10 o'Clock Live and the Big Society

It's getting better. Not, alas, the Big Society, which is still stuck up a cul-de-sac with no obvious means of escape, but Channel 4's new (ish) political satire show, 10 o' Clock Live. The scheduling is admittedly chronic, cutting across that other show for political anoraks, Question Time, but there is an increasing chance that they are not going to be shedding half their viewers at 10.30 for too much longer. This evening's episode was, as expected for a one hour show, uneven, but much less so than earlier episodes. Jimmy Carr's opening news review is still poor - the audience laugh at his mis-steps and his deprecatory look when things go wrong rather than the rapidly dying wit - but it was followed by two excellent, classic monologues from Charlie Brooker and David Mitchell. Mitchell's interview with Simon Hughes was better than his fold-up-and-wilt approach to Alistair Campbell a couple of weeks ago, and Hughes defended himself quite well too. But for a current affairs show they managed to hit a nerve over the 'Big Society' with Mitchell chairing a genuinely passionate debate between Johann Hari and Philip Blond, and occasional interjections from Shaun Bailey.

David Cameron has always had trouble defining the Big Society and it's running into the sand even more as much of the glue of our local communities is gradually dissolving away under local government costs. Whatever the original aims (and what were the original aims?!) it looks increasingly like an effort to get people to take the place of local services on the cheap. Utter nonsense of course, and Johann Hari sounded more convincing when he pointed out that US states which spent more on their services from tax had higher rates of volunteering, than Big Society defender Philip Blond did when defending, er, the survival of volunteering when all the structures within which one might volunteer are being stripped away.

This week's satire thus managed to make some decent points, although I think they could do a lot more on the dismal state of the print news media. The few digs they did make were well aimed, but the Star is an easy target and it's time to take on the big boys!


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