Barrie’s Moment in The Sun

Ahem. Anyway, an interview with Chris Barrie is in The Sun today to celebrate the release of the first series of Spitting Image. This just has to be littered with mistakes, right? Well, let’s take a look…

Actually, the article itself isn’t that bad, with a few nice ideas from Chris as to how public figures would be portrayed if Spitting Image was around today, even if he does talk about the ‘PC Brigade’ who would restrict the programme’s humour. I’d love to know who makes up this brigade, because I’ve never met a single one. And in any case, wasn’t Spitting Image always a bit of a liberal wank-fest anyway? Not that I’ve ever objected to that – it formed my political outlook – but clearly Chris has gained the impression that there’s a dominant sensitivity to satire nowadays, and I’m curious as to why. If he’s talking about TV executives, my opinion is that they’re probably more sensitive about the large amount of money that the original series cost, rather than its content.

Anyway, the sentence that really flabbergasted me was this;

Chris continued: “The Brittas Empire was a lot of fun to do. People do describe him as the original David Brent.”

Eh? Why does every comic figure who’s a bit of a tit have to be compared to David Brent? In any case, Brittas was far more extreme and more complex, IMHO; he was the pivot for every plot, rather than being just a bit of a wanker who ran the place. If you DO think they’re that similar, then try describing David Brent as ‘Brittas-esque’; which doesn’t work, proving the two characters really aren’t that similar at all.

Ah well. At least there aren’t any real glaring errors, and Chris puts in a good word for TEH DWARD, opining that money should be diverted from period dramas into comedy. I don’t think that’s really how things work, but I certainly agree with the sentiment that comedy in TV needs more of a commitment and a budget. The days when ITV could produce a show on Spitting Image’s scale seem to be long gone. Which reminds me; buy the DVD!

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32 Responses to Barrie’s Moment in The Sun

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  1. Didn’t you know? That’s how it works! Gordon Brittas was the original David Brent and Basil Fawlty was the original Gordon Brittas. And I don’t quite know what the relation between Basil Fawlty and David Brent is then, but I’m sure it starts with “grand”.

    ;)

  2. When Chris talks about the politically correct brigade then he could easily be talking about the sort of cretins who complain when Madeleine McCann is mentioned by satirists even when there is no joke at her expense.

  3. Ricky Gervais invented laughter.

  4. God, I detest that smug git…but, moving on…

    No, sorry, I cant…

  5. >I?d love to know who makes up the ?PC Brigade?, because I?ve never met a single one

    Police Constables?

  6. I think there is a PC brigade but I dont think it’s anything new, it just has different targets and themes these days and of course, a new name/description.
    There have always been groups of people about who will moan about anything and everything. Ok, there is an element of genuine care and compassion in these groups but I honestly believe many of the do-gooders simply get a kick out of complaining and have no interest whatsoever in the subjects they claim to be protecting.
    I’ve met a few over the years and they seem to fly in the face of the silent majority.
    Personally, I think Chris may have forgotten the flack that Spitting Image got at the start and just how many people objected to it for numerous reasons.
    I think perhaps, his point may be that the media are more likely to run shy of anything risky these days.
    Having said that, I saw nothing worse in Spitting Image then than you would encounter today in shows like ‘HIGNFY’ and ‘Buzzcocks’ to name but two.

  7. G&T Admin

    I think you’re absolutely right, Steve. Spitting Image got more flak when it started than it ever would today. It’s true that there have been several high-profile cases of certain groups getting perhaps disproportionately upset recently (Christian Voice vs Jerry Springer the Opera, to name just one), but I can’t really imagine a modern Spitting Image covering many sensitive topics unless there’s a real satirical point and/or joke to be made.

    I think Chris may have seen too many tabloid headlines recently, distorting certain stories to try and create hysteria (nothing new there, then). It’s possible also that Spitting Image may have been guilty of slight insensitivity, but that would have simply been reflective of that society at the time. Writers today will reflect today’s society, which is a lot more aware that the white middle-class viewpoint isn’t the only one around. I think it’s right to say that the ‘PC Brigade’ are people with different targets; I just hate the fact that all the political correctness movement was really about was to stop people using nasty words for less fortunate members of society, and it was twisted by the media to be a catch-all term for over-sensitivity.

