The Day Today / Brass Eye

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colinr0380
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The Day Today / Brass Eye

#1 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Jan 06, 2008 2:31 pm

I've posted about this before in the TV on DVD section but no discussion of classic television would be complete without mention of these two series!

Completely puncturing all the news trickery to create spot on parodies of either the pomposity of 'serious news' programmes in The Day Today or the fluffiness of tabloid style magazine programmes pretending to investigate a supposedly important subject in depth in Brass Eye, these shows become more and more important as time passes!

Perhaps the best thing I can say about it is that whenever the real news upsets me with its pat comments and casual distortions just a few minutes of these shows can cheer me up!

The Day Today hits perfectly the attitude of having sorted out all the worlds problems in their half hour show while casually espousing all their own racial, class and sex stereotypes and just basically treating everyone they come into contact with like dirt whether it is goading the diplomats of the UK and Australia into declarations of war or making the organiser of London's first jam festival cry on air by telling her what a stupid idea it was (and then panning up close to her tearful face as she breaks down).

Brass Eye also treads the fine line between comedy and making a serious condemnation of the media's treatment of the people it comes into contact with, casually calling an elderly couple a "rattly pair of old puffins" or making comments such as "It could have so easily been like that for me but luckily the amount of heroin I use is harmless. I inject about once a month on a purely recreational basis. Fine. But what about people less stable, less educated, less middle-class than me? Builders, for example, or blacks?", or on the media's differentiation between 'good' and 'bad' AIDS

Then there are just the incredibly funny parodies such as a sanitary towel advert by Nirvana! or BBC2 and their 'nights' of programmes in Attitudes Night!

Brass Eye also comments on the celebrity culture of people adding their names to faked campaigns. The agony aunt Claire Rayner's shocked reaction to the Japanese commercial allowing drugs to be taken legally using an animal as a medium, the "Cani-bliss dog puffer", is perhaps my favourite!

My favourite parts of both series were the graphics illustrating spurious points in the most over the top way possible!:

Image

EDIT: To change the years of transmission to the correct ones! #-o
Last edited by colinr0380 on Tue Jan 08, 2008 2:37 pm, edited 5 times in total.

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domino harvey
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#2 Post by domino harvey » Sun Jan 06, 2008 2:49 pm

I watched the one on child molesters on YouTube a couple months ago after it was strongly recommended and I didn't like it at all-- it was way too broad and not particularly funny. Too much effort expended on "shock" laffs

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MichaelB
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#3 Post by MichaelB » Sun Jan 06, 2008 4:46 pm

domino harvey wrote:I watched the one on child molesters on YouTube a couple months ago after it was strongly recommended and I didn't like it at all-- it was way too broad and not particularly funny. Too much effort expended on "shock" laffs
Conversely, I think it's one of the funniest things I've ever seen - not least because it graphically illustrates the difference between genuine satire in the tradition of Swift and Gillray and the soft-centered, mildly joshing variety that the label usually gets slapped on these days.

It probably helped that I was living in Britain in the summer of 2000 - the year before it was broadcast - as that's when the British media went completely and collectively bonkers on the subject of paedophiles lurking around every corner, which in turn directly inspired Morris (there's an explicit reference to pretty much every bit of media coverage from that period). It also helped that I knew who most of the talking heads were - if you feel the same way about the loathsome far-right MP Gerald Howarth as I do, seeing him dancing so helplessly to Morris's tune was an absolute joy. (It's also the first and only time I've ever laughed at the alleged comedian Richard Blackwood).

But what most impressed me about it is the way that it used extreme shock tactics to make entirely serious points. The most vivid example that I can recall right now is the six-year-old beauty contestant showing off her surgically-enhanced breasts, which the Daily Mail (one of Morris's main targets, so they were bound to hate it) described as the most obscene image ever broadcast on British television. They were arguably correct, but completely missed the reason as to why Morris might have wished to create and broadcast such an image, as a hideous warning of the logical outcome of the way so-called beauty pageants end up commodifying children's bodies. I also found the scene where Morris is showing the (genuine) Scotland Yard obscene publications expert around a fake gallery exhibition asking him to judge which pictures are obscene and which aren't almost painfully hilarious, given that the images were all equally absurd.

