602. British Comedy: The Day Today (Part 2)

The Day Today is an award-winning parody of news and current affairs TV programmes. Let’s listen to some more clips, understand the humour and learn some English in the process.

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Intro Transcript, Notes & Videos

Hello and welcome back to Luke’s English Podcast. How are you? It’s boiling hot here. We’re in the middle of a heat wave and today the temperature is expected to be in the high 30s with a feels-like temperature somewhere in the 40s.

I’ve never understood that. So the temperature is 39 but it feels like 43. So isn’t the temperate 43 then? I don’t get it.

In any case, it is boiling. So if at some point I stop talking, you hear a thud and the podcast goes silent – don’t worry, I’ve just passed out from heat stroke or exhaustion or something. Just joking, but it is very hot.

These aren’t exactly perfect conditions, but my dauntless British spirit is unbowed by any crisis, as we heard in the last episode, so I will be just fine, thank you.

I wonder how it is where you are.

Now, enough idle chit chat, let’s on to this episode.

This is episode 602 and it’s the second part of this episode I’m doing about British comedy TV show “The Day Today”.

You should listen to part 1 before listening to this, and also know that there are notes, videos and bits of transcription on the page for this episode on my website. Just go to teacherluke.co.uk and check the episode archive where you will find all the other episode pages, plus some bonus website-only content too.

In the first part of this episode I talked to you about The Day Today – what kind of programme it is, who made it and so on. Then we listened to three clips from that show which you can find on YouTube and then I broke them down for language and to help you understand the humour.

That’s exactly what we’re going to continue doing in this episode. I have 3 more clips, available on YouTube, so let’s do it like this:

  • First I’ll talk to you about the clip we’re going to see, explaining the context, giving you the main details and asking you to listen out for certain things. This part is necessary because it will really help you understand the reference points and bits of humour that you might otherwise miss.
  • Then we’ll listen again bit by bit and I’ll explain specific things including phrases or other features of English

Hopefully through this process you will understand and appreciate the humour and you’ll also pick up some English in the process.

Just a reminder – The Day Today is a parody news programme. None of the stories we’re going to hear about is real. It’s all completely made up parody for comedy purposes. This show makes fun of the conventions and clichés of TV news and current affairs programmes, and does it with a weird and surreal twist.

Also, I want to appeal to you to write to me about these episodes. Whenever I do episodes about comedy I wonder what people are thinking. Part 1 of this is doing well in terms of listens, but in terms of comments there are only a couple on the website and I’ve received maybe one email about this, so I’d like to appeal to you to get into the comments section. As a teacher in a classroom and a stand up comedian in a comedy club I get instant feedback on what I’m saying and doing. On the podcast it’s not like that. I record episodes, publish them and then I have no idea beyond just a few numbers, what people think. So, write to me and let me know what you think of this. Do you understand it all? Does it entertain you or disturb you? What are you thinking? Let me know.

Get The Day Today DVD Box Set on Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Day-Today-Complete-BBC-Disc/dp/B000171RU4/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+day+today&qid=1560774228&s=gateway&sr=8-1

OK, so let’s carry on with the first of our three clips.

It’s your blood – “Chopper of Doom” 22:30 (Episode 1)

This is from a feature called “It’s your blood” which is exactly like those old TV shows that told stories of bad accidents and how the emergency services responded to them. We used to have a show called 999 which was exactly the same as this.

They always used reconstructions with actors to remake the accident, and they were very cheaply done with the victims telling the story with a voice over. The presenter was Michael Buerk (again) and he had a certain kind of tone which was serious and stern with a patronising edge as if to say “If you’re stupid enough not to take precautions then you deserve to have an accident” perhaps with a little pause, looking at the camera to say “Don’t be an idiot”.

A little snippet of 999 (12:00)

Listen out for the stern, dramatic and slightly patronising tone of it. Also, it’s presenting itself as a public safety broadcast but really it’s just stories of bad accidents reconstructed for our entertainment.

So this is a little clip from BBC 999. (12:00)

On the Day Today it was called It’s Your Blood.

“Every week on It’s your blood we feature an actual bad accident”.

It’s a parody of that kind of show. Did you have shows like that in your countries? Someone tells the true story of a bad accident that they had and then it’s reconstructed using actors and sometimes the real ambulance workers themselves, who are always terrible actors.

In this clip, the accident is that a farmer flies his helicopter above some fields, but passes out while flying. The helicopter is dangerously out of control in the sky and might crash on some children. Luckily the farmer’s dog is in the helicopter, so the authorities manage to save the situation with the help of a local shepherd who whistles to the dog through the CB radio, instructing him how to land the plane, which he does.

