REVIEW / Undermining the fabric of our society

WELL, I don't think Michael Portillo's going to enjoy it. The Day Today (BBC 2) opens with some wonderfully glossy computer graphics and one of those pompous current affairs soundtracks - all sforzando brass chords and urgent percussion. It's the real thing, at least until the final seconds, when it suddenly dawns on you that the computer effects have got a little frantic, that the music's final bars are perhaps a little overwrought in their search for a punching climax. Not much respect here for those national institutions, The Nine O'Clock News and Newsnight.

Not much respect either for Elvis Presley, government ministers, the Church of England, Prince Charles, good taste and unsuspecting members of the public, but above all for television itself, which is the real object of The Day Today's scorn. It's very cynical, very clever and very funny. Perhaps this is what Mr Portillo means by those 'whose stock-in- trade is to belittle and undermine the fabric of our society', because if society does still have a fabric then television is as good a contender as any.

It wouldn't work nearly as well if the pastiche wasn't so lovingly and expensively detailed (it makes KYTV look like something that was run up at home with a cardboard box and some old washing-up bottles). The report from the American stringer on a death-row Elvis fan who had requested to be dispatched by an electric lavatory seat was funny because of the precision of its mimicry: the grainy image, wobbling newscam and shameless puns ('This is very definitely one Burger King with extra fries to go . . .Barbara Wintergreen . . . CBN News . . .at the Elvocution, Tennessee State Penitentiary') all perfectly caught American novelty news reports.

There's more here than parody. They have fun ripping actuality out of context - so that newsreel of Lord Owen stumbling through a doorstep interview about some Balkan atrocity ('I don't think I've ever seen anything quite such . . . so totally wanton . . . ghastly . . . mess . . . terrible') is made to follow the urgent headline 'David Owen emerges shattered from Oliver Reed'. In 'Speak Your Brains' members of the public are led through increasingly ludicrous vox pops. 'In terms of this elastic band would you like to see the law tightened up to this tightness, number one, tightness number two, or tightness number three?' a poker-faced Chris Morris asks some hapless pedestrian. 'Tightness number three,' replies his unwitting victim, 'We've really got to hammer these guys.' 'So that tightness being an average Post Office band extended over about eight inches?' the reporter wraps up. 'Yes, yes I think so.'

But, just as in On the Hour, this programme's radio predecessor, the heart of the thing is its eye for the dead cliches of presentation. Steve Coogan brought the sportscaster Alan Partridge to the screen for a Highlights of the Year sequence that was a miracle of close observation, from the fake chuckle in the voice to the ill-informed commentary (as a team car overtakes a Tour de France rider Alan's indignation overcomes him: 'I don't know what this man is playing at] Surely the judges must come down like a ton of bricks on that. Carrying bikes on top of a car is not a sportsmanlike way to run this race').

There was a deadly version of a 999 style reconstruction, too, which should have left both Michael Buerk and Nick Ross shifting uneasily in their chairs. 'All bodily fluids shown are the ones which actually emerged at the time,' said the presenter with soft-spoken gravity, introducing the tale of a disastrous helicopter accident averted only by the fact that a sheepdog was alongside the unconscious pilot and a shepherd managed to whistle them down. 'If this happened to you would you know what to do?' said the reporter after the dramatic reconstruction, and his voice had exactly that tone of gentle avuncular admonition so familiar from the originals. I laughed even more when I watched it all for the second time.

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment
A sketch of Van Gogh has been discovered in the archives of Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
Arts and Entertainment
Fake Banksy stencil given to artist Alex Jakob-Whitworth

art

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
    Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

    The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

    Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
    Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

    A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
    How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

    How books can defeat Isis

    Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
    The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

    The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

    The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
    Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

    Young carers to make dance debut

    What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
    Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

    Design Council's 70th anniversary

    Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
    Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

    Dame Harriet Walter interview

    The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

    Bill Granger's winter salads

    Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
    England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

    George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

    No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
    Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links