In their battle to keep hold of Big Brother viewers but also satisfy people with Stephen Fry posters above their bed, Channel 4 decided to re-explore the “live broadcast” format. Alas, its offerings have left audiences (well, me) feeling dead inside.
January saw C4 fill the spot usually reserved for Celebrity Big Brother with something called Famous and Fearless. Here, peripheral celebrities (like Ewan McGregor’s ginger friend with the motorbike) signed up to compete in a selection of (not very) extreme sports. To think, the time I spent watching the tedious opening episode could have been given over to something infinitely more pleasurable, like cleaning the oven or passing a kidney stone.
Last year C4’s stalwart lady presenter, Davina McCall, was bundled onto The Million Pound Drop, an insipid get-rich-quick game show for the uninhibited and incurably thick. Surely it would have been cheaper and less embarrassing to pack her off with crayons, a colouring book and instructions to keep quiet and stay out of the way of grownups. Instead, we get a weekly reminder of just how intolerably bland Davina is live and minimally scripted. As usual, she overcompensates with hugs and lots of comforting repetition.
But enough McCall bashing (for now) and on to 10 O’Clock Live. If only making a funny satirical panel show was as easy as herding comedians, presenters and pretty ex-pop stars into a studio. David Mitchell's angry interviews might be good fun but Lauren Laverne undoes all his good work by speaking. The four hosts don’t riff well and not just because they’re dangerously under-rehearsed.
Anyhow, it would be churlish to complain about the broadcaster's live output without at least tabling an improvement strategy. Channel 4, I give you TV.com’s quick ‘n’ easy five point fix it guide...
1. Sell Davina. Or swap her for a nice scarf.
2. A camera-facing audience is A Bad Thing. You might think it makes us at home feel and like we’re part of a witty, knowing elite, but no one wants to tune in and look at a pack of obsequious, smug hyenas.
3. Don’t imply with your marketing material that you’ve convinced semi-famous people to engage in lethal extreme sports when in fact they’ll merely be learning to ride a skateboard or drive off road. Channel 4 – you owe us a dead minor celebrity.
4. Understand that just because you’re allowed to drop F and C-bombs, it doesn’t mean you should. Or, FFS use them sparingly (I’m talking to you, Charlie Brooker and Jimmy Carr). When was the last time you saw infinitely more hilarious Paul Merton pepper a rant with the bad vagina word?
5. If you’re going multi-presenter, make sure they have chemistry
Your hosts may have played nicely in other groups but this doesn’t mean your new collective will gel. The 10 O’clock Live gang -- Laverne, Carr, Brooker and Mitchell -- are, theoretically, a dream team. But they seem suspicious of each other and rarely make eye contact. Laverne perches like a meerkat terrified that someone will ask her a hard politics question. The males, meanwhile, look pale and deflated, as if they'd be more comfortable reading out a less patronising script on a show they weren't obliged to share.