COMMENT: The Brass Eye Special
First written May 2002 (never previously published)
The Brass Eye Special
Chris Morris - yeah, you know him - the psychotic, mad, genius who never ever ever grants interviews because he's so mad and psychotic and genius - once granted an interview for the fanzine Publish & Bedazzled on the subject of Why Bother?, his 1994 collaboration with Peter Cook. This was a nice informal little chat about the series, his memories of working with Cook and observations about comedy in general . And, in keeping with all the other interviews he's never ever ever granted, it showed him to be extremely clued up, passionate and enlightened about his job.

At the close of the interview Morris brought up the thorny subject of 'fandom'. He posited that the saddest outcome of all would be if Cook were to become the "Princess Diana of Hampstead", revered as a could-do-no-wrong figurehead by a fanbase so hell-bent on relieving themselves over his 'genius' that no inkling of criticism would be allowed to ever seap in. The editor was keen to point out to his chainsmoking interviewee that his 'zine always distinguished between when Cook was "coasting" and when he was "roasting".

Maybe it did. We've only met the editor twice and on one of those occasions he was dressed up as a nun. But that's by the by. The Diana analogy however is somewhat droll here. Since that 'fateful day in Paris' there seems to have been something of an overabundance of sad little Loaded-minded office-humour dickbrains who so envied Francis Wheen's timely (albeit somewhat smug) dissection of the foibles of media/human reaction to Diana's death and now desperately await their big chance to spring up and be publically irreverent in the face of some National Tragedy or other.

At the time Wheen was something of a voice in the wilderness - a wee bit of sense amidst guilty crocodile tears - reacting to a people apparently gone mad. Chris Morris did his Diana material too, and reacted as Chris Morris does - with a wilful attempt to shock people out of their complacency by passionately twisting the edit-blade in the stomach of events which he finds patently ridiculous. Both had something to say.

But those who followed - the Would-Be-Wheens and Ersatz-Morrises - with their tired 'dangerousness' and shallow observations deserve only to be ignored.

Why? Because they peddle sick humour? Nope. Broadly speaking, there isn't one single subject - be it the death of an individual public figure or the murder of thousands of innocents - which shouldn't yield a joke or two. Not one. The only criterion by which such humour should be judged is the actual intention behind it. If your intention is to create the best comedy in the world, no problem. If your intention is shock the complacent into remission, yay, go for it.

But if your ultimate intention is to sit back and enjoy a cosy feeling of smugness about how 'clever' you've been by the subsequent response to your material (be it reactive or pro-active) then forget it.

"Don't be so fucking precious about it", Morris once said, sugggesting that - hey - everyone laughs at sick humour in private. Well of course they do. It's part of human nature. But even in the proverbial non-broadcast private arena one still has to expect a critical response. Tell the joke about the lesbian nigger with a wooden alligator up her fanny to Jenkins from accounts and he'll doubtless cackle into his Appeltise. Tell the same joke over the dinner table on the day you're introduced to your new girlfriend's parents and you may get a reaction that's less than enthusiastic. The joke itself isn't inherently offensive but your decision to crack it in that context could well be.

'Objectional humour' is fine and great when it accidentally leaks into the open, revealing the arse of humanity hitherto wrapped in sensible trousers. Think Derek & Clive, think Troggs arguments, think Christmas Tapes. Think any accidental swear-slips in mainstream broadcasts. Even if the humour is dire it can still be genuinely exciting to experience.

But deliberately blurring the lines between accidental slips and carefully constructed audience-grabbers is nothing short of tedious. Think 11 O'Clock Show, think Ricky Gervais' bikeshed-obscured stand-up. Is it the 'offensiveness' of the comedy which makes it so unpalatable? No, it's the fact that the people spewing up their tired, smug dross genuinely think they're really clever and brave and anarchic in doing so, their jobs made all the more secure by the ignorance of a viewing public too lazy to make the distinction between something genuinely 'dangerous' and snide audience manipulation.

Like so many Mr Kennedies-made-flesh ("Yeah, that's right - I said 'fuck'...") these people have yet to discover that irreverence is index-linked to one's surroundings. Something which may have been deemed 'unbroadcastable' ten years ago can now pass with little or no comment. So arises a moot question: Without an acute awareness of the restrictions available, how does a perceived 'enfant terrible' react sufficiently? Moreover, how does one live up to any perceived 'enfant terrible' status when the media itself is tres bloody terrible anyway?

Back into the arena steps Chris Morris, flexing his satire muscles. Yay, the 'guvnor' of take-it-to-the-edge comedy is back.

But he has a slight problem, and it's this. Chris Morris is now a veritable hero among the Loaded generation - a generation which is now all but running the sort of excessive 'don't care' media which the original On The Hour/The Day Today/Brass Eye highlighted as potentially immoral, excessive and downright horrible. An obstacle is placed in his path. How does one pillory the subject of industry excess with enough exaggeration to make it a viable satire yet restrain it enough to avoid it looking like more of the same indulgent tosh? The usual 'this is how the media would be if presented without common sense or morality' schtick doesn't quite work anymore because it's gone so far that way anyway. In better days Big Brother would have been a silly sketch about 'TV gone mad' or a foreign TV clip giggled at on a Clive James show. Now it's here, it's real, and nobody really cares (or worse, revel in its wankery as a means of 'bringing people together', making their selfish best of a sorry situation, the water-cooler equivalent of World War 2). In better days Peter Bazalgette would be received as no more than an iffy David Sullivan figure, winced at by anyone with a touch of decency about them instead of considered a top bloke and a force to be reckoned with simply because he pulls in the plebs and keeps everyone's jobs nice and safe.

The media now realise more than ever that most people refuse to question real-life bullshit. And this suits them just fine. Any moral high-horses hitherto ridden have been put indefinitely out to graze.

So, with all this in mind, are the creative team which spawned On The Hour and The Day Today aware of their surroundings? Are they still removed enough from the cosy armchair of the industry to be relied upon as commentators?

It was with these thoughts in mind that we frowned at Morris and Iannucci's "satirical" look at the "hysteria" surrounding the World Trade Center attack (September 11th - Six Months That Changed A Year) printed as a suplement in The Observer in March 2002), surely the most telling example of someone being totally out of touch with the media (or worse still being so comfortably sunk into that media's cosy armchair that they can no longer see it for what it is). The piece represented a worrying laxity of judgement. The jokes, about 'the media's reaction to the tragedy' were at best average - less funny than Iannucci's usual columns (and that's pushing it some) - but there were far more 'offensive' issues at stake.

For that little insert they suddenly became Would-be Wheens with worryingly out-of-touch observations and forced satire. Whether they realised it or not, they were, for the first time, collectively wearing the 'Aren't We Daring' T-shirt, still sodden with Iain Lee's sweat.

The generalisation on their quotes page, that 'most British people' cried a hearty "Yesssssss!" when they heard the news was hopelessly and stupidly off-beam. In fact the only people really guilty of such self-serving stupidity were those same office-humour dickheads mentioned earlier, revelling in their big chance to look irreverent. Well, maybe Morris and Iannucci were surrounded by the fuckers when the planes hit? This would perhaps account for their stifled vision. Maybe these were the very same people they now regard as their audience?

The few sop-thrown jokes about Endemol and Bazalgette were meaningless given that they need to play up to the broadcasting currency world which Bazal et al have created in order to survive. They're too much part of that world to take it by the horns.

With nothing left for Morris and Iannucci to satirise with any degree of subtlety the public's focus point of their endeavours naturally shifts onto the 'subject' which is being mishandled. And this backfires on them badly. Jokes about September 11th outweighing jokes about its coverage.

Thus the Sept 11 piece pandered more to Bazagette's smiley snidery than Morris and Iannucci would ever dare admit to themselves. It's after a reaction, whatever happens.

