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Day Today, The (1994)

Courtesy of FremantleMedia

Main image of Day Today, The (1994)
Talkback for BBC; 19/1-23/2/1994
6 x 30 minutes, colour
Written and devised byChristopher Morris; Armando Iannucci
DirectorAndrew Gillman
ProducerArmando Iannucci
Co-ProducerChristopher Morris

Cast: Chris Morris; Steve Coogan; Rebecca Front; Doon Mackichan; Patrick Marber; David Schneider

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Newsatrolysis from the crack team of The Day Today - because fact into doubt won't go.

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The Day Today (BBC, 1994) was the most radical satire seen on British screens since the 1960s, and marked the arrival of a new generation of comic talent.

The series originated, like much 1990s television comedy, as a BBC Radio 4 show, On the Hour, in which form it soon attracted a cult audience, as well as an uneasy relationship with broadcasting regulators.

Despite lasting just six episodes, The Day Today's influence extended well beyond its short run. The programme's core team would go on to some of the most innovative television comedy of the next few years: Armando Iannucci, David Schneider and co-writer Peter Baynham to Saturday Night Armistice (BBC, 1995-98; Friday Night Armistice from series 2), Doon MacKichan to Smack the Pony (Channel 4, 1999-), Steve Coogan to develop his Alan Partridge character in Knowing Me, Knowing You... (BBC, 1994) and I'm Alan Partridge (BBC, 1997; 2002) - produced by Iannucci - Rebecca Front to Big Train (BBC, 1998; 2002) among others. Patrick Marber and, to a lesser extent, Schneider, successfully wrote for theatre. But the series' most original comic brain was Chris Morris, whose savage, surreal wit won him acclaim, hero worship, notoriety and open hatred for his subsequent series, Brass Eye (Channel 4, 1997).

Where previous satire had largely concentrated on the lampooning of political and public figures, The Day Today's real target was television itself, specifically the pomposity and self-importance of TV news and current affairs reporting. The series took the form of a current affairs programme along the lines of Newsnight (BBC, 1980-), introduced by Morris's very Jeremy Paxman-like anchor mimicking the portentous speech common among contemporary TV journalists and linking news reports, weather, sport and assorted features.

Highlights included Morris's on-air humiliations of inept reporter Peter O'Hanraha-hanrahan ("Peter! You've lost the news!"), the trainful of commuters reduced to a state of pagan savagery after 48 hours stuck at a signal and Partridge's sublimely ridiculous sports reports ("the proof is in the pudding, and the pudding in this case is a football!"). Best of all was an interview in which Morris manufactured a war between Britain and Australia, which the programme's reporters exploited with relish; the episode ended with a fake advertisement for a gloriously tasteless video, offering highlights of the war with a soundtrack of pop classics ('You Really Got Me' over images of the dead and wounded, 'Disco Inferno' over burning buildings).

Mark Duguid

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Video Clips
1. Headlines and titles (0:50)
2. Lady rally driver (1:47)
3. Clamping the homeless (1:01)
4. Ministers' brains (1:24)
5. It's war! (3:27)
Complete episode: 'News' (28:50)
Brass Eye (1997, 2001)
Knowing Me Knowing You with Alan Partridge (1994-95)
Coogan, Steve (1965-)
Iannucci, Armando (1963-)
Linehan, Graham (1968-)
Mackichan, Doon (1962-)
Mathews, Arthur (1959-)
Morris, Christopher (1963- )
TV Satire