Friday, 4 March 2011

10 Ways To Improve '10 O'Clock Live'

Friday, 4 March 2011

Channel 4's Thursday night satirical comedy 10 O'Clock Live is struggling in the ratings. Overhyped as the UK's answer to The Daily Show, the show debuted to widespread disapproval and negative press, and the general feeling hasn't changed. I don't think it's that bad, but it's definitely less impressive than you'd expect from the starry lineup. So what can be done to reverse its fortunes? Here's a 10-step guide to getting the show on-track:

1. Reschedule

Given the restrictive title, there are only seven timeslots available for 10 O'Clock Live (well, 14 if they dare put it on in daytime), but a move from Thursdays to Fridays at 10pm feels like a great idea. It's currently competing with BBC1's Question Time, assumedly because it's designed to be an alternative to that political debate series. But that's not clever counter-programming, it's a clash of audience interest.

2. Lose Jimmy Carr

It's not that Carr's the worst presenter or doing a bad job, but four presenters feels like overkill. Three would be preferable, and you can't have three men outside of Top Gear, so it would be less damaging to the show if they let Carr go and kept David Mitchell and Charlie Brooker. Carr's never felt like a political comedian, so his involvement with 10OCL feels like it's denying the show of a better political humorist.

3. Replace Lauren Laverne

As a man, if you criticize Lauren Laverne you risk being called a chauvinist, but my dislike has nothing to do with her gender. I've liked her in other things I've seen, but she's just not very good on this show and doesn't suit it. That's why she's always palmed off with the pre-recorded VT's, the chairperson's role in debates, and throwing to the commercial breaks. Laverne also has the air of someone doing an ironic impression of a "cool, opinionated presenter" while furiously glancing at her notes.

4. Shorten the runtime

An hour is too long for this show, in its current format -- although if it was packed with hilarity I wouldn't complain. The first 25-minutes is usually the strongest (Carr's opening standup, Brooker's VT-assisted fury, the Mitchell-led debate), so if it ended it there it wouldn't be so bad! Instead, it comes back from that mid-hour break and the pace flags considerably.

5. Less liberal bias

All of the presenters are unashamedly liberal-minded, so the agenda of the show is weighted that way. Imagine how refreshing it would be if half the presenters were slightly more right-wing in their views, to inspire arguments and break the cozy atmosphere. That could set the cat amongst the pigeons and create much-needed tension. Right now, Brooker sits on the edge of their roundtable looking extremely bored, face perched on his palm.

6. Better guests

They won't lure A-list politicians onto 10OCL until it's an established hit that's perceived as being good PR in the political game (as an appearance on Have I Got News For You has become*), but it would really help to get a few big-names involved. Alastair Campbell was a decent booking in episode 2, but he's yesterday's news. You're not going to get Prime Minister David Cameron in for a chat anytime soon, but surely a few recognizable, key figures from the incumbent government would be possible?

*Boris Johnson became Mayor of London off the back of a few funny appearances on HIGNFY as guest-host.

7. Involve the audience

There's a studio audience of young adults watching the show go out live every week, but they just sit there and chuckle at the gags. Why not ask them some questions? The presenters are all good at engaging with "ordinary people", so let them! Even some kind of phone-in would be great, rather than rely on Twitter and text messages scrolling along the bottom of the screen.

8. New faces

If you could hit a redo button, it would be great to see four newcomers presenting 10OCL, instead of the famous four we have. They can't help bringing baggage and expectations to the project. Imagine if there were four new faces presenting it; it would be immediately less predictable and Channel 4 may have unearthed the next Ricky Gervais, Sacha Baron Cohen, or... um, Iain Lee. If 10OCL returns for a second series (and that's a big if), maybe they'll consider an overhaul with new faces?

9. Pre-record

A tricky one, given the word LIVE is in the title, but what value does being live bring to the table? The chance to see the presenters fluff their lines? Mild spontaneity? Okay, so being live means they can crack jokes about things that have happened moments ago, but you wouldn't lose much if they recorded it a few hours beforehand. There's never been a campaign to get Have I Got News For You broadcast live, has there. 10 O'Clock Almost Live?

10. Let it breathe

Considering they have a whole hour to fill, it feels oddly structured and paced. Just when you're in the middle of a fairly interesting and entertaining debate with Mitchell and guests, he cuts someone off mid-rant and we're sent spinning to the other side of the studio to listen to Charlie Brooker vent his spleen. Less features, more time dedicated to those they have?

So there you have it! I'm not saying all of that must be obeyed, or even that each suggestion would definitely work, but I think most are worth some consideration. A few could even be trialled a few weeks, to see if they help tighten things.

Do you have any suggestions for ways to improve 10 O'Clock Live?