31 CommentsEditorials / By Scamp /

British Television News Satire

Welcome to another addition to Nothing To Do With Anime Whatsoever. It would be rather difficult to write about anime anyway, considering I haven’t watched any in well over a week.

I’ve been too busy composing my final year university dissertation, which is focusing on British TV news comedy shows. The main driving force behind the dissertation is that The Daily Show with Jon Stewart has gotten massive commercial success, along with huge critical and academic acclaim. It’s brought a welcome critical voice to the compliant media using a satirical format that has brought in the previously political apathetic youth and so on and so forth blah de blah de blah. Does Britain have a Daily Show equivalent in news comedy? The rather blunt answer is yes. It’s called Have I Got News For You and it even predates The Daily Show. But I wanted to use a similar critical eye that academics used when praising The Daily Show to British news comedy programmes and see if they stack up.

This is not the dissertation. What I’m writing here is some sort of attempt to collect my thoughts on the 4 shows I covered, before I write up my findings in a proper academic way. It’s got nothing to do with anime, but I wanted to try collecting my thoughts on what I’ve researched in writing somewhere before I wrote it up properly, and at least putting it here will allow me to see what others think.

Warning: It is a very long post.

A show that I think rather fails at any form of news satire is Mock the Week. Headlines are removed from full context with the mocking of appearance in photographs of politicians. The news segment they’re supposed to be covering is stated blankly by centre man Dara with no real conversation of the topic in question. Having 7 bloody people on the panels is part of the problem, particularly when the gruffer laddish humour charges in to make a dumb joke about jerking off.

However I’m inclined not to be overly critical of it not delivering any sort of proper news satire, because its main aim is clearly to just be a comedy. The fact they have an entire segment devoted to a random topic coming up and the comedians rifling through their stand up routines a picking out a part that remotely connects to that subject should be enough of a sign that actual news satire isn’t their priority. They aren’t too bad at being a comedy show. Dara Ó Briain is a genuinely funny man when given the chance, but is too nice to ever really give any political satire. Also he’s the presenter, so can’t really do much anyway. Hugh Dennis is pretty funny too. In fact, Hugh Dennis appears to be the one guy who tries to actually comment on the news items in question, but the sheer amount of people there means someone usually gets in after he’s finished a grand total of one line.

Can’t say much about the rest though. Andy Parsons simply isn’t funny. Frankie Boyle is shock humour for shock’s sake. Their regular guests are pretty shit too. I don’t think there are very many people in Ireland who think much of their ‘national treasure’ that is Ed Byrne. Milton Jones is funny, but his humour is surreal and mainly based off puns, which offers nothing to the discussion. And then there’s Russell Howard

One of the other shows I covered was Russell Howard’s Good News, and god bless the guy because his heart is in the right place. You can tell what his intention is. He’s sick of fear mongering and brainless coverage in the news and he wants to counteract that. And occasionally he gets it right, such as mocking News of the World’s incessant fear-mongering saying that everything gives you cancer. OK, easy target and low lying fruit, but still worth saying. When you consider we’re comparing these all to The Daily Show, where the political landscape and state of the news networks in America means that you have to stoop just to reach the low lying fruit, this is still worthwhile.

But christ above he can’t cover news properly. Let me run you through a typical Russell Howard piece. Bring up news story. Make joke about the person on screen’s appearance. Explain the news story further. Rubbish the entire story for no apparent reason bar his own scepticism. Instead of explaining why he’s sceptical, show a youtube video of a cat. Make joke about masturbation. Move onto next segment. Instead of satirically tearing apart the logic behind the news story, as Ian Hislop off HIGNFY would do, he discredits it by using a personal anecdote. This leads to a huge amount of his pieces starting with “this one time, right, one of my mates, right”. On Mock the Week, where he has even less time to impose his personality, nearly every single time he opens his mouth is with the dreaded “one of my mates, right”.

Oh right, I mentioned Have I Got News For You, henceforth just the ridiculous acronym HIGNFY. Running for over 20 years, it’s rather set in its ways, which isn’t strictly a bad thing at all. It’s a direct descendent of That Was The Week That Was, which The Daily Show is also inspired by. Well, since it was the first news satire television programme, technically all these shows are descended from TW3, but HIGNFY was set up deliberately to capture the original take of TW3. The show does have clear political influence, particularly since politicians appear on the show. Mind you, the clearest way it has influenced politics is, arguably, getting Boris Johnson elected as Mayor of London. Since I don’t live in London, I’ve never had to care about what his abilities as a mayor are, but he’s funnier than most of the actual professional comedians on Mock the Week. I think he hams up his doddering posh boy persona, which makes him oddly lovable and hilarious as a result.

