Brass Eye satirises a media far too interested in generating dramatic heat and urgency for its own sake than in shedding light on serious issues. Morris mimics perfectly the house style of programmes such as Newsnight and Crimewatch, with their spurious props and love of gimmickry. Meanwhile his presenter--an uncanny composite of Jeremy Paxman, Michael Buerk and Richard Madeley among others--delivers absurd items about man-fighting weasels in the East End and Lear-esque lines such as "the twisted brain wrong of a one-off man mental" with preposterously solemn authority. Much as the media itself is wont to do, each programme works itself up into a ridiculous fever of moral panic. Most telling is the "drugs" episode, in which, as ever, real-life celebrities, including Jimmy Greaves and Sir Bernard Ingham, are persuaded to lend their name to a campaign against a new drug from Eastern Europe entitled Cake. The satirist's aim here isn't to trivialise concern about drugs but to point up the media's lack of attention to content.
A response to the ill-conceived News of the World witch-hunt, in the wake of the Sarah Payne affair, the 2001 "paedophilia" special was the most supremely controversial of the series. It followed the usual formula--duping celebs such as Phil Collins into endorsing a campaign entitled "Nonce Sense", urging parents to send their children to football stadiums for the night for their own safety and mooting the possibility of "roboplegic" paedophiles--and prompted the sort of hysterical and predictable Pavlovian response from the media that Brass Eye lampoons so tellingly.
On the DVD: Brass Eye on DVD includes brief outtakes, such as "David Jatt" interviewing celebrities about breeding hippos for domestic purposes, an hilarious exchange with Jeffrey Archer's PA ("He's a very wicked little man") as well as trailers for the paedophilia special.--David Stubbs
This is definitely not for the faint-hearted or especially the easily offended.. but that said, alot of the most 'offensive' stuff is deliberately so, and way over the top... the best example of this is the hugely controversial (but also Bafta award winning) Paedophilia episode. Outrageous from start to finish, the 'shock value' throughout is purely intentional, and is part of the satire. Some people argue that this sort of thing is 'off-limits' for comedy, because it is somehow making a mockery of what is in reality a terribly serious issue. But I beg to differ. The take-home message from this particular show is as stark and terrifying as your typical Daily Mail rant on the same subject...the message being "Be afraid and be irrational". But by lampooning this sort of sensationalist reporting that would have you believing that the world is awash with paedophiles, Brass Eye actually makes a genuinely useful and good point... don't believe all the rubbish you read or see on TV, and don't let your sense of good judgement be fooled... as Morris' Paxman-like presenter says during one episode, "Keep watching to find out what to think!".. I think this, above all else, summarises nicely what Brass Eye is all about.
The other episodes deal with such controversial subjects as Animal Rights, Drugs, Sex, Crime, (Urban) Decline and Science. Each episode contains its handful of 'offensive' and outrageous moments, but is consistently hilarious throughout. I can't recommend this DVD to everyone, but to true fans of black comedy, I can't recommend it highly enough.
It is shocking in places, aiming to prick the humbug Morris sees in modern broadcast journalism. He was a practitioner himself once, and would have made a very good journo in another universe, but you get the feeling that he hates most of them now, or certainly the ones who resort to the same tired techniques and lazy cliches.
Nonetheless, this series is very funny. Unlike many other reviewers, I'd cite the programme "Animals" as my favourite - the debunking of Carla Lane's socialist credentials was quite a sight, and the report captioned "Ted Maul - In the Country" about a man who wages a psychological war against a cow is a masterpice.
The character of Ted Maul is as memorable as Alan Patridge, if not as famous, and he causes that same I-can't-watch-but-I-can't-stop feeling which was later to result from watching Ricky Gervais play David Brent.
But, as usual, it's the sheer ludicrousness of some of the things that Morris gets celebrities to say that makes this compelling viewing. He said once "In another life I could have been a conman", and watching the slebs fall victim, reading his daft scripts one after another, you can believe it. How did he get Tommy Vance to do an induction video for young offenders? How did he get Bernard Manning to rail against the new Czech drug Cake?
And just how did he manage to get "Mad" Frankie Fraser to willingly indicate on a pointer system that he would be 'Mad as a lorry' ??? Buy this now, before They change their mind and take it off the shelves, lest TV news collapse inwards on itself...
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