10 O’Clock Live Is Shedding Viewers. Oh Dear

Channel 4’s groovy, topical, political comedy show for the nation’s yoof 10 O’Clock Live is being hammered in the ratings. It launched in January with 1.4 million viewers. Now its audience has slipped to less than half that. Its commissioners at Channel 4 are putting a brave face on this. But it doesn’t sound like the definition of a great success story. I wonder why that could be.

Actually I know why, as I explained when I reviewed the abysmal first episode in the Spectator. (Since when, I gather, it has gone even further downhill.)
Just before Christmas, a TV production company asked whether I might be interested in appearing in a zappy new live and topical political series they were soon to launch on Channel 4.
‘It’s called 10 O’Clock Live,’ they said. ‘You probably saw our pilot. The one-off special with Lauren Laverne, Charlie Brooker, David Mitchell and Jimmy Carr? It got pretty good ratings.’ No, I replied. That isn’t the sort of programme I’d watch in a million years. Lefty comedians making lefty jokes to a lefty audience about politics from a relentlessly lefty perspective? No, thanks.
‘But that’s exactly why we’re approaching you. To give it a bit of political balance,’ they said. ‘You mean, to come on as your token right-wing nutcase to be reviled and jeered at?’ I said. ‘Nooo,’ they said. ‘We want every point of view to be represented, we really do.’ ‘Yeah, right,’ I thought. But I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and wait for the first episode.
And guess what? 10 O’Clock Live is so relentlessly left-wing it’s like attending one of those Maoist re-education lectures the Chinese used to impose on captured British and American prisoners during the Korean war. Only without the levity, rapier wit and penetrating intellectual sophistication.
Look, you’re just going to have to take my word for it that this isn’t a case of sour grapes. Really, I’m absolutely 100 per cent sure that had I been chosen to be one of the presenters, I too would have made just as appalling hash of the job as Laverne, Mitchell, Brooker and Carr do with such cackhanded verve, week-in, week-out.
But the real point about all this is that the problem with 10’O Clock Live has absolutely nothing to do with personalities. (As I say later in the Spectator piece, I’m actually a massive fan of all four of those presenters: I just think their talents are wasted on this particular misbegotten show.) The problem lies with its relentlessly left-liberal politics.
Now I would concede that greenie, left-liberal politics are more likely to be in line with its yoof demographic. But the programme’s tacit assumption that all people today between 18 and 34 are Israel-loathing, high-tax-loving, believers in an expanded welfare state, man-made global warming, waterboarding for bankers, compulsory homosexuality, free university education and so on is not only demeaning (and, to a degree, false) but also the makings of excedingly dull TV.
Sure, granted, a lot of the nation’s “uni-” “educated” yoof do think in this way. But what you get if you make a topical news programme in this way is an amen corner for the received orthodoxies of the green, liberal-left. What you definitely don’t is the cut and thrust of real, exciting political debate.
As much as anything else this is a psychological thing. There are many fine, entertaining figures of a right/conservative/libertarian persuasion. But if their job is merely to be tossed like scraps of raw meat into a bear pit of salivating lefties who wouldn’t know what a free market was if it bit them on the bum, they are simply not going to perform to their best advantage.
Not everyone reads the Guardian or the Independent, you know. (In fact, hardly anyone.)

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3 thoughts on “10 O’Clock Live is shedding viewers. Oh dear”

  1. JimmyGiro says:20th March 2011 at 10:16 amA depressed man asks the psychoanalyst what he can do for relief?The analyst replies: “The treatment is simple. The great clown Terrifini is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up. Man bursts into tears: “But doctor . . . I am Terrifini.”

    I think the main problem with ’10 O’clock Live’ is the audience. Comedians, and popular public speakers alike, are inclined to react to the audience, which becomes their audience.

    Would Bernard Manning’s style of humour be the same if he were not playing to North Manchester working class men? Would Hitler have chosen a different angle if he couldn’t depend on the inherent anti-Jewish sentiment of the German people, in his early political career?

    If the organisers attract a crowd of brown shirts, the show is going to be different than if it was populated by people that want a laugh after a hard days graft. The Guardian reading crowd seem to want self affirmation rather than a belly laugh, as witnessed by the cheering and clapping, dominating the paucity of natural, non-forced laughter.

    When Nigel Farage, who was introduced amongst Pavlovian jeering, gave his typically cogent responses to David Mitchell’s questions, despite the latter desperately trying to force the answers to a simplistic level of xenophobia, the audience where stunned, and eventually collapsed into polite applause at the end.

    So I conclude that it is the neurosis of the audience that is wearing away the credibility of the show, and it took someone of Nigel Farage’s confidence to expose it.

  2. Velocity says:21st March 2011 at 1:24 amLeftie (and liberal) comedians are sooooooooo not funny. Dross in, dross out.
    But maybe you should take up the challenge James as first we need some right wingers (libertarians), second lefties are a (easy) target to be hammered and third times are a changing. and becoming more receptive
    They take the piss out of austerity you take the piss out of State bankruptcy
    They take the piss out of bankers you say it was the socialists that bailed them out
    They take the piss out of higher Uni fees you say State education is the most expensive liability
    They say Cameron is a clown you say ‘Agreed, but not as big as the last Labour Govt’
    They want more for the NHS you say the free market works better
    They want more for trains, green energy, Euro subsidies etc you say the free market works better
    They complain about cuts you complain about high taxes on everything (fuel, VAT up, ciggies, drinks etc etc etc)
    They want more Govt you want a whole lot less (zero someday when the penny drops)
    You could have a field day slapping these lefties in the face… remember they’re soft as shit and haven’t a leg to stand on after Labours destruction of the country… a missed opportunity James
  3. Colin says:22nd March 2011 at 9:52 pmI watch it, I laugh.

