“The American novelist, who died last year at the age of 91, was regularly described as “reclusive”. This didn’t mean that he lived in a log cabin, shot squirrels for lunch and shouted at anyone who came too close. “Reclusive” here means that he avoided literary parties, didn’t give interviews and never popped up on television or in lecture halls rattling on about himself. Salinger was, then, what writers were once supposed to be: self-effacing, a bit mysterious, insistent that it was his work rather than his personality that mattered.”—Salinger: a burger-lover in the rye | Kathryn Hughes | The Guardian
My life's ambition:to one day be an inebriate who sits on street corners in an old overcoat, randomly mumbling and then, Tourettes-like, suddenly shouting "I used to be someone!" Even though I never was.
I loathe and abhor this almost ubiquitous media excuse of "my comments were taken out of context." No, they weren’t. They were taken in context - but a different context from the one the perpetrator of the comments no doubt wished: namely, that he or she said what they said because they are a bigot / are a fool / got caught (delete as applicable).
“In short, it took 25 years to write the next poem.”—Literary critic Hugh Kenner’s summation of poet George Oppen’s 25 year hiatus from writing. There’s hope for me yet, then - mine’s only been a couple of years or so.
Like anyone who relishes hard-hitting TV satire, like anyone who’s a fan of the incisive commentaries of David Mitchell and Charlie Brooker (I suppose there are fans of Jimmy Carr out there somewhere too, though I don’t wish to make their acquaintance), I was looking forward with almost indecent levels of anticipation to the unveiling of 10 O’Clock Live on Channel 4 last night. In pre-publicity, it had been hyped as a British version of Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, even as a successor to the legendary That Was The Week That Was. In the end it wasn’t either of those - yet - though it certainly displayed the potential to eventually match them for righteously stinging satire.
The format was an engaging mix of straightforward satirical humour - some of it rather simplistic (e.g. “The Pope’s a Nazi! LAUGH, DAMN YOU, LAUGH!” which isn’t exactly a hard-hitting new joke in the world of satire, folks) - and rather more serious discussion. The mix worked well, since it didn’t treat the audience as fools by shying away from complicated subjects because they weren’t a source of easy gag material. Yes, we like to laugh at our politicians, poke fun at powerful figures and hyperventilate at the often ridiculous nature of news stories, but we’re also able to stop guffawing for a few minutes and take in some incisive debate.
The biggest flaw with the show was, unfortunately, one of the main ideas on which it sold itself: the fact that it was live. This essential ‘live-ness’ implied that it would be right up-to-the-minute with the stories it would cover, and indeed it proved so with its mentions of Shadow Chancellor Alan Johnson’s resignation only five hours before (though these particular jokes lacked any viciously satirical punch and instead felt rather forced, like they were put there deliberately to remind us just how live the show was). But the kind of fast-moving, edgy TV that 10 O’Clock Live is aiming for requires performers who are completely at ease in the live studio environment - jumping from one story to the next while responding to the mood of the studio audience and also managing to listen to the director furiously barking instructions into their earpiece. Brooker, Mitchell and Carr were clearly not used to such elegant chaos, not especially skilled in the art of remaining serene on the surface while thrashing their feet below the waterline in order to remain afloat. The frantic paddling was all too evident, not to mention the occasional wide-eyed looks of terror. Ironically, it was the member of the team with the least comedy background, Lauren Laverne, who appeared to be the best at coping with the demands of the live set-up, no doubt thanks to her background in presenting live music programming and BBC Two’s The Culture Show. So it was a shame that, on the evidence of this first show, she’s been treated somewhat dismissively by the producers. She was noticeably absent from all of the show’s main set piece items and seemed to have little more to do than host a few round-table chats with the ‘boys’ and anchor the presenter-style hellos and goodbyes. There were cries of “sexism!” on Twitter and, based on what I saw, I’d have to agree with them.
Oh yes, Twitter. Perhaps due to the four protagonists being popular celebrity tweeters, Twitter was completely flooded with comments about #10oclocklive last night. Including mine, of course, because I love to leap on a passing hashtag-wagon. The majority, as far as I could tell, weren’t very complimentary. This huge Twitter response is an aspect of the show’s broadcast that’s been picked up in the reviews I’ve read in The Guardian and New Statesman this morning. Both seem to suggest that the damnation of the show was too instant and ill-considered (“it got a fearful slagging-off on Twitter, but was it deserved?” says Helen Lewis-Hasteley’s byline in NS), and that we should give the show some time to find its feet. I don’t necessarily disagree, but I would argue that all Twitter is doing is allowing the viewer to give their immediate reaction. This isn’t new: we’ve been able to do it for years via exasperated tapping through the channels on our remote control; the difference now is that rather than just shouting at the screen, we can join a communal outpouring of “Rubbish, I’m switching channels” or “I’ll give it to the second ad break” or, if we’re feeling more generous, “Not a great first show, but I’ll watch the second to give it another chance.” I find this kind of instant audience reaction empowering rather than rancorous, and I would hope that programme-makers and TV production companies would look on it in much the same way. No longer do they need to wait for the overnight BARB figures to come in or for the audience feedback logs to be compiled; they can just type the programme’s hashtag into Twitter. On a fast-moving weekly show like 10 O’Clock Live, this should be a godsend, not a hindrance. Hopefully, the producers are today scrolling through screen upon screen of tweets and noting what their audience thought at the very moment they were watching - and then realising that they’ve got a precious six days in which to correct the problems.
Another reason the criticism of the Twitter reaction feels rather awkward is, well, Charlie Brooker, Lauren Laverne and David Mitchell are all noted columnists (while Jimmy Carr is just Jimmy Carr, which is already too much for most sane people). They are now being written about and critiqued by journalists and commentators with whom they often sit shoulder to shoulder in print. If one were slightly cynical (which I never am, obviously), it might feel a little like they’re rallying round their own, for fear that one day it’ll be them on TV and at the mercy of the audience’s 140-character streams of bile. Which is fair enough, I guess. I’d most likely do the same in their place. But don’t suggest to the massed ranks of tweeters that their reaction is somehow unwarranted because it’s too instant and thus too harsh, that they should go away and thoughtfully consider their opinion before putting it down in writing. We’re viewers and we vote with our tweets, not journalists with a few hundred words of fully-rounded opinion to file overnight.
I find this news story genuinely heartbreaking. I also find it to be sickening proof of the two-faced nature of all politicians (not just Cameron, who obviously has the same smirk whichever face you look at). Still, Riven Vincent’s mother needn’t worry - Cameron will be back to offer all the support he can once the next election is looming.
“You’ve sort of cunt-outed yourself there in that first sentence. ‘When I was travelling in Syria a couple of years ago…’ Were you on a fucking gap year then? Oh no, I see you write for the Guardian’s travel section. You must be the life and soul of any social situation with your endless anecdotes that begin with ‘when I was travelling through…’ Sorry sunshine but being a Guardian writer doesn’t put you in a strong position to be the Cuntfinder General.”—