What they need to do is get out of the media armchair, set fire to it and personally piss it out again. But they won't. Partly because of that percentage of the audience who think they can do no wrong ("Never mind Jim - have some more of our money...") but mainly because there'd be nowhere for them to sit afterwards.

This isn't to suggest that Chris Morris' Brass Eye Special originally set out to live up to any 'shocking' status bestowed upon him by idiots. Far from it in fact. But the above arguments perhaps provide a viable backdrop to why it turned out the way it did.

Paedophilia is, according to people who don't really care either way, the Last Great Taboo Of Comedy. Twas not always considered thus, but many years have now passed since the humble nonce was considered a throwaway characterised figure of comedy fun clad in a dirty mac flashing his puppies at playgrounds. Radio Active's 'Kiddies favourite''Uncle Mike Stand', was always under question ("You should have seen me just now - in the paddling pool under a mass of writhing, wriggling children - you just wouldn't have believed it!"), the Pythons amused themselves by grafting pederasts onto bishops, 'Wicked Uncle Ernie' fiddled about, The Fuddles were the "cleanest girls in Britain" on account of being over-bathed by their pervy grandfather, Enfield & Whitehouse' 'Old Gits' dressed up as Santa and grinned evilly at a tot about how much they liked Woody Allen, Richard Herring waxed lyrical on the subject of black leggings while Rob Newman's Jarvis went scouting for young talent. The jokes have always been there, part and parcel of a comedy which mirrors all aspects of society, however depraved.

Chris Morris had also coasted (and very often roasted) in this area before. As previously covered in these pages, the 'inappropriateness' of such taboos in comedy has been a mainstay of his work ever since Wayne Carr first promised an eight-year-old Brownie that he'd "Phew - meet you after the show, alright?" on daytime GLR, via a dozen Kiddies Outings, Kiddystares, Sock Quizes and Big-Spoon Baby-buggerings. To a greater or lesser extent it has always played on the emotive human/media perception of children as an entity to get a reaction while making some pretty efficient sociological points about the same.

Peter Baynham too had enjoyed 'taking it to the edge' on the subject - notably with his late, lamented stand-up character 'Mr Buckstead', the psycho-poet ("'Jurassic Park' - totally unrealistic of course. Children can't run that fast... I know!!").

Coming to a head and bursting as the genuinely shocking and satirically spot-on scene in Brass Eye's 'Sex' episode (exposing the mindless TV distinction between abuse victims who look cute (Morris becomes aroused by 'Judy Lewhewetton' as she's invited to tell her harrowing story as entertainment) and those who don't (Morris ignores a second, less visually-palatable, victim), what could be left to cover? Why return to the subject?

What's 'new' is that ever-thickening media - more reliant than ever on the stupidity of its projected audience, pleased as punch to be able to strike fear into the gullible and unwary by unveiling their 'Every Parent's Nightmare' tabloid-tripe whenever there's a slow news week (or summer holiday). And sadly their projected audience is now filled with people who can pride themselves as unquestioned experts in the field of psychology - simply by learning how to pronounce a three-syllable Greek word with funny spelling (which one or two of them even manage to do!) - and feeling safe and secure that, on an issue this emotive, their sweeping denouncements of the 'evil' threatening us will usually go unchallenged.

So picture the scene. This is what we're reduced to. Here's the camel-straw. The year is 2001. It is now The Future and Carol Vorderman decides to add a second string to her bow by becoming The Voice Of Reason on the Trevor McDonald Tonight show, treating us to the jaw-shattering sight of an exalted game show hostess telling police officers that all this child porn on the internets is wrong and that something should really be done about it. We see her contrived nodding shots morph into hammed dismay as she experiences 'real life' beyond the fibreglass and fractions of Countdown. Coming across as a vacant Libby Shuss/Ted Maul hybrid, she publicly admonishes an astonished police officer (on behalf of 'The Nation') for not doing enough to stamp out all the child molesters hiding in our sock drawers; appears to set some kind of twisted National Standard to differentiate between the emotive value of abuse-victims by rank of age and cuteness ("So, children as young as 10 years old are being abused? Maybe even as young as 5? What about toddlers? Babies?"), and - in case there are any plebs watching who fail to understand the full scale of the problem - finishes by telling us that one internet site had the evil audacity to feature a list of mainstream films for preferred nonce-viewing "...which even included Billy Elliot!!"

