Brass Eye

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Brass Eye
Brass Eye.jpg
DVD cover
Created by Chris Morris
Directed by Michael Cumming
Starring Chris Morris
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of episodes 7
Production
Running time 25
Broadcast
Original channel Channel 4
Original run 29 January 1997 – 26 July 2001
Chronology
Preceded by The Day Today (1994)
Related shows Jam (2000)

Brass Eye is a surreal UK television series parodying the current affairs style news programming of the mid 1990s. A series of six episodes aired on Channel 4 in 1997, and a further episode in 2001.

The series was created by Chris Morris, and written by Morris, David Quantick, Peter Baynham, Jane Bussmann, Arthur Mathews, Graham Linehan and Charlie Brooker. The series was directed by Michael Cumming. It was a sequel to Morris's earlier spoof news programmes On the Hour and The Day Today. It satirised media portrayal of social ills, in particular sensationalism and creation of moral panics. The series starred Morris's The Day Today colleague Doon Mackichan, along with Gina McKee, Mark Heap, Amelia Bullmore, Simon Pegg, Julia Davis, Claire Skinner, Hugh Dennis and Kevin Eldon.

Original series (1997)[edit]

Brass Eye aroused controversy because public figures were fooled into supporting charities and causes that were fictitious and often absurd.

The second episode was called "Drugs", and is considered by many[weasel words] to be the most successful of the series. In the opening scene, a voiceover tells viewers that there are so many drugs on the streets of Britain that "not even the dealers know them all". An undercover reporter (Morris) asks a purportedly real-life drug dealer in London for various fictitious drugs, including "Triple-sod", "Yellow Bentines" and "Clarky Cat", leaving the dealer puzzled and increasingly irritated until he tells the reporter to leave. He also asks the dealer if he is the "Boz-Boz", and claims that he doesn't want his arm to feel "like a couple of fortnights in a bad balloon". Later in the episode, in the same area, Morris, dressed as a baby with a nappy on and a red balloon-like hat on his head, again asks for "Triple-sod" and then says "last time I came here a friend of mine just got triple-jacked over a steeplehammer and jessop jessop jessop jessop jessop". He also explained that possession of drugs without physical contact and the exchange of drugs through a mandrill were perfectly legal in English law. David Amess, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Basildon, was fooled into filming an elaborate video warning against the dangers of a fictional Eastern European drug called Cake, and went as far as to ask a question about it in Parliament. The drug purportedly affected an area of the brain called "Shatner's Bassoon" (altering your perception of time), can give you a bloated neck due to "massive water retention" (allegedly known in the then non-existent Czechoslovakia as "Czech Neck") and was frequently referred to as "a made-up drug" (a drug, they were told, not made from plants but made up from chemicals). Other celebrities such as Sir Bernard Ingham, Noel Edmonds, and Rolf Harris were shown holding the bright-yellow cake-sized pill as they talked, with Bernard Manning telling viewers that "One kiddy on Cake cried all the water out of his body. Just imagine how his mother felt. It's a fucking disgrace" and that "…you can puke yourself to death on this stuff — one girl threw up her own pelvic-bone… What a fucking disgrace". Manning, along with other participants, told the public that Cake was known on the street as "loonytoad quack", "Joss Ackland's spunky backpack", "ponce on the heath", "rustledust" or "Hattie Jacques pretentious cheese wog", and then informed anyone offered it to "chuck it back in their face and tell them to fuck off".

