Situation comedy show set in the newsroom
of Globelink News - a cable network news station. It ran for six seasons from 1990 to 1998 on Channel 4
in the UK
. There was also a book "Drop the Dead Donkey 2000" published in 1995 which is fun but not compatible with the later seasons.
The first season starts with the take over of the station by media mogul Sir Roysten Merchant and his placing of an executive (read smarmy Yes-man) in charge. The newsroom is a hot bed of competing egos and petty rivalries. They do however also deal with bigger issues such as lesbianism and miscarriage.
The action took place almost exclusively in the Newsroom and it was filmed and edited during the week that it was originally transmitted. The script contained topical items relevant to the news of the day though the larger storylines had been written long before. The creators were Guy Jenkin and Andy Hamilton though several other writers helped including Andy's old partner Nick Revell who wrote several later episodes.
The news team consists of:
- Gus Hedges (played by Robert Duncan) – The afore mentioned aphorism spouting hatchet man. He talks in fluent marketroid jargon. He is completely incapable of interacting socially with the rest of the team. He is petrified of any intimate physical contact and is still a virgin.
- George Dent (played by Jeff Rawle) – The mainly ineffectual editor who spends a lot of time suffering from psychosomatic afflictions and in later series dealing with his divorce and a daughter who could have taught the Huns a thing or two about mayhem.
- Alex Pates (played by Haydn Gwynne) – George's original assistant editor who believes she is better than Globelink deserves but seems mired in the job.
- Helen Cooper (played by Ingrid Lacey) – Replaces Alex in later seasons. She is openly lesbian with everyone but her parents, and has an on the rebound fling with the Dave (see below).
- Henry Davenport (played by David Swift) – The old, distinguished, randy, misogynistic newsreader who has a fund of stories of his time as a correspondent (often involving Brothels and Bars).
- Sally Smedley (played by Victoria Wicks) – The not quite as young as she was news reader who is a star and lets everyone else know it. She is brought in as a new celebrity face after the takeover and has no real concept of the news she is reporting. She has earned the enmity of the entire newsroom who compete to taunt her.
- Dave Charnley (played by Neil Pearson) – Office bound reporter and researcher he is the office Casenove and pursues almost anything in a skirt. He is also an inveterate (though not very successful) gambler. After a brief liason with Helen when she is on the rebound from her live-in lover he decides she is the woman for him and pursues her (though not curtailing his other activities particularly).
- Damien Day (played by Stephen Tompkinson) – A Roving Reporter who gives them all a bad name. He carries a torn teddy bear in his bag for placing in the rubble of collapsed buildings. He just happens to be in the right place to see the worst atrocities (and if not then just give him a minute). He knows where to get dead fish and seals to perk up a beach shot, and has no hesitation in asking for a reshoot if an execution shot does not look exactly right. Although Damien is never normally injured, his long-suffering camera man Gerry (never seen but voiced by the writer Andy Hamilton) could keep a casualty ward open on his own.
- Joy Merrywether (played by Susannah Doyle) – is the office assistant in the later seasons and probably the only reason that the newsroom runs at all. She is more intelligent than just about anyone else but has a short temper and very poor attitude to authority that have stopped her from doing well. She takes out her frustration on everyone else and no one wants to get on her wrong side. She keeps scorpions in her desk and has been known to electrify the Stationery Cupboard.
The title apparently comes from the process of setting the running order and priority of stories in a news bulletin. A "Dead Donkey" is slang for an unimportant filler story that is there to make up the running time but is the first to go if there is any shortage of time or a new story breaks. Dropping the dead donkey is therefore removing the item from the running order to gain the required time.
Here are some of my favourite moments from the show:
Gus and George are discussing an incident where Damien was along on an animal rights group raid to liberate some basset hounds from a laboratory breeding farm when the target had to be changed at the last minute.
Gus: "At what point did they realise they bred Dobermans on this farm?"
George: "Pretty much as soon as they opened the cages I think."
Alex ends up sleeping with Dave after a drunken party and when the rest of the office find out she stands up on the table and after admitting the deed then proceeds to list Dave's sexual shortcomings in intimate detail. She then looks round to discover that her elderly mother is standing behind her having come to meet her in the office.
Several notable UK celebrities have guest starred in DTDD.
Neil Kinnock the ex-leader of Her Majesty's opposition in Parliament (and now EU commisioner I believe) appeared as himself and helps break up a fight between Damien Day and another reporter.
The now mayor of London Ken Livingstone appeared as an interviewee (along with politician Sir Teddy Taylor) and reduced Sally to a nervous wreck totally by accident.
Stephen Moore (the voice of Marvin the Paranoid Android and a host of other characters including the true ruler of the galaxy from The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy) appeared as a soon to be disgraced government minister.
David Troughton who appears as Sir Royston Merchant's son Roy junior in the last season is the son of Patrick Troughton the second Doctor Who.