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Brass Eye is a series of satirical spoof documentaries, presented and mainly written by Chris Morris, broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK during 1997, with a further special edition in 2001.
Following on from Morris's previous spoof news shows such as On the Hour (BBC, 1991-2) and The Day Today (BBC, 1994), Brass Eye primarily parodied scaremongering and sensationalist documentaries and was noted for managing to trick public figures into saying outlandish things in the name of the cause of the week, from made up drugs to the genetic make-up of paedophiles. The over-the-top animations and intro sequences later became models for how not to produce serious news shows.
The original series aired in 1997 and, like all awesome British television, it was brief — consisting of six episodes.
Discusses a series of fictional animal rights abuses, such as "anti cow" slogans, weasel fighting and the man who procured animals for use in the UK Houses of Parliament; the most popular being zebras, who they used to pin pieces of paper to in order to send messages. The main celebrity prank involved Carla the elephant, who it was claimed had managed to get her trunk stuck in her own arse. Celebrities falling for the fake appeal included Brit Eckland, Paul Daniels and Wolf from Gladiators. Nicolas Parsons was also filmed reading an especially commissioned poem. This was then edited for transmission, jumping between different parts of his actual interview, to go "aren't we a bunch of fuckwits, an elephant could no more get its trunk in its arse than we could lick our balls."
"Drugs" was notable for having people say that "Cake" was a "made-up drug." Cake is indeed entirely fictional but it was read in terms of "made up of chemicals, not plants", probably parodying extreme chemophobia. This is usually considered the most successful of the series, with certainly the most memorable, quotable and elaborate celebrity pranks of them all — David Amess, an MP, even asked a question about Cake in Parliament. Unprompted.
In "Science," Morris put science "on trial" in the manner of all appalling documentary features. The show consisted of various exchanges between "good" science and "bad" science. Famous for its "heavy electricity" skit — Jenny Powell saying how an outburst of heavy electricity could catapult the south of England towards Finland, and DJ Caesar the Geezer being incredulous that anyone could think heavy electricity was a hoax — and for journalist Eve Pollard discussing how a woman gave birth to a two foot testicle.
The "Sex" episode pretty much does exactly what it says on the tin — discussing sex and sexual depravity in the trademark sensationalist way. While one of the most absurd and hilarious of the lot, the episode highlight has to be the infamous "Good AIDS / Bad AIDS" routine.
An episode focusing on crime and punishment. One particularly controversial bit depicts a man "blacking up," ostensibly to test how the law reacts to race - and he is committing violent muggings by the end of the day. The segment concludes with someone apologising on behalf of "every black man in Britain." The episode also features Tommy Vance narrating a sort-of orientation film for prison, with asides for specific offenders and re-offenders, and a guide to prison slang. A particularly cringe-worthy one has Vanessa Feltz talking to murderers by pretending to be their victims — compared to being forced to watching Vanessa Feltz try and act in this bit, many people may prefer the death penalty.
Parodying the media's obsession with "Britain going to the dogs," "Decline" covers the state of the country today (well, 1996) and whether our ailing culture should be revived, or put out of its misery... or should we bring it back to life and shoot it for letting us down so miserably! The episode is the only one to take a stab at religion and the Church, and it also makes an early mocking of rolling news and viewer-generated comments (a good few years before such things became the norm to the point of self-parody, as often pointed out by Charlie Brooker).
The 2001 special was centered around paedophilia, and subtitled in the show itself as "Paedogeddon." It was a dark satire of the extreme reactions to the threat of paedophiles and how people will lose all sense if it's done for the sake of protecting children. Out of its many celebrity set ups, the stand out ones would be Phil Collins talking "Nonce Sense," a slogan designed to warn children about the dangers of paedophiles ("nonce" being derogatory slang for men who like little boys) and radio DJ Neil "Dr." Fox saying how paedophiles had more genes in common with crabs than with other humans and that "there's no real evidence for it, but it is scientific fact."
Naturally, the sensitive nature of the programme attracted a lot of criticism. This was especially hilarious when many of the critics later revealed to have not even watched it — and thus became examples of knee-jerking, reactive morons, exactly what the show was satirising. The irony was compounded when tabloid rags the Daily Mail (who else?) and The Daily Star both published scathing critiques of the show in very close proximity to articles that included lauding the sizable breasts of 15-year-old Charlotte Church (Daily Star) and pictures of the then-11 and 15-year-old princesses Eugenie and Beatrice in bikinis (Daily Mail).
- Amess' question
- See 2.25 onwards
- "Atheist Czech Republic and drug abuse"
- Brass Eye - Good AIDs vs Bad AIDs
- He later sought legal advice following the prank
- No, really, he actually said that and didn't realise it was a prank.
- Daily Star "She's a big girl now" (image; archived at Wayback Machine)
- Dr Graham Meikle (7 October 2008). Interpreting News. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 110. ISBN 978-1-137-10567-7.