The easiest way to show how HIGNFY is good is to compare it to Mock the Week and Russell Howard. As I explained before, the people on the show are genuinely interested in taking apart a news story and actually talking about it. Obviously Ian Hislop is the chief at this, but any gaps he misses are invariably filled up by Paul Merton, who is far cleverer than his goofy persona would have you believe. Sitting in on those panels for 20 years would mean he’d eventually absorb enough ability to tackle news satirically. Also for the guests they do bring on, christ is Ian Hislop good at tearing them apart. One of the episodes I covered for my research that was particularly memorable was when a minister for foreign affairs was on. Before the show he had apparently gone on twitter asking for advice, and people told him the “little shit on the end would tear him a new one”, which seemed to cheer Hislop up and do exactly as advertised.

Ian Hislop is indeed a little shit, obviously revelling in political scandals so he can tear them apart, but the show needs him to do so, particularly when you compare to the overly nice Dara from Mock the Week. He makes no concessions for that either, something Paul Merton likes to mock him for himself. What’s odd is Hislop isn’t actually that funny a lot of the time. The jokes often erupt after he has satirically examined the news story in question. It’s not just him obviously, even the folks in charge of putting up words on the teleprompter for the host to read out are really good at what they do. OK their jokes are pretty obvious a lot of the time. I’m convinced they are contractually obligated to make at least one joke per episode about Eric Pickles being fat. But hey, it’s a running gag.

HIGNFY is also more ‘dignified’, shall we say. The humour on Mock the Week and Russell Howard could be described as ‘laddish’. And by laddish and mean blatantly sexist. Russell Howard in particular can’t make a single reference to any woman without commenting on her shaggibility. Mock the Week normally has a full male cast. On the occasion they’ve had the one girl, she rarely gets a word in edgeways. Meanwhile on HIGNFY, there was a particularly memorable segment once where the host asked one of the female panel members what she thought of the royal wedding bride’s dress, and she responded with “could you ask that again, except this time more condescending”. OK, it’s calling out sexism on its own show, but it shows that the one time it could creep in, it was shot out by the panel members themselves.

On the episodes of Mock the Week I covered, there was one girl who appeared twice, who was so forgettable I can’t even remember her name. But the jokes she did do help me segue into my next area: racism. The girl in question was Nigerian, and on both occasions she was called up to do a stand up segment, she did one about her race. Meanwhile HIGNFY had the black American comedian Reginald D Hunter. The only reference he made to being black was when there was a news segment about a Cadbury advert that was perceived as racist. When the host asked if Reg accepted the apology Cadbury gave, he said “let me ask the Black committee board and see what they say”. Again, it’s calling out the own show for a touch of racism, but the fact they called out the one time it happened speaks for it all.

Both the issues of sex and race are rather interesting in comedy as a whole. My kingdom for a black comic who does not base half of their fucking routine off them being black, you’re even less original than the comics who base their routine off air travel. The total lack of female comics is a rather touchy issue, particularly since there isn’t an immediately apparent explanation for it. It doesn’t appear to be institutionalised sexism so much as its society not valuing women with a strong comic ability as much as they do for men, which speaks to a much wider sexism problem that gets into a big auld feminism debate. But my point is that HIGNFY both comments on these and rises above them

And now 10 O’ Clock Live. The newest kid on the block. The one with the big talent behind it. The one that claims itself to be trying to bring a satirical look at the news, exactly like that present on The Daily Show. Does it succeed? Short answer is not quite, but a damn good effort regardless. The show received a lot of critical damning on many fronts while it was airing, which may be partly because of the hype that surrounded it. Particularly comparisons to The Daily Show seem to be damning, although I’d argue people put The Daily Show up on a pedestal, and is hardly perfect all the time itself. Maybe I’m being kinder because I came off watching several seasons of Mock the Week and Russell Howard, but 10 O’ Clock Live was a breath of fresh air next to those shows.

