By Anna May @AnnaMayMight
Firstly, I’ll get this out of the way. The news desk format doesn’t work for me. I guess I’m of an age where I still hark back to the quick-fire punch, punch, punch of comedy writers like The Two Ronnies and Morecambe and Wise.
Yes, I know…stop living in the past, Anna, and step away from that dusty old VHS player with its top-loading deformities and tiny four-buttoned remote, weakly soldered to the end of a annoyingly short, stupidly thin wire. Yes, I know about remastering and DVDs…leave me alone!
Okay, there are punchlines, albeit some better than others…and I could smile contentedly through the ones that don’t work if it wasn’t for the roving reporter type clips, which continue to milk said punchlines and ruin them for me. Tell me once, I’ll laugh. Explain it to me again, I’m bored. It’s like…didn’t we just do this? You know?
My problem isn’t with the actors themselves, it’s with overdoing characters and losing that little spark of realism that makes a spoof interview more enjoyable. Even the reporters’ lines are too wordy and descriptive, which is lost on me. Less is more…sometimes.
However, Michael Spicer’s contributions give me hope…especially his portrayal of a local Scottish man complaining about the Edinburgh Fringe. There’s just something a little more natural about his response to the camera. Over-the-top mannerisms and facial expressions don’t work for me, here. Hard to put my finger on it, so I’ll stop trying…plus I can’t afford the bail money…again.
I suppose I should mention Nish Kumar, as he is the main man…and very much a great front man for The Mash Report…although it took me a while to ignore the similarity to Brittas Empire and Red Dwarf actor, Chris Barrie. Maybe it’s just me. Very probably…it usually is.
I definitely prefer my satire presented in a more direct and conversational way, so it allows a little believability to seep through the irony…or vice-versa…or whatever! Nish does this very well and, even his Trump-trashing is saved each time by the fact he tends to pick holes in what we already know to be ridiculous, rather than pour his own vitriol straight on to a subject. I haven’t seen a satirical news series yet that praises or commends its targets for laughs.
I notice there appear to be a few snippets of factual information in the mix, but you have to remember not everyone watching will know all there is to know about the specific issues being highlighted, so the decision to include a little background before an ultimate punchline keeps everyone in the loop, as it were. Maybe a bit ‘tell us something we don’t already know’ for some, but it didn’t bother me, personally.
Now…let’s talk about Geoff, the Conservative. This guy really grew on me and, after seeing him in the first episode, I was looking forward to his stint in the second. He didn’t disappoint. Sadly, no sign of him in the third, but he’s already made an impact with his hard-hitting witty responses. For example, when talking about women marching for various causes, he very cheekily added, “Probably only marching for their Fitbits’ targets anyway.” Naughty, but his delivery gets the laughs…and he allows the show to, more creatively, redress the balance where Tory negativity is concerned. He IS the Tory we all love to hate…but, all the while he’s making us cringe with his opinions on how the elderly are to blame for the NHS crisis etc., he’s also poking fun at the other parties. Very clever and very watchable.
The third episode gave us Pierre Novellie, the review reviewer. Why do his reviews of pointless reviews on Amazon and other sites make me laugh? Not sure, but they do…and, as he so rightly says, “Reviewing used to be a profession...but now everyone's a reviewer. Reviews have been outsourced to the general public.” Really? I hadn’t noticed!
Andrew Hunter Murray is a regular, it seems. I warmed to him very quickly. To be honest, I was worried I’d seen all there was to see of his interviewing techniques after the first episode, but he’s surprising me more and more each time. I’m reminded a bit of the Sacha Baron Cohen interviews, which is a good thing. Very awkward indeed, but I’m wondering how far Andrew is prepared to go. Would The Mash Report be willing to risk interviewees ripping their mics off and storming out? Hope so!
Then there’s Rachel Parris. Nish asks her to find posts by the general public about the show’s topics…and, no matter what she reads out, there’s a smile as she looks for the positives each time. Much like a politician, relentlessly avoiding the question in hand and, even when faced with a damning accusation or insult, forces a smile and glosses over it. This section has already begun to lose its freshness, though, and may start to grate with me after a while. It’s getting there.
I’m pretty fussy when it comes to satirical news. There’s certainly so much of it about, isn’t there. Nevertheless, I’m always pleased to see new ideas brought to the table and, after three episodes of The Mash Report, I'm roughly 70/30 on the positive side…so far.
With thirty minutes to fill each week, I’d say there’s probably something for everyone…and I’m sure my personal preferences won’t apply to the majority. They tend not to.
Shout out, by the way, to the writer who included these words: “Fonz-like ability to operate juke boxes by kicking them.” Lost on so many others, I’m sure, but totally appreciated by me! No doubt about it...these days are most definitely ours! Not sure we want them now, though, eh.