(I should confess to having a particular fondness for this edition of Brass Eye because I went on a blind date the next day, and when we were sitting in a Brighton café sizing each other up, one of us noticed the Daily Mail front page - SICKEST TV SHOW EVER - and naturally brought up the subject. We both agreed it was just about the funniest thing we'd ever seen (I did hesitate momentarily before admitting this, but then thought "oh, what the hell - if she hated it we probably aren't going to be soulmates anyway"), and were married sixteen months later. And we watched it again for our fifth wedding anniversary, just to see if all the "well, you'll feel differently about it when you have children" predictions had borne any fruit... and laughed just as much. And I spotted Charlie Brooker was one of the writers, which I wouldn't have registered back in 2001)
Last edited by MichaelB on Mon Jan 07, 2008 7:44 am, edited 1 time in total.

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#4 Post by zedz » Sun Jan 06, 2008 11:00 pm

The Day Today is, in my opinion, one of the funniest things ever broadcast, and the fact that it's so satirically astute and creepily prescient only makes it all the more cherishable. It almost seems more pertinent as a satire of late 00s television news than it did of the early 90s variety.

Morris' scabrous sarcasm and shock tactics formed a dream combination with the exacting parodic eye of Ianucci, and the shows they went on to make afterwards, though often (generally?) brilliant, never quite attained that same precarious balance of straight-faced absurdity. Brass Eye amps up the satire to nuclear strength (the audacity of the pedophilia special remains awe-inspiring), but the trade-off is in the lower-key, telling parody of traditional forms: it's only in a general sense recognizable as a current events show. I guess it's the difference between satire in the form of current events television and satire of the form of current events television.

Thanks. Chris.

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#5 Post by MichaelB » Mon Jan 07, 2008 3:29 am

zedz wrote:The Day Today is, in my opinion, one of the funniest things ever broadcast, and the fact that it's so satirically astute and creepily prescient only makes it all the more cherishable. It almost seems more pertinent as a satire of late 00s television news than it did of the early 90s variety.
Andrew Marr, when he was the BBC's political editor, admitted that he regularly namechecked the programme when putting together his own broadcasts - he and his colleagues were acutely conscious of just how much their work was starting to look like a typical episode. Apparently Newsnight's rottweiller-in-chief Jeremy Paxman was also a huge fan, especially of Chris Morris's performance (which was so clearly inspired by Paxman that it's probably just as well he liked it!).

For comparison purposes, this is Paxman and this is Morris.
zedz wrote: I guess it's the difference between satire in the form of current events television and satire of the form of current events television.
Indeed. And for that reason Brass Eye is far more of an acquired taste than The Day Today, because unless you have a pretty obsessive interest in current affairs media (and specifically British current affairs television), and the history of the British media in general, you're going to miss a huge proportion of the jokes . It's niche market comedy with a vengeance - at least for those who read it on the level that Chris Morris intended.

One crucial point about Morris's shock tactics is that they're not that far-fetched - virtually everything has a basis in fact. In 1983, Channel Four genuinely did broadcast a show called Minipops in which prepubescent children tarted themselves up and mimed to current pop hits in an alarmingly sexualised fashion (this is now recognised as one of the lowest points in British television history). And although large chunks of the story have been exposed as an urban myth, it was undoubtedly true that a respected paediatrician found her house daubed with the word 'Paedo' at the height of the anti-paedophile scare.

