LATE-NIGHT satire and politicised monologuery which, by our reckoning, marked the last knockings of old school ‘but seriously now, unemployment eh?’ Channel Four post-pub entertainment before THE WORD and its blowsy mates took over for good. In the frame were DAVID BADDIEL, The Late Show’s TRACEY “Amateurs!” MACLEOD and top future government wonk MICHAEL GOVE, all delivering their self-consciously controversial pieces to camera in the same hands-behind-back, head-down, gazing-up-through-heavy-lidded eyes pose which screamed “the opinion I am about to glibly vouchsafe will probably blow your drab little mind, even though it’s something I idly tossed off before breakfast this morning”. This unendearing smuggery took place in front of a minuscule studio audience in a decidedly odd set – a sort of half-arsed reconstruction of the Acropolis inside a disused, unlit warehouse, augmented by a series of unexplained white staircases which led, tellingly, to nowhere. Tricksy camerawork was in: all the low angles and wobbly zooms you’d expect, plus a weird vogue for standing each presenter on a turntable which rotated slowly with the camera to add threadbare visual spice to their wordy diatribes.
Needless to say, fearlessly challenging safe, liberal received opinion was the order of the day. (Yes, there was once a time when this counted as some kind of fresh and interesting angle for a television programme to take.) Taboos were broken (or at least slightly bent). Convicted felons were interviewed by Gove with much “Woah! Dangerous!” hype. Jerry Hayes was interviewed with a more muted introduction. Amongst others, LEE & HERRING featured on writing duties, although they’d rather not go into it nowadays. Adding to the uneasy studio atmosphere was the barely-concealed contempt each presenter clearly held (and often slyly voiced during links) for the other two. Baddiel was, unsurprisingly, the most successful pundit, musing on broadcasting embargoes of the c-word, correctly predicting the early demise of the then-nascent ELDORADO, and holding a, er, memorable phone interview with a Danish official asking what he considered was so unique about the culture of Denmark (who had just voted “nej!” to the Euro-referendum) – “Well, I think the most distinctive thing is that we voted no in the referendum…” Actually, perhaps history will remember this programme for juxtaposing the future education secretary with one of Baddiel’s schoolkid vox pops. Asked to tell a real, unsanitised playground gag, one chippy eight-year-old offered: “Q: Why did the man tell the other man to fuck off? A: Because the other man said he was a pissflapper!” Cue Gove. Wonder how memories of that’ll affect key policy decisions?