10 o’clock Live isn’t all bad. Charlie Brooker’s first segment, riffing on TV and the news is funny, though sometimes it’s just his Guardian column verbalised. Jimmy Carr’s opening section jokes are funny. David Mitchell’s monologues are good, though sometimes wasted on the studio audience. And Lauren Laverne is…easy on the eye.
But it goes wrong in a few places. Jimmy Carr is a horrible interviewer, far too keen to quip and interrupt, rarely letting the interviewee get any flow going. Jon Stewart manages to walk the thin line of joker/interviewer (see the thin line he walks? It’s right there, that little diagonal thing between ‘joker’ and ‘interviewer’. Stewart walks that every day. You couldn’t do it once in a year). Even Jonathan Ross, a bastion of undisciplined interviewing, still gets his guests to answer more freely that Carr does, and in a much more easy-going format. Carr’s interviews always seem frustratingly short, but really they’re long enough for the guests to get their point across. Until Carr starts blurting out little jokes, and questioning them purely as a set-up for the next gag. Smart and interesting people like Bjorn Lonborg and Tim Harford, reduced to making rushed comments before Carr forces in another quip.
The Live producers may have cottoned onto this fact now. As of last week’s episode (#5, if memory serves), Laverne is sitting in on Carr’s interview. Like Supernanny, keeping Jimmy on a tight leash, occasionally kicking the child in the balls if he makes too many jokes.
The show’s ultimate sin is its intense desire to pander to it’s audience. Live unashamedly grabs at topics that will easily appeal to the audience’s emotions and milks them for all their worth. Since episode one, Live had made jokes about bankers’ roles in the recession. The audience’s positive reaction has emboldened them, sadly leading to Bankers In Need, a spoof campaign about helping bankers recovering from the economic downturn. I thought that all the banker jokes had been used up in the last few years, but Live continues to flog a rotting horse. One or two rounds of banker jokes would be forgivable, but every week is too much. Bankers In Need wasn’t even initially enjoyable, but now it looks like being a regular segment. How many different ways can you say ‘bankers are shit’?
This desperate need to please the audience carries over onto other topics. So many discussions boil down to cheering for basic assumptions of British life. It essentially becomes ‘Democracy is great isn’t it? Uni should be free and jobs are better than no jobs. Hurrah for all these things’. And the audience cheer.
The roundtable bits are particularly horrible. 5 minutes dedicated to ego-stroking, the presenters making comments that no sane human would disagree with, then acting as if they’re surprised that the audience are behind them.
So if Live can keep the Brooker segments, make sure Jimmy Carr is always alone, and grow a backbone and take on much tougher questions, it might be enjoyable. I remain cynical.