REVIEW / Undermining the fabric of our society
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.
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Saudi Arabia mosque bombing: Two volunteer security guards hailed as heroes for stopping Isis suicide bomber reaching worshippers
- 2 Maisie Williams has an excellent message for one confused fan
- 3 There is something wrong but very right about this Bible illustration
- 4 Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
- 5 Tampon tax scrapped in Canada after petition convinces conservative government
Jay Z's Tidal could be about to lose Beyonce's music in ultimate humiliation
Britain's Got Talent 2015: Jamie Raven divides Twitter as fans expose mind-boggling magic trick
Thrill of the chaste: The truth about Gandhi's sex life
Big Brother 2015 new housemates: Simon Gross returns as stripper Marc O'Neill, model Harry Amelia Martin and X Factor reject Sam Kay join
Burning Man festival revellers accidentally torch prehistoric artefacts in Israel
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'