As a temporary break from the norm, I wish to describe my experience of being in the audience for the ‘filming’ of a ‘live’ TV show pilot. I’m not sure what the rules are regarding writing / talking about unaired TV pilots but I found nothing in the literature I was sent saying that I couldn’t discuss it, so here goes.
10 O’Clock Live! Or… 10 O’Clock! Live. Perhaps 10 O’Clock, Live?
10 O’Clock Live (I feel like there should be an exclamation mark there somewhere) reunites the new “old band” of comedic news Charlie Brooker, Jimmy Carr, Lauren Laverne and David Mitchell for what named-like-a-drug production company Endemol call “a funny, fresh and clever take on current issues and events” in order to satiate the “appetite for a show that mixes comedy and the news agenda together in a way that produces genuine insight as well as laugh-out-loud moments.”
Brooker, Carr, Laverne and Mitchell formed their merry band of men and woman on Channel 4’s Alternative Election Night where they presented the event with their not-yet-trademark satirical mix of light-heartedness and seriousness and where Brooker pissed himself out of fright. They reunite to reignite their firebrand embers and turn up the heat on the latest news stories from the week.
Where Does The Show Fit? Where Do They Fit?
What’s initially interesting about this is the suggestion that there is a gap in the market for this type of show, which (we were told) is scheduled to start airing some time in January in Channel 4’s Thursday 10pm slot. On the BBC this slot is currently filled by Never Mind the Buzzcocks, although I am unsure if their run will continue much into next month and have to compete for air time. In any case, with shows like Mock the Week (of which Mitchell is a frequent guest), Russell Howard’s Good News and Have I Got News For You one wonders if a show like this is one show too far. C4, of course, seems to lack such a show so it seems this is their attempt to capture some of the audience in this market.
Brooker has already said that he is planning a new show for next year, and it was noticeable in tonight’s filming that he was eerily absent. He popped on-screen occasionally but as I read the lines on the auto-cue for his companions I realised that a lot of them were in his style and could easily have been delivered by him. When he did feature, for instance in group discussions, he was quiet and unable to get a word in. In the unscripted universe perhaps Brooker’s acerbic wit is simply lost. In any case, his role seems principally to be a writer as well as providing Screen/News/Games-wipe-esque vignette VTs. It was interesting watching him watch the VT – you could almost see him self-analysing; criticising himself as if it was featured in his old Screenburn column.
Carr lived up to his character and was frequently sharp and seemed to play the host or, at a minimum, the compère and he was aptly suited for it being the only stand-up comedian of the group. During VTs and advert breaks he engaged with the audience, cracking wise like walnuts beneath the thighs of a Russian gymnast, and proved unassailably his vital role in the line-up. Linchpins should be named after him. Soon football commentators will be saying things like, “Michael Essien really plays the Carr role in Chelsea’s midfield.” He also interviewed a physicist about his latest book, fulfilling a dual role as well.
Mitchell also plays two important roles. The first is a simple 3-minute diatribe section, much like his Soap Box videos on the Guardian website, which are, as you might expect, observant and witty. Indeed, it is Mitchell’s excellent ability to zero-in on a foible in life’s web of woe that makes him so suited for his second role. Here, Mitchell imagines what it would be like to be David Dimblebee hosting Question Time with the addition of “… and he had a sense of humour.” In the debate, which centred on the Julian Assange story, he addressed contributors by their full names (even Brooker) as well as convened matters with a mix of wit and classic chairman-like behaviour. Again, a welcome addition to the band.
Unfortunately, I struggled to understand Laverne’s contribution to the programme. She had two roles as well; the first being to join segments up and spin a few yarns and secondly to play the audience’s friend by occasionally wondering into the audience for vox pops. She did also interview a real-life futurologist but I can’t really comment on it as I was distracted by Carr, who was miming a certain oral sex act (undoubtedly an expression of his opinion of the futurologist and not his colleague). Sadly, her biggest laugh of the evening was when she approached an audience member and asked them their opinion on free speech. Alas, he was unable to articulate an answer above the level of “it’s good”, though I forget exactly what he said. I hate to be cynical at this moment but it seems her contribution, at least in this episode, was merely to balance the team out. Having three witty men chortling with each other on a show like this would invariably make it out to be a ‘blokey’ show doomed to obscure late night repeats on Dave. Perhaps her role is not so direct as the other three, providing a more of a support role? Whether intended or not, Laverne failed to make an impression.
I see good things in the future for this show. Its line-up is impressive and its production company is famous for producing punchy satirical shows. It contained too many elements, with too little time spent on each, but I suspect this was a deliberate attempt to see what works and what doesn’t, meaning they are able to make the first broadcast episode as lean as possible. Brooker, Carr and Mitchell all seem to have their roles clearly identified and working well. Laverne, however, seems unable to make traction and may be seen as dead-weight (or worse, window dressing) when it comes time to air. Still, for a first pilot things are looking good.