Robert Hampton

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19th March 2011

Not the Ten O’Clock News
Posted by at 6.38pm | Television | 1 response

When Channel 4 announced 10 O’Clock Live, I was sceptical. A topical comedy show reacting to the news? Channel 4’s recent record in this area is littered with less than thrilling examples including The 11 O’Clock Show and Tonightly. I was especially disappointed when, at almost the same time, we were told that The Daily Show had been axed from More4. Was Channel 4 worried that the US import would show up its own attempt at news dissection?

I had quite low expectations, in spite of the top roster of talent we were promised: Jimmy Carr, David Mitchell, Charlie Brooker and Lauren Laverne. All good in their own right, but would they work well together in the high-pressure environment of live telly? I wasn’t convinced.

I sat down in front of the first episode with a very jaded eye. I fully expected to hate it, and the first few episodes were shaky, but I decided to stick with it in the hope that it might improve. I’m glad I did, because the show has overcome its initial nervousness and after nine episodes has built up confidence, to the point that I now look forward to it each week.

Topical news-based comedy like this is quite difficult to do. If you’re tackling serious issues through humour, great care must be taken to avoid treating a subject too lightly — or even worse, looking smug. It’s hard to get right, but 10 O’Clock Live manages to pull it off, most of the time anyway.

As for the Daily Show comparison, well… to be honest, the show is different enough that direct comparisons with Jon Stewart’s programme are meaningless. Many of the targets — evil politicians, corrupt bankers, media distortions — are the same, but the presentation is completely different.

Truly though, the great thing about it is that Charlie Brooker gets to do what amounts to a mini-version of Newswipe for weeks on end. In this clip from Thursday’s show, he attacks the TV and newspaper coverage of the Japanese earthquake, the ensuing tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

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