Easiest way to cover the show is cycle through the 4 presenters, starting with Jimmy Carr. His quick coverage of the news segment that each show starts off with is similar to that HIGNFY does with its witty quips after each news item, except Carr is even more direct about its satire of the story. He has made quite a name for himself being a shock comic. Now I do think there is a place in comedy for shock comics. Even though I dismissed Frankie Boyle earlier, he was at least more interesting than the other panellists on Mock the Week. However Carr’s barbs are often more barbed and less nasty for the sake of it, which makes them easier to laugh at without feeling like a horrible person. You are actually laughing at the joke rather than the intent of the joke. Well, most of the time anyway.

His sketch segments don’t work quite as well though. I feel rather harsh criticising individual ones, as the nature of sketch comedy like these is that they don’t always work. Every sketch comedy, from Monty Python to Daily Lives of Highschool Boys, has had sketches that simply don’t work. Heck, even a lot of Jon Stewart’s segments don’t quite work. He does sometimes brute force his way through them by being an inherently funny comic, as does Jon Stewart. Also I’m easy to please and Jimmy Carr in a dress is sometimes enough to make me laugh. But enough of them don’t work for me to sometimes feel just a bit silly to be watching them at all.

Charlie Brooker is the kind of guy who attracts rabid fans of his style of ranty satire, but I think his ability is limited. For example, he’s a complete failure at talking about anything that requires nuanced coverage. But in full rant mode against something that’s clearly wrong, such as Gaddafi or media coverage of the Japan Earthquake, he’s the star of the entire show. Thankfully the show seems to realise this, even going so far as to reference his cynical nature about everything when the cast go into their round-table discussions. Just so long as the show remembers that, I think he’s great.

David Mitchell is the one who is clearly the most emotionally invested in the news coverage, and the one who has done the most research of the cast, which is clear when they go into round table discussion. He’s the one that usually brings up the best points. The show realises that, which is why he tackles the interviews and topics that require slightly more nuanced coverage than Brooker can do. But he’s just not very good at these interviews. Jon Stewart feels more earnest when interviewing, and is capable enough an interviewer to force proper discussion from the interviewees. Mitchell just doesn’t have that. He feels genuine and earnest, but interviewing skills means he neither asks probing enough questions, nor is able to control the large debates. When a politician goes onto HIGNFY, they are playing by the rules of the show itself, which is why Ian Hislop always gets one over on them. Mitchell can’t beat politicians at their own interviewing game.

He isn’t helped by the liveness of the show. Frequently a discussion will have to be cut off before the discussion can really get to the heart of everyone’s problems and some sort of agreement, with them having to cut off to an ad break. Also the live studio audience doesn’t bloody help, what with even the guests trying to play up the audience by suggesting they hang bankers. Mitchell even chastises the audience more than once, telling them it’s not a bloody pantomime. I think a lot of this is simply down to practice, because he definitely has the right intentions and is going about it the right way. Also since I’m mentioning some other problems with the show, christ is this show ever the most left leaning thing on television. This is coming from someone who had the Guardian website as their homepage for a few years. Yes the Tories are in power and satire should be largely directed at those in power, but christ above is it ever overly liberal.

Then there’s Lauren Laverne, who simply does not belong on the programme. I get her roll. She’s supposed to be the presenter to get the other guys talking, but she just doesn’t fit next to 3 professional comedians. She simply isn’t funny. Her comedy segment feels forced. As much as I talked about the lack of women in comedy earlier and how terrible that is, I can’t shake the feeling watching her that she’s simply here because she’s The Girl. She’s a good presenter, but she doesn’t fit with the show’s format. I mainly covered the first season for my dissertation, but I did see the final 2 episodes of season 2. They cut out a bunch of the content to fix the problems of having ads cut halfway into segments. No more of Mitchell’s rants, which is a shame but it made sense when Brooker is better at them anyway. Plus they cut down Brooker’s rants to one per episode, which works because it means they focus on one thing Brooker to cover per episode. But Laverne seems to have gotten even more comedy content to do. Either focus on being a presenter or get an actual comedian in.

Honestly speaking, I think the show is pretty great. I think it’s often more daring and cutting than HIGNFY is, and often even more so than The Daily Show is, although Daily Show is operating in a different environment. It produces some brilliant satire at times, and I hope it doesn’t get cancelled because they appear to be ironing out the kinks. What’s oddly one of my biggest criticisms is I don’t really see why it has to be Live. The one time watching it where they got breaking news in was the No Fly Zone instated over Libya, and all they did was go “ooh boy is there going to be a war”. The sketch nature of it means they’re better pre-recorded anyway. The only other signs of it being live were the cast occasionally fluffing their lines and Jimmy Carr improving occasionally, along with an irritating audience. Ditch the liveness, and change the name to 10 O’ Clock Late or something.