If you’re not listening carefully you could easily miss the fact that the dog is the one that lands the plane, because everything is told in such a serious way. The dog even has a voice over at one point as it explains what it was like to fly in the helicopter.

Listen out for

  • How Chris Morris ramps up the drama by suggesting that the blades of a helicopter could easily kill humans “Helicopters, machines for cutting air, air that’s soft and easy to slice, like human beings.”
  • The perhaps unnecessary levels of drama, violence and suspense in the retelling of the story
  • Making the reconstruction had ethical questions because it forced the victims to face their ordeal again
  • “All bodily fluids are the ones that actually emerged at the time.” Ridiculous and impossible, but somehow exactly the kind of thing they’d say on a show like this. For example, the first 20 seconds of the real BBC 999 show.

  • The way he says “For this reason and many others, you may find that the following sequence produces a very powerful sensation in your brain and body” Listen out for how he says the final line “a very powerful sensation in your brain and body” in a kind of tragic way because it involved an actual bad accident. They could just not show this, but for some reason it’s their duty to show it and for us to watch it because a man had an accident and we shouldn’t do it too.
  • The voice over from the sheepdog Lindsay “It was smooth and exhilarating like an aerial motorbike” – that’s the sheepdog actually speaking in voice over
  • Question: What causes the farmer to pass out?
  • The local resident who takes 10 minutes to call for help because she’s too busy filming the disaster on her camcorder
  • Does the story end on a positive note or a negative note?

Clip begins at 22:30

A treat – give a treat to someone, promise someone a treat, get a treat for doing something, to deserve a treat, give a dog a treat
A memento – I decided to video it for him as a memento
Perilous – the helicopter was perilously out of control
To head towards something – the chopper was heading towards a field, heading for a field

REDUNDANCY (Peter O Hanrahanrahan) 5:05 (Episode 6)

Economics Correspondent Peter O Hanrahahanrahan is back. This time the story is that General Motors in Detroit have laid off some workers at their factory.

Some language
A factory / a plant
To lay someone off / to make someone redundant

How many workers have been laid off? Peter O Hanrahahanrahan has the story, live in Detroit. The thing is, he’s got the wrong number.

Chris Morris presses him on this, forcing him to embarrass himself by showing his notes, which have a doodle of a spider in a spider’s web in the corner of the page.

Chris tells Peter off like he’s a naughty schoolboy.

Listen out for

  • Peter’s conviction at the moment that this is “Mass redundancy on an unprecedented scale”
  • How Chris shows his scepticism over Peter’s number.
  • How Peter quickly admits that he’s wrong when Chris asks to see his notes.
  • “You’re lying in a news grave” …what does it say on the gravestone? …news

Clip begins at 5:05

The POOL (Coogan’s bit) 24:21

This is from a spoof fly on the wall documentary about a municipal swimming pool in London and the people that work there.

You know that kind of thing – a camera crew follow people around their working life and reveal little human dramas that go on and tell the story of people in their ordinary lives in their own words.

In this one we’re at a swimming pool and we’re following some of the staff there. We see footage of the staff interacting, dealing with problems. We see what it’s really like to work at a swimming pool. There used to be a lot of shows like this on TV, and they spawned parodies like The Office. The bit I want to look at is Steve Coogan as the pool’s security guard. He’s playing a much older man and it’s pure Peter Cook. It’s a great little comedy character that we have never seen again.

He’s the security guard at the pool and he describes his work including several incidents like when a pigeon got into the pool once. It seems his working life is extremely boring and mundane, but then we learn that one year a person was killed at the pool and there’s a question of whether the security guard is somehow responsible for this. I love the way he responds to the suggestion that he’s liable for the person’s death.

Listen out for

  • Coogan’s tone of voice, accent and other little touches that make this an authentic feeling character
  • The way Coogan’s story about the pigeon has a very boring ending
  • What did he do one night when he found a woman’s swimsuit?
  • What’s his response to the allegation that he was responsible for the death at the pool?

Clip begins at 24:21


Rick Thompson in the DVD extras for The Day Today

The DVD has various bonus extras on it. I remember watching one of those extras with my brother and there was one which was a mini documentary about news broadcasting and how The Day Today uses the style of news for comic effect.

After a couple of minutes, we were surprised to see our dad on screen! He’d been filmed for the documentary and there he was in the BBC newsroom talking about news.