Thursday, 17 February 2011

Day 143

We finished the last of the strange label-less liquor (definitely liquor), which means my birthday week is officially over.

I especially enjoyed having family over last week -- not the whole family, of course, just a select trio of middle-aged people. This was bewildering for some of my flatmates, as our lifestyles in halls of residence are not appropriately equipped to deal with the over 30s, apart from in one particular case that mirrors the relationship of Socrates and Plato. Mentioning no names. Except Socrates. And Plato.

Anyway, with the family I got to explore much more of Greenwich. This included The Old Royal Naval College, a structure so symmetrical that I felt a bit dizzy, not the greatest state to be in when mooching around the National Maritime Museum.

I also got to take them to my favourite London restaurant, which makes me feel smugly Londony, and to my favourite recent film, The King's Speech. I didn't catch much of the BAFTAs, but I know that Colin Firth has been flashing his cinematically underused grin. I think he won a lot.

Speaking of nothing, when 10 O'Clock Live started being broadcast last month I got a slew of texts from friends asking if they should tune in or not. I was startled to find myself treated as an authority on the matter, but then I discovered that lots of other people were also being asked. It was a minor epidemic of uncertainty. Should I tune in to 10 O'Clock Live? Should I?

To use a line from Scott of the Sahara: 10 O'Clock Live is the story of three people and a woman.
Everyone knows that "live" is a synonym for "shitter than it would be if it wasn't live". Yes it's off-putting when you're watching, say, QI, and you dimly realise that it's probably the fourth take of the "off-the-cuff" gag that just made you laugh out loud, but because of the nature of live TV it's even more meticulously rehearsed than pre-recorded programmes like QI. And "anything could happen" (an obvious fallacy), meaning that the presenters are so nervous that they can't manage any semblance of visible enjoyment.

10 O'Clock Live has a horribly over-used studio audience that makes the theme tune to the show "WOOOOOOYEEEEEAHWOOOOOO", repeated at ear-splitting volume at every transition. The noise of 10 O'Clock Live is truly horrible.

There are four presenters who, despite being visibly skittish, rarely manage to fluff, corpse or spelunk, whatever that means. The presenters are Charlie Brooker, whose misanthropic ingenuity was more enjoyable before he married a Blue Peter presenter when it was just him and the cameraman; David Mitchell, peculiarly wild-eyed these days; Lauren Laverne, an embarrassing matriarchal organiser; and Jimmy Carr, a clever and measured comedian whose gimmick is to tell a joke and then either address the joke or leave a silence in order to provoke a second laugh.

The programme consists of three things. Firstly, comedy bits that aren't very funny (because it's live). Secondly, news bits in a format seen on literally every single non-fiction TV programme anyway, such as the news that Jeremy Paxman accidentally said the word cunt. That's the third time that very specific accident has happened in as many months. Surely the Daily Mail's going to start calling it "cuntgate". Why hasn't 10 O'Clock Live come up with that joke? It's the kind of joke they tell.

Thirdly, there's political bits, where one of the presenters sits down with serious persons. These bits do have a surprising Paxman-esque feel to them actually; and I say it’s surprising because 10 O'Clock Live feels like a comedy show with serious bits, rather than the originally-intended serious show with comedy bits. David Mitchell is good at serious bits, and it's turning him into an oddly unplaceable figure. I don't think TV really knows what to do with him. It's hard to remember that he's an actor.

It does make me suicidally annoyed, though, when the audience applause each agreeable political point David Mitchell makes. Despite being an hour long, the programme is so rushed that someone always announces that they have to move on to the next bit just when it gets interesting, so the audience have obviously made a collective decision that smugly slapping their raw bleeding hands together in support of someone who, lest we forget, is the presenter, and thus designed to be agreeable, is a much better use of time than actually continuing with the interview.

Mind, I’m sure I'd applaud David Mitchell too. The presenters, at least, have some life in their voices. The guests are all dead. Politicians are boring. They just are. Look at them. Look at them. I imagine they've all been given a formula on what is “charismatic” and “interesting” and will attract The Great Unhosed, so they all have the same words and hairstyle and hand gestures and little trousers.

To answer the initial question, yes you should watch 10 O'Clock Live. Even though it's not hugely interesting, and it's not hugely funny. In my experience live TV doesn't do humour very well, and this one is no different -- although Charlie Brooker did blurt out a memorable jab at the Richard Hammond Mexico furore, but it was kind of lost in the applause. Hammond had said on Top Gear "imagine waking up and realising you're Mexican". And Brooker said "imagine being Richard Hammond and waking up and going 'oh no! I'm this'".

It's Charlie Brooker and the other three that means you have to watch 10 O'Clock Live. That's why people watch it. It's the closest TV has ever come to unvoluntary viewing.

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