Election 2015: Channels battle to be the best

paxman mitchellFlicking between the channels as the voting results slowly roll in sounds easy, but watching the election night coverage is actually an exhausting experience.


It starts promisingly, with Channel 4’s Alternative Election Night kicking things off early as hosts Jeremy Paxman and David Mitchell spend an energetic hour poking fun at the fact that they can’t actually talk about the election until 10pm due to Ofcom regulations.

Accidental lengthy pauses are common and the show revels in the slightly shambolic anything-can- go-wrong nature of live TV, like a special edition of 10 O’Clock Live, which is endearing at first.

Paxman reads the lowbrow autocue jokes with stilted awkwardness and barely-concealed disdain, while Mitchell is his usual dry and sarcastic self.

Meanwhile, the BBC begins with some typically-overblown CGI effects and tech – a virtual Downing Street, a ludicrously-large touchscreen, and holograms of the party leaders that blink creepily.

David Dimbleby returns for what is probably his final election night on the BBC, a reassuring and reliable grandfather figure here to calmly guide us through the night.

He makes the BBC’s coverage seem like a much better option as the hours tick by and Channel 4’s loud, self-consciously-offbeat coverage starts to grate and their studio audience becomes increasingly tired.


Paxo eventually resorts to bellowing autocue fodder and ad-libs at the top of his lungs for his own amusement.

The first results come in during an ad break and the second is mentioned in an on-screen graphic but not acknowledged by the comedic co-hosts as they’re in the middle of a jokey discussion about the political allegiances of people who dump their partners by text.

Back to the BBC then for some professionalism. Dimbleby’s arguing with Ed Balls and reporters are making endless predictions based on one poll about results that won’t arrive for another three hours.

At one point I pressed the wrong button and saw a glimpse of a lacklustre Stephen King adaptation with Pierce Brosnan on Channel 5, who clearly know no-one’s watching and have just chucked any old rubbish on.

After 2am, my eyelids begin to droop.

I can no longer follow who’s talking to who about what or why, Jeremy Vine’s walking over the same virtual map Philomena Cunk walked over on Election Wipe the day before, and Channel 4’s audience is still laughing desperately after every single awful joke.

I close my eyes and drift off. Colourful graphs and blinking, smiling Ed Miliband holograms haunt my dreams.

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