Brass Eye
UK DVD cover
Created byChris Morris
Directed by
StarringChris Morris
Country of originUnited Kingdom
No. of episodes7
Running time25 mins
Production companyTalkback
Original release
NetworkChannel 4
Release29 January 1997 (1997-01-29) –
26 July 2001 (2001-07-26)

Brass Eye (stylised as brassEYE) is a British satirical television series parodying current affairs news programming. A series of six episodes aired on Channel 4 in 1997, and a further episode in 2001. The series was created and presented by Chris Morris, written by Morris, David Quantick, Peter Baynham, Jane Bussmann, Arthur Mathews, Graham Linehan and Charlie Brooker and directed by Michael Cumming.


Originally planned as a spin-off from The Day Today (1994), the pilot (then called Torque tv™) was passed on by the BBC. Channel 4 commissioned a new pilot, which would be called Brass Eye. The name mixes together the titles of two popular current affairs shows, (Brass Tacks and Public Eye).[citation needed]

The series satirised media portrayal of social ills, in particular sensationalism, unsubstantiated establishmentarian theory masquerading as fact, and creation of moral panics, and is a sequel to Morris's earlier spoof news programmes On the Hour (1991–92) and The Day Today (1994). The series stars Morris's The Day Today colleague Doon Mackichan, along with Gina McKee, Mark Heap, Amelia Bullmore, Simon Pegg, Julia Davis, Claire Skinner, John Guerrasio, Hugh Dennis, and Kevin Eldon.

Original series (1997)


The second episode, "Drugs", has been described by Professor Michael Gossop as illustrative of the ease with which anti-drug hysteria can be evoked in the United Kingdom.[1] In the opening scene of this episode, a voiceover tells viewers that there are so many drugs on the streets of Britain that "not even the dealers know them all". An undercover reporter (Morris) asks a purportedly real-life drug dealer in London for various fictitious drugs, including "Triple Sod", "Yellow Bentines" and "Clarky Cat", leaving the dealer puzzled and increasingly irritated until he asks the reporter to leave him alone. He also explains that possession of drugs without physical contact and the exchange of drugs through a mandrill are perfectly legal in English law.

One drug mentioned was a fictitious designer drug called "Cake", described as being from Czechoslovakia, despite the country no longer existing when the episode was screened. The drug purportedly affected an area of the brain called "Shatner's Bassoon" (altering the user's perception of time), while also giving them a bloated neck due to "massive water retention", a "Czech neck", and was frequently referred to as "a made-up drug" during the show.[1] Other celebrities such as Sir Bernard Ingham, Noel Edmonds, and Rolf Harris were shown holding the bright-yellow cake-sized pill as they talked, with Bernard Manning telling viewers a fictitious story about how one girl regurgitated her own pelvis,[1] and recounts that "One young kiddy on Cake cried all the water out of his body. Just imagine how his mother felt. It's a fucking disgrace".

David Amess, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Basildon, was fooled into filming an elaborate video warning against the dangers of this drug,[1] and went as far as to ask a question about "Cake" in the UK Parliament, alongside real substances khat and gamma-hydroxybutyric acid. In response, the Home Office minister incorrectly identified the fictitious drug "Cake" as a pseudonym for the hallucinogenic drug methylenedioxybenzylamphetamine.[2]


Morris posed as a talk show host who took a starkly discriminatory attitude in favour of those with "Good AIDS" (e.g. from a contaminated blood transfusion) over those with "Bad AIDS" (caught through sexual activity or drug abuse).[3]

"Paedogeddon!" special (2001)

Main article: Paedogeddon

A special one-off edition of the show aired four years after the series had ended. Originally scheduled to broadcast on 5 July 2001, it was delayed as Channel 4 were unhappy with the timing in connection to the disappearances of 15-year-old Danielle Jones in June and 11-year-old Bunmi Shagaya in early July.[4] It eventually aired on Thursday 26 July 2001, and was repeated on Friday 27 July 2001.[5]

It tackled paedophilia and the moral panic in parts of the British media following the murder of Sarah Payne, focusing on the name-and-shame campaign conducted by the News of the World in its wake.[citation needed] This included an incident in 2000 in which a paediatrician in Newport had the word "PAEDO" daubed in yellow paint on her home.[6] News of the World's then Editor Rebekah Brooks would years later discuss this campaign at the Leveson Inquiry.[7]

