Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Today I drove with Andy to Aberdeen to pick up some journalists visiting from Taiwan. It's about a two-hour ride there and back, but given his hectic schedule, it was the best way to catch up with him on a few things. We finalized a few details regarding the project, and then talked about British Television. Much of it was familiar, and I realized that more than just about anything, my family used to bond over imported TV. We watched Fawlty Towers, Monty Python, Not the Nine O'Clock News, Black Adder, etc.

Andy reminded me of a show called Comic Strip Presents Bad News, which I had seen when I was in the country in 1987. The Comic Strip was a series which featured comedians who would go on to form French and Saunders, Absolutely Fabulous, and The Young Ones, amongst others. Bad News is a pre-Spinal Tap mockumentary about a failing rock band, featuring characters not dissimilar to the ones the same actors portrayed on The Young Ones: singer and lead guitarist Vim Fuego is played by Adrian Edmondson with a similar seething rage to Vyvyan Bastard; rhythm guitarist Den Dennis by Nigel Planer is as thick-headed as the hippy Neil; and Colin Grigson on bass, portrayed by Rik Mayall is pretentious and effete like his Young One's character Rick - the "people's poet" sociology student/anarchist.

Presented as a fly-on-the-wall rockumentary, the half hour show parodies the format itself, as well as the incompetence of the band, at the height of vacuous British hair metal. The film-makers follow the group to a gig in which performing to four people and a dog does nothing to minimize their delusions of grandeur:

"We'd be as rich as The Rolling Stones if we'd sold as many records as them"

"I could play "Stairway to Heaven" when I was twelve. Jimmy Page didn't actually write it until he was twenty-two. I think that says quite a lot."

The show was produced by Channel 4, who now produce the excellent Peep Show, but the calibre of programming I've seen here on the channel (one of four I receive) is better indicated by this evening's programming:

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