The 10 O'Clock Live Team

The 10 O'Clock Live Team

Channel 4’s 10 O’clock Live returns to the airwaves tomorrow night and while I’m glad that the show is back for a third stab at this whole live satire thing, it might be the single most infuriating show to have appeared on British TV over the last couple of years.

While that sort of tag is usually only something I would use when referring to a drama series that’s taking 4 times too long to resolve its plotlines or decided to just beat around the bush and add lots of un-needed sub plots (series two of Revenge, this applies to you), but it’s this live comedy show that takes the biscuit.

Why is it that it gets me in such a tizzy? Well, it’s because the show is so close to brilliance, but manages to miss the target with every single shot it fires. I will watch anything that Charlie Brooker does, I’ve always got time for Lauren Laverne and David Mitchell is consistently one of my favourite comedic presences on screen. So why does this show not leave me with a massive grin on my face throughout?

It’s because the show just tries too hard and does way too much. When it’s just Charlie Brooker ranting over news clips, creating the world’s best insults and just doing a smaller version of ‘Newswipe’ or David Mitchell presenting completely cogent and rational arguments in the same way that made his ‘Soapbox’ podcast so popular, the show is fantastic. Mitchell’s also a much better interviewer than anyone ever predicted he would be, making his interviews both funny and interesting.

The trouble is that these segments have hardly enough time to breath due to the show feeling pressed to give everything in the world screen time and give both Lauren Laverne and Jimmy Carr a reason to be there. Carr’s more madcap antics in particular feel slightly crowbarred in. As soon as the interviews one the show are getting really juicy, Mitchell has to call time on them in order for the show to move on.

For 10 O’clock Live to reach the pinnacle of its potential, it has to realise that it can’t do every story and be able to do them all well.  As much as it pains me to say, it needs to slim down its cast too, with the only one of the four utterly essential being David Mitchell. While I don’t want it to be a one man show, having four presenters wrestling for the spotlight seems like slight overkill.

If it just went down to two presenters, then it could have a more consistent voice and less chance of the four comedians simply trying to out-joke each other that 10 O’clock Live sometimes finds itself fighting to avoid.

The show also tries too hard to be funny, playing to the crowd and often misunderstanding a topic simply for comedic effect. It tries to go for the maximum amount of laughs, where actually what would suit the show more would be for it to take a moment, keep a straight face for a little while longer and then crack a joke at the end of it. If you change four misfiring jokes for one brilliant one, that seems like a more than fair trade to me.

If the show can calm down a bit and give itself more time to make a clear point that’s more than simply pandering to the young lefties watching (even as one of those I even find it a little too much sometimes) then it really could become a British equivalent of Jon Stewart’s brilliant show. Fingers crossed they do just that.

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