"So," she asked us, with a flick of the hair, "do you feel angry yet?"

Of the many people up and down the country spitting great gobs of muesli at Vorderman's ridiculous face, Chris Morris decides he does. And that something should really be done about it...

So were we excited? You kidding? We were jumping around the room like idiots when we heard the news. Fantastic! After all, only Morris has the balls and brains not only to pillory the subject intelligently, but also to make it work as comedy. He understands how media minds work. He understands the complex balance between cynical pleb-tweakers and their shit-for-brains audience. Chris Morris with a focused, directed anger, clutching a contract which basically gives him complete editorial control over a project, could only equal a marvellous statement against stupidity and excess. If he pulls one this off, we thought, he's forgiven for the whole of Jam.

We pictured Morris, simmering with rage, mind throbbing with plans of 'direct action', meticulously cutting together his twisted vision of media wank in a private room at Talkback, growling 'Dark? I'll show you fucking dark!!'

Any worries that Morris might have 'lost it' comedically, were cast frivolously aside as the hilarious image of Phil Collins tapping the side of his baseball-capped head ("I'm talking Nonce Sense!") presented its badly-screengrabbed self via Talkback leak-tossers. Potentially the funniest thing on TV since...well, the original series of Brass Eye. It seemed, refreshingly, Up To Standard. And, like Beverley Hughes, we hadn't even seen it yet.

At last, here was a show to genuinely look forward to - a reason to buy nice expensive blank tapes, to cancel trips to the opera, to rip the phone out of the wall and take a trip back to when comedy was great.

The expectation bubbled and frothed like some huge fearce boil awaiting the tiniest pinprick to lance it. But this was entirely comedy-fan-based. Despite the various lies, spoilers, hoaxes, counter-hoaxes and general red-flags waved by egos in the direction of tabloids with readerships on both sides of the evolutionary scale, it appeared, at least on the surface, that the scum-press weren't interested in pursuing 'Chris Morris' as column inches anymore. So maybe he was finally yesterday's news in the eyes of the morgue-file manipulators? This bade well. Maybe his skewed vision could now finally be realised without an attendant tedious 'scandal' to weigh it down. Only the NME (with their customary lack of any other readable copy) and Victor Lewis-Smith (with his famed irritancy over all things Morris) actually attempted to stir up any kind of 'story' before the event. Little did we know...

And so we watched it.

And we watched it again.

And again.

We watched it on fast foward, we watched it in slow-motion, we watched it standing on our heads. We watched it early in the morning, we watched it late at night, we watched it in the middle of the afternoon. We watched it on big tellies, small tellies, in widescreen, surround-sound, black and white...we even stood in our living room doorways squinting at it through some 3D glasses given away with the Radio Times. The conclusion was always the same. It was a disappointment. It was a missed opportunity. It was an absolute bloody mess.

Twenty-five minutes later a million Morris-fans all over the country finally breathed out, while, in another corner of the web the Channel 4 forum burst.

Predictable enough were the views expressed by the 'concerned parents' - those same endless cliches ("I switched off disgusted after two seconds", "I hope your children get molested - then you won't find it so funny") barfed up by people blissfully unaware that such cliches exist in the first place (or, more likely, tapped out by scum-journalists who were fully aware and posing as a Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells mob to add credence to the stories they were already busily scribbling).

But equally, if not more, depressing were the defences by the Morris fan-brigade, who sank cosily into a cliche-lexicon of their own devising. Altogether now, one more time: 'Morris is a God-like genius, I think you'll find, and what he was trying to do was...' etc.

