The prequel to Iain Lee and Daisy Donovan’s 11 O’Clock Show launched last night on Channel 4. It was the… er… 10 O’Clock Show, and it came upon us in a fiery blaze of publicity. Part of this was because Channel/More 4 had just reduced its order of the US’s The Daily Show to one episode per week, and people were angry, dammit – probably 80,000 of them, as those were the ratings – but Channelmorefour execs had cushioned the blow by saying that The 10 O’Clock Show would offer a similar mix of comedy, news, and searing political analysis.
Channel 4 was basically on a hiding to nothing here. After all, The Daily Show had years to build up a format, yet rather than soft-launching a British alternative and allowing its audience to grow organically, 4 went all-out on the social media front to make The 10 O’Clock Show a real TV event. Part of this strategy doubtless had to do with the high-profile pedigree of those involved: namely Charlie Brooker, Jimmy Carr, Lauren Laverne and David Mitchell. Such a line-up immediately raised expectations.
If you’ve read other reviews of the show, you’ve doubtless encountered the tedious grumblings of people who have no fucking idea how difficult it is to write the first episode of anything – particularly something that has to be topical and live.
Naturally, though, there were teething troubles. Yes, Lauren Laverne was wasted, and the comedy sketch she was involved in with ‘Doug Stanhope’ (Brooker-nepotism in action) plain didn’t work. Jimmy Carr’s Tunisia sketch wasn’t quite funny enough to justify inclusion either (and judging by his expression while delivering the material, he knew that, too). But such things are to be expected this early in a show’s run. David Mitchell was the undisputed star of proceedings – he was very funny in his political diatribes, and even allowed interviewee David Willetts (the Higher Education Minister) enough time to speak. True, the political tone of the show was maybe a little bit unbalanced, but it was funny and I’m sure that a tiny course correction wouldn’t kill the flow of things.
Charlie Brooker carried on with his Screen/Newswipe persona (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it), as well as having a pre-recorded report about Sarah Palin that wouldn’t have looked out of place in either of those shows, but aside from his continually baffling haircut, he seemed totally suited to this kind of programme. He’s a perfect fit.
The ingredients are all there for this show to be amazing. What needs to be finessed slightly is the tone, which isn’t quite consistent enough… yet. The role that Lauren Laverne occupies also needs to be more defined, and there’s an ever-present danger that the show will start to resemble a Sixth Form Debating Society with a bigger budget.
Despite the shakedown issues, though, I’m confident that over the next few weeks it’ll establish its own identity and become one of those water cooler shows that everyone will be talking about. I thoroughly enjoyed the first episode. Overall, I thought it was a very promising start.