The Day Today is a surreal British parody of television news programmes. It is an adaptation of the radio programme On The Hour. The series is composed of six half-hour episodes and a selection of shorter, five-minute slots recorded as promotion trailers for the longer segments. Only six episodes were made, and were originally broadcast in January and February 1994 on BBC2. The Day Today won many awards and Chris Morris won the 1994 British Comedy Award for Best Newcomer. All six episodes are available on BBC video and DVD.
Each episode is presented as a mock news programme, and the episodes rely on a combination of ludicrous fictional news stories, covered with a serious, pseudo-professional attitude. Each episode revolves around one or two major stories, which are pursued throughout the programme, along with a host of other stories usually only briefly referred to. In addition, the programme dips into other channels from time to time, presents clips of (fictional) upcoming BBC programmes, and conducts street interviews with members of the public, in a segment named "Speak Your Brains". It is difficult to ascertain whether the street interviews depicted therein are staged, or are real interviews, with the participants believing they are speaking to actual reporters; this ambiguity further adds to the humour.
The programme frequently commented on other programmes, most often a spoof soap opera called The Bureau, set in a 24-hour Bureau de Change, incorporating clichéd soap opera-style plots, which apparently produces and airs 2,000 episodes between the first and third segments of The Day Today and becomes a hit in Italy. The programme also contained clips from a spoof documentary series called "The Pool", featuring a public swimming pool and its neurotic staff. Morris says that the general British public probably consider public buildings 'a load of old rubbish', so the Day Today had funded a documentary on every one in the country. The final episode featured reports on the fictional documentary "The Office", which followed at office workers as they went on a retreat with an efficiency expert, a segment which could be seen as a precursor to Ricky Gervais' series The Office . Other non-news segments of the programme included the occasional "physical cartoons" of current events set in the studio. Chris Morris frequently parodied entirely separate channels, including "Rok TV" (spoofing MTV); reporting on the fictional and psychotically violent African-American rapper "Fur-Q"; and "Genutainment", a segment which reported on a sheepdog averting a helicopter disaster (a parody of the real-life rescue show 999).
The programme occasionally featured producer Armando Iannucci and writer Peter Baynham, the latter most notably playing Gay Desk reporter, Colin Poppshed. John Thomson, Graham Linehan, Tony Haase and Minnie Driver also appear. Michael Alexander St John provided the voiceover stings.
Much of the programme's humour was derived from its excessively brash style of reporting and its unnecessarily complex format. The opening sequence of each episode is lengthy and complicated, a parody of the overuse of computer-generated credit sequences on news programmes. One episode presented false adverts featuring depictions of The Day Today being broadcast in bizarre locations; the night sky over Paris, the sides of the Great Pyramid in Cairo, the International Hackenbacker Building in Chicago, and the handles of 400 million petrol pumps across the globe; this was a parody of CNN International's promotions advertising the hotels in which the channel could be seen. Morris himself provided much humour from his aggressive personality, often arguing with reporters and guests on-air and at one stage provoking a war between Australia and Hong Kong solely to give himself something to report on.
The programme frequently lambasted Conservative politicians in office at the time of the programme's production. Statesmen repeatedly lampooned by the series include John Major, Michael Heseltine (who had his picture swapped with a Bosnian old woman), Chris Patten, Douglas Hurd, Virginia Bottomley, Michael Portillo, and former American President Bill Clinton.
Each episode was brought to an interrupted ending with just enough time to quickly overview the following day's newspapers just printed with absurd headlines such as Lord Mayor's pirhouette in fire chief wife decapitation, and a final conclusive humorously misused video. Each episode ended in a familiar style for news reports, with the camera panning out as the studio lights dimmed on Morris. However, instead of shuffling his papers in a clichéd newsreader style, Morris would take advantage of the dimming lights to perform bizarre activities; putting lots of pens in his jacket pockets, placing a tourniquet around his arm in preparation to inject heroin, removing his normal hair to reveal long blonde locks underneath and in the last episode lying face down on the studio floor, in the shape of a cross as if to pray to his idol, the newsdesk.
The "news" which features on the programme is often irrelevant and always ridiculous in the extreme. Notable segments include:
- Reports that explosive-packed terrorist dogs were being released in London by the IRA. These mechanical "bomb dogs" wreak havoc, and prompt the British police to begin executing any dog on sight. This story is accompanied by a clip of Steve Coogan impersonating a Gerry Adams-esque Sinn Féin leader, spouting rhetoric in a grossly exaggerated Irish accent, while inhaling helium to detract credibility from his statement - this was a satirical comment on broadcaster's responses to the law at the time, which prevented any Sinn Féin spokesperson from being heard in radio and television - their words would instead be dubbed by an actor speaking in a neutral tone of voice.
- Coverage of a long-running feud between John Major and the Queen. The feud culminates in physical fighting between the two in Buckingham Palace, videoed by a secret reporter who comments on "loud swearing voices", "the sounds of bodies falling against furniture", and the "Prime Minister leaving with bleeding legs". Early coverage of the incident worsens the situation, and prompts Morris' character to air a propaganda reel reserved for national emergencies; film consisting of a sequence of bizarre scenarios set against a backdrop of patriotic British music, in a baffling effort to boost British national solidarity. The feud ultimately ends with the Queen and her entourage marching on Downing Street to beat up John Major, and after the close of the incident, the Royal Mail issues a commemorative stamp featuring the Queen and John Major kissing.
- Coverage of an ongoing rail crisis, following a train trapped on the tracks in Hampshire. Trapped by a jammed signal post, the stranded train rapidly becomes the scene of anarchy and paganism, its passengers reverting to an animalistic state.
- In the fifth episode, Morris provokes a war between Hong Kong and Australia so that he can report on it, and much of the episode revolves around the resulting conflict. Subsequent reports of the war, delivered from "Eastmanstown in the Upper Cataracts on the Australio-Hong-Kong border", are humorously blown out of proportion. At the end of the episode, a false advertisement features a three-tape VHS set of the war produced by The Day Today, featuring footage of the war and its origins, set against a wholly inappropriate backdrop of pop music, a parody of tabloid television's tendency to "dumb down" stories and present serious events in an inappropriate light-hearted manner.
Other bizarre stories included a report of two French boys who break into the Roman Catholic Church's computer databanks in order to change the Catholic catechism; an urgent report that the British pound had been stolen; reports of wild horses disrupting the London Underground; and reports that Crete had been kidnapped by Libya and that Japan had manufactured sixteen identical Japans. Many of these reports are accompanied by The Day Today's News Dancer, who performs an energetic dance to relay news stories.
- Chris Morris (Chris Morris) - The newsreader. Chris is a professional, and knows what he is talking about. His vast desk has several computers giving him the news instantly from around the world, leading to Chris' habit of interrupting other segments in order to break in with more important stories. He is always confrontational and extremely aggressive, frequently picking fights with his staff and guests while on-air, and his efforts to resolve problems (such as airing the BBC's emergency all-purpose propaganda film) frequently make bad situations even worse. Morris' unnecessarily aggressive personality often causes tensions between him and his staff, and is even responsible for triggering a war between Australia and Hong Kong. His mannerisms — and, particularly, his physical appearance in the pilot episode — suggests that his character is at least loosely based on that of Jeremy Paxman, and there are echoes of Michael Buerk's style of delivery.
- Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan) - Sports correspondent. Alan is an old-school lower-middle-class Tory who will often say the worst thing at the worst possible time. He has absolutely no knowledge of the sports he is covering, and frequently makes critical errors on-air which reveal his utter lack of knowledge of the subjects of his reports. However, Alan is usually able to bluff his way through by using complex metaphors, endless clichés and rambling off-topic digressions. Alan's coverage of the 1994 World Cup is particularly cringeworthy, while his attempts to report on horse-racing highlight his immense incompetence. Alan always ends his reports with the words "I'm Alan Partridge, join me", accompanied by Alan staring into the camera. Alan shares an unusual relationship with Morris; in one episode, Alan's sports reports are interrupted thrice by Morris; in another, Morris openly humiliates Alan on-air, and by the end of the series, Chris Morris' character appears to have developed a bizarre and unreciprocated homoerotic affection for Alan. The character would go on to star in two spin-off series, Knowing Me, Knowing You... with Alan Partridge and I'm Alan Partridge.
- Collaterlie Sisters (alternative spelling: "Collately Sisters") (Doon Mackichan) - Business correspondent. As a satirisation of the incomprehensible and essentially bizarre nature of business news to the everyman, Collaterlie talks complete nonsense about the world of business, including France and Italy swapping currencies, and Spain withdrawing from world markets in order to trade with itself. In addition, Collaterlie has a habit of padding out her reports with fast-paced and utterly impenetrable nonsensical jargon. She uses bewildering graphics to get her points across, mainly when addressing the currency market, using such aids as the "Currency Cat" and the "Currency Kidney", whose appearance further confuses viewers. During her reports, a news ticker scrolls across the bottom, displaying meaningless symbols, often containing lots of fours. For unknown reasons, Chris Morris's character despises Collaterlie, and Chris makes no effort to conceal his intense dislike of her while on-air: "Take her off the monitor, I don't want to see her face!" After one of her reports, he uses a remote control to switch her off and she puts her head on her desk.
- Sylvester Stuart (David Schneider) - The weatherman. The only part of Sylvester we see is his head, which usually floats on a graphic background. He never describes the weather forecast straightforwardly, instead using confusing metaphors such as "That's about as warm as going into a heated drawing room after chopping some wood" and describing gloomy weather as "a bit like waking up next to a corpse". Notable weather reports have included the "Metball", a pinball-style graphic of the British Isles with Stuart's face as the ball, and another featuring the "Weather Collar"; Stuart wearing a vast iron collar with the British Isles painted on it, rotating his head to face different areas of the country. Sylvester's weather reports are often presented at inappropriate moments, and always end with Sylvester smiling insincerely while remarking "And that's all the weather". His name is almost certainly taken from the real name of Sly Stone, of whom Chris Morris was a big fan, playing Sly's music regularly on his radio programme.
- Barbara Wintergreen (Rebecca Front) - Correspondent on The Day Today's American sister channel CBN. Speaking with an exaggerated American accent, Barbara presents reports on very strange stories, all but one of them concerning the repeated executions of mass murderer Chapman Baxter (Patrick Marber) at various penitentiaries across the United States. Her reports are always extremely dark in humour, and revolve around her constant use of very poor, convoluted puns in the execution chamber, and interviews with stereotypical stock characters in American culture. Her disturbing reports always end with Barbara attempting a joke, drowned out by Chapman Baxter's execution screams. Her reports are presented in a noticeably different format to other reports shown in the episodes; her segments are filmed using different lenses and different shot sequences, accurately mimicking the appearance of American media aired on British television channels (conversion problems causing the picture to be discoloured and blurred), while the content of her reports satirises common British perceptions of the American media.
- Peter O'Hanraha-hanrahan (Patrick Marber) - Economic correspondent. Of all the characters, Peter is by far the most incompetent; while Alan Partridge can usually extricate himself using sheer bluff, Peter has no such skill, and his reports see him digging himself deeper into the mire. He is constantly making mistakes, and always incurs Chris's extreme displeasure. Notable reports from Peter include a claim that an American factory with only 25,000 workers had made 35,000 redundant; a failed effort to conduct a light-hearted interview with a shipping minister; and a report in which Peter claims to have conducted an interview with the German economics minister in the German language, despite it being obvious that Peter cannot speak a word of German. Peter's attempts to back out of his errors always incurs Morris' wrath. Peter appears to have a habit of doodling on his notes (specifically, a cobweb), a constant irk to Chris Morris. Peter resembles former BBC newsreader Richard Whitmore; his name is clearly inspired by Brian Hanrahan.
- Rosie May (Rebecca Front) - Environmental correspondent. The bearded Rosie May presents the "Enviromation" slot. Her stories are always bizarre, including; the sky detaching from the horizon; a mobile cemetery; a ban on wave hunting; and a refrigerator powered by earthworms. Her segments always end with a new-age style epigram, such as "Tread not on the forest leaves, for you tread on my face". Rosie never interacts with other members of the news team.
- Jacques-"Jacques" Liverot (Patrick Marber) - Resident French commentator. Always depicted as a stereotypical postmodernist philosopher, eternally smoking alone in a dark and gloomy corner of the studio, Jacques will comment on the news throughout the programme, using a series of pseudo-existentialist bons mots. Contributes little to the programme apart from bizarre rhetorical questions, such as "If we could see politics, what would it look like?" and utterly irrelevant statements, such as "An old man stands naked in front of a mirror, eating soup. He is a fool."
- Valerie Sinatra (Rebecca Front) - Travel correspondent. Valerie works in The Day Today travel pod, perched at the top of a tower looming a full mile above the centre of Great Britain. The traffic reports cover strange traffic accidents, such as a piece of pie blocking the road and coverage of an ongoing crash that has been in progress south of Newcastle-upon-Tyne for several weeks; police marksmen to shoot speeding drivers in the chin; as well as general traffic reports including a claim that workers have finished cobbling the M25. Valerie is the object of Chris' unrequited desire, and Chris frequently makes a fool of himself on-air in a desperate effort to flirt with Valerie.
- Brant (David Schneider) - The physical cartoonist from The Daily Telegraph. Brant satirises the news using cartoon backgrounds and then acting what is going on in the cartoon itself. His cartoons rely on elaborate physical metaphors which have to be labelled to render them comprehensible; a good example is his cartoon of Britain's handover of Hong Kong, where Chris Patten, "making a monkey of himself", is represented as King (Hong) Kong climbing the British Empire State Building, swatting at aeroplanes representing China and the handover year, 1997. Brant usually accompanies his cartoons with a strangled wailing noise, and each cartoon ends with his signature. The visual style is rather reminiscent of Nicholas Garland, a real Daily Telegraph political cartoonist, and the cumbersome labelling of political cartoons generally.
- Ted Maul (Chris Morris) - The roving reporter who later appears in Brass Eye, made his first appearance here as a moustachioed veteran who speaks in an overblown, aggressive way and makes big stories from other people's suffering. Memorable news reports from Ted include a report on cannibalism in the police force, and a long-running report covering commuters trapped on a train, who turn to paganism during their wait on the line.
DVD bonus material
The DVD features extensive bonus material including short mini-episodes featuring original material which were broadcast the night before the original broadcast of each episode, the original pilot episode, and an Open University
programme about news presentation which includes an analysis of how and why parodies such as The Day Today
The DVD also includes several "Easter eggs" including: a version of a State of the Union Address by George W. Bush, edited to make United States policy seem insanely belligerent; a new audio discussion between Morris and Alan Partridge discussing Partridge's bizarre theories of how Diana, Princess of Wales, and John F. Kennedy died; a further discussion between Morris and Partridge about the environment; a re-union of Morris, Partridge, Brant, Peter O'Hanrahahanrahan, Collaterlie Sisters and Valerie Sinatra; and another audio sketch featuring Peter O'Hanrahahanrahan pretending to file a report from the World Trade Center covering up the fact that he had overslept, while blithely unaware that the September 11, 2001 attacks have just taken place. Pressing the Angle button during Episode 3 unveils brief, intermittent visual descriptions of the episode by Andy Hodgson and Jennifer Reinfrank, whilst a half-hour interview with Steve Coogan, conducted by Mark Radcliffe on the January 17, 1994 edition of his radio show, can be accessed through the Extended Scenes menu.
Cast and crew
- Chris Morris - Chris Morris, Ted Maul, Collin Haye, Fur Q, other roles
- Steve Coogan - Alan Partridge, Spartacus Mills, other roles
- Rebecca Front - Barbara Wintergreen, Rosie May, Valerie Sinatra, other roles
- Doon Mackichan - Collaterlie Sisters, Beverley Smax, other roles
- Patrick Marber - Peter O'Hanraha-hanrahan, Jacques "Jaques" Liverot, Chapman Baxter, other roles
- David Schneider - Sylvester Stewart, Brant, other roles
- Michael Alexander St John - Voiceover
- Devisers - Chris Morris and Armando Iannucci
- Writers - Chris Morris, Armando Iannucci, Peter Baynham, The Cast
- Additional Material - Andrew Glover, Steven Wells & David Quantick, Graham Linehan & Arthur Mathews
- Co-Producer - Chris Morris
- Director - Andrew Gillman
- Producer - Armando Iannucci
- Music - Jonathan Whitehead, Chris Morris
Main News Attack
Broadcast 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.
The Big Report
Broadcast 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.
Broadcast 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.
Broadcast 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.
Broadcast 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.
Newsatrolysis a.k.a. Factgasm
Broadcast 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 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.