The Comic Strip Presents… Bad News Tour

When I was a kid in the mid 80s, The Young Ones was one of the best things you could watch on TV. It was anarchic, rude (people said things like “bastard”!), and basically like nothing else we were watching, local or otherwise. In the fullness of time, we can see that series as being integral to the ‘alternative comedy’ genre that was taking off in the UK in the 80s at the time, pointing squarely at why the series seemed to fresh to us. It really was new; we were basically witnessing the birth of it.

Three of the leads in The Young Ones – Rik Mayall, Ade Edmondson, and Nigel Planer – were up to all sorts of mischief in the 80s, often in each other’s company. I remember back in 1987, an LP coming out from a pretend metal band called Bad News, which featured the three of them. I can’t recall if I knew there had been an episode of The Comic Strip Presents… earlier in the 80s that had featured the band, or whether I thought the LP was the extent of the joke, however, over time I put it together.

More recently with a box of The Comic Strip Presents… DVDs in hand, I was able to watch Bad News Tour from 1983 which, on the disc I was watching, segues into More Bad News from 1988.

While the starting point would be a comparison to Spinal Tap (the metal genre of music, clueless musicians saying stupid things that they think are profound, behind the scenes of ‘the business’, etc), the two films are quite some distance apart. Spinal Tap are a big band… Bad News are not. They are portrayed as driving around the UK in a busted up van, playing terrible music to non-existent audiences. Curiously, however, More Bad News features the guys genuinely playing in front of a massive crowd at the Monsters of Rock festival at Castle Donington in 1986, despite having been defunct in the years since Bad News Tour, but presumably having made it soon after the first film.

The films are a mixed bag. Yes, they have their moments. There are some extremely clever lines. Maybe not laugh out loud material on the whole, but stuff that makes the corner of your mouth curl as you think, “I see what you did there…” which can be a very pleasing form of comedy to watch. Don’t let me be misunderstood on that. Elsewhere, however, I actually found myself getting annoyed at the raucous soundtrack. Please understand, I don’t mind a bit of metal at times, but when it’s largely comprised of Ade Edmondson shouting BAD NEWS! BAD NEWS! in a sub-Vyvyan from The Young Ones voice it’s like, yes, I get the joke… they’re a crap metal band and aren’t very self aware… can we move on? However, because it’s all about a band, the music just goes on and on and on in almost every scene. It was actually making me quite agitated towards the end of More Bad News. To talk of Spinal Tap again, the music in that film is really well recorded, understandable, and funny. The music in Bad News is quite a few rungs below that on every measure. Problematic in a music-related comedy.

To close, I’m glad I’ve seen the two films now, however, I don’t anticipate wanting to see them again for a very long time. I’m not even going to recommend them to friends, with the exception of, perhaps, die-hard fans of The Young Ones, who might like to see Edmondson, Mayall, and Planer doing this shtick. It’s certainly worth seeing once for people in that situation, but probably very few others.

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