It's an hour. It's live. And it's topical political and media satire.
Britain used to rule the world at this kind of thing. From That Was The Week That Was to Spitting Image to The Friday Night Armastice to Rory Bremner to The Day Today, we were cruel, witty and held the world to account.
And then it mostly all went away, around the time of the election of Tony Blair. Have I Got News For You has become a political pantomime that actually elevates buffoons to high office rather than bring them down to the ground for a good shoeing.
And right now, since Bremner, Bird And Fortune were been kicked into the long grass there is nothing on British TV that holds a candle to The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Digital viewers get to watch The Daily Show the day after transmission on More4, but The Colbert Show was just too pricey for FX UK and it didn't last long. The Daily Show already took John Oliver, so we were keeping our hand in a little, but it didn't really count.
The closest was the occasional spurt of Charlie Brooker's Newswipe. And at the last general election, Channel 4 took Brooker and teamed him with David Mitchell (Peep Show, Mitchell & Webb), Jimmy Carr (8 Out Of 10 Cats, Distraction) and Lauren Laverne (Kenickie, Kieron Gillen's wet dreams) for a live evening of mockery. It went down so well, that they've got a series.
An unbroadcast pilot was made in December, reported on here.
Jimmy Carr is essentially the main host… He gets to sit behind a big desk of his own, and pops up throughout the show with comic set pieces… Lauren Laverne's job mainly seems to be audience interaction… Charlie Brooker probably appears the least but his input is very funny. His main role seems to be on a Newswipe-style "all you need to know" VT about a topic… which introduces a round table discussion moderated by David Mitchell, where Brooker is one of the guests… You know those bits on Would I Lie To You where he completely destroys Lee Mack's flights of fancy with the furious power of reason? Yeah, that, but with some guests who have wandered in from the Newsnight studio next door… each episode ends with the four presenters sitting around the table with the following morning's newspapers in front of them, having a quick chat about the week's news. It looks like a regular part of this section involves Carr injecting with whatever news has broken during the hour the show has been on air, no matter how banal it might be.
The series proper starts next Thursday from 10 to 11pm. It's not in any way following The Daily Show's model. There are four seperate strands to the show and Jimmy Carr will be far less controlling that Jon Stewart. And Charlie Brooker and David Mitchell appear to be competing for a Lewis Black role. There is no sign of any actors coming on to plug their film. It's only on once a week. And it's live.
But it's clever, witty people dressed smartly, holding politicians and the news to account, mostly behind a desk.
Hey, maybe it'll be enough to steal John Oliver back…
UPDATE: Oh and More4 have dropped their Daily Show repeats apart from the Monday "Global Edition". Bastards. But all Daily Show website videos are still blocked for the UK. Double bastards. It's like they want me to steal it…