Chris Morris' Brass Eye is a brilliantly funny spoof on current affairs media that carries on where his previous The Day Today left off. The show ran for one single, contentious series in 1997, to be followed by an even more controversial one-off in 2001. While these episodes might cause offence to those not versed in Morris' satirical methods, and while one occasionally suspects his work is informed by a dark seam of malice and loathing rather than a desire to educate, Brass Eye remains vital satire, magnificently hilarious and, in its own way, fiercely moral viewing.
Brass Eye satirises a media far too interested in generating dramatic heat and urgency for its own sake than in shedding light on serious issues. Morris mimics perfectly the house style of programmes such as Newsnight and Crimewatch, with their spurious props and love of gimmickry. Meanwhile his presenter--an uncanny composite of Jeremy Paxman, Michael Buerk and Richard Madeley among others--delivers absurd items about man-fighting weasels in the East End and Lear-esque lines such as "the twisted brain wrong of a one-off man mental" with preposterously solemn authority. Much as the media itself is wont to do, each programme works itself up into a ridiculous fever of moral panic. Most telling is the "drugs" episode, in which, as ever, real-life celebrities, including Jimmy Greaves and Sir Bernard Ingham, are persuaded to lend their name to a campaign against a new drug from Eastern Europe entitled Cake. The satirist's aim here isn't to trivialise concern about drugs but to point up the media's lack of attention to content.
A response to the ill-conceived News of the World witch-hunt, in the wake of the Sarah Payne affair, the 2001 "paedophilia" special was the most supremely controversial of the series. It followed the usual formula--duping celebs such as Phil Collins into endorsing a campaign entitled "Nonce Sense", urging parents to send their children to football stadiums for the night for their own safety and mooting the possibility of "roboplegic" paedophiles--and prompted the sort of hysterical and predictable Pavlovian response from the media that Brass Eye lampoons so tellingly.
On the DVD: Brass Eye on DVD includes brief outtakes, such as "David Jatt" interviewing celebrities about breeding hippos for domestic purposes, an hilarious exchange with Jeffrey Archer's PA ("He's a very wicked little man") as well as trailers for the paedophilia special.--David Stubbs