Other episodes dealt with the topics of science, animals, and infamously, sex. In one scene of the "Sex" episode, Morris posed as a talk-show host who took a starkly discriminatory attitude in favour of those with "Good AIDS" (e.g. from a contaminated blood transfusion) over those with "Bad AIDS" (caught through sexual activity or drug abuse), satirising stereotypical right-wing attitudes to people with AIDS. The screening of the 1997 series was postponed for nearly six months as it made comic reference to murderer Myra Hindley, who was back in the news at the time after her portrait was vandalised in the Royal Academy exhibition Sensation. In a particularly infamous portrayal, Hindley was the topic of a farcical song by a fictitious indie band called "Blouse" (whose appearance and style closely resembled that of Pulp). The lyrics to part of the song read: "Every time I see your picture, Myra/I have to phone my latest girlfriend up and fire her/And find a prostitute who looks like you and hire her/Oh, me oh Myra." The "leader singer" of Blouse, Purves Grundy (who resembles Jarvis Cocker), is then shown commenting on the song; "Myra is a very complex woman, you know, and this song is about her hair. I don't think there's a single reference in the song to her brain, which I think maybe, had a slight problem. I do think [if] someone's gone and bought this record just because of the fuss that's been made about it, I think they should throw it away. And then they should go and buy another copy, because they liked the song".

Michael Grade[edit]

Michael Grade, then chief executive of Channel 4, repeatedly intervened to demand edits to episodes of Brass Eye, and rescheduled some shows for sensitivity. The final episode (which had been most tampered with) included a single-frame subliminal message reading "Grade is a cunt".

As part of the 25th anniversary of Channel 4, this sequence was shown again, twice, including a freeze frame for anyone who didn't catch it originally. Grade was interviewed on this, referring to it as a "See you next Tuesday", and pointing out that subliminal messages are illegal under British law.

Repeats and DVD release[edit]

The series was repeated in 2001 to tie in with the paedophilia special (see below), and released on DVD in a revised form. This new version reinstated most of the material cut from the original, although a few items were removed, most notably a subliminal message reading "Grade is a cunt", and an interview with Graham Bright MP in the "Drugs" episode. A disclaimer was also added to the "Drugs" episode at the request of David Amess.

Paedophilia special (2001)[edit]

A special one-off edition of the show aired four years after the series had ended. Originally scheduled to broadcast on 5 July 2001, it was later delayed as Channel 4 were unhappy with the timing in connection to the then-recent disappearance of two children.[1] It eventually aired on 28 July 2001, but this didn't stop it from becoming the most controversial episode of the series.

It tackled paedophilia and the moral panic in parts of the British media following the murder of Sarah Payne, focusing on the name-and-shame campaign conducted by the News of the World in its wake. This included an incident in 2000 in which a paediatrician in Newport had the word "PAEDO" daubed in yellow paint on her home.[2]

To illustrate the media's knee-jerk reaction to the subject, various celebrities were duped into presenting fatuous and often ridiculous pieces to camera in the name of a campaign against paedophiles. Gary Lineker and Phil Collins endorsed a spoof charity, Nonce Sense, (pronounced "nonsense"—"nonce" being British slang for people convicted or suspected of molestation or sexual crimes), with Collins saying, "I'm talking Nonce Sense!" Tomorrow's World presenter Philippa Forrester and ITN reporter Nicholas Owen were shown explaining the details of HOECS (pronounced "hoax") computer games, which online paedophiles were using to abuse children via the internet.[3] Capital Radio DJ Neil "Doctor" Fox (himself arrested in 2014 relating to alleged historic sex offences) told viewers that "paedophiles have more genes in common with crabs than they do with you and me", adding "Now that is scientific fact—there's no real evidence for it—but it is scientific fact". At one point, bogus CCTV footage was shown of a paedophile attempting to seduce children by stalking the streets while disguised as a school.

Lineker described paedophile text slang, stating that "BALTIMORA" translates to "literally, I'm running at them now with my trousers down". Labour MP Syd Rapson related that paedophiles were using "an area of internet the size of Ireland". Richard Blackwood stated that internet paedophiles could make computer keyboards emit noxious fumes to subdue children, subsequently sniffing a keyboard and claiming that he could smell the fumes, which made him feel "suggestible". Blackwood also warned watching parents that exposure to the fumes would make their children "smell like hammers". Other notable figures appearing as themselves were Sebastian Coe, Michael Hames, Andy McNab, Kate Thornton, Barbara Follett MP and Gerald Howarth MP.

