What The Day Today Got (Depressingly) Right

Now 30 years old, Armando Iannucci and Chris Morris’ satirical news comedy was brilliant, prescient nonsense.

Chris Morris in The Day Today
Photo: TalkBack Productions/BBC

The Day Today was making Fake News its business long before it was even a twinkle in Donald Trump’s eye. Armando Iannucci and Chris Morris’ TV translation of their On the Hour BBC Radio 4 series parodied the gravely serious, scare-mongering, hyperbolic news style of the early 1990s with absurd, nonsensical headlines: “Portillo’s teeth removed to boost Pound. Exploded cardinal preaches sermon from fish tank. And where now for man raised by puffins?”

With a comedy team including Steve Coogan (who road-tested Alan Partridge on TV for the first time here), Rebecca Front, David Schneider and Doon Mackichan, the show didn’t aim to hoodwink its audience or even the public figures in the news (that would come later, with the celeb-goring Brass Eye), the target was the news itself. And if speaking truth to power is the essence of good satire, then the target doesn’t come much more powerful than the media, and satires don’t come much better than The Day Today.

It’s natural to wonder if, in amongst all the laugh-out-loud surrealist nuggets and razor-sharp media skewering, there aren’t a few flights of fancy that over the three decades since The Day Today’s 1994 debut, became a reality?

A Criminal Parrot

The Day Today frequently merged serious scenarios with outrageous what-ifs to produce hilarious reflections of our media-framed world. Some of these blends had real-life antecedents, or else contained some kernel of truth, by accident or design. “Branson’s clockwork dog crosses Atlantic floor” positioned the Virgin boss as an tech ‘explorerpreneur’ a decade before Virgin Galactic was founded.


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