Monday, October 10, 2005

More 4 Launch Night (part 5)

2300: The Last Word. Nightly topical discussion programme, presumably semi-comedy, because it's hosted by Mark Dolan this week. Apparently he counts down the top ten stories of the day, and discusses them with... the political editor of the Express, and TV historian David Starkey? Christ, this looks like a trainwreck. A low-budget trainwreck.

Well, they actually are discussing a story from the papers, so apparently it's not a comedy show. Starkey seems surprisingly relaxed about the whole thing. It's a bit Sunday-morning-on-BBC2. They're doing this every day - with a different host each week - so it could take a while to find its identity.

Video package about... whether politicians should be allowed to take drugs! Didn't we have this two hours ago on the news? It's a vox pop thing. I hate vox pops with a passion. A journalist wanders the streets until he finds somebody passably photogenic for either side, and then fucks off down the pub. Who cares?

Mark Dolan was not born to read an autocue. He's better when he's talking to the guests than when he's reading the script. The format is misguided. Ten stories in a 30 minute show is too many. There's not enough time to really talk about them properly, and they don't get the most out of their guests. They're going to regret this when they get a few weeks into it, and they're desperate for material.

The launch of the channel is modestly listed as the sixth biggest story of the day. Alison Jackson does a segment of a Blunkett lookalike watching the show from earlier in the evening. Never seen the big deal about her pseudo-CCTV things, but I suppose it ranks as a coup of sorts to get her to do something for the first show. More AJ stuff follows. I suspect I just don't have the level of fascination for celebrities that would be necessary to make me give a toss about her output.

2315. Adverts. I vaguely knew Mark Dolan at university. That gentle swishing sound is the dropping of a featherlite name. He did improvised comedy and stand-up at around the same time I was helping to run the student radio station. He did a show for us, which was quite good. His impro stand-up sets were genuinely very good, and he never seems to do anything on TV which shows that off. I went to some of his impro workshops, which established conclusively that theatre is not my milieu. Nice guy.

2320. Lawyer Mark Stevens comes on to discuss underage ASBOs, and promptly gets into an fight with David Starkey. This comedy-free argument seems slightly out of place on a lightweight show.

The Scottish First Minister is going on a world tour to beg Scots to come home, apparently. Hadn't heard that. Tend to agree with the general consensus that if you lived in large chunks of Scotland, London would probably seem like an improvement. Fortunately, I live in Morningside, which is lovely. Mark duly talks up his university time in Edinburgh, which is at least relevant to the topic. Starkey steers the topic onto the West Lothian question for some reason.

This is... not awful, but I wouldn't watch it if I wasn't determined to finish this exercise. The format's horribly cramped, and it can't make up its mind how funny it wants to be. Doesn't really work, but could potentially be tweaked.

And there we leave More4, as it embarks on a repeat of episode 1 of the Sopranos. Decent to okay, I guess. The Daily Show is the lynchpin of the schedule here, but that's no surprise. I can see what they're trying to do here, and in principle it's a good station, but there's a definite risk of getting bogged down in box-ticking programmes that are more concerned with fitting the remit (we're informative and entertaining!) than with actually being any good. There are formats here that need a bit of tinkering, but nothing fundamentally off the rails.

We'll see how it goes.