Brass Eyes outtakes show that the brutal TV comedy was the tip of the iceberg | Comedy

IThe original broadcast was postponed by a nervous Channel 4, it led to questions in the House of Commons and to a (Labor) Secretary of Culture who appeared “shocked and shaken” on 10 O’Clock News. It’s also “one of the greatest comedies ever shown on television,” said David Walliams, who on Sunday night hosted a screening of a film about the creation of Chris Morris’ legendary series Brass Eye – 25 Years old this year. Oxide Ghosts: The Brass Eye Tapes splices cutouts and outtakes from the show together and is made by Brass Eyes director Michael Cumming, who excavated the material from his own coffin of floppy discs and VHS tapes. It’s on tour now, and for Brass Eye fans – it’s me! – it’s a must-see.

Why? Because it reveals the broadcast series – just six short episodes plus the infamous “Paedogeddon” special – as just the tip of an iceberg of astonishing material. Scenes like the West End musical about Peter Sutcliffe and the footage of Morris with a spacehopper on his head scoring invented drugs on a street corner were often prime cuts of much longer sequences, shown here. Then there are all sorts of unseen objects, as harsh / funny as the broadcast material – like the “Lady Parliament” sketch, in which Morris convenes a panel consisting exclusively of women, to judge animal cruelty, and then confuses and patronizes the panel into a hasty conclusion.

But you can also enjoy Oxide Ghosts for a look behind the veil that tends to hide the series’ withdrawn star. There are glimpses of how he persuaded his celebrities to appear in the program – or failed to do so, in Jeffrey Archer’s case. There is a sense of the risks that its creators were exposed to when they made the show, when Morris makes an impromptu stab-proof vest from a Vogue magazine, and when Reggie Kray orders a heavy visit to the production office after Morris pranked him on a phone call to Maidstone Prison.

Chris Morris at the film premiere at Four Lions.
Chris Morris at the film premiere at Four Lions. Photo: Nigel Roddis Photography / Rex / Shutterstock

Then there is the corpse, which can not help but humanize an artist whose human side is more zealously guarded than the crown jewels. Here, Morris giggles at the list of animals he improvises while in character as a pet supplier to British MPs. He giggles when an elephant pees across his study floor. And he breaks his TV host in the daytime to giggle at one of the series’ sickest moments, interviewing a fictional teenage girl who has been sexually abused by her uncle. “Was he,” asks Morris, eerie concern and self-esteem fighting for the limelight, “as handsome as me?”

Practice. But then there are so many “oof” moments – when you can not believe that Morris’ rent-a-quote celebrities are actually talking the nonsense he feeds them; or moments of cruelty or obscenity that you marvel that Morris got away with, even (or perhaps especially) when seen 25 years away. We are more delicate now than in the 90s – this is not a series made for the era of self-care and the safe space.

In a post-screening conversation with Walliams, Cumming discusses the scenes Morris might not have dared if the show was made today. A sketch about a Holocaust board game was mentioned – even though it ended up on the floor of the rock room anyway. The series’ rape jokes and conspicuous interest in gay sex feel more annoying to me a quarter of a century later. Then there’s the subliminal single-frame statement directed at Channel 4’s then-CEO, TV boss Michael Grade – who Cumming apologizes for tonight because Grade, he admits, was bolder in programming and defending the show than they gave him. the credit for.

But Brass Eyes’ brutality is the point: it’s a bonfire of decency. (Cumming quoted Pete ‘n’ Duds Derek and Clive albums as an influence.) You take it in that spirit, or not at all. Its genius – alongside the violent stupidity, the Edward Lear-like linguistic flamboyance, the great achievements – is on the one hand to be in appalling taste and on the other hand driven by a tangible moral mockery. Mockery of the pompous insanity of the infotainment culture that was still dawning in 1997, when social media was only a glimpse into Mark Zuckerberg’s eyes. Mocking the celebrity cult that suggests no charity is worth it unless they are fronted by a personality on the C-list. (One of the pleasures of revisiting Brass Eye is being reminded of how quickly such people – your Tamara Beckwiths, your Caesar the Geezers – return to obscurity.)

Cummings Q&A was inevitably aimed at the question: could Brass Eye happen today? Its director doubts it: the Internet has changed everything, including the probability (give or take Sacha Baron Cohen’s work, Brass Eyes’ most obvious heir), that a show like this daring could ever premiere live on network TV. It is also a show from its time where there was still perspective on the interplay between media and celebrities or the flattening effect of rolling news. Today it is only the air we breathe. Brass Eye takes a torch to it all, and to the bridges that still connect Morris with a career in television comedy. Wild artists do not often come along – and when they do, they rarely get their own TV show. It happened once – and Oxide Ghosts gives us a great chance to celebrate it.

Leave a Comment