It's also equally true that in the very same issue of the News of the World that named and shamed real-life paedophiles (thus driving them underground and off the police radar, directly increasing the chances of them being able to reoffend) featured photographs of a topless sixteen-year-old. Instead of being fired, the editor who sanctioned those decisions is now editing The Sun, Britain's largest mass-market tabloid. And so on and so on - the lunacy and hypocrisy, particularly in summer 2000 but at many other times as well, had to be experienced to be believed.

Incidentally, Morris is currently working on a show satirising suicide bombers...

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#6 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Jan 07, 2008 9:40 am

Wasn't the "Them Next Door" racist 70s sketch in the Attitudes Night piece based on that notorious ITV show Love Thy Neighbour?

One of the great things about both Day Today and Brass Eye is that they are wonderfully quotable! I keep trying to find opportunities to slip "It is not an experience I can see catching on, but neither is it one I regret" into a conversation!

I like thinking of The Day Today as being a BBC satire, in love with facts and figures (the Bombdog story), while Brass Eye is the commercial channel's focus on the emotional angle to tell their stories (The young offenders sketch. As the Simpsons might put it "Won't somebody please think of the children!")

Both have an over inflated sense of their own importance and a willingness to twist a story into their own worldview, but take a different approach in how they package their material for their perceived audience. I think that lets them complement each other perfectly.

(One of the only good things about Noel Edmonds suddenly returning to fame as the presenter of the atrocious guessing game Deal Or No Deal is that it makes the breaking news report from Edmond's mansion, where he has gone beserk during a dinner party, relevant again!)

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#7 Post by MichaelB » Mon Jan 07, 2008 10:39 am

colinr0380 wrote:Wasn't the "Them Next Door" racist 70s sketch in the Attitudes Night piece based on that notorious ITV show Love Thy Neighbour?
Also known as My Neighbour's A Darkie, if Bill Bryson is to be believed. (He isn't, but it might as well have been - and that wasn't even the worst of the bunch, as anyone who's seen the notorious Spike Milligan vehicle Curry and Chips knows only too well!)
One of the great things about both Day Today and Brass Eye is that they are wonderfully quotable! I keep trying to find opportunities to slip "It is not an experience I can see catching on, but neither is it one I regret" into a conversation!
I'm assuming you know the inspiration of the "I'm being fellated by a groupie" segment? (Which is actually much funnier than the Steve Coogan version, largely on account of it being real).
(One of the only good things about Noel Edmonds suddenly returning to fame as the presenter of the atrocious guessing game Deal Or No Deal is that it makes the breaking news report from Edmond's mansion, where he has gone beserk during a dinner party, relevant again!)
Aside from references to John Major as Prime Minister and one or two other giveaway moments, it's dated remarkably little. And Brass Eye has barely dated at all, despite being over a decade old.

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#8 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Jan 07, 2008 12:51 pm

MichaelB wrote:I'm assuming you know the inspiration of the "I'm being fellated by a groupie" segment? (Which is actually much funnier than the Steve Coogan version, largely on account of it being real).
That's brilliant! It was a reference I hadn't been able to place! It seems that they didn't realise that putting the presenter on a drug trip and then hoping he'd be able to 'lucidly' sign off the programme for them just wasn't going to happen!

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#9 Post by Person » Mon Jan 07, 2008 3:17 pm

What about Chris Morris', Jam? That's out the fucking window. It started as a radio show and this audio piece was cut halfway through, as the engineer thought that it was going out without permission. Someone sync'd the video up later, ie. this segment is not part of the TV series:

Archbishop of Canterbury shares his true feelings

Pure genius.

From The Day Today, I love the Prince Charles goes to jail segment.

Then there's Jam's Robert Kilroy Silk sketch.

There's tonnes of great Chris Morris stuff on You Tube. The spoof radio interviews he did with Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling (Peter Cook) are pure gold. All of them are on You Tube.

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#10 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Jan 07, 2008 4:02 pm

It did feel dangerous watching Jam, as if just getting the joke meant you were going insane!

