Take a long look at this photo! Look at those faces; do you see four fearless satirists, a quartet of modern, cutting edge cultural commentators or four utterly self-satisfied cyphers of Islington ‘Edginess’? These are the hosts for what Channel 4 are describing as ‘up to the minute comedy and current affairs’ – well, that’s just what we need, a wishy washy attempt to do The Daily Show. With Jon Stewart, the Americans get a sharp, funny, clever host, great writers, great guests and a programme that actually has political weight and influence. Who do we get?
David Mitchell – being touted as the new David Frost (as if that’s a fucking compliment), this whopper is all over the place at the moment. His uptight office geek shtick worked well in Peep Show but then as so often happens in TV comedy, the BBC poached him and made the mistake of giving him and Peep Show chum, Robert Webb their own show. That Mitchell & Webb Look was as poorly written and badly judged as Corden and Horne, yet amazingly it prompted not only the BBC but all manner of newspapers, radio stations and advertisers to employ Mitchell’s oh so sardonic skills to help host bum quiz shows and sell DIY cancer cure kits. He’s got the voice y’see; that voice of upper class authority and disdain, ye olde ‘Establishment’ satirist, happy to take the piss and the money but not really threatening to the powers that be in any way. Mitchell is perfect Radio4 fodder, safe and cosily reassuring for the middle classes.
Charlie Brooker – it’s been a decade since his spoof telly listings website TvGoHome launched his media career. First he took over from Jim Shelley as the Guardian’s telly critic, before transfering his Nathan Barley character from TVGoHome to real actual TVPleaseDon’tGoHomeIfMyStuff’sOnIt. Since then Brooker’s become a ubiquitous presence on tv and in print perfecting his sour puss, I’m mad as hell persona that projects contempt for the mass media whilst exploiting easily pleased commissioning editors at the same time. Brooker has proved many times on various lame quiz shows as a guest and presenter that he’s not much cop when asked to go beyond his pre-recorded rant routine. On 10 o’clock Live he bombed as he fumbled and blustered in search of topical satire. His dalliances with that Essex Girl stereotype Big Brother contestant and Blue Peter/X-Factor ‘babe’ Konnie Huq suggests that Brooker is a kind of Guardian reader’s version of Lembit Opik.
Lauren Laverne – the thinking man’s Fearne Cotton. ‘Lady La La’, as she calls herself on her inevitable BBC 6music programme, has come a long way since jibbing her mates in shite all girl indie band Kenickie. The BBC obviously regard her as a major talent, as she pops up all over the place on The Culture Show, various festivals and music shows, quizzes, weather reports, traffic updates. With her barely there Sunderland accent, she is the Beeb’s idea of a prole art hotty. Naturally Laverne plays up to this and has managed to worm her way into many a programme without any degree of knowledge or insight. She just has to flutter those big blue yes and all the suits go weak at the knees. But then again, how do you explain Claudia Winkleman? If Miranda Sawyer can go from half-arsed Face hack to Very Important Cultural Personage deciding on who gets the capital of culture gig, then Laverne can attempt topical satire with the boys eh?
Jimmy Carr – as a stand up, Carr’s quick fire gag routine is surprisingly nasty for someone who appears so clean cut. Like Mitchell, Carr has carved out a career for himself as an old skool everyman, presenting various quizzes, guesting on just about every chat show, slimily backslapping his way up the slippery showbiz pole whilst affecting a reputation as a controversialist. Yet, see how fast the fresh faced fucker backed down after offending the Daily Mail brigade with his joke about injured squaddies competing in the paralympics. He knows which side his bread’s buttered Jimmy. He’s the Big Fat Eight Out of Ten Quiz of The Week whopper who’s uncomfortable in this setting trying to make topical political gags without the safety net of re-takes.
Channel 4 was once a fearless broadcaster that revelled in pissing off the right-wing press and the Tory ministers who’d given them a licence to be ‘alternative.’ It seems a long, long time ago that C4 was genuinely anti-authoritarian and went out on a limb. Big Brother controversies apart, their output over the past decade in particular has been reduced to tired ‘lifestyle’ programmes and imported comedies. 4’s constant bidding for ‘public service broadcaster’ funding has largely castrated them and so they play it safe these days. 10 o’clock Live is their attempt to be ‘edgy’ but comes across as an even worse version of the 11 o’clock Show. At least that satirical failure launched the careers of Ricky Gervais and Sasha Baron Cohen. 10 ‘oclock Live tried too hard, the one hour slot should’ve allowed for experimentation but the format was tired and predictable, the presenters unrehearsed and nervous, the ‘serious’ interviews timid and naive, the audience laughter forced and embarassing.
Apart from that, it’s a winner!