More TV Memories – The Saturday Night Armistice.

The Saturday Night Armistice/The Friday Night Armistice etc. (BBC2, 1995-1999)

This is a satirical comedy series that run throughout the mid-90s, and was hosted by people who had contributed to The Day Today and Fist Of Fun, so it was no surprise that the ideas were usually of a high standard. The main host was Armando Iannucci, who had already been a writer and producer of several comedy shows (and he even briefly had his own show on BBC Radio 1, which was later repeated on BBC7/BBC Radio 4 Extra).

He was assisted by Peter Baynham and David Schneider. The Saturday Night Armistice was the show that looked back at the week’s events in politics, and the news in general. What made this a little different to most shows in this genre though was that there was usually a rather surreal twist placed on events, and Iannucci had plenty of opportunities to show off some of his bizarre ideas and phrases, which he had long since perfected.

There were some recurring features though. These included a puppet of the soon to be Prime Minister who was known as “Mr Tony Blairs”, a group of Princess Diana lookalikes, who would suddenly turn up and try to comfort people, and The Dummies, a manufactured boy band, who they hoped to get a record deal for, and release a single, becoming stars for real.

And there was Hunt The Old Lady, who would turn up on a different TV show every week, and viewers could win a prize if they spotted her. The old lady even once turned up in the crowd on Top Of The Pops stood next to that week’s host Dale Winton. But one of the highlights was when they played a prank on Bob Monkhouse, and the totally baffled look on his face was very amusing.

There were three series, alongside plenty of specials (Steve Coogan turned up in one of these as Alan Partridge), and the show’s name had to be altered accordingly, meaning that there was The Saturday Night Armistice, The Friday Night Armistice, The Christmas Night Armistice, Last Friday Night’s Armistice (during repeat runs), and some editions just seemed to vanish all together.

After the end of this, Iannucci has gone on to much more success, including his own acclaimed Channel 4 sketch show (which I haven’t seen, and I feel that I should). He has contributed to The Thick Of It, Veep (the American version), and Time Trumpet. He has also been profiled on The South Bank Show, and appeared on Have I Got News For You (although he refused to take part for many years).

I also remember when he was interviewed by Danny Baker on the radio. He said that the worst thing that he has done on TV was Gash, a short-lived late-night Channel 4 topical comedy show (“Gash” in this context meaning unused footage compiled for news reports). And he asked Danny “do you always do it standing up?”. But there have been few shows that have reflected on the news like this one.

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