To illustrate the media's knee-jerk reaction to the subject, various celebrities were duped into presenting fatuous and often ridiculous pieces to camera in the name of a campaign against paedophiles. Gary Lineker and Phil Collins endorsed a spoof charity, Nonce Sense, (pronounced "nonsense"—"nonce" being British slang for people convicted or suspected of molestation or sexual crimes), with Collins saying, "I'm talking Nonce Sense!" Tomorrow's World presenter Philippa Forrester and ITN reporter Nicholas Owen were shown explaining the details of fictional "Hidden Online Entrapment Control System", or HOECS (pronounced "hoax") computer games, which online paedophiles were using to abuse children via the internet.[8] Capital Radio DJ Neil "Doctor" Fox told viewers that "paedophiles have more genes in common with crabs than they do with you and me", adding "Now that is scientific fact—there's no real evidence for it—but it is scientific fact". At one point, bogus CCTV footage was shown of a paedophile attempting to seduce children by stalking the streets while disguised as a school.

Lineker described paedophile text slang, stating that "P2PBSH" translates to "pipe-to-pipe bushman; code for two paedophiles having sex with each other while watching children from a shrub" and "BALTIMORA" translates to "I'm running at them now with my trousers down". Labour MP Syd Rapson related that paedophiles were using "an area of internet the size of Ireland". Richard Blackwood stated that internet paedophiles could make computer keyboards emit noxious fumes to subdue children, subsequently sniffing a keyboard and claiming that he could smell the fumes, which made him feel "suggestible". Blackwood also warned watching parents that exposure to the fumes would make their children "smell like hammers". Other notable figures appearing as themselves were Sebastian Coe, Michael Hames, Andy McNab, Kate Thornton, Barbara Follett MP and Gerald Howarth MP.[9] Morris reported that convicted child murderer Sidney Cooke had been sent into space to keep him away from children. Prior to the launch, an eight-year-old boy had been placed on board the spaceship with Cooke by mistake, with a spokesman saying "this is the one thing we didn't want to happen".[10][11] During the programme, the studio was "invaded" by a fictional militant pro-paedophile activism organisation called "Milit-pede", and the programme appeared to suffer a short technical disturbance. When it returned, presenter Chris Morris confronted a spokesman, Gerard Chote (played by Simon Pegg), who had been placed in a pillory, asking if he wanted sex with Morris's six-year-old son (actually a child actor).[10] Hesitantly, the spokesman refused, apologetically explaining "I don't fancy him".

The episode won a Broadcast magazine award in 2002.[12]

Oxide Ghosts: The Brass Eye Tapes (2017)

In 2017, series director Michael Cumming released a 60-minute film of unbroadcast material from the making of Brass Eye between 1995 and 1997. The film is intended to mark the 20th anniversary of the series's original broadcast and includes scenes previously edited from the series due to time constraints or legal difficulties.[13] It also includes extended or alternative versions of scenes that made the final cut, together with humorous outtakes of several scenes. Cumming also narrates the film and details his first meeting with Chris Morris and the difficulties involved in making the series. Comedy website Chortle described the film as "a thoughtful, curiously touching time capsule which pays fulsome tribute to, and certainly never cheapens, the spirit of the original show".[14][15]

The film premiered at the Pilot Light TV festival in May 2017 and toured to perform at selected UK cinemas throughout 2017.[14] Each performance was followed by a Q&A with the director. It toured again in 2022.[16] Cumming has said that the film will only be shown at such public events and can't ever be released commercially, for rights and legal reasons.[15]


Season 1 (1997)

No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
1"Animals"Michael CummingChristopher Morris29 January 1997 (1997-01-29)
The proliferation of cruel anti-cow graffiti, with text specifically designed to undermine the animals' confidence, and a spate of arranged fights between large men and weasels, indicate a deep malaise at the heart of society. Chris Morris presents a mix of surprising celebrity interviews and startling sketches on the issue of animal cruelty, focusing on Karla the elephant, who has unfortunately trapped her trunk up her anus.
2"Drugs"Michael CummingChristopher Morris5 February 1997 (1997-02-05)
'Cake', a deadly new killer drug from Prague, is about to take Britain by storm. Our only hope for saving the nation's youth from the horrors of `Czech Neck' is an intensive awareness campaign, featuring the influential voices of Bernard Manning and Noel Edmonds.
3"Science"Michael CummingChristopher Morris12 February 1997 (1997-02-12)
Chris Morris shakes his head in despair as more hoodwinked celebrities pass on their fairly loose grasp of bizarre science stories and experiments, including a campaign against 'heavy electricity'.
4"Sex"Michael CummingChristopher Morris19 February 1997 (1997-02-19)
Chris Morris casts a satirical eye over the subject of sex and its relationship to society. Helpful contributors include Peter Stringfellow and David Sullivan.
5"Crime"Michael CummingChristopher Morris26 February 1997 (1997-02-26)
Chris Morris turns his laser eye to the subject of crime, including shocking revelations of how elephants are being used to disperse rioters, and Vanessa Feltz's message to murderers.
6"Decline"Michael CummingChristopher Morris5 March 1997 (1997-03-05)
Chris Morris examines the issue of moral decline in Britain. Religion also falls under the spotlight in this episode, which features Terry Waite discussing how Britain has been poisoned by the gospel.

