Image Credit: Channel 4 Television Corporation
Compared with our cousins across the pond, we never have cared quite as much for late-night talk shows. Although we have the Graham Norton show and Have I Got News for You, neither of those would come under the same category that of Colbert or Noah in the USA. There is an exception to this, however; The Last Leg. It is comprised of the same components as that of talk shows created over in the states; comedy, news, interview and sketches. While Channel 4 deserve due credit for their attentiveness to the gap in the nation’s market, and praise for their initiative to replicate a tested formula, their product has some serious shortcomings when it comes to catering for a wider audience and maintaining neutrality.
For instance; the hosts' repartee being hugely hit and miss is one key problem. Despite sometimes delivering some stellar quips, they often miss the bar. For example, when Brooker remarked that Guam’s national flag looks like the first sight of an infant born in Guam, I fell out of my seat laughing. Although at other times, their banter is far more underwhelming, such as when they take “jabs” at public figures without any high-brow humour to it. Take, for example, the time when Widdicombe questioned who the one in the top left is? (referring to a picture of Boris Johnson, hence playing dumb), to which Hills responded ‘’Voldemort”. Three professional comedians have a whole week to prepare a script, and that was the funniest joke they could come up with- pathetic! Nevertheless, the audience erupted with laughter…which brings me onto the next problem.
The audience. Sure, this one is not entirely on the production team. However, one cannot help but notice that this audience will burst with laughter or applaud at every other sentence. Such can be seen with the situation just mentioned; the host playing dumb and saying ‘’Who’s the one in the top left?’’ will be met with a full out 20 seconds of laughter. Worse still, the ‘’Voldemort’’ response from Hills caused laughter, whooping and applause. It was a mediocre joke to begin with, that deserved at most a quick “ha”, not a reception like that of the ‘’we shall fight them on the beaches” speech, as though something profound had been said. Albeit, a small issue, it really gets on one’s nerves how the audience acts like apes on narcotics. Then again, maybe this show is only targeting a market as niche as that of the population on narcotics anyway.
One of the worst issues of this show is that it caters for a very small minority, which is ultimately its downfall. Unlike Mock the Week, Have I Got News For You, Russell Howard etc. which align themselves in a centrist position, maintaining moderate views in order to have a diverse audience, this show does not do so. Who am I to judge? They are perfectly free to choose their position on the political compass, although this will ultimately take its toll and pose a dilemma. As mentioned earlier, the nation is still looking for its Stewart, Ferguson or Oliver to fill the missing gap. The Last Leg’s format has allowed it to come close to bridging that gap and being classified a staple of this country’s tv viewing. It possesses the potential to become this country’s flagship late night talk show but has so far failed to deliver. One example of its affair with the hard-left, is that not a single Brexiter politician has appeared on the show, thus proving they’re not even attempting to appeal to 52% of the population.
For an even clearer demonstration of the problem, we only have to travel a few weeks back to the Shamima Begum controversy. For those of you unaware, this is a woman turned her back on this country to join ISIS and said that the Manchester bombings in which 22 innocent people died (ten of which were younger than 20) was justified even during her appeal to have her citizenship returned. To clarify this was not a polarised issue, even many of those on the centre-left in the labour party were not in favour of her returning until she had shown remorse. Shockingly though, all hosts and what seemed to be the whole audience were for Shamima Begum’s citizenship being returned. They are restricting themselves to a minute fraction of the population to appeal to, by possessing these radical views. This is unfortunate, as after having accurately followed the talk show recipe correctly, it would be a shame to lose viewers over being ideologically extreme.
With all these complaints, you are probably wondering, ‘Why do I carry on watching it?’. There are two main factors I can point to, both somewhat related to their networking power: the guest interviews/ appearances and comedy sketches. Although from one angle it would almost appear to be a
shortcoming that the same few faces appear time and again on the show, from another, it can be seen as quite smart thinking on their part. Having the same public figure reappear many times within a year, often only with a gap of a few weeks, makes them feel more at home and as such reveal more of their true selves to us. This is probably best exemplified by Ed Miliband, who has of now appeared three times on the show. Although at first, he appeared to be his same wooden self that he was when the leader of the opposition, he soon became more “human”. Best demonstrated when Ed Miliband remarked, while a picture of former prime minister David Cameron eating hotdogs was presented, “I think he is saying tastes better than it feels”. This was an obvious mocking of Cameron’s alleged copulating with a pig. This was something but a few years back, you could never imagine him saying, and credit should be given to The Last Leg for having him open up to us.
The comedy sketches ought to be considered the shows’ finest hour above all else. Fair to say, the producers haven’t quite toppled Bob Geldof, and placed every major entertainer of the latter half of the 20th century to together on one stage; however, they haven’t done half bad in getting some big names to come on the show. God knows how they were able to persuade former politicians and current ones for that matter, to star in these ‘fanfiction’ like comedy sketches, although it’s a monumental achievement nevertheless. One such script had William Hauge asking Tony Blair whether he would like to Netflix and chill with him. Take a moment to let that sink in. They had a former leader of the opposition asking a former prime minister whether he would like to come over, watch a film on Netflix together and then fornicate with him. There are also many other times they have pulled this off, such as when Michael Gove and Ed Balls performed Gangnam Style together or better yet convincing Jeremy Corbyn (the current leader of the opposition and potential prime minister), arrive on the show dressed up and playing the part of a pimp!
Perhaps the sketches and guest’s appearance will alone be enough to keep me tuning in. On the other hand, I will have to weigh up whether it is worth tolerating the hosts whiny preaching and sanctimonious monologues. This show has everything in its odds, the format and style, the production value, and a highly sought-after broadcasting slot. If the right modifications are made, I see no reason why it should not become the nation’s definitive talk show, or even dream of becoming the first 5-day a week late night show produced here. What it must now do, is hold back on just labelling everyone a “dick” and stick to delivering a comedy-based script rather than orating a sermon.