The suicide piece made me think it could have been dreamt up by J.G. Ballard if he'd written comedy! (though Ballard's work is full of black humour)

The visuals really added an extra dimension to the TV series - I especially liked the way images were created for a couple of songs that I can't help remembering whenever I hear the music again! (Watch out for the fakest bird on screen since Blue Velvet!)
Last edited by colinr0380 on Sat Feb 27, 2021 9:46 am, edited 2 times in total.

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#11 Post by zedz » Mon Jan 07, 2008 4:50 pm

colinr0380 wrote:It did feel dangerous watching Jam, as if just getting the joke meant you were going insane!
The sketch in which the guy calls in a 'fixer' to sort out a domestic accident is one of the funniest things I've ever seen on television (though I've shown it to people who watch aghast in stony silence). "But I'm only six years old" is now the perfect all-purpose excuse. I haven't had much of a chance to use "He killed the man" though.

This thread is in great danger of degenerating into a quotefest. Is that cool? Really cool? What about this? Cool, is it?

One of the things that's so great about the language in The Day Today is how precisely is skewers journalistic diction ("But there is another ritual. The ritual, of the bullying ritual"). It makes it very hard to listen to most news reports with a straight face afterwards.

And I'm amazed and appalled to learn that Kiddystare had its roots in reality.

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#12 Post by MichaelB » Mon Jan 07, 2008 5:08 pm

zedz wrote:And I'm amazed and appalled to learn that Kiddystare had its roots in reality.
Virtually everything in Brass Eye had roots in reality. That's what makes it so jaw-dropping.

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Re: The Day Today / Brass Eye

#13 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Feb 27, 2021 9:11 am

I am not too sure where to put this, as it is not a Chris Morris series, but I really want to put in a plug for the BBC's great Broken News series from 2005, which feels very influenced by what The Day Today and Brasseye had done just a few years previously. There are five half hour episodes of this series which takes the form of channel-hopping through a number of news channels as they make their way through their primetime news cycle, with each of the episodes featuring a single over-arching 'main news headline of the day' that unifies a number of the channels together in their response to some big piece of breaking news. Something like losing an entire island or a potential plane hijacking completely occupies the 'serious news channels', whilst a lot of the other more niche channels just continue on with business as normal!

That allows for a lot of really sharp satire that really specifically targets things like:

-American news channels, with the more ambitious and competent female news reader trying to ask pertinent questions whilst the older newsman waffles along in an amiable manner, completely undermining her attempts at gravitas!
IBS News wrote:"Julia, you've gotta say that trial has everything. I cannot get over that that guy is only 5'4" "
"I guess if nothing else it tells you that even the rich and famous don't necessarily lead happy lives... It's 5:35"
"...I don't know, it sounds like they all had a pretty good time to me. Maybe what its telling you is that if you are rich and famous it's great until you murder your wife... then you've got trouble"
-the incredibly parochial local news channels that elevate tiny incidents into headline news and do jokey banter with the weatherman, that always seems just on the edge of tipping from the mundanely comfortable to the incredibly naughty before they quickly defuse their awkwardness (As their running gag goes: "Don't go there!") Weirdly all of the local news stories seem on the verge of going overly sexual too, from a local town being named the sperm count capital of the country, to a piece on dogging or a concerned report about the "overwhelming flow of Eastern European prostitutes through Thetford"! Yet simultaneously is able to prove that local news can take even the kinkiest of subjects and drain all joy and excitement from them until they exist on the same boring and bland level as everything else!
-the entertainment channel with its, let's just say obviously flamboyant, L.A. correspondent, that is laser-focused on the latest celebrity gossip
-the movie news show with the presenter smarming up to his various celebrity guests in a horribly fawning manner during an interview, only to then immediately trash their latest project in a review that we cut to immediately afterwards, when he is presumably safely out of earshot! I love that we go from the presenter uncomfortably drooling over an actress in one episode, or praising a wide-eyed innocent child star in another, only to do a heel-turn into describing how terrible he found their latest films! The inevitability of the upcoming punchline makes the interview preceding it all the more upsetting/funnier!
-the 15 second news blast for ADD-addled youths
-traffic news, which presumably is completely useless if you are not in a car and instead watching the television! ("A lorry has shed its load of cars across the M56. So there are delays in that area due to a sudden increase in the amount of cars on the road")
-the business channel, which is a blur of zooming charts and tickertape lines, as one down-to-earth bloke goes off into cockney rhyming slang and tortuous metaphors to supposedly simplify complicated financial information but only ends up making it seem even more obscure, even to the other dumbfounded person he is talking to! Every segment of this ends in a perfectly timed cut away as the other person is either left speechless or made speechless by moving to another channel before they get the chance to respond!
-the weather reports that go to ever more obscure and unnecessary locations to tell viewers about weather conditions. Including a rather surprising choice of location for one episode!

