Comedian Simon Amstell, who made a success on his brief presenting of Never Mind The Buzzcocks before jacking it in after two years to create the superb downbeat sitcom Grandma’s House, but now made a mis-step with this spoof documentary about veganism, questioning why would anyone eat an animal.
Starting 50 years into the future, when it’s a sin to eat any form of meat or even to drink milk or consume cheese, we see a support group still struggling to come to terms with their now-shameful lifestyle.
Then going back in time to the 1944 formation of the Vegan Society, the ’80s with adverts showing Captain Birdseye, Ronald McDonald and the Burger King “who was dressed as a king to deflect attention from the genocide”, the 1990s BSE crisis where then-MP John Selwyn Gummer fed his four-year-old daughter a beef burger to show they were safe, all “masterfully diverting the public’s attention from this” (cue footage of the reality of intensive farming).
Yes, I eat meat and I enjoy it. I also enjoy humourous spoof documentaries, but with Amstell’s attempt at deadpan delivery having worked in this past, here – with this 2067 voiceover – it feels like it misses the mark far too often. With a clip of Macca from the Beatles, we’re told, “Paul McCartney launched Meat-free Monday, which today sounds almost as offensive as Ethnically-cleansing-free Tuesday”; and summing the meat-eating process up to our present day, it then pretends to mock up a BBC ‘Back In Time’ programme as virtual reality takes them back 50 years to examine the effect of being in a KFC.
Mixing clips from original programmes and adverts, from over the years, with newly-recorded segments dressed up as archive footage, this one-off mixes elements of Brass Eye into this. However, its best comparison is Armando Iannucci’s Time Trumpet in 2006, such as when they go back to 1976, making out that elements of a gameshow were actually a factual reality and a requirement for progression in life, as it shows men on tricycles and gets across that this was something we had to do back then. It’s difficult to describe without retaining the humour, but then… it’s not hugely funny. Time Trumpet was far better.
Carnage: Swallowing The Past makes a stab at such genius, but it’s a long 68 minutes and even manages to drag the propaganda of “man-made global warming” into the proceedings.
Also, oddly, there’s no trailer available online, so I’ll add in Mark Kermode’s video below which contains a clip. He loved it, but then he admitted on Sunday Brunch that he never watches TV (as he hasn’t the time), so won’t have seen Iannucci’s comedy.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s Sunday and I’m off to stuff my face with chicken kievs. They’re yummy!
Carnage: Swallowing The Past is available today from 9pm on BBC iPlayer, and click on the top image for the full-size version.
Running time: 68 minutes
Released: March 19th 2016
Director: Simon Amstell
Producer: Daniel O’Connor
Writer: Simon Amstell
Music: Jeremy Warmsley
Jeff: Martin Freeman
Dorothy: Eileen Atkins
Maude Polikoff: Lindsay Duncan
Davina: Gemma Jones
Troye King Jones: John Macmillan
Joseph: Alex Lawther
Dr Yasmine Vondenburg: Linda Bassett
Krishna: Martin Gordon
Leon: Roy Sampson
Freddy The Celebrity Chef: Mawaan Rizwan
Edith Paper/Amelie: Samantha Spiro
Peter Smithball: Michael Fenton Stevens
Herself: Kirsty Wark
Herself: Lorraine Kelly
Herself: Vanessa Feltz
Herself: Joanna Lumley
Herself: Bip Ling
Himself: Christian Frasier
Himself: Clive Myrie
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.