So umm yeah, good job reaching this far, you crazy person who read all this. This is a layman’s version of my dissertation. I’d be really interested in hearing opinions on what people think of the shows in question.

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31 Comments

  1. Posted April 30, 2012 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    Somehow, I’m compelled to make my own analysis regarding Canadian news sattire, which to my knowledge consists of Royal Canadian Air Farce, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, and the Rick Mercer Report. I think Rick Mercer does a pretty good job at making me think about the audaciousness of Canadian current events, and making me gigglesnort at the same time. I’m not well-versed enough in sattire to make any particular critical evaluation of shows as being sattire at all, let alone being effective at sattire, but in general, I do enjoy Rick Mercer the most, followed by THH22M and RCAF. Most of these shows have massive overlap due to Collin Mochrie’s presence in Canadian sketch comedy, but yeah, one would postulate that Collin Mochrie *is* Canadian sketch comedy, which is the saddest thing in the world. Not that I care much about it, since I love the guy to bits.

    Yeah, there goes my rant about shit that has nothing to do with anime. Probably my longest comment on your blog, too. Seriously man, what the hell?

    • Scamp
      Posted April 30, 2012 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

      I wasn’t even aware Royal Canadian Air Farce and This Hour Has 22 Minutes were still on TV. I thought they were old examples of news satire that had since left.

      As for sketch comedy being dominated by one guy, that’s not too different from British comedy either. They tend to be dominated by the same bunch of BBC folks, which can be a real pain if you don’t like some of the people in question.

      • Poro
        Posted May 1, 2012 at 4:07 am | Permalink

        i got bored cuz they weren’t any picture D:

  2. A_Libellule
    Posted April 30, 2012 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

    Out of all the British shows you’ve mentioned in the post I cannot speak for 10 o’clock live as I’ve not seen it, although I will most likely take a look now. However, regarding the others I’ve always considered them similar to newspapers.

    To say that each newspaper has a certain audience is to point out a triviality, yet they handily demarcate the different demographics and social classes in our society. I believe Yes, Prime Minister highlights this excellently, but that is perhaps a topic for another time.

    To return to the topic of these series, I’ve always considered them targeted at different audiences. To take an example, you point out the ‘laddish’ humour in Mock the Week, I find it remarkably similar to that which one would usually find in the low-end tabloids, such as The Sun or The Daily Mirror. The audience they are aiming for are, in effect, younger (and most definitely more immature in my humble view) than those that Have I Got News For You does. HIGNFY, to use the god-awful acronym, has always reminded me of The Daily Telegraph, or perhaps The (pre-Murdoch) Times. I’ve always believed it aimed at the middle- to upper-middle classes; those who are relatively comfortable in life and live in a rural/suburban town or village. The upper end of the middle classes are often more concerned with the political aspects of society, presumably they feel more invested because it is often they that have some power. Margo’s ‘The Silent Majority’ if you will.

    Perhaps I am wrong, but in my mind the nature of satire itself is very much a middle class pursuit.

    Again, I would attribute at least some of this to the reason behind the different levels of ‘satire’ within these different shows. To take an obvious example, we find the eminent Ian Hislop on the panel of HIGNFY. David Mitchell, whom you pointed out as being remarkably different to his peers in a couple of the shows, was educated at Cambridge; our second oldest and (arguably) the best university Britain has to offer. At the opposite end of the scale, we find such characters as Russell Howard who is the sort of chap you’d expect to be quite happy popping down to his local watering hole and watching the football with likeminded people. (That’s not to say I’ve anything against the chap, I’m sure he’s a wonderful fellow if you get to meet him, it’s just the expectation you get from him.) Of course, I should probably note that this is not always the case; Paul Merton is perhaps the most obvious exception here.

    I’m not entirely sure whether my point (if I actually have one, that is) gets across in the above waffling. I also hope that I’ve not come across as the sort of chap who looks down on those below him, it’s just the way I’ve always considered such programs. Oh, as an addendum, the stations each are broadcast on also seem to give some form of hint as to their intended audience.