On a smaller scale but no less depressing was our own forum which, having already been infiltrated by industry insiders with smug webding-smiles posing as BES character-names (or gleefully posting great fat chunks of the script before broadcast), now squeaked into indignation at the merest hint of criticism. The expectation and excitement drummed up over Morris' new slice of 'genius' allowing his defenders and hangers-on full license to adamantly shout down any dissenting argument for fear that they might themselves disappear as a result. Never before had 'stop pissing on our parade' been screamed so vehemently.

So, there were two polarised camps - the boozy blokey internet wankers who thought clever old Morris was weeeeeeally taking it to the edge this time, and the gormless guardians of morality and decency who wanted to Ban This Sick Show. Each sat scowling over the fence at one another, secure in their unwavering belief that the argument was not only black and white but actually arranged as a swing-top graphic with the words 'right' and 'wrong' painted on it.

What of the third viewpoint - that which said the subject matter was timely and utterly appropriate for a comedy show, but that the quality of the programme itself was very poor? Well, hi. Glad you could join us. Pull up a stool. Have a cup of tea.

In fact, plenty of tea was drunk in the name of audience frowns at the time but, in the environment which received the Brass Eye Special it was nigh-impossible to criticise properly. The stupid 'controversy' which followed violently defied you not to take sides. Taking arms against the sea of idiots who wished to censor it full stop became like defending Lady Chatterley's Lover against charges of obscenity - the principle was certainly worth fighting for but the quality of the work simply wasn't good enough to justify the effort.

So what exactly was wrong with The Brass Eye Special? Can it be broken down into slices and analysed under a finely-tuned Morris-a-Scope? Of course it can, and some of the more clued-up fans attempted to do just that, albeit with mixed results. Many got as far as arguing that the show 'had some satires in it, had some funnies in it, and had some nice "surreal" Morris-eque word-compounds and therefore slotted snugly into the Chris Morris Canon (tm). There. That's my opinion.'

But this is hardly sufficient. You need to don your prescription context-glasses and stand well back. You need to ponder how the show slots into the Morris canon, yes, but also how that canon slots into the current comedy world, how that comedy world slots into the current media as a whole, and what relevance the presence of that media has within the entire history of broadcasting, satire, humour and performance dating back to the year dot.

Chris Morris' work has always been incredibly moralistic. That's the first thing you need to consider. It's built on the most basic moral standing. The mistaken observation all too often made about Chris Morris is that he's a 'mad genius psychopath', biting at the leash, who simply can't help being an elaborate cat amongst the pigeons. This is rubbish. He's a normal down-to-earth bloke who grins a lot, gets extremely gushing about stuff he likes, and passionately annoyed at things he hates - and what he particularly hates is a media which sets out to patronise its audience into submission.

You can also just about imagine Baynham echoing similar views - or at the very least imagine the pair of them exchanging disbelieving glances at the fake heartstring-tugging TV drivel which squirts forth following any given tragedy.

But as for Polyfilla writers Arthur Mathews, Phil Clarke, Charlie Brooker...did any of them *really* give a toss? Or were they just 'thrilled to be part of it'?

The inevitable result of so much throwaway filler material was that very little of the show could actually be justified as 'a satire on media hysteria' (the stock line used by those who defended the programme).

"Where were the scouts?"
No disrespect to any of the above of course. After all, 'filler material' isn't usually a problem except in the hands of those producers who have no idea how to pitch it. Even the best material can easily be turned into dross at the flick of an ego. Consider the decision to turn Rob Brydon's Marion & Geoff monologue about a Summer Party into a fully fledged programme in its own right (a decision which ignored the rather obvious fact that the scenario could only really work artistically as a monologue. Imagine someone attempting a similar dramatisation of Ronnie Corbett's various tales of chats with his producer! It wouldn't work - even if said producer was played by the bloke off of I'm Alan Partridge).

Similarly The Brass Eye Special was filled with instances where a good boardroom idea was ruined by over-indulgent or crashingly bland visuals (for instance the paedophile dressed as a school).

