Archives for posts with tag: Jimmy Carr

It seems weird to be discussing a show as lightweight as 8 Out of 10 Cats, but I have good reasons to. The first is, to put it bluntly, there is little else on TV at the moment that I haven’t analysed to death, although if someone wants to know my thoughts on New Girl for the umpteenth time I am happy to divulge. The other is that it is a prime example of a successful satirical panel show, and is worthy of dissection as a representation of the genre.

I always see Cats as the teenage grandchild of Have I Got News For You that is enjoying its first few trips to the pub with its mates. The jokes are not as deep and there is no Ian Hislop to offer some thought provoking monologue but it shares some basic genetic material. There are the digs at those in power and popular culture, the latter of which hit home more. It is always more convincing when you hear someone under 40 bemoan modern life if you are in that age bracket. Paul Merton dissing, say, Lady Gaga always comes across as the older generation patronising the younger. Rob Beckett doing it feels more genuine.

The change of captains from Sean Lock and Jon Richardson to Beckett and Aisling Bea is welcome. Not that Lock and Richardson weren’t great, but there was a danger of the show slipping in to the very problem described above with Merton and Hislop – complaining about modern life only works if people genuinely believe you are aware of what it is you are commenting on. Besides Beckett and Bea are hilarious. I am a particular fan of Beckett’s long-running insistence that Jamie Oliver has a kid called Spaghetti Pete. It’s not the cleverest of jokes, but you buy into it because it only stretches the truth slightly.

I do think the show shares a limitation with HIGNFY. Both of them in their satire paint an almost consistent negative picture of politics. There are two camps in satirical thought – one that it exists only to ridicule the powerful and the latter that it should offer guidance on how to improve. I belong in the latter. HIGNFY does have Hislop sometimes giving such a patch of light. Cats does not. You could argue that is not the show’s remit, but with it being so youth oriented, and that generation proving to be so crucial in elections (as the last few years have proved), it almost owes us a duty to encourage engagement in social issues. The Last Leg does this so well without being preachy, so it can be done.

Still, as a diversion it does its job and it isn’t the worst way to spend an hour with the TV.

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Political and social satire is a difficult thing to get right. Be too glib, and people will dismiss what you have to say and therefore your aims you will never be accomplished. Be too serious, and you essentially just become another version of the news. Which is why good satire is to be treasured. So why is there so little of it? Ok, we have panel shows like Have I Got News For You and Mock the Week. But all too often they just become shows were 4 (or 6) men, and the occasional token woman, compete to be funny. With the exception of the peerless Ian Hislop, there is little insight into the news that is actually being satirised.

Thankfully10 o’ Clock Livefills that gap. And my word is it an enoyable hour! We all knew of course going into this that Charlie Brooker does excellent monologues and that Jimmy Carr is the king of the one-liner. The revelation came in the shape of David Mitchell. Again, we all knew that he was able to destroy arguments with a mind thaat is more logic machine than thought processor, but the effectiveness of it in the first series, whether it was a monologue, one-on-one interview or studio debate, was brilliant to watch.

Of course the first series had its faults. If the debates involved three people then it often became the two loudest voices that got heard, irregardless of whether they were the best ones. Lauren Laverne looked lost, more often forced to play supply teacher to her naughty tearaway co-presenters. Carr was also wasted, forced into dull and obvious sketches. So when the second series returned I tuned in to see what had changed.

Well, good news! Most of the faults have gone. The debates are now streamlined to two participants, given Mitchell more time to ask genuine questions. Laverne has now been given her own monologues, and a good job she does of them too. Brooker’s role hasn’t changed, but then it didn’t need to. One fly in the ointment though- Carr’s sketches are still in. Why? Are you that scared of taxing people’s intellects that you have to give them a 5 minute break besides the adverts?

Other items have been sacrificed to make space for the sketches. Mitchell’s monologues. And his one-on-one interviews. If you don’t want him having to much screen time, why not give the latter to Carr? Or move people round a bit. Give Laverne the debates to chair, Mitchell an interview and Carr a monologue. Or develop something new- Carr does a q +a with a guest and the audience. Let’s face it, if you are treading on Newsnight‘s toes you might as well do it to Question Time as well. Wahtever you do Channel 4, just find something to replace those sketches. This show is too good to waste.