The Verse’s Jake Francis reviews 2017’s Oxide Ghosts: The Brasseye Tapes and recaps on its predecessors
Film: Oxide Ghosts: The Brasseye Tapes
Drector: Michael Cumming
Screenplay: Chris Morris
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of ‘review’, I have to get something off of my anaemic, oddly hairy, chest: I am a HUGE fan of Brasseye. Massively so, that I re-watch the criminally short series at least 2-3 times a year. I realise that you didn’t need to know this, or have the image of my puckered white torso in your head. I thought I’d mention it, as my impartiality during the following article is certainly likely to be held hostage on some level. Nevertheless, I’ll do my upmost to give a fair account. We’ll see.
For those poor souls who are not currently acquainted with the genius of Brasseye (I told you – biased), let me give you a brief introduction:
Brasseye arguably began with a TV show named ‘The Day Today’, a programme that conceived the character of Alan Partridge amongst other achievements. Originally penned as a ‘spin off’ to its origins, Brasseye broadcasted on Channel 4 during the mid/late 1990s. A ‘special’ was released in 2001. The premise was simple, to subvert the news and media culture. With each episode focussing on a social issue such as crime, drugs, or animal welfare. Brasseye would take a familiar format to those it mocked – an amalgamation of news reports, ‘Panorama’ like exposés, and interviews with the ‘duped’ celebrity.
These interviews with numerous public figures became one of the most celebrated aspects of the programme. Audiences would be laughing and cringing in unison as they watch Noel Edmonds and Rolf Harris warn the public of the dangers of ‘CAKE’, a ‘made up’ drug that gives its users Czech Neck. At the helm, was Chris Morris, a skilled comedy writer and performer. Who is still referred to as ‘that guy from IT crowd’. The satirical content never ‘ummed’ and ‘ahhed’ when it came to pulling punches and would often go ‘too far’ to achieve its focus on social ills. Which eventually (some would say, inevitably), led to its demise.
After the broadcasting of the one-off Brasseye special, Paedogeddon! (2001), over three thousand complaints were received regarding the episode. Leading politicians and public figures to thoroughly condemn Morris, the writing team, and the show as a whole. Since then, Brasseye has not graced us with any more material, only being mentioned in lists of ‘top British comedies’ and in a 2010 book named ‘Disgusting Bliss’.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s get to the main event
Oxide Ghosts: The Brasseye Tapes is not anything ‘new’ when it comes to Brasseye’s premature conclusion. Instead, it’s a nostalgic throat-clearer of material that was never aired. This was either due to Channel 4 and its lawyers removing the segments, security issues, or simply not having any room to include them in that given ‘report’.
The event began with Dr.Michael Cumming (yes, doctor. He’s as surprised as you), introducing the film with a number of anecdotes and memories during the shows yearlong production. This included a not so surprising story of Chris Eubank changing interview locations not once, but twice here in Brighton. Also offering Chris Morris a literal ‘fabric of society’ as topic of discussion. Probably one of the few occasions that the Brasseye team felt like ‘the normal ones’. Whilst filming. Dr. Cumming proceeded to earnestly bleat about Brasseye’s unfair end, and thank those of us who spent the best part of £15 to come and watch a film about it at 11pm on a Thursday night. The sentiment was not necessary, but my tired brain thanked him for the acknowledgement.
Once introductions were done, Oxide Ghosts began and the sounds of achingly stretched smilies was not imagined. Straight away, the film opens with a memorable scene from the original series, with Chris Morris’ reporter attempting to buy ‘Clarky Cat’, ‘Yellow Bentines’ and ‘Triple Sod’ from real life drug dealers on a sleazy London street corner. The narrator informs us that Morris has a rolled up copy of Vogue lining his jacket in fear of a justified stabbing. Now that’s a professional.
The madness continues, with stories of armed guards protecting the writer’s offices after a successful duping of Reggie Kray goes awry. As the film goes on, the audience is reminded why the show might have been ‘banned’. One segment sees Chris Morris advertise a genocide themed board game named, ‘Horrorcaust’. Complete with a laughing child telling his father that he needs to load his people-pieces ‘into the gas chamber!’. Perhaps this film will surpass its infamous place on the complaints leader board, who knows.
The film itself was thoroughly fun, but immeasurably hard to watch in places. With Michael Cumming at the wheel, one would expect his trademark psychotic edits of exposition and content. But alas, the fun is no longer there, making the film feel clunky, clinical and a bit too ‘weird-for-the-sake-of-it’. This is exacerbated further by the film pondering on content that the dedicated audience are all too familiar with. Forcing the question: ‘where are the hundreds of hours of extra material you mentioned half an hour ago?’
Despite these minor, but begrudging flaws, Oxide Ghosts achieves its goal. The film is a fitting tribute to a much-loved cult of witty satire, warts and all. Now I suggest you go grab yourself some Yellow Bentines, tell F.U.K.D to sod off, and pick up your tickets for Sutcliffe the Musical. You can see why Morris and the gang had a short shelf life, can’t you?
Oxide Ghosts: The Brasseye Tapes now showing across the UK in selected theatres. It’s also on a rolling tour of venues and events. For more information, visit the following website: