Last year a new live comedy show began on Channel Four. It was called 10 O'Clock Live, and starred David Mitchell, Jimmy Carr, Charlie Brooker and Lauren Laverne. It had a tricky start among my friends, and from what I understand, got a bit of a drubbing by critics. Ahead of the new series tonight, I just wanted to say that they were wrong.
I think a common question levied at the show last year was what Lauren was actually for. To me the answer was obvious. She was the anchor. She needed to be witty, not hilarious; she needed an air of authority without pomposity. She needed the common touch but be able to take the high ground. And that she did. Yes there were a couple of pieces here and there that didn't work, but I thought she did rousing very well. Lauren's call to vote was a little bit spine-tingling, as was her Save the Arts piece.
Jimmy's opening punchline-crammed monologues started the show off and running, and were his best contributions. Most of his sketches didn't work, as the only person Jimmy Carr can be is Jimmy Carr. He just happens to do it really rather well. I'd guessed - but might be wrong about this - that the producers had cottoned on to the fact that, under pressure or difficulty, his reactions got big laughs (check his SAS sketch), and so as the series went on, he ended up in sillier and more stressful (for a performer) situations.
The po-faced critics of the Media Talk podcast criticised David Mitchell for not being hard enough on his guests, which may be true, but I thought there were flashes of brilliance in his round-table discussions. Maybe they were due more to good booking than good chairmanship, but I thought he had just the right level of ironic gravitas.
And of course we come to Charlie. Oh, Charlie. I think he's become a victim of that wholly idiotic habit people have of blaming a person or band's popularity on that person or band. From what I can tell, Brooker hasn't changed - apart from his hair, maybe - over the years I've seen him in front of a camera, or appeared to have "sold out" in any way, but because he occasionally appears on mainstream panel shows, that must be a sign that he's no longer cool, right? Ugh. Anyway, back to the point. Brooker gave us what we expect from Brooker: bile, self-loathing, creative swearing and lots of clips of other TV shows. I love him.
One of perhaps the biggest problems with the show - and something I think the Guardian bunch pointed out - is the pandering to the performers, of its very liberal audience. Liberal is fine of course, and I'm fairly wooly myself, but it all feels a little off-key when the audience react in exactly the way you expect, every time. But how many hard-nosed conservatives and borderline racists are likely to watch Channel Four?
In conclusion then, yes there were sketches that didn't work; yes some bits fell a bit flat, and maybe occasionally they could've better deployed their satirical arsenal, but I got a genuine sense of excitement every time I watched that show. Very few TV programmes have given me that buzz. I felt I belonged with that show, that it echoed my beliefs, and made me feel a part of something. I think it's superb. Roll on series two.
And if you've not watched it yet, do. It's Channel Four, 10 O'Clock (natch) on Wednesdays. Or on 4OD.