Thursday, 13 March 2008

"If There's One Thing People Don't Want, It's The Absence Of A Lack Of Non-clarity"

For the benefit of those listeners yet to follow our advice and get into Newstopia, Shaun Micellef’s fantastic take on the satirical news show genre, we’re pleased to offer up a few clips of what you’re missing. Alternatively, for the benefit of our listeners handsome and/or pretty enough to have heeded the words we typed on the 28th of February, here are some clips from the first series of Newstopia. Which we erroneously said wasn’t as good as we’d hoped. We’d only seen the pilot episode by that point, and luckily the remainder of the series (which we’ve just acquired) is well up to muster. As this clip will inarguably prove to you.

Good, and something only a wrist-flapping simpleton would describe as Like The Day Today Only Not As Funny, no? Well, as more people really should be made aware of this show, and because it'll make for an easy update to the blog, here's a full episode from series one of Newstopia. Spiffington.

(Part one. Direct link)

(Part two. Direct link)

(Part three. Direct link)

8 .:

Phillip Perpendicularly said...

Phew. I'd intended to examine "topical" "satire" programmes from around the world, but the first one I tried was a new ep of This Hour Has 22 Minutes, which was so crushing in its untrammelled hideousness that I had to stop instantly, also kill everybody involved in making the programme and set fire to their continent. Now I can take up the list again and carry on, for example by downloading another edition of Newstopia. Thanks, Broken TV!


Mark X said...

Hopefully you didn't get as far as The Half Hour News Hour from Fox News then, which manages to operate as some strange kind of anti-comedic vacuum. Compared to that, 'This Hour Has 22 Minutes' is almost the equivalent of finding a copy of the lost Hancock episode where Tony Hancock was too ill to perform, and the part of 'Tony Hancock' was taken by Harry Secombe. The second part of the previous sentence isn't strictly relevant, but I've just found out that fact, and feel compelled to note it down somewhere.

For the record (if anyone will go as far as finding this comment), there's more Micallef torrenty goodness to be found by searching for 'Welcher And Welcher', his sitcom based on a law firm. Not quite as good as Newstopia, but still worth investigating.

Phillip Perpendicularly said...

I haven't been any further than Newstopia so far, but am formulating a grand unified theory of everything to explain why Oz gets this while our flagship defender of "topical" "satire" programmes is Rory Bremners. The initial blackboard scribbling for the formula is that a Newstopia item begins with someone saying, "Here's a ridiculous idea we can make fun of," while the Bremners machine advances from the premise, "Rory can do David Blunketts. What can we have Rory, dressed as David Blunketts, say?"

(It's telling that Micallef in ep two says something like, "We wanted to ask (FAMOUS AND RECOGNISABLE AUSTRALIAN POLITICIAN) about this... but prosthetics are expensive and time-consuming to apply, so we asked (NEWSTOPIA REPERTORY ACTOR IN TIE PRETENDING TO BE IMAGINARY JUNIOR ASSISTANT TO FAMOUS AND RECOGNISABLE AUSTRALIAN POLITICIAN) instead.")

The formula doesn't yet explain Micallef dressed as Kofi Annan, etc, but I think I can knit the edges together with Newstopia's tightly scripted sketch structure that does not neglect the jokes versus the Bremners camp's longstanding resemblance to an improvisational dinner party game at Ned Sherrin's house ("You're middle England voters. Something's occurred of which you mildly disapprove without understanding the facts. Go!"), or I could invent bosons or something. In an exciting scholarly breakthrough, I can also reveal that the theory easily incorporates Have I Got News For You and The Now Show in a special brace marked "Get out."

