by Allan Fish
(UK 1997/2001 167m) DVD2
Joss Ackland’s Spunky Backpack
p Christopher Morris, Caroline Leddy d Michael Cumming w Christopher Morris, Arthur Mathews, Graham Linehan, Peter Baynham
Christopher Morris, Mark Heap, Kevin Eldon, Doon Mackichan, Gina McKee, Amelia Bullmore, Claire Skinner, Bill Bailey, Simon Pegg, Willie Ross, Tamsin Greig,
In the three years after The Day Today finished its criminally short run, we had seen many of its luminaries gone on to further success. Chris Morris was a different creature, one who craved privacy, never did interviews and had faded into the background. He may have been out of the spotlight, but the camera was still on him, even if it was switched off. When he returned in 1997, and now at Channel 4, he came with a cult item that would completely redefine the line between reality and the fake.
Brass Eye stars Morris as the presenter of a seemingly deliberately amateurish social affairs programme, a sort of World in Action on ecstasy. It lasted only six episodes of around 23 minutes each, and each was devoted to a different topic; animals, drugs, sex, science, crime and decline, with a one-off special four years later. Each managed to both satirise and sensationalise the threats highlighted in a hysterical media. In ‘Animals’, for example, a cow is shown being exploded out of a giant cannon-like device and a debate runs about whether we are too kind or cruel to animals.
The same incendiary topics are continually prodded in the other episodes. In ‘science’, science itself is put on trial in a faux trial in which a set of smoking apparatus are put in the dock only for the case to be dismissed because the jury have all died of pollution and takes in how the Apollo astronauts had an idiot on board their vessel for them to take out their gay sexual frustration called Peacecap Johnson. In ‘sex’, the episode takes in everything from paedophilia to the weirdest fetishes, about the lyrics in fake pop songs in the seventies, and talks of the likes of celebrities prostituting themselves for sex abuse charities (Helena Bonham Carter’s speciality; golden showers). ‘Decline’ discusses the state of the nation and identity ofBritainitself. In ‘Crime’ Morris follows an actual arrest during a robbery and interviews John McCririck about the right or wrong in letting Peter Sutcliffe out to act on stage.
Above all, it’s two episodes that stand out as especially infamous. ‘Drugs’ does Blackadder’s dictionary episode one better by having a conversation between a would-be drug dealer and a fake client asking for such ridiculously nicknamed substances as Yellow Bentines and Clarky Cat and a truly inspired set of trick interviews with celebrities warning of the dangers of a large yellow tablet drug called ‘cake’, fresh from Prague, which caused one girl “to throw up her own pelvis bone” and had Bernard Manning even shaking his head in disbelief at the “sick bastards” who manufacture it. An MP was even conned into asking a question about this drug in the House of Commons. It was a high watermark for utter lunacy and made Morris a media target. It was thought wise that there was no other series, but in 2001, to accompany a themed series on Channel 4, they made a one-off special on paedophilia. The response was one of complete outrage, as viewers, MPs, tabloids and the right wing brigade in general went to town. In one scene a man hurls nicknames for a paedophile at a bearded offender (“nonce…bush dodger…small bean regarder…unabummer…shrub rocketeer”). There’s a report on serial offender Jez North, whom a “stairwell nonce-bashing” left “quaddrospazzed on a life-glug”. To this day it’s the second most complained about broadcast ever, but it’s one to cherish for showcasing not only in the film itself but in the response to it, just how media hysteria does control every aspect of our lives and just how conservative the so-called liberal spine of society really is. I for one at am least thankful I live in a country not afraid to showcase programmes like this, which not only couldn’t or wouldn’t have been screened in the US, they wouldn’t have even been green-lighted and the creator under surveillance by the FBI or NSA. After all, your child could be splatted by a roboplegic wrongcock!