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Saturday, 12 January 2008

Time Trumpet With Armando Iannucci, BBC2

Thursday 3 August 2006
Did we like it?
Armando Iannucci is the Halley’s Comet of TV, in that he may only be visible to the naked eye sporadically every few years, but when he is in view he is a always a unique, incandescent spectacle.
What was good about it?
• The BBC weathermen who left behind a trail of his blood whenever his hands touched the weather maps behind him.
• The subversion of documentary footage of Tony Blair, which was doctored to illustrate just how unpopular he was. During a school visit, the word ‘murderer’ was scrawled on a whiteboard in a classroom he had just been simpering in; while a child whom Blair was patronising had arranged his alphabet blocks to spell out ‘liar’.
• “Honey I shrunk Martha Keaney” which has echoes of Little Britain’s Dennis Waterman sketches where the BBC reporter is, for no fathomable reason, shrunk to the size of a hobbit and given a squeaky voice.
• The eternal enmity between Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, during which Blair, among other things, would “pay cameramen to get their cocks out while Brown was talking” (illustrated by brown giving an odd look to camera during an interview).
• Claire Short, in 2031, reflecting on why Blair was always more popular than Brown. “Tony could shit in your hat and you’d buy him a drink. Gordon could buy you a drink and you’d want to shit in his hat; and if he didn’t have a hat you’d want to buy him one just so you could.”
• The satire of retro-talking heads that captured their utter banality as they fastidiously analysed the bland title sequence of TOTP2, with all its colourful spirals and wonderful wipes.
• When David Sant, European Footballer of the Year in 2021, wanted to talk about his “lonely life”, Armando interrupted him to say that he only wanted “simple soundbites”.
• The two David Cameron pieces. Both ran along the lines of how he is opportunistic vermin as he does anything to “be appealing” such as “being black for a month”; and later in The Cameron Project, he is shown moving an England football bracelet in to view for the TV cameras as he talks to working class folk, while an ‘aide’ recounts in 2031 how Cameron only just managed to “mask his contempt” for the poor.
• Footage of Tony Blair suddenly turning around re-worked to make it seem he was seeing ghosts.
• Spicey Slicey, a kids’ plastic surgery show, where a little boy has a “stubble implant”, another little boy has a sex change and a girl is preparing for an op to make her chin like Clare Balding's. Meanwhile, a bald, rotund Jamie Oliver is exasperated at bladder implants for children “so they can urinate in different colours and flavours”.
• The Cameron-as-a-clone of Blair sketch that spliced together various speeches so Cameron mimicked the PM pretty much verbatim (although the disturbing thing was, it didn’t look like the researchers had to work that hard to do this). This continued until the dual parasites’ adoration of the phrase “changes” stampeded into a version of David Bowie’s Changes.

What was bad about it?
• Richard Ayoade’s directionless pseudo-rant about petrol.
• The normally excellent Stewart Lee regurgitating a slight variation on an old Lee & Herring routine about “Who is the richer man? Is it the businessman in his suit and tie?”, for the Charlotte Church sketch.
• The David Beckham piece about him having a vagina transplanted on to his arm was poorly observed. When Beckham speaks he punctuates almost every sentence with numerous “you know”s; he doesn’t say “you know what I mean”.
• The sketches that were leaked in the papers lost almost all of their impact, such as Camilla Parker-Bowles turning out to be Justin Lee Collins in disguise and Charlotte Church throwing up her insides.
• Despite all the imaginative ideas, Time Trumpet wasn’t quite as funny as it should have been. The reason for this was the uneven tone that saw silly Day Today-style news footage juxtaposed with the, mostly weak, talking heads elements (that also suffered as the contributors, unlike the celebrities, hadn’t aged at all). This exacerbated the rather formless narrative that flittered about like a drunken bee randomly supping nectar from a field of flowers.

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