    • Scamp
      Posted May 1, 2012 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      By your newspaper analogy, 10 O’Clock Live is definitely the Guardian. Left-leaning and a bit smug. Easy comparison to make considering half of the cast write for the Guardian anyway.

      Class is definitely an issue when it comes to satire, but a lot of satire in America comes from black culture speaking out against how they feel society has treated them. With that in mind, I don’t think satire is predominately a class-based agenda. Maybe it is in Britain, which speaks to a whole different problem.

  3. Nebulous
    Posted April 30, 2012 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

    I love Charlie Brooker’s articles in the Guardian, very funny guy. I’ll actually have quite a bit to say so I think i’ll write summink big after my exam tomorrow (Networks and Graphics)

  4. duydufhxnc
    Posted April 30, 2012 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

    I presume the ones that are remembered as excellent, such as Brass Eye, the 11oclock show, Charlie Brooker’s -Wipe, The Day Today were too old or had too few episodes or has been done to death? I guess also Chris Morris’ stuff is insufficiently topical?

    I’d hesitate to consider MtW or RH’sGN satire, more current-events-themed standup. They’re both considerably more watchable if you go in not expecting satire.

    As to female comedians, it’s not that they’re underrepresented on TV, there really aren’t that many of them. I’d say that 80% of the Edinburgh Fringe is men.

    Your Nigerian guest is Gina Yashere.

    • gw_kimmy
      Posted May 1, 2012 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      i would probably go more on that they’re probably not getting out of the small clubs and breaking out into famous land. im sure they’re out there, just probably not being very successful. possibly half because of a sexist issue.

    • Scamp
      Posted May 1, 2012 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      Well I had to cut off the research somewhere. Since my research predominately covered 2011 (Arab Spring, royal wedding, super injunctions and Nick Clegg being a failure), anything that didn’t air then was out. Also popularity was a factor, as was getting a programme on different channels. Each of the 4 air on different channels.

      Yes MtW isn’t satire, but that’s a large part of my essay. Why Daily Show is different is because it tackles news from a standpoint that tries to make sense of it. Much of the literature is very critical of shows that treat news as something to make light easy jokes from, because it deligitimises the news and encourages political apathy. I’m approaching these shows from that perspective.

      I think MtW’s stand up comedy segments do have a purpose in that regard. It’s the same as most stand up comedy, that being social satire. But the way they tackle the news comedy deligitimises the news they are covering rather than using comedy to critically tackle it.

      As for women in comedy, while there’s sexism in the industry, there also is a lack of women simply not trying it. It wasn’t a focus of my essay at all, but I think it’s more down to society than institutionalised sexism keeping women down.

  5. Karry
    Posted April 30, 2012 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

    “It’s a dir­ect des­cend­ent of That Was The Week That Was”

    Its easy to see how The Daily Show is descended from that, but HIGNFY is exactly the same format as The News Quiz, so i would say the legacy is more obvious in this case. The News Quiz is still going strong, in my opinion, except that i have to tolerate Toksvig now.

    “Paul Mer­ton, who is far cleverer than his goofy per­sona would have you believe.”

    Hm, yes. He graces us with his wit at the rate of about one line per five programs. The rest of the time he just sits there, looking (or trying to) positively bamboozled. I am astonished at how much praise he’s given, considering he’s barely on TV, and when he is – there’s not much to him.

    “Laurene Laverne simply isn’t funny. Her com­edy seg­ment feels forced. As much as I talked about the lack of women in com­edy earlier and how ter­rible that is”

    I really dont think it is even supposed to be comedy. She simply does straight up satire. So no wonder you feel something that is not there is forced.

    And there is no lack of women in comedy. There is a lack of women in comedy who can joke about anything other than sex and men. Honestly, comedy women behave as a minority. Its exactly the same as every black comedian ever doing jokes JUST about his own blackiness. Yes, we get it, you are very, very black, can you please look outside yourself now, and talk about politics, doctors, or music other than rap, please ?

    • gw_kimmy
      Posted May 1, 2012 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      yes, because a woman’s/black man’s life is totally not dictated by that fact at all. dag they need to stop being women/black for once and just talk about stuff that the rest of us are concerned about. who cares about that experience.

    • Scamp
      Posted May 1, 2012 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      Fair point about HIGNFY and The News Quiz. TW3 came before them both so inspired them both, but HIGNFY definitely takes more from News Quiz. Although don’t see why you don’t like Toksvig. Especially consider you bitch about women comedians not making jokes about something other than sex and men. She fits that bill pretty darn well. Actually, so do all of the female comedians on News Quiz.

      Take it from someone who watches a fuck load of stand up: There isn’t a problem with women comedians having limited things they talk about. Pretty sure male comedians talk about sex more than female comedians do. The only problem is the lack of them

  6. Daniel
    Posted April 30, 2012 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

    I think you picked a major that is going to make it hard to get a job at Google.

    Also the Royal Candian Air Farce is off air.

    • Scamp
      Posted May 1, 2012 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      Believe me, I’m fully aware at how media degrees are scoffed at :|

  7. DarkEnergy
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    First of all, I think this is brilliant and an interesting subject, but…
    >dissertation
    >mention jerking off in the first paragraph
    srsly? I know this isn’t the final version, but I just found that funny.
    Because honestly, this was tl;dr for me. Maybe someday I’ll get around to it, whatevs.

    When you finish the dissertation, would you put it in a post so we can scrutinize it? Pretty please? We love you, scampy.

    • Scamp
      Posted May 1, 2012 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      With Russell Howard’s style of comedy, I’m going to have to mention jerking off at least once in the actual essay.

      Also no, I probably won’t share the dissertation. Firstly because I’m not even sure if I’m allowed to. Secondly, because I get weirdly self-conscious about other people looking at my academic work. Maybe if it gets a good grade

  8. gw_kimmy
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    quick side note: comedians in general base a large portion of their material in personal anecdotes. unfortunately, for the minority comedian (this actually goes for all races, women, and gay comedians), a large part of their lives and anecdotes are based in their own race/sex/sexual orientation and it being pointed out to them by others and the rest of society. these things have dictated, and will always dictate their lives. what else are they supposed to talk about o_o

    i’ve never seen any of those shows that you’ve mentioned except for the daily show, so i can’t really comment on any of those. my life dream is to finally acquire those damn tickets for the daily show (and colbert) and take off to nyc to see him.

    • Scamp
      Posted May 1, 2012 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      It’s more a problem of repitition. I watch a fuck load of stand up comedy, and its gotten to the point where I actively groan and bury my face in my hands when a black comedian talks about how his parents were a lot stricter

      • gw_kimmy
        Posted May 1, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

        if you take a look at stand ups from a variety of racial minority comedians (latino comedians, indian comedians, etc), the parental anecdote is pretty much universal and the most common. i suppose to those on the outside it gets tiring, but for many audiences it’s extremely relatable and therefore part of the success of certain comedians (“holy shit my parents do that too!”). it’s the comedic bread and butter of comedians raised in different cultures than the white kids.

      • Scamp
        Posted May 2, 2012 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

        I find jokes about airlines relatable too, but that doesn’t stop them from being repetitive and dull. “Hey I’m like that too, so I can make the exact same joke” is not a good excuse for not being funny

  9. Posted May 1, 2012 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Tell me, (although I’ve got a pretty good idea already) did analysing these shows allow you to foster a greater appreciation of them, or did it just make you come to despise them?

    • Scamp
      Posted May 1, 2012 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      Same as episodic blogging something, it made both the flaws and the strengths stand out more. Hence why I developed a nervous tic whenever Howard said “one of my mates, right”

  10. Strabo
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Have you ever thought about looking at (listening to?) news Satire shows on the Radio. I’m especially thinking of The Now Show and The News Quiz, on Radio 4. Being on Radio 4, they tend to be slightly intellectual (but only slightly), and more focused on the actual satire, which I think is what you’re looking for.

    • Scamp
      Posted May 1, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

      I listen to them both, although didn’t cover them for the dissertation because I was focusing on TV.

      For the record, News Quiz > Now Show

  11. fathomlessblue
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    As a few people have mentioned, there’s quite a few British series that have predated The Daily Show’s style of mocking current events. The Day Today & Brass Eye are two notable examples; however, they were entirely fictional accounts solely for the purpose of parodying media/new programmes & the knee-jerk reaction of the public towards them. The Daily Show seems to have altered that format for actual current affairs, while calming the more ludicrous elements.

    I’m pretty much in agreement regarding the assessment of the shows in question, although I’m more knowledgeable with some than others. Still, from what little I’ve seen of The Daily Show, 10 O’clock live seems the only series in line with its approach. Unsurprising as it’s a reactionary program.