Out of interest in the Secombe's Half Hour vein, The Goons also had cast changes, chiefly caused by Spike Milligna going loony again that day, but sometimes in fascinatingly more peculiar ways. For example, look at this episode guide for S9:

Show 11, The Spy Or Who Is Pink Oboe?, a favourite of the script books, was recast at the last minute when Sellers fell ill before the recording, by slightly rewriting the parts -- Henry and Min becoming a different couple, for instance, and Valentine "Man in Black" Dyall playing a Grytpype-Thynne analogue. But the intriguing entry is show 17, The £50 Cure, where Ken Connor replaces an indisposed Harry Secombe *but plays Ned Seagoon.* In other words, in bewildering post-modern meta thingness mirroring your Hancock example, Seagoon is not Harry but simply a character who can be performed by an understudy. There's a small run of eps like this. As a splendid further illustration of bonce-bending reality melt, the single completely successful attempt to put the team on screen, the marvellous short The Case of the Mukkinese Battlehorn, has all the Secombe parts played by Dick Emery.

Mark X said...

Don't forget the other cornerstone of Britain's television satire industry, The Marcus Brigstocke Being Sarcastic In A Suit Show. Basically, it's that, Sir Trevor McDonald delivering lines that are beneath him, and Bremners. The latter is possibly preparing a spoof of "I'd Do Anything", with 'David Cameron' and 'Nick Clegg' auditioning in front of John Bird Pretending To Be Andrew Lloyd Webber as I type this. Did The Friday Night Armistice die in vain?

Thanks for that information on The Goon Show, very interesting. I wasn't aware of that site, and there's a lot of entertaining tidbits there, such as one script being entitled '_____!'. It's too long since I last listened to The Goon Show. I shall have to remedy that.

Coincidentally, the episode of Welcher & Welcher (Micallef's much maligned lawyery sitcom) that I've just got around to watching - White Man's Burden - splendidly included a scene where Francis Greenslade's character did an extended impersonation of Eccles. Not only is that a brilliantly obscure reference to include in a mainstream sitcom, but it ties in nicely with your comment's topics of The Goon Show, Shaun Micallef being great, and Bremner's weak impersonation based comedy. Madam Circumstance operates in interesting ways, eh?

Mark X said...

Just two clicks on that Goon Show website reveal this - - a 24-hour streaming radio station that plays episodes at random through Winamp or iTunes (or similar). The internet is now 4% better than I'd previously thought.

Phillip Perpendicularly said...

I've now finished watching Newstopia S1 and it's entirely fair to call it a The Day Today rip-off; the programme's blatantly stolen its presentational vocabulary.

But Micallef and Co have used their powers of burglary for good; Newstopia is its own show and cleverly adds actual "topical" "satire" to the silly bits. By contrast, of course, Broken News is the equivalent of those Turkish television versions of Star Trek without the charm and panache. I wonder what the budgets were for The Day Today and Broken News?

Anyway, I was also watching three Spitting Image shows courtesy of UK Nova. The 1987 Election Special is great, lots of silly bits and "topical" "satire," with the sheer *contempt* for Thatch & Co ringing throughout. (Lab must have been livid that all they commanded was a sort of disinterested, general stab at their colourless buffoonery.) It ends, remarkably, with a (real) Aryan choirboy (er, a real choirboy, who resembles in his blond hair and blue eyes an Aryan) dressed as a city gent singing Tomorrow Belongs to Me, accompanied by the Thatch Cabinet in spooky slow-motion sepia close-ups, with a finale of the choirboy giving the Nazi salute with a furled umbrella and a tear-stained face as Thatch looms into focus -- "... belongs. To ME."

The other shows, a compilation of Royalty sketches and a 1989 Christmas special, were ruddy awful. Interestingly, the Royalty compilation credits all the famous writers -- Newman & Hislop, Hunter & Docherty, etc. This conclusively proves something or other.

I have not seen enough of Marcus Brigstockes to form an opinion, except that he was quite amusing on News For You that time, though I cannot recall a single joke. (To be fair, from the last eight or nine series, ahhhhh.) Also, there was a miserable attempt to advertise him as an important and controversial man comedian because of a monologue he did on The Now Show about religion which was even more indifferent than it sounds.

I've also now seen an ep of Headcases. It is not quite mediocre enough to be Dead Ringers: the Computer Graphics.

This concludes my recent viewing. Incidentally, this thing: . (UPDATE: drat, the main archive looks like it's gone.)

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