Shiny Shelf

The Armando Iannucci Shows

By Eddie Robson on 11 November 2003

Ordinarily we wouldn’t cover a repeat screening here, but I’ve been waiting for Channel 4 to give ‘The Armando Iannucci Shows’ another airing for more than two years and now that it’s finally happening (at 11:45pm – and just watch it slide back into the early hours of the morning over the next few weeks) I would like to draw some attention to it.

Armando is the man behind ‘The Day Today’ and ‘I’m Alan Partridge’, but audiences don’t seem to have warmed as well to his solo TV vehicles. ‘The Armando Iannucci Shows’ demonstrate that this is the public’s loss. Iannucci is a unique talent, adding touches of surrealism to whatever he works upon. ‘The Day Today’ and its various spin-offs mingled this with satire, but his ‘Shows’ take a more stream-of-consciousness approach: it’s like looking inside his head for half-an-hour.

It’s quite difficult to describe the format. It’s a little like a sketch show, it’s a little like stand-up comedy with accompanying images. It’s often literally observational in nature, since Iannucci will frequently relate something that he claims to have seen: generally, these will at once be instantly recognisable and completely outlandish. It may well appeal to you if you like Eddie Izzard, although Ianucci’s measured, level delivery tends to belie the insanity of what he’s actually saying.

In one section, the terminally ill go on a time management course. In another, the nonsensical burblings of nostalgics are parodied: “When ‘Return of the Jedi’ came out, there were street parties. George V came out to see it, and we were all given a silver sixpence with a picture of Queen Victoria on one side and a picture of Jabba the Hut on the other.” My favourite part – which occurs in episode seven – has to be his lengthy monologue on why the most depressing words in the English language are ‘Except for viewers in Scotland’.

I have no idea what Armando is doing next – his recent attempt to relaunch the ‘Saturday Night Armistice’ format on Channel 4, under the title ‘Gash’, was curiously lifeless and wasn’t picked up for a series. He says he isn’t doing a second series of the ‘Shows’. Whatever he does, it’ll be worth following.

Click here to order Armando’s book, ‘Facts and Fancies’, from

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By Eddie Robson

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