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Random Accomplice - News Just In

News just in. The 2014 Commonwealth Games about to open in Glasgow is
not beyond satire. This is the case, it seems, despite the now
abandoned plan to demolish the city's iconic Red Road Flats as part of
the Games' opening ceremony. Neither does the derision from some
quarters which greeted the unveiling of Team Scotland's official outfit
seem to have deterred further parody.

Both incidents, in fact, look set to be given a nod in News Just In,
the new nightly, hot off the press portrayal of an imaginary TV
news-room from Random Accomplice that forms part of the Commonwealth
Games' Festival 2014 arts and culture strand. Set among the presenters
of the fictional Tartan Tonight show, News Just In will highlight the
show's larger than life presenters both on and off air.

Your hosts of Tartan Tonight – named, incidentally, a good six months
before STV's new Scotland Tonight show first aired - will include
newsroom anchors Fergus Butler and Delta Barker, played by Jordan Young
and Random Accomplice co-director Julie Brown, Margo the short-shorted
sports reporter, played by Rosalind Sydney, and Ross the Weatherman,
played by Brown's creative other half, Johnny McKnight. Then there is
Jan and Sam, who, as played by Julie Wilson Nimmo and Gavin Jon Wright,
will become two completely different characters each night depending on
what the script requires.

“It's mental,” explains Brown, blinking into the Glasgow light after
spending just that little bit too long in the windowless bowels of the
Arches, where the show is being pulled together. “We're all a bit
shell-shocked and in a little bit of denial about what we've taken on,
because every single show is different. Not just the text, but all the
technical stuff as well, because we genuinely don't know what we're
going to be doing.”

Dovetailing between what is effectively a back-stage soap opera and
what goes out onscreen, News Just In will feature material by a team of
thirteen writers, who will meet daily to respond to events, not just in
the Games, but on the streets of Glasgow and beyond. As well as Brown
and McKnight, contributors include Douglas Maxwell, Morna Pearson,
Lynda Radley and Stef Smith as well as actors Martin McCormick, Anita
Vettesse and Mary Gapinski, all Random Accomplice regulars.

“When Johnny and I first started thinking about doing something for the
Commonwealth Games eighteen months ago,” Brown recalls, “at first we
were just going to write a show, but then we decided that wasn't
ambitious enough. It's such a one-off occasion for the city that we
decided we had to go for it big style.”

While such unabashed chutzpah is admirable, it nevertheless begs the
question which any real life current affairs show must sometimes face,
of what happens if it's a particularly slow news day and the writers
don't have anything to work with?

“I know,” says Brown. “We're basically asking all these people to be
funny on demand, but there are safety nets. We story-boarded the soap
opera part of things in January, and we've said to the writers that as
long as they hit certain points, they have carte blanche. Then the
daily writers can come in and see how the characters are developing and
respond to that.”

Taking the rise out of media folk has become a staple of TV comedy. In
America, both Saturday Night Live and the Chicago-based Second City
Revue have used sketches based on chat shows, game shows and soap
operas. In the UK, Drop The Dead Donkey similarly attempted to combine
up to the minute topical references with news-room based inter-personal
shenanigans. More recently, Twenty Twelve was an inspired mockumentary
style sit-com based around a fictional team behind the London 2012
Olympic Games.

If the show's mix of boardroom absurdities punctuated by meaningless
management-speak and PR buzzwords hit home, a sequel, W1A, which moved
the action to the BBC, who commissioned the programme, looked a tad
toothless.

Random Accomplice, however, aren't interested in biting the hand that
feeds them for the sake of it. As Brown puts it, “We're not trying to
be horrible about things. We want to have fun with them. The Red Road
flats and the Scottish athletes outfits will absolutely get a mention,
but it will be done with warmth in what is very much a celebration of
the Games.”

With Rod Stewart, Lulu, Susan Boyle and more signed up for the
Commonwealth Games' accompanying festivities, chances are they too will
make an appearance in News Just In's rolling storyline. When exactly
that might be, however, will be a surprise.

“People could go and see all ten shows if they wanted to,” says Brown,
“and see how it changes from night to night depending on what happens
in the Games. We're not doing Chekhov, which is fine. We might go close
to the knuckle with some things, but like everything Random Accomplice
does, it's all done with a cheeky wee smile.”

As News Just In's hosts might put it; Bring. It. On.

News Just In, The Arches, Glasgow, July 22, 24-26, 28-31, Aug 1-2. A
brand new show will be performed each night at 9pm
www.thearches.co.uk

ends


TV Funnies – Shows that made the headlines.

Second City – Originally founded in Chicago in 1959, the Second City
became one of the first improvisation-based performance troupes in
America. Basing their satirical sketches and songs around events of the
day. Second City later opened a theatre in Toronto, which later led to
Second City TV, a sketch show based around a TV station in the
fictional town of Melonville. The show ran from 1976 to 1984, and
featured spoofs of game shows, soap operas and contemporary films, with
the likes of Rick Moranis and John Candy in the cast.

Saturday Night Live / 30 Rock – Beginning in 1975, sketch show SNL has
become a comedy institution on American television, and has spawned
successful film careers for the likes of Chevy, Chase, Bill Murray and
Eddie Murphy. Mike Myers also created Wayne's World for the show before
adapting it for the hit film of the same name. This was the first
successful breakout movie since John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd had made
The Blues Brothers more than a decade earlier. In 2006, Tiny Fey
created 30 Rock, a sitcom based around the back-stage antics of a
fictional sketch show and based around her experiences as head writer
on SNL.

Drop The Dead Donkey – Running between 1990 and 1998, Andy Hamilton and
Guy Jenkin's sitcom was set in the news room of GlobeLink News, a
fictional TV station owned by media mogul Sir Roysten Merchant, whose
initials may or may not have alluded to Rupert Murdoch and/or the late
Robert Maxwell. Recorded close to transmission in order to reference
breaking news, the show combined satire with off-screen rivalries
involving reporters, editors and on-screen anchors.

Running for six series, Drop The Dead Donkey made stars of Haydn
Gwynne, who played assistant editor Alex Pates Neil Pearson as deputy
sub-editor and office lothario Dave Charnley, and Stephen Tompkinson,
who played action man field reporter, Damien Day.

Twenty Twelve – John Morton's inspired sit-com ran for two series in
the run up to the 2012 London Olympic Games, and focused on a fictional
team led by Hugh Bonneville's Head of Deliverance, Ian Fletcher,
responsible for organising and overseeing the Games. Framed as a
mockumentary with narration by David Tennant, the programme followed
Fletcher through the build-up to the games with the likes of Head of
Brand, Siobhan Sharp, played by Jessica Hynes.

There were several parallels with real-life events, including problems
with the 1000 day countdown clock, and a conceptual artist character
who proposes people to play as many instruments as possible to coincide
with the Olympic opening ceremony in much the same way Martin Creed
proposed that everyone should ring a bell at a specific time. Twenty
Twelve was followed up by W1A, which saw Bonneville's character
decamped to the BBC.

The Herald, June 15th 2014
ends



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