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I’ve Always Made a Noise at My Noisome TV

I’ve always made a noise at my noisome TV

For as long as I can remember, I have been shouting at my TV screen. Possibly the first occasion would have been circa 1971, in sheer irritation at the infuriating, self-defeatingly named kiddie programme Why Don’t You Just Switch Off Your Television Set And Go Out And Do Something Less Boring Instead?

Perhaps it was even earlier than that. Though I liked Teddy, I used to find Andy Pandy incredibly wet. Bill and Ben were incomprehensible. The Clangers whistled too much. ZsaZsa the Cat and Kiki the Frog were quite maddening in the way they ganged up on Hector the Dog. As for Florence in the Magic Roundabout, what a goodie-goodie!

So, yes, I must confess to a certain amount of sneaking sympathy with Martin Soloman, the pensioner who has just been banned by the courts from using his radio or his TV (on top of 14 months in jail) because of his noisy, foul-mouthed rants at programmes that irritated him. I’m sure it must have been awful for his neighbours and I wouldn’t want to condone it. But I can definitely see where he was coming from, especially where his absolute bête noir was concerned: Question Time.

For Question Time is indeed the most annoying programme in the history of broadcasting. Annoying for so many reasons that just thinking about it makes me want to put a sledgehammer through every TV in the house. (Which, presumably, is why my wife so rarely lets me watch it.)

David Dimbleby is annoying because he always interrupts the speakers you like with pointless questions, and always gives a free pass to the idiocies of the speakers you hate. The people in the audience are annoying because they are always too cocky, or too nervous, or too stupid, or too wrong. And the guests are annoying because the ones you agree with aren’t sufficiently sympathetic or forthright, and the ones you disagree with always say such thoroughly disagreeable things at such disagreeable length.

Still, if Question Time were the only culprit, life would be simple: all you’d have to do is never watch it. Unfortunately, though, it is merely the tip of an ever-expanding iceberg. To watch TV these days, you’d almost imagine that programme-makers consider it their primary duty to peeve, irk and irritate viewers into a state of foaming apoplexy.

Obvious examples include Channel 4’s 10 O’Clock Live (four Leftist comics banging on Leftishly for an audience of Guardian readers); Masterchef (once about amateur cookery; now transformed into one of those sadistic Japanese game shows Clive James used to find so droll); Shameless (in which we are invited to celebrate the kind of dole-scrounging asbo-collectors who are ruining our country); and, of course, Big Brother and The X Factor, whose unremitting, weapons-grade annoyingness needs no explanation.

Perhaps this is deliberate. In advertising, it has long been known that the commercials that are the most annoying (eg the one with the meerkat) are also the most effective. So maybe this is just TV’s way of competing for our attention in the age of such myriad distractions as Facebook, Twitter and Call of Duty.

Or perhaps it is simply a function of my age. Maybe there are millions and millions of younger people who don’t find the programmes I’ve named at all irritating, who don’t swear at their screens, as I did the other night when I realised, while watching the fourth episode of Channel 4’s The Promise, that not once – not once – had the female lead done anything other than look sulky and bored.

If the latter is the case, I can only offer my apologies to my next-door neighbours. And a warning as well: don’t judge me too harshly. It happens to us all in the end.

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6 thoughts on “I’ve always made a noise at my noisome TV”

  1. Thumbnail says:4th March 2011 at 2:11 amAustralia is on the brink of setting a price for carbon, which is turning out to be political poison for the Labor Government and Julia Gillard who has sidled up to the Greens to form a coalition government.This youtube is well worth a watch.


    Please watch it. It comes up when googling ‘carbon tax downfall’.

    Oh, we need all of the help we can get.

    Fyi and if you can use it, please do so.

  2. Thumbnail says:4th March 2011 at 2:11 amOh, and I yell at the TV too. I draw the line at yelling at laptop.
  3. David Heffron says:4th March 2011 at 10:36 amI agree with what James is saying about the guests on Question Time. Thing is, I suspect we are thinking about the exact opposite guests.I also mostly agree with the comments about the 10 O’clock Live. However from my experience of comedy there are very few right-leaning commedians out there. The best one is probably Dennis Miller in the US, but I can’t think of one in the UK right now. One that’s good anyway.
    That said, the 10 O’clock Live, or indeed any topical show is going to (mostly) have a go at the guys in charge. There’s not a lot of milage in material about environmentalists or CND supporters because they have relativly little power (there’s probably a lot of people who will disagree with that). If you want an example of this is urge you to youtube “The Half Hour News Hour”, an attempt by Fox news to come up with a right leaning version of the Daily Show – it was really, really, REALLY bad. I mean REALLY bad.
  4. JimmyGiro says:4th March 2011 at 4:18 pmNot many Jewish comedians in the Third Reich either, David.You pays your licence fee, and you take what’s LEFT.
  5. Martin Lack says:4th March 2011 at 4:35 pmJames,You may be surprised to know that I quite often find your writing genuinely funny (i.e. when you’re ignorance of science does not not make me genuinely angry). However, I think you are on very dangerous territory in criticising the likes of Charlie Brooker, David Mitchell, and Jimmy Carr. Personally, I think Jimmy Carr’s “news summary” on the “10 O’clock Live” show is one of the funniest things on the TV at the moment.

    So, all things considered, you might be best to eschew the humour in favour of the pseudo-science – it is much more your thing really, let’s be honest…

  6. JimmyGiro says:4th March 2011 at 7:11 pmLoud cheering, long applause, short laughs… 10 O’Clock Live, Stalin’s choice TV.

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