Opinion: There's A Lot Of Satire About, But It's All Achieving Nothing


I could be mistaken but it certainly feels as if there are more TV comedies with an election theme this year than there have ever been before. Just to pick a few, ITV1 has just launched the topical Newzoids, C4's The Last Leg is running politics-themed shows, BBC2's Jack Dee’s Election Help Desk is like Question Time with laughs and C4'a Ballot Monkeys is providing rapid-response punchlines.

And we’ve still got Charlie Brooker’s Election Wipe to come on May 6. At least Dave has the decency to wait until the polls close at 10pm on May 7 before they show their documentary charting Al Murray’s campaign in Thanet South.

I don’t know about being fed up with politicians spouting on, but by then I think I’ll be pretty fed up with comedians spouting on about politics. You can’t blame TV for making these shows. Comedians are more popular than they have ever been. And satire makes politics palatable. 

And a lot of them are funny too. I’m enjoying Jack Dee’s Election Help Desk so much I actually think the brisk 30-minute format is a little constraining. It could probably go the full Dimbleby hour. And Adam Hills wasn’t afraid to ask Nick Clegg some challenging questions on The Last Leg. Politics is ripe for comedy at the moment. The trouble is it is just too easy. The targets are often little more than fish in a barrel. 

You can’t blame Clegg for going on The Last Leg. He hasn’t got much to lose has he? You see, there I go, I’m being reductive myself. Clegg is a dead duck. Farage is the leader of the Nutty Party, Miliband looks odd when he eats sandwiches and Cameron is a ham-faced toff carried around on a sedan chair by George Osborne. 

Are any of these programmes helping people decide who to vote for? Are they making people change their minds? In fact if they could change people’s minds maybe they would not be allowed to be transmitted. TV is supposed to be balanced once an election is called. That’s why the launch of Not The Nine O’Clock News was postponed back in 1979. It was believed that the sketches might show political bias.

Yet as far as I know no comedy has been pulled from the schedules in the last few weeks, which suggests that comedy at the moment is either ridiculously bland and not hitting any targets, or ridiculously balanced, having an equal pop at everyone.

This looks like being the closest election in living memory so a few votes shifting direction could make all the difference. But either by accident or design, these programmes, however much fun they are to watch, are more about TV ratings that ballot box results. TV satire clearly doesn't change anything. If it did they would ban it.


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