What to Watch: Political Shows Galore 2010

You may be sitting here right now thinking to yourself what good politics/current affairs or satirical shows that are on at the moment.  Well I have come up with a good list of UK programmes and two US programmes that you might be interested in if you do not already know them.

The first up on the UK list is The Daily Politics with host Andrew Neil.  This show mainly features Andrew Neil and co-host Jo Coburn grilling MPs and Lords about several issues in the papers that week.  This show comes out on top, in my opinion, because it is maintains professionalism where other shows fail and also because it maintains a humour that keeps the audience engaged throughout, but it is quite frivolous at times.  The format changes slightly on Wednesdays when The Daily Politics spends 30 minutes watching Prime Minister’s Questions and then debating the issues raised with the aid of the BBC’s Political Editor Nick Robinson.  If I were to rate this show I would give it 7.5 out of 10.

The next show on the UK list is Have I Got News for You. This show started in 1990 with regulars Ian Hislop (Editor of Private Eye) and Paul Merton (comedian) as Team Captains and Angus Deayton as Chairman (until 2002).  This show is a quiz that takes stories from the week’s papers and mocks them and the people in them.  It has had many famous guest hosts over the years from Frank Skinner to Boris Johnson and has never failed to amuse with its ratings around 8 million for several years now.  This show deserves a rating of 9 out of 10 for sheer excellence, hilarity and for being the best satirical show in the UK.

Next up is The Andrew Marr Show.  Hosted by Andrew Marr, this show this is broadcast on Sundays and should be part of the staple diet of any politics student or political pundit.  It usually features Andrew Marr and two guests reviewing several stories from the Sunday papers for the first segment and then moves on to interviews with prominent political figures.  Marr, who was a former Political Editor for the BBC, really is a top standard interviewer and reviewer of the newspapers.  However, this author does feel that sometimes he goes a bit easily on those whom he is interviewing…  All in all though it is a must watch! 7.5 out of 10.

Now on to an American show. Being a Briton, access to American political shows is hard at the best of times.  However, one show has managed to make its way on to British screens.  The fabled Daily Show with Jon Stewart, although not a political show in the traditional sense of interviewing politicians seriously, does do very well not only as a satirical show but also, in this author’s opinion, for Stewart’s keen mind and on the dot criticisms of American politics and its policymakers.  It does have its criticisms though.  It is slightly biased towards the Democrats and has rather left leaning views (by American standards of course) meaning its criticism and laughs are more oft than not directed at the Republican Party and the rather crazy Tea Party Movement than the Democrat Party.  Overall I rate this show 8 out of 10.

Back to the British list.  Newsnight is a current affairs programme on BBC Two hosted by Jeremy Paxman and has continuously broadcast since 1980.  It is well known for its in-depth coverage and cross-examination of politicians.  This is by far the best of the British political and current affairs shows currently out.  This is well deserving of the 9 out of 10 that I have given it.

On to an older show now that ended years ago.  Yes Minister is a fictional satirical sitcom by Sir Anthony Jay and Jonathon Lynn.  It broadcast in the 1980s and has become a cult TV series.  The character “Sir Humphrey” is most noted and referenced to even today.  It was a very witty and intelligent series while it ran with actors well deserving of being in a top 10 list of actors.  Obviously this is not current but it harkens back to a time when comedy shows were generally of a higher quality.  This deserves a rating of 9 out of 10 along with Have I Got News for You.

The penultimate show reviewed and recommended tonight is This Week once again hosted by the great Andrew Neil with former Conservative MP Michael Portillo and Labour leadership candidate Diane Abbot, MP.  It is of a much lighter tone than its competitors but still manages to scrutinise MPs and ministers.  This has most recently been demonstrated by the show’s interviewing of the Labour leadership candidates (David Miliband, Ed Miliband, Andy Burnham, Diane Abbot and Ed Balls).  However, it doesn’t match up to other shows in many respects and as such is not as good as the other shows listed above.  This show is not intended to be serious competition to The Andrew Marr Show and The Daily Politics but it still deserves the 6.5 out of 10 given for originality.

Finally, to end this guide on “What to Watch 2010”, I end with a show that features the Alistair Campbell-like character Malcolm Tucker.  It is The Thick of It created by Armando Iannucci.  This show satirises the inner workings of government as you’ve never seen it before!  The humour and the quality of acting here, like in Yes Minister, is of a high standard, but the continual swearing isn’t a big plus for me and due to this it gets only 8.5 out of 10.

To conclude, there are many very good shows on at the moment of both a satirical and a political/current affairs nature as well as one that has sadly passed.  I am unable to give you anything more from America for the aforementioned reasons but I hope that any Americans reading this might have a few suggestions for me.

By Harry J. Angers

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