herald

Tuesday 21 August 2018

Ten o’clock is the place to be for comedy

FRIDAY night is the new Saturday night. You can't get much more Saturday-on-Friday than Graham Norton's chat show, which seems to have inherited not just Jonathan Ross's old Friday night slot but also the spirit of Michael Parkinson's old-fashioned, celebrity-stuffed Saturday night showbiz pizzazz.

But if Friday night is the new Saturday night, then surely that must mean Thursday night is the new Friday night, yes? Actually . . . yes, if the initial feel of Channel 4's 10 O'Clock Live is anything go by.

This new satirical comedy show is so steeped in Friday-ness, halfway through it I was smugly contemplating the nice lie-in I'd have in the morning -- until I remembered the pad in my lap and the pen in my hand, and the fact that I'd have to get out of bed in the dark to write about it.

Still, if any show is worth staying up late for on a Fri..., sorry, Thursday night, it's this.

Spun off from the success of last year's live Alternative Election Night and featuring the same quartet of talent -- Lauren Laverne, Jimmy Carr, David Mitchell and Charlie Brooker -- 10 O'Clock Live is the closest thing British television has had to 1960s satirical landmark That Was The Week That Was in a long time.

The obvious danger with transmitting live, apart from fluffed lines and missed cues, obviously, it that the whole thing could fall flat on its face.

A gag or a skit that seems hilarious in a roomful of writers in the afternoon can frequently land with a dull thud before an expectant studio audience.

But the occasional wobble aside, 10 O'Clock Live stayed on its feet and mostly delivered the goods.

The resignation yesterday of Britain's Shadow Chancellor Alan Johnson was a gift to Jimmy Carr, who handled the opening monologue: a recap of the week's news.

Columnist Charlie Brooker, who's improved no end as a TV presenter since the early days of Screenwipe, delivered a beginner's guide to Sarah Palin that could have been written at any time over the last year.

It was funny, though, and Brooker really got into his stride with a couple of more topical rants.

The heart and soul of 10 O'Clock Live, however, is the brilliant David Mitchell.

Mitchell is as smart and sharp in print (he has a weekly column in a Sunday broadsheet) as he is in front of a camera. His main brief is to grill politicians.

It's a tricky task to ask serious questions AND extract a steady flow of laughs but Mitchell -- who's better than most "serious" current affairs interviewers I can think of -- was superb.

Sadly, Lauren Laverne has been given little to do other than corral the three men and ensure things keep moving along smoothly. The one comedy item she featured in -- a dreadful spoof of American news channels -- was the weakest patch in the whole show.

If 10 O'Clock Live can expand Laverne's role and tighten up its structure, it could become must-see television. On any night of the week.

Definite must-see television, at least for one more Thursday, is Kidnap and Ransom. It's common for three-part thrillers to take a dip in the middle section but this has tightened its grip on your throat.

Having seen hostage Naomi (Emma Fielding) snatched away by a second kidnap gang at the end of last week's episode, negotiator Dominic King (Trevor Eve) finds this lot, led by the sinister Willard (John Hannah, glorying in his post-Spartacus villainy), are a more professional, more ruthless outfit.

They hand over Naomi with worrying ease but, in a stupendous twist, kidnap her daughter back in London. Absolutely gripping stuff.

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