And a variety of deadly serious main news channels that all feature a combination of male-female tag team presenters (literally in the pair of presenters who complete each others sentences, evolving to completing syllables of each other's words!) from the brusquely informative to the friendly duo who keep gently reading out the audience's correspondence
"Oh no, we're all going to die. I'm so scared and I have been on anti-depressants for six weeks, and I'm thinking about ending it all". That's from "Bubbles" in London
"Marks and Spencers underwear is still alright". That's from "Sam" in Essex. I think that's in relation to our earlier business report.
"These people think they can play God, but they can't. Only God can play God. If there is one." Very deep point there. That's from "Z-Man"
Those 'serious news' channels also have their sub-presenters such as Melanie Bellamy with the Standing News (which seems to have a Tim Peake-style frazzled astronaut under contract to keep appearing on the news to lend his view on events back on Earth that bear less and less relationship to anything that an astronaut should have to comment on!), or the depressing Richard Harbinger who can always be relied upon to find the most doom-laden perspective on every story that he covers. Or that one lady who is out in the field doing interviews but spends so much time doing her piece to camera and walking up to interviewees that there is no time for them to say anything before she cuts them off and hands back to the studio! Plus a pre-fame Benedict Cumberbatch is in a couple of the episodes as an international correspondent standing outside of various locations killing time before something happens, only for people to take so long to appear for press statements that the episode ends just at the exact moment when there is finally a reason for him to have been there!

This series has really grown on me. It's not quite as bitingly satirical as the Chris Morris shows, and is not targeting specific media personalities directly but is more a satire of the form of the news media (I particularly like a moment of an interviewer interviewing an interviewer interviewing an interviewer (all confusingly named Ben) that turns into a tunnel of television screens at one point, which gets wonderfully edited! The editing in this series, from something elaborate such as that endless hall of mirrors moment to just knowing exactly the right point to cut away from each channel and into the next one, is quite a feat and it works really well. In fact the editing is impressively complex throughout). Broken News, as the title suggests, is updating the premise from the pure informational BBC satire of The Day Today and emotive personal story angle of the commerical ITV channel that Brasseye had into something that is trying to capture the bewildering range of digital news channels (for example in the hijack episode we get our reporter on the scene interviewing a representative of a Japanese television network about the situation, then a couple of minutes later they swap around and she is being interviewed for the Japanese TV channel! Which is an amusing way of suggesting the incestuous nature of the 'news bubble' that has reduced reporters into just killing time for their viewers by interviewing each other!). The potential over-abundance of news channels (and viewpoints) was a pretty current concern in the mid-2000s with the coming of digital switchover and the rise of Fox News, but as with the Chris Morris shows a lot of Broken News feels as if it remains quite relevant and cutting even today (The "Halfway There Day" nostalgia episode felt extremely relevant during the recent Captain Tom period). Although there is perhaps scope for things to be updated even further now with a satire on news media in the streaming video internet age.
Last edited by colinr0380 on Mon Mar 01, 2021 5:01 am, edited 11 times in total.

