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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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.
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