own distinctive niche, a point either missed or ignored by critics who bemoan the lack of rigorous intellectual debate. It’s claiming to be live topical comedy, so it’s unfair to judge it by what it isn’t. Miserly critics should get off their high horses and give the show a chance.

The lamentation from sanctimonious bores that our generation is deeply politically apathetic is both insulting and increasingly tedious. Shows like this connect with the younger generation and tackle the issues that genuinely interest us in an accessible and entertaining way.

_10 O’Clock Live_ should not be condemned. On the contrary, it should be lauded as an a program that exhibits one of the Great British Public’s finest qualities: our ability to laugh at those things which really ought to make us weep with despair, beat our breasts and tear our hair out.

OK, so I’m a bit of a long-term Brooker-Mitchell devotee. At one point I actually thought about making Brooker my religion on Facebook, and wavered only slightly when our blissfully misanthropic hero got hitched to a happy-go-lucky, trying-too-hard-to-be-kooky, former Blue Peter presenter. Until then I’d never suspected the existence of a wholesome side to the usually perennially dark Brooker.

But in David Mitchell’s case, wholesomeness is the entire point. Here’s a man who somehow makes it cool to be uncool. Which is cool. _Peep Show_ may no longer be ‘the comedy powerhouse it once was’ (the Boar, January 18th), but Mitchell himself is at the top of his game. Spontaneously witty, intelligent, discerning, and fearless. In the end, for my money, this is David’s show.

You can already feel _10 O’Clock Live_ beginning to grow in confidence and find its feet, and with David at the helm there’s every reason to keep the faith in what should soon become a staple of Thursday night TV schedules.


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