This is not SF or F. It’s just the best piece of television I’ve seen in I don’t know how long. I feel refreshed and blown away. I feel relieved. I feel exicted. Ocasionally, I feel offended, but, frankly, much less than by most news analysis on TV. It feels like something my generation has been waiting for.
Have I Got News For You (HIGNFY, as it is affectionately known by its fans) started in 1990. I was in the US that year, but it was a feature of my life from the moment I came back. I was only 8, but my first understanding of politics was framed by the mockery engaged in on that programme. My sister and I, when we stayed at our grandparents and shared a room, would play a game where we adopted the position of one or other party leader – to mock them all, of course – based largely on the impressions we had received from HIGNFY. We didn’t have any fixed opinions at that stage – politicians all seemed worthy of mockery, and it was just a game.
As I grew older and began to develop my own opinions I felt a resurgeance of love for HIGNFY. I surprised myself by actually liking the new format more, after Angus left. It felt more current and alive with celebrity and political hosts as well as guests.
However, over the last few years I have begun to wonder: what will my generation do? For all their value, Paul Merton and Ian Hislop are not my generation, and the constraints of the BBC often actaully make them biased (even against their own beliefs).
This is it, something new: David Mitchell (my favourite comedian), Charlie Brooker (my knight of you really need to know what TV is doing to you), Jimmy Carr (entity of mixed opinions, for me, but knocking it out of the court, here), and Lauren Laverne… comedienne that I hadn’t seen much of recently, but was pleased to see included, and who has only grown as a performer since the show started.
I watched it. I was blown away. Early on they were clearly nervous at the live format, but actually, that’s good. It’s good because I never ever saw passion like this on HIGNFY. And I fucking enjoy watching first class comedians recover from a joke that missed it’s beat. That’s actually funny, guys! And they’ve only gotten better at it.
The real fire in the belly of this show, though, is its raw energy. It may be staffed by top flight comedians, but the live format is what has transformed this and put it head, shoulders, knees, and toes above all the other news mockery programs of which I am an avid consumer. The live interviews and round-table discussions frequently become very heated, and no limit is placed on the debate except for time. There’s no editing, and if they lose the funny along the way… that’s actually OK. This isn’t the BBC, it doesn’t have to be balanced, and, for all I value the BBC intensely, that’s a GOOD thing. The BBC has had a monopoly on quality televisual political analysis and political comedy for a long tme, in this country. This show feels like a punch to the gut for a complacent electorate. People from all sides debate passionately, from informed positions, live. It’s breathtaking.
And then they do something funny.
I’ve described it on Twitter as: ‘smart people telling me things I didn’t know about politics, and then making me laugh’, and I don’t know that I can put it much better than that. If you’re in the UK and free on a Thursday evening at 10 o’clock, WATCH THIS. If you’re not free on Thursdays, do what I do, watch it on 4oD. If you’re not in the UK, well, YouTube has a few clips. This is well worth your attention. It is the single thing that has most excited me, televisually, this year.