You know you’re in the presence of a special television programme when it can include moments like this:
“As I tried to kick a ball properly in front of the fit and the dying, it dawned on me how many words we have to express our contempt for others. Wazzock. Spanner. Ninny. Clot. Heggy-head. Manger. Fivepenny twammer. Assheap. Numpty. Village Branson. Fat chest. Hucksucking witch. Furry titcake. Twit. Prannock. Joey.”
If there is a remit for The Armando Iannucci Shows, it’s that the show aims to explore some of the mundane aspects of everyday life – fretting over the low quality of your banter at dinner parties, it becoming painfully clear that you know nothing about cars at the local garage – and then stretch them just beyond the realms of reasonable logic. So, while Armando struggles with his Europolitical quippery over soup, he soon realises the wittiest person in the dining room is actually pulling his witty rejoinders from a pie, and garage mechanics will refuse to service the car of anyone listed in their big book of local twats.
The bulk of the series features Iannucci himself, cheerily pointing out the oddities that make up his life as they occur, such as a washing machine repairman who turns out to be an East End thug (played by Alan “Snatch” Ford), who merely threatens kitchen appliances into working. This isn’t too far from the material penned by Iannucci for his 1990s Guardian columns, collated in the book (and audiobook) Facts And Fancies, only that the format allows Iannucci (along with co-writers Andy Riley and Kevin Cecil) to stretch things out to an even higher level of absurdity, all delivered in a deliciously lo-fi, measured manner. It’s like Chris Morris’ Jam, except really funny. Of course, Armando Iannucci has the sort of voice that makes pretty much anything sound witty and clever. Go on, read this blog entry again only in the voice of Armando Iannucci – it’ll seem somehow well written and interesting second time around.
‘Shows’ also sees a great collection of uniquely warped sketches, like Sammy, a man with a condition that means he’ll die if he experiences the same thing twice, or Alistair, a drug sniffing dog in a rut who sneaks aboard a flight to Bangkok in order to look for a good time. The vast majority of these are brilliantly shot (especially so considering a modest Channel Four budget), taking in scenes like a grandiose song and dance number by dozens of dead people, an appeal by villagers in Africa to support British theatre, or the superb vision of Heaven Except For The Dead Of Scotland, Who Have Their Own Heaven.
The (S)show(s) is (are) also packed with great little blink-and-you’ll-miss-‘em Armando moments too, such as the emergency Battenberg affixed to his kitchen noticeboard, his prison tattoos as he steps into the shower, or unremarkable ten-second linking pieces to camera being shot on location in Rome. While us saying this is fast becoming an unremarkable cliché, it’s another of those programmes that rewards repeated viewing, which would have been welcome news to people watching repeats of it on Channel Four’s digital offshoots, if only it’d had been repeated, at all, ever. To compound matters, the bulk of the series went out just after September the 11th 2001, when a lot of people were too concerned about everything getting blown up to worry about quirky skits from the mind of a Scottish-Italian satirist, meaning it’s not anywhere near as well known as it should be.
SEE IT NOW ON:
Sadly, the programme isn’t yet on 4OD or Seesaw, but there are dozens of clips from the show on YouTube (as you’ll have guessed if you’ve hovered over any of the links we’ve added), but it is available at a stupidly low price online. The cheapest we can see right now is Amazon’s price of £4.38 delivered, though if that’s sold out by the time you read this, The Hut are knocking them out at £4.85.