The writing in general was feeble, ranging from - at best - ersatz Morrisisms (eg "quadra-spazzed on a lifeglug", to - at worst - lines and delivery reminiscent of 11 O'Clock Show laziness (Doon's "We must catch this man - he really is a shit" managing to come across as ersatz Daisy Donovan).

Throughout the show we were treated to constant re-hashes of earlier glories (the 'British Paedoph-Isles' joke, for example, being a shadow of the much funnier 'Unbelievable Krimewave' joke in the original series; the Eminem parody - itself an example of 'reference comedy' at its worst - just treading the same waters as The Day Today Fur Q).

The nadir was arguably the paedophile bus tour sketch, reminiscent of the Friday Night Armistice at its worst - badly-performed and obvious. Satire for people who enjoy talking about satire.

Adding to the problem of diluting Morris' personal vision was a somewhat indulgently chosen cast - seemingly a sprawling reunion of cameos from past Morris projects, all given duff lines, half-realised characters and altogether far too much airtime within a very short programme.

Julia Davis, perfectly suited to the Human Remains / People Like Us school of slowhand comedy drama, was miscast terribly as the Vorderman-esque anchorwoman 'Valise Belcher' - attempting a Helen Atkinson-Wood-style tradcom delivery and falling flat on her face. An unnecessarily intrusive character, though not nearly as unnecessary as Doon MacKichan's 'Swanchita Haze', delivering five-years-too-late Channel 5 sitting-on-the-desk jokes and displaying the air of an old mate who just happened to be passing, was roped into the project and given a cameo without anyone having devised a character or written a script.

Contrast this with the original series where such cameos were either given a worthy persona to get their teeth into (Gina McKee as 'Libby Shuss') or snipped back to mere two-second background-fill (Alexander Armstrong in the 'Wanking Senator' sketch).

The character of 'Christopher Morris' originally acted as a sturdy (and necessary) epicentre to the events and characters which flitted around him. For the Special he came across as a pale shadow of that original character, devoid of any real presence or force.

Similarly Morris' own characters were lacking. One of the great delights about On The Hour were those occasions where he seemed to be working alone - those marvellous five-minute sequences where he slammed the door on the world outside the studio and threw himself into a massive fit of overdubbing (e.g. 'Big Street Station', 'Hot Air', etc), playing all the characters himself, timing the performances perfectly - the Lewis-Smith / Kenny Everett influences gleaming all over the stereo pan.

Television is generally a less condusive a medium for such behaviour - 'Rok TV' was the only notable instance in The Day Today for instance. But the original Brass Eye at least gave the air that Morris was at the helm, infesting an entire show with his alter-egos. For the Special we were bored by an apallingly overplayed Ted Maul and totally insulted by a cynical Lazarou-pull in the form of the Austen Tasseltine appearence, specifically placed to provoke a quick 'hooray' from the plebs at the back of the pub before pissing off.

Already hindered by a lack of strong characters, the show was further weakened by the over-clever Jam-fan-pleasing minimalist titles. Maybe current affairs graphics have dissipated as a viable target for pastiche since the glittery vortex of the original title sequence, but the ambient clever clever plips and plops of the Special's effort were a terribly poor substitute for the wild punch in the gob that was Morris in Jesus/World In Action mode (officially the most exciting opening image in comedy since the Not The 9 O'Clock News team danced angrily on the freshly filled grave of Oswald Mosley way back in 1980).

The technical side betrayed a surprising lack of merit - the best example being the mocked up 'Ryc Spangle' glam rock pastiche ('Playground Bangaround'). Why attempt to make it look like manky 8mm when archive footage of that kind is always on shiny TOTP videotape? Splitting hairs? No - look at The Day Today. Part of the reason it worked was down to painstakingly trainspottery production values and attention to detail, largely due to production manager Alison McPhail who had an eye for detail seemingly unmatched in the business. This perseverence undeniably influenced the production as a whole and gave off the beautiful aura of a solid comedy production which knew exactly what it was doing. A production you could trust and admire. The Brass Eye Special didn't come close.

