Brass Eye is back on our screens for a exclusive tour of the UK which included The Poly. Oxide Ghosts: The Brass Eye Tapes, a documentary featuring alternate takes, extended sketches, behind the scenes shots, entirely unseen sketches not filmed for broadcast, and outtakes of this acclaimed and controversial satire, with a Q&A by director Michael Cummings.
This show was masterminded by Chris Morris and Michael, and was notorious in its broadcast run on Channel 4 in 1997 for unsolicited celebrity cameos, sketches that pushed the boundaries of broadcast regulation codes and its subject matters, which lampooned the media industry of its time and predicted the current state of outrage journalism as we know it.
To accommodate this outrage, the show was wrapped in mystique as both directors refused to conduct interviews for a long time after its release. With the arrival of its 20th anniversary and the advent of the information age, however, long awaited questions have started being answered. When asked about why there was only one show of its kind, Michael commented “It was quite a stressful thing and hard to get on the air.” Not to mention the current political climate. “Are we sort of beyond satire? I don’t know, there are plenty of things going on in public affairs that crosses that threshold.”
In response to this age of instant gratification in social media, the director has made it clear that this will not be released on digital media or home video, or shown/recorded anywhere else. In this sense, it really is an event, as there was an intimacy between host and audience not seen in most screenings, which extended to the Q&A which he requested to not be recorded either. He commented “What we both agreed on was that it shouldn’t be available online or on demand and we like the idea that in this world of instant gratification where you can get anything with the click of a mouse, you’d actually have to come to a communal screening and watch it.”
All for the best, as what happened in the Poly stayed in the Poly. A relatively small audience showed up, only filling less than half of the seats, but the theatre roared with laughter nonetheless, as even the outtakes were valuable in its biting wit and satire. One of the highlights was the missing clip of the sketch ‘Horrorcaust’ featuring a holocaust themed board game for the family, which Michael also addressed. “There was the occasional thing that wasn’t intended to be broadcast such as the Horrorcaust,” where he goes onto say sketches of its nature were solely recorded as a distraction for Channel 4 to complain about while the team slipped in sketches that were nearly or just as offensive.
This series of screenings is almost at an end. However, there are two more additional screenings in various locations across the UK, so there’s still an opportunity to catch this lightning-in-a-bottle event.