  8. Unfortunately as much as I hate Brent myself, I think the comparison between the two has been linked mainly becuase of the boss figure that you want to strangle over the desk.

    Money should moved directly from cookery shows to comedy, if I see another “live” meal that takes 2 hours to make, i’ll pass Lister’s chef exam.

    Mary Whitehouse complained many times about Spitting Image the first time it was shown, I don’t think it would be any different now, as it was then. I would say it was worse back then than it is now.

    Chris, most studios sell their props after the film has finished. This wouldn’t affect a sequel.

  9. G&T Admin

    Unfortunately as much as I hate Brent myself, I think the comparison between the two has been linked mainly becuase of the boss figure that you want to strangle over the desk.

    That’s literally the only thing they have in common, though: annoying, slightly incompetent authority figure. You may as well link Brittas and Captain Mainwaring.

  10. > That?s literally the only thing they have in common, though: annoying, slightly incompetent authority figure.

    Plus that they are unintentionally annoying, are oblivious to their employees’ feelings toward them, have one employee who looks up to them etc. There are plenty of differences as well though obviously.

  11. The Office is approximately 39 times better than The Brittas Empire.

    There. I’ve said it.

    [Hides]

  12. I agree. And I like Brittas.

  13. Now now! The comparison is more than a little unfair anyway. Pete has every right to his opinion individually, and so do I, but comparing the two shows on any scale other than “which do I enjoy more?” is pretty pointless.

    They each have a completely different approach to: humor, the necessity (or not) of emotional moments, gag-rates, acting style, plotting, framing, set design…there’s almost no overlap, and with just a slight widening of the gap you could stand up and make the claim that Monty Python’s Flying Circus is better than Cooking With Julia Child. Some will agree, some will disagree, but the question itself is completely pointless and unhelpful. They’re each reaching out to different audiences, despite superficial similarities. (Of which, anyway, there are very few.)

  14. G&T Admin

    Which was my original point, really.

  15. Maybe that’s where I got it…

  16. No matter what Gervais says The Office isn’t a sitcom, it’s more of a spoof doco with comedy/drama thrown in. The US Office shows how much life there is in that format.

    I watched what I assume is the first episode of season 3 on ITV2 last night and it was excellent. It was the one with the gay co-worker (oh look how American I sound using the word ‘co-worker’…). I don’t know about anyone else but I was nearly crying laughing when Michael (the Brent equivalent) was going in to kiss him to show how tolerant he is. I like how they can throw in some serious bits too, like the Gervais/Merchant Office could. But this episode was up there with the best of the original, easily.

    Anyway, Brittas is like the polar opposite, both the show and the character. One thing you could never say about Brittas is that he’s lazy and unenthusiastic, but that’s what Brent is, a really negative character where Brittas is overly positive. Brent is more realistic, despite being a bit of a monster (people exactly like him DO exist, I’ve met a couple of contenders). Despite the staff always whingeing about him Brittas isn’t THAT bad really.

    This is supposed to be about Spitting Image!! It shouldn’t come back because it would be so crap compared with how it was. NOT because of the ‘PC Brigade’ but because comedy in general has gone down the shitpan. Comedy producers aren’t afraid of offending anyone, just apparently afraid of producing a funny show. Maybe someone will laugh!! And we can’t be having that!

  17. The US Office is better than the original, which I’ve said many times. It’s got more characters, there’s far more development, and at times it’s downright funnier. Wait until season three rolls on some more – you won’t be disappointed. I thought season two was hard to top, but the latter half of season three managed it. Four has been a bit disappointing by comparison (before it stopped for the strike) but is still ace, and there’s a pretty major plot shift (compared to the original) that’s made for some thoroughly enjoyable stuff.

    There’s actually an excellent article on it just published on OTT. Might have a few spoilers for season three plot developments, though. And it’s right about the fact that the Gervais/Merchant episode just felt… wrong, somehow. Still funny, but they weren’t comfortable writing Michael Scott at all.

  18. I’ve only seen one episode, about competing Chistmas parties, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The character that seemed to benefit the most in the US version was the ‘Gareth’ character, the American plays it with so much believability and conviction.

  19. The US Office just doesn’t do it for me. I’ve tried and I’ve tried and I’ve tried again, and I just can’t get absorbed in it.

    And it isn’t a matter of “which is the better version?” syndrome. It’s just that, on its own, it isn’t television that urges me to return to it. I really have tried. It’s no fault of the actors and I’d be hesitant to say it’s any fault of the writing. There’s just something about the feel of the show that isn’t communicating anything of substance to me at all.

    In fact, I feel about the US version of the office the same way John seems to feel about the UK version: I understand why people would like it…but I’m not one of them.

  20. > This is supposed to be about Spitting Image!! It shouldn?t come back because it would be so crap compared with how it was. NOT because of the ?PC Brigade? but because comedy in general has gone down the shitpan. Comedy producers aren?t afraid of offending anyone, just apparently afraid of producing a funny show. Maybe someone will laugh!! And we can?t be having that!

    This is bullshit of course.

    There are a number of reasons why Spitting Image probably shouldn’t return but this isn’t one of them.

    It would be very unlikely that a new version of the show be able to attract the same standard of writers and it would also not be as innovative as it was. Shows like HIGNFY and Mock the Week are as hard hitting as Spitting Image was and can be made for less money. With lots of satirical stuff around already there would be no point in bringing it back.

  21. > No matter what Gervais says The Office isn?t a sitcom

    Yes. It is.

  22. Indeed it is. Blatantly.

  23. The Office is approximately 39 times better than The Brittas Empire.

    There. I?ve said it.

    [Hides]

    I hate Ricky Gervais. Cannot stand the man. Loathe the sight of him.
    To such an extent, that upon seeing him upon the cover of a DVD recently given away free with the Radio Times, I had to cut him out so as not to risk poking my own eyes out.

  24. >Shows like HIGNFY and Mock the Week are as hard hitting as Spitting Image was

    Mock the Week is about as hard-hitting as Balamory. And HIGNFY is incredibly patchy nowadays.

    The only truly great topical satire show since Spitting Image’s heyday is the Friday/Saturday Night Armistice. I’d kill for Iannucci and co. to give it another shot nowadays.

  25. >Mock the Week is about as hard-hitting as Balamory

    Balamory is remarkably clever. The insights into sharing and playing nicely with friends have deep parallels with many of the world’s problems.

  26. I really like the US version but don’t think it touches upon the original. The US one works much better as a traditional sitcom but, as a result of this, it loses a little of what made the UK version so good. The US version strives to shoehorn a proper “plot” into each episodes, which wasn’t in the original remit. As a result of this, a lot of the episodes start with the talking heads reeling out exposition which feels a little clunky.

    Quite appropriately, I think that the differences between the two are like comparing the UK and US versions of a documentary/docu-soap (for example, The Apprentice).

    US shows like that always seem… far less believable. (I’m trying not to come across as a rampant xenophobe here) but there always seems to be an indication that the vast majority of it is staged. Of course, as Charlie Brooker recently demonstrated, pretty much every docusoap, regardless of origin, is 80% fake, but American programmes seem far less grounded in reality and trying to convince you that’s it’s not a big lie.

    The US Office seems to come across the same way and it becomes less believable (and less funny as a result). For example, when Tim confessed his love for Dawn in the UK office he took off his microphone and took her to a private room. When Jim did the same thing with Pam in the US, he did it in front of the cameras.

  27. > Mock the Week is about as hard-hitting as Balamory. And HIGNFY is incredibly patchy nowadays.

    HIGNFY has always been patchy. If you watch some of the really old eps that are on sometimes then you’ll see that the pace was very slow and gentle compared to what it is nowadays.

    Some of the jokes that they do on Mock the Week, for example about Princess Diana having a gangbang in a minefield, would obviously trespass on what Spitting Image would do.

    The same goes for Bremner, Bird and Fortune.

    Also satire is everywhere nowadays. Even serious shows and publications contain elements of it and the shock value that helped to make Spitting Image such a success all those years ago would be gone now. That’s one of the reasons, along with a decline in quality, that made viewing figures so bad for the show in the first place.

  28. I used to adore Rory Bremner, and now I just don’t think he’s very funny at all. He was on an episode of Whose Line..? the other day, and he was hopeless. The same goes for the early Mock the Week’s. He just stands and gurns his way through Bush or Blair.

  29. G&T Admin

    Yes, I used to find Bremner really funny in his ‘Michael Fish’ stage. But when he started getting more earnest, I completely lost interest.

  30. A poor man’s Mike Yarwood.

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