The pacing throughout the show was, frankly, shot to shit, so much so that even the better visual jokes, (eg the policeman graphic's beard growing into a figure 8), were rendered impotent by being swamped by three million similar graphics jokes every other second. This had always been something at which Morris had excelled; here it lacked both focus and restraint resulting in an overkill of 'cleverness' with no viable breathing space or heart. A full-tilt heads-down vam vam vam approach to comedy can often be fun, but artistic death if you're trying to make a passionate, heartfelt and valid point about media indulgence and excess..

Which brings us to the end song. Oh yes, the end song. The sad thing is, this could actually have been a brilliant ending to the show. Had the preceding material been strong, conceptually restrained, well-timed and y'know, generally better then this would have been the perfect way to finish it all off - with everything going a bit strange, playful and up-its-own-arse in the closing stages for no reason. But in the event Morris was just throwing good rubbish after bad. After twenty minutes of frantic wandering, one extra bit of unsubtle tosh with a nice tune behind it wasn't going to be much of a surprise to anyone.

The irony of the Brass Eye Special is that, being less than the sum of its parts, it actually sounds very funny if you quote individual sections of it. "I'm talking Nonce Sense" being the perfect example. As a list of random jokes scribbled on Talkback notepaper before production started it probably looked fantastic. As a completed show, however, it simply caved in under the weight of a mess of half-formed ideas, each cancelling the other out.

Some might suggest that the 'real' show was the aftermath - the silly season news reports, the paparazzi pics of Morris in shorts, shades and sandals, Will Self speculating on Newsnight that the Government are all scared of Chris Morris personally, bored Daily Mail writers inventing idiotic stories about nonces smuggling copies of the show into prison to wank over. But, for all the ludicrous reaction, the aftermath was as ineffectual as the show itself. That's how the media always react to this sort of story anyway. Nothing changes. Nobody reproached themselves. Nobody's eyes were suddenly opened to the stupidity of the industry. Everyone stood their ground and read their scripts politely. The converted continued to bray 'genius', the reactionary continued to react. As a 'trenchant satire' the show misfired. As comedy it simply fired blanks. Luckily for Chris Morris and his team many people enjoy the act of falling down regardless.

We're left thinking, well, if only they'd taken the trouble to do the show properly - then they could have left behind a genuine milestone in comedy. A fantastic statement which everyone could look back on with awe and reverence as a worthy example of satire kicking against the media pricks.

Instead it'll be remembered mostly for being just another mess of scandals and indignancy.

With the BES controversy Morris took one more ridiculous step further back from what he'll be able to present as comedy in the future. He was challenged enough with all the idiocy surrounding the Dead Heseltine incident, not to mention all the 'Cake' and 'Sutcliffe' shenanegins. Now he'll be forever tagged as 'the one who did that paedophile show'. Where could he possibly go from here?

We gave it one last go recently. One final viewing. One last shot. With the benefit of time we figured we may have a slightly different viewpoint. Maybe we'd even experience a little of the 'sheer class' it apparently generated in some eyes.

As the final credits rolled the only sweeping hyperbole we could really add to the above was that it didn't 'smell' like the Morris of old. It didn't smell exciting or vigorous. Or passionate or heartstopping. Or sexy, or silly or surprising. It smelled for all the world like a pubful of blokes quoting random episodes of the original Brass Eye, badly timed, badly-imitated, lager spraying in graceless arcs with each half-remembered line.. In fact it wouldn't surprise us now if it was suddenly revealed that Chris Morris himself hadn't written a single word of it - that he'd left it all to the subs and polyfillas as some sort of experiment in future production like some soul-bypassing Bill Dare project. This is the air it gives off - that it was written by Morris fans, using ersatz Morris humour, based on a half-hearted technical understanding of what Morris does, but too wrapped up in the excitement of the event to fully experience what Morris is. Emulation without heart and soul.

As such many fans got the Brass Eye Special they so richly deserved.

Still, that's what you get for surrounding yourself with Charlie Brooker, Sarah Smith and field-removed video...

Haw haw.

 Comment: Jam