Special (2001)

No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
7"Paedogeddon!"Tristram ShapeeroChristopher Morris, Shane Allen & Peter Baynham26 July 2001 (2001-07-26)
In this episode, celebrities were this time duped into endorsing an anti-paedophile charity by denouncing a program in which paedophiles could view children through a webcam and, wearing special gloves allowing them to molest any part of the child they so wished by simply touching their monitor.



The series had originally been scheduled to air in November 1996, but was postponed and ultimately aired in January 1997.[17][18] According to Channel 4, this delay was to ensure that broadcasting standards were met, amid fears that some of the series' pranks might violate the Independent Television Commission's code on hoaxes.[17][19] Two days before airing, the show had been denounced by Tom Sackville, a minister at the Home Office, who criticised "this waste of Home Office time", referring to the programme's 'Cake' hoax which involved Sackville and MP David Amess.[17] The Guardian reported that the postponement was the subject of internet speculation on at least 112 different websites, which featured conspiracy theories that Channel 4 had given into pressure from the Home Office, or that the programme had been pulled by the then chief executive of Channel 4, Michael Grade, owing to the negative effect it might have had on the channel's upcoming campaign against privatisation.[20] In January 1997, it was announced that the series would indeed be broadcast, and would begin airing later in the month.[18] After airing, the programme did indeed attract complaints from MPs David Amess and Sir Graham Bright concerning their appearances on the show involving 'cake', which were held up by the Independent Television Commission.[21] However, the commission also went "out of its way" to praise the series as "amusing and innovative".[21] While the ITC's television code included a provision that "contributors must be made aware of the format and purpose of programmes", the response to the complaints clarified that "The Commission had no criticism of the overall programme concept. It acknowledged that risks were attached to making innovative programmes and felt that Channel 4 should not be discouraged for that reason from seeking to make such programmes. It proposed to take no further action against Channel 4."[21]

Michael Grade

Michael Grade, then chief executive of Channel 4, repeatedly intervened to demand edits to episodes of Brass Eye.[22] The final episode included a single-frame subliminal message reading "Grade is a cunt".[22]


Main article: Paedogeddon

Around 3,000 complaints were received concerning "Paedogeddon!", making it reportedly the most objected-to episode in British television history at the time,[23] and politicians spoke out against Morris. Minister for Child Protection Beverley Hughes described the show as "unspeakably sick" based on clips of the episode, and Home Secretary David Blunkett was described by a spokesman as "dismayed",[24] although he may have been relying on a description of the episode.[25][26] Tessa Jowell, after watching,[27] asked the Independent Television Commission to change its procedures so it could rule more swiftly on similar programmes.[28]

There was also a tabloid campaign against Morris, who refused to discuss the issue. The Daily Star decried Morris and the show, and the Daily Mail ran a headline describing Brass Eye as "Unspeakably Sick" (quoting Beverley Hughes). The Observer accused both papers of hypocrisy; it noted that the Star article was positioned adjacent to an article about the developing bust of 15-year-old singer Charlotte Church, and that the Mail's coverage was preceded by "close-ups" of the "bikini princesses" Beatrice and Eugenie, who were 12 and 11 at the time.[29][30][31]

Columnist for The Guardian Ros Coward wrote at the end of July 2001: "What's so dishonest about Channel 4's defence of Brass Eye as a satire of media forms is the implication that they (and the liberal left in general) have a better truth than the tabloids. They don't. ... [I]t suggests concern about sex abuse is exaggerated and that victims' shame and humiliation doesn't matter. That's why there were so many complaints."[11]

Home media

A DVD released in 2001 reinstated most of the material cut from the original, although a few items were removed, most notably the subliminal messages directed at Michael Grade and an interview with Graham Bright MP in the "Drugs" episode. A disclaimer was also added to the "Drugs" episode at the request of David Amess.


