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Close to the knuckle ... but all done with a cheeky wee smile

News just in.

COLOURFUL CAST: From left Margo Fontenberry (played by Rosalind Sydney), Fergus Butler (Jordan Young), Delta Barker (Julie Brown), Sam Macdonald (Gavin Jon Wright), Jan O'Donnell (Julie Wilson Nimmo) and flying at the back is Ross Taggart (Johnny McKnight).
COLOURFUL CAST: From left Margo Fontenberry (played by Rosalind Sydney), Fergus Butler (Jordan Young), Delta Barker (Julie Brown), Sam Macdonald (Gavin Jon Wright), Jan O'Donnell (Julie Wilson Nimmo) and flying at the back is Ross Taggart (Johnny McKnight).

The 2014 Commonwealth Games about to open in Glasgow is not beyond satire. This is the case, it seems, despite the now abandoned plan to demolish the city's Red Road Flats as part of the Games' opening ceremony. Neither does the derision from some quarters which greeted the unveiling of Team Scotland's official outfit seem to have deterred further parody.

Both incidents, in fact, look set to be given a nod in News Just In, the new nightly, hot-off-the-press portrayal of an imaginary TV newsroom from Random Accomplice that forms part of the Commonwealth Games' Festival 2014 arts and culture strand. Set among the presenters of the fictional Tartan Tonight show, News Just In will highlight the show's larger-than-life presenters both on and off air.

Your hosts of Tartan Tonight - named, incidentally, a good six months before STV's new Scotland Tonight show first aired - will include newsroom anchors Fergus Butler and Delta Barker, played by Jordan Young and Random Accomplice co-director Julie Brown, Margo the short-shorted sports reporter, played by Rosalind Sydney, and Ross the Weatherman, played by Brown's creative other half, Johnny McKnight. Then there is Jan and Sam, who, as played by Julie Wilson Nimmo and Gavin Jon Wright, will become two completely different characters each night depending on what the script requires.

"It's mental," explains Brown, blinking into the Glasgow light after spending just that little bit too long in the windowless bowels of the Arches, where the show is being pulled together. "We're all a bit shell-shocked and in a little bit of denial about what we've taken on, because every single show is different. Not just the text, but all the technical stuff as well, because we genuinely don't know what we're going to be doing."

Dovetailing between what is effectively a back-stage soap opera and what goes out onscreen, News Just In will feature material by a team of 13 writers, who will meet daily to respond to events, not just in the Games, but on the streets of Glasgow and beyond. As well as Brown and McKnight, contributors include Douglas Maxwell, Morna Pearson, Lynda Radley and Stef Smith as well as actors Martin McCormick, Anita Vettesse and Mary Gapinski, all Random Accomplice regulars.

"When Johnny and I first started thinking about doing something for the Commonwealth Games 18 months ago," Brown recalls, "at first we were just going to write a show, but then we decided that wasn't ambitious enough. It's such a one-off occasion for the city that we decided we had to go for it big style."

While such unabashed chutzpah is admirable, it nevertheless begs the question which any real life current affairs show must sometimes face, of what happens if it's a particularly slow news day and the writers don't have anything to work with?

"I know," says Brown. "We're basically asking all these people to be funny on demand, but there are safety nets. We story-boarded the soap opera part of things in January, and we've said to the writers that as long as they hit certain points, they have carte blanche. Then the daily writers can come in and see how the characters are developing and respond to that."

Taking the rise out of media folk has become a staple of TV comedy. In America, both Saturday Night Live and the Chicago-based Second City Revue have used sketches based on chat shows, game shows and soap operas. In the UK, Drop The Dead Donkey similarly attempted to combine up to the minute topical references with news-room based inter-personal shenanigans. More recently, Twenty Twelve was an inspired mockumentary style sitcom based around a fictional team behind the London Olympics.

If the show's mix of boardroom absurdities punctuated by meaningless management-speak and PR buzzwords hit home, a sequel, W1A, which moved the action to the BBC, who commissioned the programme, looked a tad toothless.

Random Accomplice, however, aren't interested in biting the hand that feeds them for the sake of it. As Brown puts it, "We're not trying to be horrible about things. We want to have fun with them. The Red Road flats and the Scottish athletes outfits will absolutely get a mention, but it will be done with warmth in what is very much a celebration of the Games."

With Rod Stewart, Lulu, Susan Boyle and more signed up for the Commonwealth Games' accompanying festivities, chances are they too will make an appearance in News Just In's rolling storyline. When exactly that might be, however, will be a surprise.

"People could go and see all ten shows if they wanted to," says Brown, "and see how it changes from night to night depending on what happens in the Games. We're not doing Chekhov, which is fine. We might go close to the knuckle with some things, but like everything Random Accomplice does, it's all done with a cheeky wee smile."

As News Just In's hosts might put it; Bring. It. On.

News Just In, The Arches, Glasgow, July 22, 24-26, 28-31, August 1-2. A brand new show will be performed each night at 9pm. www.thearches.co.uk

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