    I think the big problem with Britain having an equivalent tv show stems from the difference between the US/UK in regards to how we view politics/current events. Obviously not everybody feels this way, but there’s always been a sort cynical disillusionment drilled into british mentally in regards to its leaders/parties. I vaguely recall Bill Bryson discussing the differences between how the two countries view politics in ‘Notes from a Small Island’, & how a sense of helplessness/insignificance in changing things has led to a form of indifference. We grumble about everything, but unlike countries like France or America, rarely get riled up enough to protest or fight back.

    What this leads to is a deep-rooted cynicism of politics, before genuine interest in it. Shows like HIGNFY or Mock the Week, do just that; ridicule recent news stories & figures of interest, then move on to the next. There’s a sense of not actually caring about the story itself, merely tearing it apart out of a sense of bitter sense helplessness. While, I’ve not seen too much of The Daily Show, beyond the parody & lampooning, there does appear that the viewers have a genuine investment in what’s going on. When the likes of 10 O’clock live attempt the same, it doesn’t quite pull it off the same way. The audience mostly appears to want to pour scorn over things, rather than get engaged in discussions, while the hosts can’t quite get free of their comedic upbringing of sneering at everything they come across. I know that’s part of the job, but there’s more to it than just that. David Mitchell appears the only person who tries to see both sides of the coin. Oh, & naturally none of the cast have Jon Stewart’s skill as a news anchor, in addition to being a comedian.

    This might not be quite what you were asking, but I think it does play a part when trying to compare British news satire with American equivalents.

    • Scamp
      Posted May 1, 2012 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

      …can you write my dissertation for me?

      I agree with pretty much everything. I’ve even read that Bill Bryson book, although I’d extend British to be cynical about everything, not just politics. America just doesn’t have that same level of cynicism. As much as I heap praise on HIGNFY, it’s very much satire that breaks down rather than one that tries to find a solution. Daily Show very much does that. Stewart really feels like a citizen who is actively trying to find answers, rather than lampoon everything.

      Interestingly, I think Russell Howard is trying to do this himself. He’s trying to scoff cynicism and fear mongering and promote happier outlooks. I don’t think he succeeds, as I’ve made clear, but god bless the chap for trying. As for 10 O’Clock Live, I’m not sure if Charlie Brooker is capable of doing anything other than sneering. He’s damn good at it, but it doesn’t do much for the debate

      • fathomlessblue
        Posted May 3, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

        Haha, oh hell no, I’m not going through all that again! Spent enough time hulking expensive pieces of electronic equipment around fields or reading dusty old tomes for one lifetime! ^^

        I appreciate the effort the likes of Mitchell & Howard put in attempting to enliven how we view politics, unfortunately I think by nature we’re just predisposed to being cynical, so the latter mindset tends to win out. I know I’m guilty of thinking that way, despite attempts to be more positive about how I view my surroundings. The thing is America has always had the ‘American Dream’ mentality; that everyone could work their way up from the bottom & become a success. I’m not sure if that idea has begun to shift, what with the economic crisis & its shift on the world stage, but I’d imagine there’s still a fairly high level of optimism compared to many other countries. Britain, on the hand has been dealing with a social malaise, perhaps even a sense of ennui since the end of WW2, what with the best having been & gone in regards to the height of its empire. I’m sure there are other mitigating factors, but it still paints a depressing picture that will prove very difficult to turn around. Trying to reverse national sense of pessimism just seems impossible to me, although that might just me my national cynicism rearing its head again. ^^

  12. Charlotte
    Posted June 15, 2012 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    May I ask what course you study?
    I’m doing a multimedia journalism degree and looking into doing a similar approach to satirical television shows also – just trying to find a slightly different angle.

    • Scamp
      Posted June 16, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      I’m doing (or did, since I’m finished now) a New Media degree, so very similar to the one you’re doing. I highly recommend reading Satire TV by Jonathan Gray if you’re researching this. I found it to be easily the most useful book for my essay

  13. Charlotte
    Posted June 16, 2012 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

    Brilliant thank you.

  14. Posted April 13, 2013 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    Generally I agree with the reviews of the shows you presented.
    Since Russel Howard’s Good News airs on BBC3 it is mostly aimed at teenagers and Russel’s had to shift his routine to match that audience. Hence why you get “My mate said…” or internet memes thrown in since that’s the kind of thing teenagers like I guess.

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