Election night coverage: Channel 4 did comedy while ITV's efforts were just laughable

It began with an unprecedented third-party surge, with Channel 4 opening its campaign for the couch-potato vote 55 minutes before the two established parties – BBC and ITV – even got into the game. There would be, the announcer promised, "very strong language and adult humour", not something that had ever been delivered by the traditional coverage, and it was rapidly clear that the Alternative Election Night really did have fresh policies to offer.

They had Lauren Laverne and Charlie Brooker and David Mitchell and they had an anchor, Jimmy Carr, with a novel approach to clarification: take their beginner's guide to proportional representation, for example. "The easiest way to explain it," said the comedian drily, "is to someone who's interested and already understands it".

With the satire muzzled by broadcasting restrictions until polls closed, they filled the time with a special edition of Come Dine With Me – three politicians and a pundit competing in a hellish unpopularity contest. Derek Hatton cooked scallops with asparagus for Edwina Currie, Brian Paddick and Rod Liddle and the viewers watched aghast.

"They might as well have called that 'If You Only Had One Bullet'", said Carr, not the last time in which he deployed a candour which would have been welcome on other channels. I'm not sure that anybody with a choice in the matter would have turned over at 9.55pm – for the fiesta of vacuity which fills the gap until the first significant result arrives.

But duty called – and the BBC's credit sequence which made it look as if the IMF had imposed austerity cuts and protesters had set fire to Whitehall. But in the BBC studio there was no evidence of belt-tightening. Jeremy Paxman was on the mezzanine "naughty step", waiting to curl a lip at psychotic silver-liners.

Over on ITV, it was just Alastair Stewart in a windowless basement with five men in suits. "There'll be a thousand pieces of information and an endless stream of numbers," he promised, just before they unveiled their bid for the evening's stupidest CGI graphic: a triangulated swingometer which looked like a Disneyfied version of a crystal-meth lab. It was a poor response to the BBC's opening salvo, in which Jeremy Vine had advanced, with his strange hunched Richard III gait, down a grey brick road to No 10, constituency paving slabs clinking into place in front of him. But ITV upped its game later with some gloriously ill-conceived animated munchkins bearing a vague resemblance to the party leaders. If only ITV and the BBC could have formed a coalition, they could have produced their own twisted political version of The Wizard of Oz.

Michael Gove had the honour of being the first remote feed to go down, goldfishing wordlessly in some school gymnasium in a way that provided a perfect metaphor for the more audible nothings emerging from other pundits after the first exit poll. Nobody could quite believe the Lib Dem vote had faded so gravely, but nobody had anything to add to their scepticism.

In ITV's tragically underpowered VIP room, Michael Grade and Ian Blair sat at a bistro table with a single glass of red wine, looking as if they'd wandered into a function at the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce. Then ITV cut away to its analysis centre – which had been extensively prepared for the big night by getting everyone to tidy up their desks really, really well. Alastair Campbell popped up briefly to persuade us a Labour defeat would actually be a kind of victory.

For the BBC, Emily Maitlis was provided with a giant iPhone, pre-loaded with a Critical Marginals App, but we had no time to luxuriate in this psephological bling before we were off again. Andrew Neil, looking strangely like the Action Man with the swivelly eyes and the fuzzy felt hair, was chewing the fat on a Thames disco boat with Clive Anderson and Piers Morgan.

Down in the hold, Bruce Forsyth and Ben Kingsley waited to play their part in the BBC's night of a thousand stars. And finally, at around 10.40pm, you got the first whiff of real politics, when Alan Johnson made an early coalition overture with a heartfelt speech on the shortcomings of the current voting system. He didn't yet know the result – but he knew which way the wind was blowing, and it made sense to start kite-flying right away.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum