Netflix headquarters, 15th September 2031. Despite people’s doom-laden predictions, the company is doing very nicely, thank you. But it’s doing nicely because they’ve finally started making smart financial decisions.
Across the road is where all those smart financial decisions are made. Right next to programme development, in fact. We’re not in the cool section of the place, though. We’re in a nondescript office block. Overspill, where all the boring projects go. It’s surprising it hasn’t been knocked down, and all these people just work from home. In a couple of years, exactly this will happen.
Until then, boring meetings take place here. And today’s boring meeting is about what to do with the latest selection of legacy content, where the rights are running out. David Smith presides over a room of greyness.
“Morning everyone. Let’s get this over with, we all have other things to do. What’s coming up next month, Mary?”
All eyes turn to Mary. She speaks, though it’s clearly an effort to give a flying fuck. “OK. We have Survivor, but the new rules kick in with this season – we only had the rights for this season for a year anyway, due to the new right-to-be-forgotten ruling….”
David rolls his eyes. That one had been a fucker for every company making programmes involving the general public.
Mary continued. “The Price is Right we won’t bother with – that hologram of Bob Barker was a disaster. And then there’s this thing called Black Mirror.”
David frowns. “What? Should I recognise that?”
“I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t. It was a show we commissioned years back. Science fiction, all very dated now, of course. The main problem is the music rights – they run out next month.”
“Worth bothering with? How many views do we get on that show now, anyway?”
Mary consults her iPad Lisa. She looks up. “It actually gets a fair few streams a month, but the cost of those rights… take a look.”
She hands him the iPad. David glances at it. “Hell, no.”
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I remember the very first time I ever became aware of KYTV.
It wasn’t through actually watching it, like a normal person. That would be too easy. No, it was reading a rather snotty reference to it in What Satellite magazine, where some idiot columnist made some outraged remark about the BBC making fun of their precious satellite television while forcing everyone to pay the licence fee. It was a remark which, if Geoffrey Perkins or Angus Deayton had read it, I suspect would have filled them with glee. Irritating various people who deserve to be irritated is entirely within the remit KYTV had set itself, after all.
In any case, it’s easy to accuse the columnist of over-sensitivity. “A parody of cheap satellite TV” might be part of what KYTV is doing, but it most certainly isn’t all of it. If that was true, then for a start, they wouldn’t have been able to reuse so much material from the show’s radio predecessor, Radio Active. No, the targets KYTV had in its sights were fairly scattershot. For every joke about dishy dish girls, there’s another about BBC2 theme nights. And for every joke satirising cheap and exploitative TV, there are jokes which aren’t much about TV at all. You could stick Martin Brown in any environment, and he’d be funny.1
Which brings us to Challenge Anna: the last episode of Series 1 of KYTV, the best episode of the show made up until that point, and up there with the best full stop. In the programme’s sights are Challenge Anneka – a BBC show – and Treasure Hunt – a Channel 4 show. Indeed, neither programme is the kind of thing which Sky or BSB could really afford to make in 1990. And while the feature “Spin the Wheel” could be viewed as what could happen to the formats if dirty old Sky got hold of them, jokes about companies helping out on the show in order to get their name mentioned are very much digs at the Beeb.
Sadly, KYTV has fallen down the cracks of comedy history somewhat – more, in fact, than Radio Active itself, which has had an ongoing successful stage revival, and this year is up in Edinburgh for the team’s 40th anniversary. So let’s redress the balance. With many thanks to Darrell Maclaine-Jones, I have in my possession the script for Challenge Anna. And contained within are all kinds of differences to the broadcast episode – with whole scenes included which didn’t make the final cut.
Let’s take a look, shall we?
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This year, I’ve been trying to do a bit more writing than usual over on Ganymede & Titan, the Red Dwarf fansite run by “over-entitled pricks who are upset that it isn’t actually 1992 anymore”. And one thing I’ve been doing this year is taking some Standard Red Dwarf Facts™, and digging a little deeper than usual with them.
Here’s three of those pieces in particular that I think turned out OK.
G&TV: Covington Cross
This is one of the most endlessly parroted facts among Dwarf fans: the outside village from Emohawk: Polymorph II was an abandoned set from US series Covington Cross. Which, indeed, is absolutely correct. But nobody has ever actually gone through both shows and pinpointed shots where exactly the same parts of the set are used. I have, and for some reason I am proud of this.
Take the Fifth
This is a bit of an odd one, in that this is a “fact” that we had pretty much convinced ourselves of over on G&T: that the penultimate episode of each series of Red Dwarf is where they usually hid the worst episode of the run. But does this end up being true? (I would do well to examine my own assumptions more often.)
You Stupid Ugly Goit
Probably the best thing I’ve written so far this year, on a very early piece of Red Dwarf lore. It’s generally known that at the start of the production of Series 1, Norman Lovett was originally out-of-vision, and the decision was made to make Holly a visual character after shooting had already started. But the details of exactly what was reshot to make this happen are very complicated. I think I drag up a few new things to consider here.
* * *
Meanwhile, back to Dirty Feed. And although I published some fun stuff last month, overall things have been a little quiet over here recently. I do have some silly ideas in the works, though, building up to the site’s 10th anniversary next year.
Stay tuned, as the kids definitely don’t say any more.
As someone who passed their GCSEs through being reasonably clever rather than working hard, found out the hard way that I couldn’t do that with my A-Levels, and then had an absolutely disastrous experience at university for exactly the same reason, it’s perhaps not a surprise to hear that I suffer from the standard exam-based anxiety dream.
You know the one. The one where you’re going into an exam you haven’t prepared for, and don’t know any of the answers. To be fair, this is less an anxiety dream, and more my brain reenacting exactly what I did when I was 18, over and over and over again. 20 years later, I’m still having it on a regular basis. Which, I guess, is my punishment for wasting an opportunity others would have loved to have.
Still, many people have those kind of dreams. I work as a TV channel director, and people in our line of work have a whole raft of standard anxiety dreams specific to our job. I’ve had every single one of the following dreams, and when I’ve told other people in the industry, most replied with: “Oh, so it’s not just me, then?”
In an attempt at some kind of therapy, here is the kind of nonsense our brains decide to inflict on us.
1) It’s ten minutes before the late news is on air. I decide to go to the toilet… and suddenly find myself on a train leaving work. I ring up the playout suite to apologise, and inform them of my situation. Nobody is pleased.
2) Everything is going fine, for once. Ah, right, the live programme’s ending. Time to find the button we press to manually take it off air and go to the next event… what? Where is it? It’s not where it usually is! Help!
Eventually, engineering show up. The button had been moved overnight, and was hidden under all my paperwork. I feebly protest my innocence.
3) For some reason, control of the most important channel in the UK has moved to my childhood home. Time for my shift. I go downstairs into my living room, and the last shift has already left, leaving the room in the dark. They’ve also turned off all the monitors I need in order to run the channel. I spend ages switching them back on, then realise we’re coming up to a live programme. Studio talkback is now controlled through my family PC speakers, and the channel is now controlled through my family PC. I wake up in a sweat, and ponder what Freud would have made of all this.
4) I forget to give the continuity announcer sound, which means their live announcement won’t go to air. When I finally remember, I can’t find the required button because I rapidly start losing my eyesight.
And perhaps the worst:
5) I dream the entire shift, everything goes smoothly… and then wake up and have to do the whole thing again for real. Thanks, brain.
On the plus side, I did once dream of Kathy Burke sitting in a darkened studio, complaining that her weather graphics had crashed. I’m sure you could get a sitcom episode out of that.
It’s 1999, or thereabouts. I’m sitting in a friend’s living room. We’re watching a recording of something from BBC Two. Probably TMWRNJ1 or the like. We’re both huge comedy fans.
