I don't watch a lot of television -- not out of some big moral stand (the two things I can be counted on to watch are hockey and football, for chrissakes), but more because a) I work evenings, and b) I have a television screen a foot from my head my entire time at work, which tends to dampen one's enthusiasm. As a result I'm woefully out of touch on shows that might actually be interesting to me -- I've never seen "24" or "Lost," and I'm still getting around to seeing this "Sopranos" show that everyone's talking about.
Perversely, there is one television artiste whose work I'd go out of my way to see -- but it's basically unavailable in this country. If you're a perceptive headline-reader, yeah, we're talking about the one and only Chris Morris here.
A friend introduced me to "The Day Today" a few years ago, passing on the episode with the war news parody during the real-life Iraq war. "TDT" is an absurdist satire of television news, and that war send-up is a dead-on skewering of the field. Hilarious and uncomfortably real. The sketch anthology format of the show meant a the quality was often uneven, but anything with Morris in it (and some other things - Alan Partidge's sports segments) was pretty great.
"TDT" was really just a warm-up, though, and if it was absurdist, "Brass Eye" changed course to simply fucking with people. A parody of investigative "issues" shows, here's just a sampling of the pranks Morris and co. pulled off:
* convincing British celebrities and politicians that English youth were under threat from a deadly Czech party drug called "cake"
* getting publicity for an anti-drug group called "FUKD AND BOMBD" and an anti-pedophile group called "Nonce Sense" (getting Phil Collins to wear a t-shirt for the latter)
* a brilliant scene in which an undercover Morris harasses a poor drug dealer, asking for made-up drugs
* getting celebrities to help publicize the case of an elephant that had stuck its head up its rectum
and so on. It pissed a lot of people off -- generally those who were fooled -- and led to lawsuits, and it's some of the best satire I've ever seen.
On this side of the Atlantic, Morris's work is pretty much impossible to find; if you have a multi-region DVD player, sets of both "The Day Today" and "Brass Eye" are available from Amazon UK. If not, clips can be found in various locations around the web. Below -- the famous "Cake" sketch: