A new ‘satirical’ television show has been announced today. I won’t mention its name and I haven’t seen it yet, so can’t really judge it as such. However in the selling points for said show, it states that it will feature ‘biting satire’ such as ‘David Cameron and Nick Clegg battling it out on the Jeremy Kyle show, Ed Miliband on I’m a Celebrity… and Professor Brian Cox discovering a new planet ‘in Kim Kardashian’s backside’. I know how television proposals work (or in my case, don’t) and I’m fully aware this could just be awful PR completing mis-selling what the show actually contains, but I still can’t help but feel disheartened that once again the only supposed satire TV is commissioning is the sort that is far less political than vaguely topical. Celebrity based rather than actually looking at why politics in the UK, right now, is a mess.
I watched a recent attempt at a satirical TV show that was on a few weeks ago. It churned out the same jokes everyone’s been making about the coalition government since 2010, that you can find online written by every amateur joke writer. It featured half written gags that were supposedly funny because the impressions were good and everything about it just felt, well, really, really tired. I felt temporarily elated that finally television had bowed down to returning political comedic commentary to our screens and then deflated when I realised it was the same, overly safe content as always. By ‘safe’ I don’t mean it needs to be slanderous or politically biased in some way. I just mean that while some producer is out there guffawing at the crazy, original ideas of taking a the party leaders and putting them in a well known game show or chat show format because ‘there can’t be any other ideas can there?’. Instead, why is no one commenting on the flaws in the infrastructure bill, the HSBC scandal, the discrepancies in welfare cuts and the hundreds and hundreds of fuck ups and poor policies that have been created by the Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems and all other parties since 2010?
Maybe it’s just that that’s what people want. Maybe in this time of extreme political discourse and apathy, the only way the public will connect is by trundling over the obvious and connecting politics with mainstream culture. But if that’s the case, then why do the clips of John Oliver’s constantly challenging and investigate Last Week Tonight get so many views via youtube here in the UK? A quick search on Twitter shows how many British people are excited about it’s return to US TV. This week’s investigation into doctors being paid to promote big pharmaceutical companies’ products was hugely informative and yet had me in stitches of laughter too. It can be done. Similarly I constantly see people asking why there isn’t a UK Daily Show or equivalent? The closest we get is the occasional very sharp bit on Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe that focuses on politics. I love those short sections and Brooker always writes wonderfully about politics, but they are often less than a third of a show that will then go on to mock TV shows instead*.
There are people out there writing great actual satire right now. I follow several on my Twitter feed and constantly enjoy their well read blogs or newspaper articles. Similarly on the stand-up circuit, it’s becoming an increasingly talked about subject matter. So why is television avoiding doing something properly? We can have Inside The Commons revealing exactly how tedious, time consuming and archaic our political system is, but nothing to fulfil the need to laugh about it. I hope I’m wrong about this new show and it decides to delve a little further than shallow sketches. Otherwise I guess we’ll have to wait even longer for our own version of what the US has managed so well. By using a Brit to do it.
* Which is to say, those are also very funny and perfectly fine in a show that is meant to be a commentary of the week before. I just wish Brooker did even more politics because he’s great at it.
UPDATE: I’ve now found out that some really good people are writing on the show in question which restores my faith in it quite a lot. One of the writers has also told me that it is pretty political in its nature and they aren’t sure why those examples were picked out specifically, which just goes to show that PR people can be awful. So I’m now very much looking forward to seeing the show when it starts.
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