"The headlines tonight: Portillo's Teeth Removed to Boost Pound, Exploded Cardinal Preaches Sermon from Fishtank - and 'Where Now' For Man Raised by Puffins?"
The brainchild of a number of British comedians including Chris Morris
and Armando Iannucci
, The Day Today
was a critically-acclaimed satire of every aspect of British TV news shows. The show's M.O. was to present meaningless reports such as the London Underground infested with horses, or the IRA planting bombs inside stray dogs, in an absolutely deadpan style so that anyone channel-hopping would not be sure for a split second if what they were watching was real.
While the subjects of the stories were absurd, the methods used to tell them were dead-on parodies of British news tropes at the time, from nonsensical graphs and pointless computer animations to newscasters creating tortuous metaphors and wordplay to add credibility to their stories. It still holds up surprisingly well today, partly because they had five months to create six episodes and so could really go overboard on creating pompous and overlong computer animations for the most trivial of reasons, which years later real
news programmes would begin do every day as computer power increased. Especially memorable characters included anchor "Chris Morris
", who had an unquenchable lust for News with a capital "N" and a sneering demeanour that was blatantly ripped off of British journo Jeremy Paxman; Peter O'Hanraha-Hanrahan
, who made up for in tenacity what he lacked in... everything else; Alan Partridge
, inept sportscaster; and American correspondant Barbara Wintergreen
, who was forever reporting on the multiple executions of killer Chapman Baxter.
Occasionally the show would break for a parody of MTV, sensationalist American news or tedious British soap operas, but its primary focus was on skewering the news media.
Despite its acclaim, the show is still best known for bringing Steve Coogan's Alan Partridge, the socially inept presenter, to TV; he later appeared in a number of spin-off projects, the most well-known of which are Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge
and I'm Alan Partridge
. It was followed by Brass Eye
, a pseudo-spinoff written entirely by Morris that used some of the same characters but this time punctured the Prime Time News
This show provides examples of:
- AcCENT Upon the Wrong SylLABle: John Fashanu.
- Acting for Two: The Day Today is essentially a sketch show cleverly disguised as a news programme, with a core troupe of actors playing multiple different roles in each sketch/news report.
- All Love Is Unrequited: Chris likes to hit on travel correspondent Valerie Sinatra every chance he gets, to which she's either totally oblivious about or too professional to deal with on camera.
- Attractive Bent-Gender: Morris as Sukie Bapswent in RokTV.
- Black Comedy: For reasons left unexplained, Chris despises business correspondent Collaterlie Sisters with a passion.
Chris Morris: That's an incredible coincidence Alan, because last week Collaterlie Sisters, you were involved in a car crash in which you were the only survivor! Only because you landed in somebody's stomach.
- "Sorted", in which two insufferable young presenters demonstrate how to give a corpse a DIY burial, certainly qualifies.
- B Roll Rebus: Click Ting Stamps
- British Brevity: The show launched the television careers of Chris Morris, Steve Coogan and Armando Iannucci. It was a paradigm shift in British television comedy that influenced almost everything that followed - the "dark" comedy movement grew directly from it - and it introduced a host of comedy actors who would become ubiquitous in subsequent years. All in just six thirty-minute episodes (plus an unbroadcast pilot and six five-minute mini-episodes).
- Broken Record: At the end of a few episodes, the final note of the show's closing theme music starts skipping.
- Butt Monkey: Hapless economics correspondent Peter O'Hanraha-hanrahan, who is repeatedly shamed and humiliated by Chris Morris live on air for his incompetence.
Chris Morris: Peter, you're lying in a news grave, do you know what's written on your headstone?
Peter O'Hanraha-hanrahan: News.
- Canon Discontinuity: American serial killer Chapman Baxter, sitting on Death Row, who reappears in new reports from The Day Today's affiliate station in America in almost every episode with an ever increasing body count to his name, despite being repeatedly executed.
- Catch Phrase: Alan's forced, wooden and utterly unconvincing "I'm Alan Partridge!" which of course went onto become the title of his own spin-off show.
- Comically Missing the Point: Alan is commentating on the Tour de France when a team car enters the frame with spare bikes strapped to the roof.
