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Monday, 30 July, 2001, 12:54 GMT 13:54 UK
Brass Eye's 'necessary comedy'
Brass Eye
Brass Eye spoofed the media's coverage of paedophiles
By the BBC's William Gallagher

Brass Eye's half-hour special about paedophilia should not have been broadcast in full - it only really worked for about 20 minutes.

But it did work - it was good and it was necessary, especially as the reaction to it has been as hysterical as the show predicted.

No one will ever publicly support paedophiles, with good reason, but writer/presenter Christopher Morris argues that the subject is so heightened that we go as far away from it as possible.

His point is that we prefer to rant rather than understand and to bellow lest anyone could ever think we were in favour of child sex.


We need to be intelligent about the subject but our fear of it is such that we are willing to be stupid.

And there is no getting around it - Brass Eye's usually tedious vox pop segment showed just how stupid we can be and how kneejerk our reactions are.

Sebastian Coe
Sebastian Coe appeared in the spoof
"Dear sir," read out Morris to a focus group, "I am a paedophile, please can I have sex with this three year old girl now that she's 21?"

Tellingly, the show cut away from the focus group quicker on this most obvious of gags than it did for others but still we heard rational people in the group saying this letter writer should be in a mental asylum for wanting sex with a 21-year-old woman.

The problem with those segments interviewing members of the public is that they tend to play on people's desire to look good on TV by saying what they think the interviewer wants to hear.

'Nonce sense'

They are also terribly repetitive but here one reason they worked is that they were played against footage of celebrities being just as stupid.

The show's point was too obvious to stretch to half an hour

You would hope that Phil Collins and Sebastian Coe, among many others, would be more sensible because they are used to being interviewed and are used to learning material that they need to present.

Apparently not, as Phil Collins fell for the simplest of lines and said to camera that he was "talking nonce sense" and Richard Blackwood, Tomorrow's World presenter Philippa Forrester and Kate Thornton all talked about a "HOECS" without recognising the very word they were saying aloud.

They had their hearts in the right places but not their brains and while it was funny, the interviews were always underlined with a shudder as you reacted not to the paedophilia topics but to blindness of the people interviewed.


Arguably there were too many pieces like this as they became blunted and in the end it felt like padding but the show's point was too obvious to stretch to half an hour.

Undoubtedly many people objecting to the show have not seen it but the whole programme was really summarised in one much-reported skit of a "paedophile" being asked if he wanted to have sex with a boy brought into the studio.

It did not matter what the "paedophile" said, the presenter responded as if he had said what the presenter expected him to.

Having the little boy there for at least some of the sketch did make the scene queasy but Brass Eye's message was that we are able to ignore the very issues we so loudly argue about.

It was not a great piece of comedy but it was pretty good and, as the subsequent reaction to shows, it had the right idea about how vilified anyone can be for the mere mention of paedophilia.

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