There is nothing new under the sun. Not even in topical TV news shows. I thought my Sky box was on the blink again as it had not picked up this week’s Mock the Week (but it had picked up Love Island. I don’t know why as I’m not watching that…honest). Mock the Week had actually been replaced by The Mash Report (not to be confused with the 4077 M*A*S*H which you can find repeated on Comedy Central). But this “new” topical show feels strangely familiar.
The show is hosted by Mock the Week regular Nish Kumar and features regular Mock the Week Ellie Taylor. The premise is a sort of fake news show (see what they did there) with correspondents reporting on the week’s events (but obviously, nothing like Comedy Central’s Daily Show. That is just a coincidence).
Most TV topical news shows owe a debt to radio. 52 weeks of the year, on Radio 4 at 6:30 on a Friday evening you can hear either The News Quiz (whose producer Harry Thompson went on make the TV version Have I Got News for You); The Now Show (which The Mash Report is most like) or Dead Ringers (which led to the TV show…errr…Dead Ringers). Nish’s big break was as the host of Newsjack on Radio 4 Extra which is the entry level show for comedy writers and home to some of the best one-liners on the radio. When you add Channel 4’s The Last Leg, BBC 2’s Frankie Boyle’s New World Order and even 8 out of 10 Cats, there is a lot of topical comedy to choose from.
To understand where this has all come from you have to go back to the turn of 1960’s. Two major events happened; in 1961, Private Eye magazine was launched and a year later That Was The Week That Was (or TW3 as it was quickly abbreviated to. Yeah, they had text speak years before this gener8n had it). Private Eye was designed by Willie Rushton who went on to be a regular on TW3 (that would never happen these days of course) and so began a double-pronged attack on the establishment. In those days, they had the advantage of an out of touch Prime Minister (MacMillan) and a charismatic American President who was viewed with suspicion (Kennedy) to take pot-shots at. The next resurgence was in the 1980’s with Spitting Image who also had the advantage of an out of touch Prime Minister (Thatcher) and a charismatic American President who was viewed with suspicion (Reagan) to take pot-shots at. If only we had such characters today.
The Mash Report follows a well-trodden path: a fake news desk (which has been a staple of Saturday Night Live since 1975); an interview with a politician who is allegedly being duped (which Ali G was doing back on the 11 O’Clock Show in 1998) and a bloke in a black T shirt with a beard who says outrageous things (errr…once again I refer the reader to a certain Ricky Gervais on the 11 O’Clock Show back in 1998).
Format aside, some of the content was good. It had some great one-liners and the social media tweets were probably the strongest part of the show. It’s early days yet and perhaps once the programme has found its own voice, it might become as famous and powerful as its older brothers. I mean come on, with the state of world politics, they aren’t exactly short of material!