Alan Partridge: And I don't know what this man is playing at! No way! Surely the judges must come down like a ton of bricks on that. Carrying bikes on the top of a car is not a sportsmanlike way to run this race.
- Couch Gag: Each episode ends with a pan out as the studio lights dim on Chris. Instead of sitting there awkwardly shuffling his papers like most contemporary news anchormen, Chris embarks on a variety of strange activites each episode, such as:
- Rolling up his sleeve to inject heroin into his arm.
- Prostrating himself in front of the newsdesk as if it was a religious altar.
- Taking off his wig to reveal a massive mane of long, blond hair.
- Could This Happen to You?: The "Chopper of Doom" incident of 1992, where Lindsey the sheepdog successfully pilots an out-of-control helicopter away from a field of small children, with the aid of a shepherd at the control tower.
Reporter: If this happened to you, would you know what to do? Your chances would be considerably improved if you made sure someone on the ground had one of these. It's a pocket shepherd, it costs just £59. A small price to pay for the gift of a functioning body that works properly.
- Crapsack World: Set in contemporary Britain, where bombdogs are set off by the IRA, dentists are forced into illegal, backdoor operations on the streets, motorways collide with each other and the Queen and the Prime Minister have a massive fight at Buckingham Palace.
- Credits Gag: A few — for example, "Bootsie Collins" [sic] randomly appears in the first episode's credits. In the second episode, George Clinton was apparently the "thrift funnel".
- The Danza: Chris Morris, who plays anchorman Chris Morris. It's difficult to tell whether Chris Morris is a character or a real-life person. This trope is continued in spin-off Brass Eye.
- Department of Redundancy Department: RokTV presenter Harfynn Teuport's description of the controversy sparked by a gangsta rapper Fur-Q and his performances of his song "Uzi Lover",
Harfynn Teuport: During the stage version of the song, in the live show, he kills five people on the stage, during the stage show, live, as it's performed!
- Distracted by the Sexy: Alan Partridge interviews an attractive female showjumper in her changing room and she behaves as though she isn't on camera, even casually taking off her bra while discussing her own performance. Alan is paying attention, but...not to what she's actually saying.
Alan Partridge: When, when, when you, how do you ride a horse?
- Feigning Intelligence: Sports commentator Alan Partridge never has any clue about anything he ever reports on, but nobody else ever appears to notice, as he is good at mincing his words. On the other hand, economics correspondent Peter O'Hanraha-Hanrahan is just as inept but is incapable of concealing it, so he's constantly torn to pieces for it by Chris, live on air.
- Funny Background Event: Peter O'Hanraha-hanrahan can be seen getting knocked unconscious by a single punch in the background of a live-scene news report.
- The Day Today Newsdancer.
- In Episode 5, after a clip of an episode of The Bureau showing the cast and their Bureau de Change traveling on the back of a flatbed truck, the same vehicle can be seen passing through in the background of a following news segment on "clamping" homeless people.
- During the Elvis-themed execution, a US Marine can be heard singing Elvis lyrics to the tune of The Star-Spangled Banner.
Marine: "Are you lonesome to-night?/love me tender hound-dog/blue suede shoes, jailhouse rock..."
- Going for the Big Scoop: Susanna Gekkaloys, reporting live from the war zone, says "We're under strict instructions not to leave the vehicle, but to drive on through." She then immediately stops her jeep, gets out, runs over to a nearby house, kicks the door down, shoots the first person she sees and interviews everyone else.
- Growingthe Beard: The DVD includes the pilot episode, which was filmed in a very different style to the show proper. The lighting and set dressing resembled a generic television sketch comedy of the period, and the "Chris Morris" character was and over-enthusiastic but likeable rather than the satanic monster that he became. Ultimately the production team overhauled almost everything between the pilot and the first episode, although a few of the filmed inserts were used in the series.
- Guy on Guy Is Hot: Alan seems to be susceptible to this, judging from his bizarre attempt at boxing commentary.
Alan Partridge: Thank goodness actually they're wearing gloves, because I've witnessed bare knuckle boxing in a barn in Somerset about three years ago, and it was a sorry sight to see men goading them on in such a barbaric fashion. And I'm rather ashamed to say I was party to that goading, two men fighting as I saw in the barn that night, naked as the day they were born and fighting the way God intended. Wrestling at points - I don't know if you've seen Women In Love, that marvellous scene by the fire. It kind of resembled that.
- Inherently Funny Words: The UK crisis propaganda video, which showcases the quintessentially British towns of Wabznasm and Manford Thirty-Sixborough.
- Intrepid Reporter: Parodied with war correspondent Susanna Gekkaloys, who's so intrepid that she not only carries a gun but shoots a random civilian with it.
- Is This Thing Still On?: Morris can occasionally be overheard making cutting remarks about the other presenters during their reports, especially Collaterlie Sisters.
Chris: Take her off the monitor, I don't want to see her face.
- Jerkass: Chris Morris, who uses unnecessarily hardcore Paxman-type interview tactics (normally reserved for shady politicians) on good-natured jam-festival organizer Janet Breen, slaughtering her and reducing her to tears live on set.
Chris Morris: How dare you come on this programme and say "Hey look at me, I'm raising fifteen hundred pounds for the homeless"!? You could make more money sitting outside a tube station with your hat on the ground, even if you were twice as ugly as you are which is very ugly indeed!
- Kent Brockman News: Pretty much every example from that trope write-up.
- Kill the Poor: One segment focuses on how London police are clamping down on homelessness - literally - with tyre clamps. Any homeless person found asleep or motionless after 9pm is clamped and forced to stay where they are upon waking up. They are later prosecuted and punished.
- Life Imitates Art: As previously mentioned, The Day Today had five months to create six episodes, allowing their computer graphics designers (the graphics design department of ITN, one of Britain's main TV news and content providers, who relished the opportunity to parody their usual work) to spend much longer than they could on daily news to create The Day Today's abundance of computer generated charts and diagrams. The design philosophy was to imagine what graphics the most megalomaniac news editor would request if not under the time constraints of daily news production. Years later, as computer power increased and cost decreased, these time constraints were much less of a barrier, meaning that real daily news programmes started looking rather a lot like The Day Today. What this says about the prevalence of real megalomaniac news editors is open to interpretation.
- Metaphorgotten: The dialogue is written almost entirely in this.
Donald Bethl'hem: Tension here is very high, Chris - the stretched twig of peace is at melting point. People here are literally bursting with war. This is very much a country that's going to blow up in its face.
- Mood Whiplash: "IT'S WAR! ... but first the weather..."
- Mundane Afterlife: According to the report on near-death experiences, Heaven is an open plan office, where God has a "You don't have to be mad to work here, but it helps" sign.
- Mundane Made Awesome: the title credits, theme tune and inter-story "stings" are massively overblown for comedy effect. The theme tune got more and more overblown as the series progressed.
- New-Age Retro Hippie: Rosie May, bearded host of the "Enviromation" segment, dresses like a cult member and usually claims to have a special link to nature in her sign-off (e.g. "my milk is green").
- News Parody: Faux News variation.
- Noodle Implements: A small turtle and a plastic tube are alleged to "have a range of fifty feet and can bring down a helicopter".
- Overly-Long Gag: "In 1982, someone died."
- P.O.V. Cam: Parodied. The premise of a documentary special called "Cam Fam" involves a family which agreed to have cameras "implanted into their faces to give us a unique view of British family life."
- Pretty Fly for a White Guy: Chris Morris as grotesque gangster rapper (and Ice T parody) Fur-Q and his chart-smashing single Uzi Lover.
Fur-Q: Uzi like a metal dick in my hand / Magazine like a big testicle gland / Bitch wanna try it / I said 'Keep her quiet!' / Shove it up her motherfuckin' ass and fry it.
- Pungeon Master: Barbara Wintergreen's reports from America are absolutely rammed with them, in typical American newscaster style.
Barbara Wintergreen: At this fallopian factory, people come for a credit card conception. The price includes labour and delivery, and there's a hefty surcharge, on the discharge.
Barbara Wintergreen: Meanwhile, Baxter's fried-to-be is making the last minute preparations for her impending ending.
- The Quiet One: David Schneider's facial expressions can be so funny that he doesn't need to say much to go with them, particularly evident in the shows Soap Within a Show "The Bureau". This was probably the reason why he plays a mime in an episode of Knowing Me Knowing You.
- Running Gag: Lots of repeated sketches:
- Weatherman Sylvester Stuart and his vague, confusing weather reports.
- Travel correspondent Valerie Sinatra's reports always make mention of an on-going traffic jam on the M11.
- Sports correspondent Alan Partridge's totally abject lack of knowledge of even basic sports.
Alan Partridge: This is Sportsdesk, I'm Alan Partridge. And it's a special desk of sport now, as we look back, on some of the sporting highlights, of the last sporting season. So lie down, relax, and let the sports commence!
- American correspondent Barbara Wintergreen's constant reports on serial killer Chapman Baxter, who is executed at least four times throughout the series and whose kill count somehow increases between each execution.
- Sinister Minister: Reverend Bobby Sky, a Catholic priest and reformed bully from Coventry, who speaks out on bullying within the Catholic Church.
Bobby Sky: A young deacon was being inordinated, then during the inordination ceremony, we would hum during his sermon, so we would be going "Mmmmmmmmmmmm" and he would be trying to speak, not knowing who was humming.
Beverly Smax: How many of you were humming?
Bobby Sky: About two hundred of us.
- Soap Within a Show: The Bureau, a cheesy, overly-dramatic soap opera set in a bureau-de-change, focused around the bureau's cashiers and their evil boss, the Essex wide-boy Jack Hennety. Various clips of the drama are reported on in The Day Today, as the soap apparently goes from being the most popular programme in Europe, to plummeting out of the ratings and being forced to tour Outer England on the back of a truck. It is generally accepted that it's a spoof of Eldorado, an extremely lame, failed BBC soap opera set on the Costa del Sol. It manages to spoof all of the following soap opera clichés (such as the ridiculous emphasis on relationships) despite being set in a single, very small room and only having six minutes of airtime over the entire series:
- Back from the Dead: Angie somehow comes back to The Bureau after committing suicide in episode 2.
- Crazy Jealous Girl: Maria, who assaults Angie after sussing out that she's sleeping with Maria's boyfriend Alex.
- Deus Angst Machina: Guy, who never tires of reminding everybody that he's gay. This trope takes off in episode 3, when Guy is beaten to a pulp in the street for being gay, and then fired from The Bureau afterwards, also for being gay.
Guy: Why did they do this to me? Just because I'm gay! I'm gay! I'm gay...
Maria: It's Guy, Mr. Hennety, he's been attacked!
Hennety: Yeah I know, what did you say?
Guy: ...I said I'm gay.
Hennety: ...You're fired!
- Drugs Are Bad: Angie takes an overdose of some drug and dies in episode 2, in her bureau booth no less, blaming Hennety in her suicide note. Also a variation of Murder the Hypotenuse.
Hennety: I never thought I'd say this, but...pull down the blinds! I'm closing the bureau! For an hour.
- Dysfunction Junction: All the characters are screwed up in some way or another.
- Jerkass: Hennety, who fires Maria in episode 1 for fighting with Angie, and then fires Guy in episode 3 simply for being gay.
- London Gangster: Big Boss Jack Hennety, with his evil, heartless businessman demeanour and ridiculously exaggerated southern Essex accent. Also a Large Ham.
Hennety: This is supposed to be a high-class bureau-de-change, not some two-bit Punch and Judy show on the seafront at Margate!
Guy: It's alright Mr. Hennety, it's okay now, it was just a little misunderstand-
Hennety: Shaaaat it!
- Long Runner: Chris Morris reports that the show has magically reached its 2000th episode, which equates to seven and a half years of airtime.
- Love Triangle: Alex cheats on Maria with Angie at first, then the show hints Hennety and Maria have something going on, then finally, Angie cheats on Alex with Hennety, effectively creating a Love Square. Guy also confesses his True Love for Maria in the same final episode, despite being gay.
- Manipulative Bastard: Hennety somehow manages to shag Angie, after she blames him for her suicide attempt in episode 2.
- Prime Time Soap: Replaced the BBC's 9 o'clock news.
- Recurring Riff: Awesomely-lame theme tune!
- Recycled Script: Episode 4 is a rehash of Episode 1, just different characters cheating on each other. Hennety even has almost identical lines:
Hennety: I'm trying to run a high-class bureau-de-change, not some two-bit nipple peep show in Rio de Janeiro!
- Say My Name: Hennety's awkward, unexplained cries to Maria after she storms out in the wake of Guy's sacking.
Hennety: Maria! Mariaaa-aa-aa-aa!
- Sound Effect Bleep: In Episode 4, while Peter Goodwright rants about bombdogs, one goes off each time he swears.
- Sound to Screen Adaptation: First began as On the Hour on BBC Radio Four.
- Spin-Off: The show spawned two direct spin-offs, Brass Eye and Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge, starring Chris Morris and Alan Partridge respectively. Both shows feature other minor news reporters reappearing from The Day Today (such as Ted Maul who shows up in Brass Eye). KMKYWAP features the entire cast of TDT minus Morris, but Brass Eye is by far the more closely related spin-off and Spiritual Successor.
- KMKYWAP retains in-universe continuity, with Alan Partridge somehow ascending from sports correspondent to prime-time chatshow host.
- KMKYWAP remained on the BBC, while Morris took Brass Eye over to Channel 4 to bite their hands instead. Morris eventually turned up in KMKYWAP's own spin-off, I'm Alan Partridge, as posh twat Peter Baxendale-Thomas.
- Spontaneous Human Combustion: A headline story at the beginning of Episode 4 is introduced, "'I'm so sorry', yells exploding cleaner."
- Stylistic Suck: The live-action editorial cartoons by "Brandt", which are all unbelievably bad.
- Surveillance Station Slacker: Keith Mandemant, the pool supervisor, who seems to spend most shifts solving word puzzles instead of watching the monitors.
- Talking Heads: Weatherman Sylvester Stuart, who we never ever see below the neck for a variety of reasons.
- In one episode, he hints that he's actually dead.
- Time Dilation: In the "War" episode, reporter Susanna Gekkaloys runs out of the studio to go and report "from the interior of the fight" and a few minutes later she's already filed her first report about an entire day of events on the battlefield. Also, even though war is declared live on an evening news programme, Donald Bethl'hem reports that one side claimed victory on the morning of the same day.
Chris Morris: This is huge history happening, isn't it?
Spartacus Mills: Oh it's bigger than that Chris, it's large!
- The Unintelligible: Business correspondent Collaterlie Sisters, whose reports on the state of the economy make as much sense as the business reports on any given news channel.
Collaterlie Sisters: On now to the money markets, and the international finance arse. And there you can see that the U.S. and Japanese cheeks started off with a gap of 2.4, but increased trading forced the two together to form a unified arse at around lunchtime, which held for the rest of the day. In summary then— [calmly] Oh NO. ... Chris?
- Vox Pops: Morris goes around questioning hapless members of the public on topics such as, "What should the letter of the law be?" (The person chose the letter "J").
- Weather Report: Presented by Sylvester Stuart, usually at inappropriate moments in an episode. Stuart always appears as a floating head and describes his forecasts completely in confusingly drawn-out metaphors and similes:
Sylvester Stuart: Starting in the south-east...Devon and Cornwall should have some fairly heavy and prolonged showers, a bit like jagged metal piercing old flesh. The Midlands now...it'll be warm at first but turning cocky later, at around twelve, and there should be some cloud around in the shape of a whore. In Scotland now...thunderstorms in the evening but the sun should come through later, so it'll be a bit like being woken up in the night by strange men shining powerful torches in your eyes. In summary then? Dispassionate. And that's all the weather.
- Witty Banter
- Zany Scheme: Alan Partridge's soccermeter, an intensely confusing device causing Partridge to make a fool of himself trying to demonstrate how it works.
- Also Sylvester Stuart's intensely confusing weather reports, the tour-de-force being episode six, where Sylvester's head is the ball inside a pinball machine with a weather map of the United Kingdom inside it.