The studio was "invaded" by a fictional militant pro-paedophile activism organisation called "Milit-pede", and the programme appeared to suffer a short technical disturbance. When it returned, presenter Chris Morris confronted a spokesman, Gerard Chote (played by Simon Pegg), who had been placed in a pillory, asking if he wanted sex with Morris's six-year-old son. Hesitantly, the spokesman refused, apologetically explaining "I don't fancy him".

Response[edit]

Around 3,000 complaints were received and politicians spoke out against Morris.[4] Minister for Child Protection Beverley Hughes described the show as "unspeakably sick" but later admitted she had not seen the episode. Home Secretary David Blunkett said that he was "dismayed" but had also not seen the episode, because he was on holiday in Majorca at the time and is blind.[5][6] Tessa Jowell, after watching,[7] asked the Independent Television Commission to change its procedures so it could rule more swiftly on similar programmes.[8] There was also a tabloid campaign against Morris, who refused to discuss the issue.

The Daily Star decried Morris and the show, and the Daily Mail ran a headline describing Brass Eye as "Unspeakably Sick". The Observer noted that the Star '​s article was positioned next to a separate article about the 15-year-old singer Charlotte Church's appearance (under the headline "She's a big girl now", featuring the phrases "how quickly she's grown up" and "looking chest swell"), and that the Mail '​s was preceded by "close-ups" of Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, who were 13 and 11 at the time.[9][10][11] Defenders of the show argued that media reaction to the show reinforced its satire of the media's hysteria and hypocrisy on the subject of paedophilia.[10]

The episode won a Broadcast magazine award in 2002.

Episodes[edit]

Series[edit]

  1. "Animals" (29 January 1997)
  2. "Drugs" (5 February 1997)
  3. "Science" (12 February 1997)
  4. "Sex" (19 February 1997)
  5. "Crime" (26 February 1997)
  6. "Decline" (5 March 1997)

Special[edit]

  1. "Paedogeddon!" (26 July 2001)

Celebrities appearing[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Cozens, Claire. "C4 pulls Brass Eye special". theguardian.com. The Guardian. Retrieved 1 June 2014. 
  2. ^ Paediatrician attacks 'ignorant' vandals, BBC News, 30 August 2000
  3. ^ "MPs' Brass Eye complaints rejected". BBC News Online. 31 January 2002. Retrieved 27 August 2014. 
  4. ^ Conlan, Tara. "The brass neck of Brass Eye". Daily Mail. Retrieved 5 July 2011. 
  5. ^ "A distasteful spectacle". Daily Telegraph. 30 July 2001. 
  6. ^ "Television so gormless even Big Brother would have switched off". The Times. 30 July 2001. 
  7. ^ "Programme causes predictable storm". BBC News Online. 30 July 2001. 
  8. ^ Ward, Lucy (30 July 2001). "TV spoof to bring tougher regulation". The Guardian. 
  9. ^ "Perv Spoof Bosses Axe Wrestling" (copy of article from the Daily Star). 2001. Archived from the original on 6 August 2001. Retrieved 17 July 2012. 
  10. ^ a b Ferguson, Euan (5 August 2001). "Why Chris Morris had to make Brass Eye". The Observer. Retrieved 17 July 2012. "Mail … (headed 'Unspeakably sick', the words of one of the Ministers who hadn't watched it) was preceded by close-ups of Princesses Beatrice (13) and Eugenie (11) in their bikinis; in the Star, beside a shock-horror-sicko Morris story, sat a picture of singer Charlotte Church in a tight top ('She's a big girl now … chest swell!'). Church is 15." 
  11. ^ Howse, Christopher (31 July 2001). "Meddling ministers who can't tell satire from voyeurism". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 17 July 2012. "Daily Mail carried a banner headline "Unspeakably sick" across a double-page … the Mail printed a large colour picture of the "bikini princesses" … in skimpy swimwear. How old are the "bikini princesses"? They are 11 and 12" 

External links[edit]