If you watch any of the rolling 24 hour news channels ( I very rarely do but occasionally catch BBC news 24 and the rolling Sky sports news available on freeview ) you will see that the type of news presentation so brilliantly lampooned by On The Hour is still alive and kicking .In fact rarely has satire and its intended target been so close to each other.
Originally aired on Radio 4 in 1992 On The Hour is a pitiless satire of news programming featuring a truly extraordinary cast of talented writers and performers including Chris Morris , Patrick Marber, Steve Coogan ( in the first incarnation of Alan Partridge at the sports desk and showing an unhealthy fascination with "groinal injuries" and peoples bodies, plus staggering sporting ignorance-"So Graham Gooch all out for 36 , very quick , you must be pleased?") Stewart Lee, Richard Herring Armando Iannucci ,Rebecca Front and Doon Mackichan .Virtually the same cast later brought the same format to TV with the peerless "The Day Today : Complete BBC Series (2 Disc Set) [1994
] " which added a brilliantly conceived visual aspect to the format.
The second series is superior and more consistent than the first series and has more in common with the television incarnation. As with The Day Today the real joy of this show is the use of language though the strength of the performances is also a vital component. Over 4 C.D,s and six episodes were are regaled with spoof phone calls and interviews involving blissfully innocent members of the public , ridiculous headlines -"300 foot flag pulled out of Shepherd" or "Two year old fish dies at sea"-or preposterous stories and reports on things like-"The Bank of England has lost the pound" or "Ireland has burst".
The programme isn't so much parodying current affairs but the actual pomposity and almost salacious glee that the news industry delivers it with. From Chris Morris's superb Paxman like delivery- "Heads it news , tails it news ( sound of coin spinning )...... "It's news" to Peter O,Hanraha-Hanrahan,s incompetence -"Peter have you read the report?"/ "Many people have read it"- to Roger Blatts almost rampant delight at an earthquake in Corinth which is like the "Face of a boxer ,whose face has been punched to pieces ...from the inside", On The Hour is superbly salaciously funny.
Technically it is quite brilliant( with clever original music by Chris Morris and Jonathon Whitehead) and there are a couple of quite exceptional parodies. One is Barry White's response to the Corinth earthquake -"Earthquake in my bed" - "Oh baby lets forget the pain , the horror of this place/ you won't care about the blood when you're sitting on my face" . The other on the extras disc ( along with a special Ted Maul report on resurrected cattle and extra Partridge) is a Pixies spoof so spot on it could have come of Surfer Rosa
This second series is better than the first .More consistent and funnier with less of the self indulgence that slightly marred series one( though that is still superb) , it resembles far more the eventual television incarnation of the show. It's a total triumph, a radio revolution, so if you want to know why Prince Harry has split up or why the Ukraine has abolished friction this is the CD for you. "Palatable news presentation " that "Never balks at issues from which other news programmes might well shrink".