Director: Andrew Gillman / Producers: Armando Iannucci & Chris Morris / Executive Producer: Peter Fincham / A Talkback production for BBC2 / 6 x 30 minutes / First broadcast 1994
This was without doubt the most influential comedy series of the 1990’s. Spawned from the Radio 4 show On the hour, Chris and Armando initially approached Hattrick to bring it to the small screen. However, when Jimmy Mulville told them that “At Hattrick we like to make TV programmes for profit,” they turned and fled to rivals Talkback, where Peter Fincham welcomed them with open arms. I was engaged to cut a pilot episode, and from that came the job of cutting the series. A number of scenes were sub-contracted to commercials editor Steve Gandolfi, who cut the famous Fur Q rap sequence, but the rest of the work was mine. From the off, the show was intended to be different. Plenty of people had made spoof news programmes before, but what made The Day Today unique was that it tapped into the language of news and television to make its jokes. The responsibility for bringing this to life lay with director Andrew Gillman. A former film editor, Andrew had an extraordinary attention to detail. For instance, one sketch featured ‘the last televised hanging from studio 112b’, supposedly in the mid 1960’s. Instead of just turning down the chroma on a modern TV camera, Andrew hired in an old black & white tube camera from the BBC museum and filmed with that. After cutting the sketch, we then sent it off to be film recorded, which is an antiquated (and probably now, long gone) method of transferring video onto film. The request to the transfer house was to make the worst job of it they possibly could. We then added slightly wonky captions using another, now obsolete piece of kit, the downstream keyer. Finally, the audio team at Hackenbacker, gave it a perfect echoey acoustic and – voila – one perfectly recreated piece of sixties telly! Similar attention to detail helped make the news reports from American TV anchor woman Barbara Wintergreen as convincing, with their lurid NTSC hue and terrible camerawork.
1. Main News Attack (19 January 1994)
Features reports on Prince Charles volunteering to go to prison, the London Jam Festival, bullying in the Church of England, medieval alternative medicine, and a sheepdog piloting an out of control helicopter. Also features Barbara Wintergreen’s report on the Elvis styled execution of American serial killer Chapman Baxter, and Alan Partridge covering the Tour de France and Boxing.
2. The Big Report (26 January 1994)
Features reports on the Junior Minister for health resigning, Marlon Brando being sold at auction in Sotheby’s, illegal back street dentists, and Peter O’Hanraha-hanrahan reporting on the new European trade quota rates. Also features The Pool, a documentary set in a public swimming pool, a segment from RokTV, and Alan Partridge covering the horse racing at Marple.
3. Meganews (2 February 1994)
Features reports on an infestation of wild horses in the London underground, the BBC’s new soap opera The Bureau (replacing the Nine O’Clock News), a fight between Queen Elizabeth and John Major, and an air jam. Also features Barbara Wintergreen’s report on Chapman Baxter being executed via marriage, a continuation of The Pool, and Alan Partridge interviewing soccer players and a female show jumper.
4. Stretchcast (9 February 1994)
Features reports on suspicions that British police officers are eating their suspects, Peter O’Hanraha-hanrahan interviewing the government minister for ships regarding recent accusations, the IRA’s use of explosives hidden in dogs, the immense popularity of The Bureau in Italy, the Home Office releasing the Sorted videos aimed at young people, and near-death experiences. Also features Barbara Wintergreen reporting on the natus (a method of prosthetic pregnancy), and Alan Partridge’s Countdown to World Cup ’94.
5. Magnifivent (16 February 1994)
Features reports on the British Pound being stolen, the plummeting ratings of The Bureau, the clamping of the homeless in London, a reminiscence of events in 1944, government ministers contracting a disease that inhibits reading, and the trade agreement and subsequent war between Australia and Hong Kong. Also features Barbara Wintergreen reporting on Chapman Baxter being executed by the reanimated corpse of his last victim, and Alan Partridge riding with a female rally driver.
6. Newsatrolysis a.k.a. Factgasm (23 February 1994)
Features reports on Buckingham Palace culling 40 members of staff, passengers stuck on a train in Hampshire, Peter O’Hanraha-hanrahan reporting on General Motors making 35000 (sic) workers redundant, Colin Poppshed reporting from the gay desk, the decline of the NHS, and a roundup of international news. Also features a documentary set at the office of a pharmaceutical company, and Alan Partridge covering self-defence.
Winner BAFTA: Best Graphic Design
Winner British Comedy Awards: Best Newcomer Chris Morris
Available on DVD