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Re:

#14 Post by MichaelB » Sat Feb 27, 2021 10:11 am

Well, since you've revived this thread after nearly thirteen years, there's a follow-up to this:
MichaelB wrote:
Sun Jan 06, 2008 4:46 pm
(I should confess to having a particular fondness for this edition of Brass Eye because I went on a blind date the next day, and when we were sitting in a Brighton café sizing each other up, one of us noticed the Daily Mail front page - SICKEST TV SHOW EVER - and naturally brought up the subject. We both agreed it was just about the funniest thing we'd ever seen (I did hesitate momentarily before admitting this, but then thought "oh, what the hell - if she hated it we probably aren't going to be soulmates anyway"), and were married sixteen months later. And we watched it again for our fifth wedding anniversary, just to see if all the "well, you'll feel differently about it when you have children" predictions had borne any fruit... and laughed just as much. And I spotted Charlie Brooker was one of the writers, which I wouldn't have registered back in 2001)
...which is that a few years ago we both went to see Oxide Ghosts, a collection of deleted material from Brass Eye, sometimes for legal reasons, which was introduced live by director Michael Cumming, who then took part in a terrific Q&A (he directed all the Brass Eye episodes bar the one-off Paedophile Special a few years later). And when you consider what actually got broadcast, you can only imagine what was considered unsuitable - although one item, in which legendary gangster Reginald Kray recorded a message in support of the campaign to rescue an elephant with its trunk stuck up its arse, was deleted for other reasons (namely, a call to the production company that essentially went "Nice telly series. Be a shame if someone were to break it, know what I mean?")

And I have rarely heard my wife laugh so hard (indeed, properly cackle) as she did during the excerpts from the famously banned Peter Sutcliffe: The Musical - which, like most of the great Brass Eye gags, works on multiple levels in satirising both shameless exploitation of real-life tragedy while also implicitly posing the question "so how come Stephen Sondheim can get away with this?" (Although, in Sondheim's defence, while Sweeney Todd was and still is widely believed to have been a real historical character, there's no actual evidence to back this up.)

More soberly, in the Q&A Cumming said it would be pretty much impossible to make something like Brass Eye today, at least for a proper OFCOM-regulated television channel, partly because it's virtually impossible to satirise the news and celebrity culture these days (The Day Today's co-creator Armando Iannucci famously gave up contemporary satire when Donald Trump first ran for President, hence switching to period pieces like The Death of Stalin and David Copperfield), but also because Brass Eye itself led to a substantial regulatory tightening-up.

(Oh, and last year my wife asked me if I could source a clip of the "good AIDS and bad AIDS" debate for a perfectly serious presentation that she was giving for her BSc Sexual Health Skills degree. Only too happy to oblige.)

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Re: The Day Today / Brass Eye

#15 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Feb 27, 2021 7:41 pm

I would certainly argue that Broken News picked up the genre and ran with it a few years after the Chris Morris shows (along with the similarly hilarious show that satirised radio: Radio9). Whilst it was never going to be as provocative and confrontational (or downright dangerous as Jam!), and of course does not quite have the same knack for gorgeously silly character names (relying more on rhyming couplets such as "Melanie Bellamy" et al) Broken News really pushes beyond The Day Today and Brasseye in the area of its channel-flipping premise and the sheer sprawling enormity of its ensemble cast, all doing brief bits of business that get spliced into the overall tapestry of the final show.

So Broken News and Radio9 got that kind of satire of media form and function into the mid-2000s at least, even if we have not seen their like since then.
___

That Good Aids/Bad Aids segment has one of the best lines of the whole Brasseye series: "What if a madman broke in here with a machine gun and shot you to pieces? Anyone here yawning would get your blood in their mouth".

(Though of course "You're wrong, and you're a grotesquely ugly freak...Thanks!" is up there too)

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