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"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 MO was to present meaningless reports about the London Underground becoming 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.
But 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. 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 retarded 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 format.
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 Rok TV.
- British Brevity: The show launched the television careers of Chris Morris, Steve Coogan and Armando Ianucci. 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).
- 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?
- Canon Dis Continuity: 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.
- 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.
- Subverted in episode 3 during the fight between John Major and the Queen, when the Government interrupts all TV channels to play a special crisis propaganda video. The video depicts lawyers and businessmen skipping and playing hide and seek, police officers smoking marijuana with the general public and small children with lighters rushing to a man's aid to light his cigarette, effectively portraying Britain as Cloud Cuckoo Land.
Narrator: This, is Britain, and everything's alright. Everything's alright. It's okay. It's fine.
- 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!
- 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 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.
- Gallows Humour: 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.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: 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.
- Inherently Funny Words: The UK crisis propaganda video, which showcases the quintessentially British towns of Wabznasm and Manford Thirty-Sixborough.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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."
- POV 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 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.
- 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 M-11.
- 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.
- 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...
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!
- 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 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."
- 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.
Chris Morris: This is huge history happening, isn't it?
- 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, 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
- What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome?: the title credits, theme tune and inter-story "stings" are massively overblown for comedy effect.
- The theme tune, at least, gets more and more overblown as the series progressed.
- 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.