  1. ^ a b c d Gossop, Michael (28 April 2013). Living with drugs (Seventh ed.). Farnham, Surrey, England: Ashgate. p. 21. ISBN 9781472400079. Retrieved 31 July 2015.
  2. ^ Department of the Official Report (Hansard), House of Commons, Westminster. "House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 23 Jul 1996 (pt 10)". Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  3. ^ Bad AIDS vs Good AIDS on YouTube
  4. ^ Cozens, Claire (5 July 2001). "C4 pulls Brass Eye special". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  5. ^ Ferguson, Euan (5 August 2001). "Why Chris Morris had to make Brass Eye". Retrieved 18 September 2018. broadcast by Channel 4 on and repeated
  6. ^ "Paediatrician attacks 'ignorant' vandals". BBC News Online. 30 August 2000.
  7. ^ McNally, Paul (11 May 2012). "Rebekah Brooks: Anti-paedophile campaign 'could have been done better'". Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  8. ^ "MPs' Brass Eye complaints rejected". BBC News Online. 31 January 2002. Retrieved 27 August 2014.
  9. ^ Channel 4 defends 'sick' satir', BBC News Online, 28 July 2001
  10. ^ a b McCartney, Jenny, "Are there no limits?", The Daily Telegraph, 29 July 2001
  11. ^ a b Coward, Ros (31 July 2001). "It had no place on TV". The Guardian.
  12. ^ "Awards nod revives Brass Eye row". BBC News. 27 February 2002. Retrieved 16 November 2019.
  13. ^ Thorpe, Vanessa (22 October 2017). "Twenty years on … how comedy genius Chris Morris invented 'fake news'". The Observer. London. Retrieved 22 October 2017.
  14. ^ a b "Oxide Ghosts: The Brass Eye Tapes". Summer 2017. Archived from the original on 15 September 2017. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  15. ^ a b "Oxide Ghosts: The Brass Eye Tapes". 10 May 2017. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  16. ^ Logan, Brian (22 March 2022). "Brass Eye's outtakes show the brutal TV comedy was the tip of an iceberg". The Guardian.
  17. ^ a b c Culf, Andrew (18 November 1996). "Satire show dropped over drug 'cake' joke: Andrew culf on the furore about C4's anarchic brass eye". The Guardian. p. 8. ProQuest 187952135.
  18. ^ a b "NEWS IN BRIEF - CHANNEL 4 SETS NEW DATE FOR BRASS EYE SCREENING". Broadcast. 10 January 1997. p. 8. ProQuest 1705171304.
  19. ^ "TV of the year". Vox. 1 January 1998. p. 88. ProQuest 1776915611.
  20. ^ White, Jim (25 November 1996). "Ascent of an iconoclast". The Guardian. p. 6. ProQuest 187905326.
  21. ^ a b c McCann, Paul (18 May 1997). "Brass Eye wins over watchdog". The Independent. Archived from the original on 8 July 2022. Retrieved 17 June 2023.
  22. ^ a b Dowell, Ben (23 April 2009). "In pictures: Michael Grade's highs and lows". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 July 2015.
  23. ^ Adams, Erik; Bowman, Donna; Dyess-Nugent, Phil; Koski, Genevieve; McGee, Ryan; Sims, David; VanDerWerff, Todd (17 July 2013). "Brass Eye's 'Paedogeddon!' Inflamed the U.K.—But Was That the Point? • TV Club". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
  24. ^ "Blunkett rages over Channel 4 child sex satire".
  25. ^ "A distasteful spectacle". The Daily Telegraph. 30 July 2001.
  26. ^ "Television so gormless even Big Brother would have switched off". The Times. 30 July 2001.
  27. ^ "Programme causes predictable storm". BBC News Online. 30 July 2001.
  28. ^ Ward, Lucy (30 July 2001). "TV spoof to bring tougher regulation". The Guardian.
  29. ^ "Perv Spoof Bosses Axe Wrestling". 2001. Archived from the original (copy of article from the Daily Star) on 6 August 2001. Retrieved 17 July 2012.
  30. ^ Ferguson, Euan (5 August 2001). "Why Chris Morris had to make Brass Eye". The Observer. Retrieved 17 July 2012. Mail … (headed 'Unspeakably sick', the words of one of the Ministers who hadn't watched it) was preceded by close-ups of Princesses Beatrice (13) and Eugenie (11) in their bikinis; in the Star, beside a shock-horror-sicko Morris story, sat a picture of singer Charlotte Church in a tight top ('She's a big girl now … chest swell!'). Church is 15.
  31. ^ Howse, Christopher (31 July 2001). "Meddling ministers who can't tell satire from voyeurism". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 17 July 2012. Daily Mail carried a banner headline "Unspeakably sick" across a double-page … the Mail printed a large colour picture of the "bikini princesses" … in skimpy swimwear. How old are the "bikini princesses"? They are 11 and 12