Unfortunately, I make an error. Being a comedy fan is fine. But foolishly, I try to have a conversation about the nice BBC Two ident in front of the programme. I like that kind of thing, you see. I mean, at that point, I didn’t even know the phrase “TV presentation”, let alone “TV presentation fan”. This was long before I knew there were other people like me. I just knew it was something I was interested in.
I shortly wished this was not the case.
I can’t even remember the word used towards me. Sad? Boring? Whatever it was, it was negative, and I was an idiot. I mean, I was used to hearing this stuff right through school, but I thought I might escape from it when I went to college. Seemingly not. A swift stab in the heart, job done.
I feebly protest, but can’t get the words out. We get on with watching telly. I brood.
* * *
It’s 2015, or thereabouts. I’m sitting in a certain TV channel’s control room – now on the other side of the television. I’m busy tweaking that evening’s schedule, for imminent transmission over the next few hours. And that involves actually watching a condensed version of that evening’s material.
A ‘2’ in the guise of a toy car glides across the screen. Ah, I know what to do. To make this look good, the 2 figure needs to exit cleanly off the side of the screen before going into the programme. That happens at precisely 15 seconds in. But I’m doing a 10 frame visual mix into the programme, so that means this ident needs to run for 14″15f in order to look good. Hang on…
* * *
CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE®! Choose from 2 possible endings:
1) Don’t let anybody ever tell you the silly shit you’re interested in doesn’t matter. You might find it immensely useful years down the line. People might even end up paying you money to be good at it.
2) Needless to say, I had the last laugh.
The Shangri-Las are not good for my brain.
Oh, God, the songs are. But the thing about the Shangs is that so much about them can’t be nailed down. They are fuelled by myth and mystery. For every story told, there’s another one which contradicts it. Which, I know, can have its own rewards. But romance be damned, sometimes I just want to know the facts about something. And facts and the Shangri-Las often don’t seem to go together.
For instance: the fabled seven minute version of ‘Remember (Walking in the Sand)’, recorded as a demo. The recording Billy Joel apparently played piano on. Which despite being oft-talked about, has never been released. Who knows if it even exists any more?
Still, occasionally, things slip through the cracks. Like the following YouTube video, uploaded in 2016 with very little in the way of explanation or context:
There are many joys in this three minute section. Studio chatter (“You’re forcing it, you’re really overdoing it…”), rehearsals for ‘Remember’, and an entirely different version of the opening to ‘Leader of the Pack’. But for me, the most fascinating thing about it is the opening few seconds. A song which initially sounds like something which has never been released… and then, eight seconds in, turns into something which sounds exactly like ‘Remember’, but with entirely different lyrics!
“…sells bright shining lights
Angry young girl had her boy hold her tight
But not me
I don’t have
Pretty dresses to wear
And I don’t have
Any ribbons for my hair
But I can…”
So, my question: what the hell is this?
Could it be a short part of that fabled seven minute demo? Perhaps, but those lyrics above don’t seem to relate to anything about the song as we know it. Could it be an entirely different song? Maybe, but I can’t imagine producer Shadow Morton pulling a Whigfield and planning to make their follow-up sound that similar to their first hit. Is it just them messing around with alternate versions of ‘Remember’? Who knows?
I have no answers, and the person who uploaded the video isn’t talking. But we do have yet another mystery to add to the Shangs’ mystique. Every single time you poke at their work, new questions appear. Which is delightful and infuriating in equal measure.
But I’ll tell you one thing. The line “Angry young girl had her boy hold her tight” is massively on-brand for the Shangri-Las.
My old pal Duncan Newmarch appears to have a problem. “He doesn’t remember the 80s – he’s still there…”
Featuring an appearance by yours truly, as the last caller of the show. But how can I be phoning in, if I’m living in 2019 and Duncan’s stuck back in the 80s?
I think the answer is really obvious. In fact, it’s so obvious, I’m not even going to patronise you by giving you the answer. Let’s just say my local telephone exchange has a few issues, and leave it at that.
This is very, very silly. Here is what awaited me when I popped over to Twitter last Wednesday evening:
Just to be clear: “locked” means I can no longer post any new tweets. All my existing tweets can still be read by others, but currently I can’t do anything with my account. I can’t even browse Twitter in read-only mode – all I get is the above locked screen.
A few points:
a) I do not think calling a friend a cunt as an obvious joke counts as “hateful conduct”, regardless of whether you like the word or not. Nor does the person I sent the tweet to, incidentally.
b) The tweet apparently causing all the trouble is nine and a half years old. If Twitter had a problem with this tweet, the correct time to deal with it would have been… nine and a half years ago. Asking for this to be deleted is not a reasonable request from Twitter.
c) If Twitter wants to deal with hateful conduct properly, they should ban more Nazis instead.
For what it’s worth, I have lodged an appeal, pointing out these facts. I could get my account reinstated immediately by deleting the tweet, but – currently, at least – I am disinclined to do so.
I have had no reply as of yet. Four days and counting.
As for what inspired Twitter to drag out a nine and a half year old tweet, who knows? Either somebody stupid reported it, or Twitter are doing some kind of bizarre search for pointless stuff. I very much suspect the former. You’d think Twitter’s algorithms would automatically discard reports for ridiculously old tweets, but that would assume Twitter know what the hell they’re doing, and I think we all know the answer to that by now.
I’ll keep you updated. In the meantime, I’m afraid you’ll all have to do without my hateful conduct for the time being. Many apologies.
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A fairly large percentage of my time online is still spent hanging around forums. Admittedly, not as much as I did in 2002, where my time on a Knightmare forum directly contributed to me failing to get a degree. But still enough to notice a rather unfortunate pattern from some posters, across many different topics of conversation.
Let’s take an example, from a TV presentation forum I frequent, perhaps despite my better judgement.1
“Anyone else often wonder what planet certain posters are living on? Very few people care about TV presentation outside this forum.”
And I get it, I really do. Some posters are utterly tiresome with their statements that the entire general public cares deeply about the current set of BBC One idents. Sometimes, you just want to let everyone know that at least you’re aware that there’s a wider world out there. One where people don’t tut or cheer depending on what’s bunged in front of EastEnders.
* * *
There I was, sitting in the TX suite of a popular television channel a few years back. Let’s take a look at the programmes on in the afternoon. Ooh, hang on, that show was made in back in the 80s, was it? I’m sure we have an era-appropriate ident we can stick in front of that.
So I make the change in the schedule – checking with all the right people before doing so, in case anybody relevant is reading this – and then did the junction, live announcer and all. Everything went fine, and I sat back, pleased I’d added something fun to the nation’s viewing that afternoon.
A few weeks later, the announcer collared me, and said her mum had been watching, and she loved the ident. It brought back so many memories for her from decades ago, and got all excited when it appeared. And not just because her daughter was talking over it.
* * *
If TV presentation fans are near the bottom of the fandom pile2, then there’s one kind of fan even they are allowed to look down on: jingle anoraks.3 It seems that in real life, most people just aren’t interested in discussing the intricacies of WPLJ jingle packages.4 Which is frankly outrageous.
Still, when Radio 1 Vintage aired in 2017, celebrating 50 years of Radio 1, a curious thing happened in my Twitter feed. “Oh yeah, I remember that jingle…” People who I’d never managed to get into a conversation about jingles were suddenly enthusing about all those silly six second songs.
It was great.
* * *
Red Dwarf fandom was in quite a miserable state in 2008. It’s no secret that morale was on the floor. We’d lost all trace of Red Dwarf, tempers were strained, and supplies were… wait, sorry, this isn’t Ganymede & Titan, I’ve really got to stop throwing in these stupid quotes.
Anyway, the site was quieter than it had been in years. Certainly, we had less reader engagement than ever before. Then, suddenly, new episodes were announced.
And achieved record ratings.
* * *
My point, of course: this stuff isn’t binary. People aren’t either interested enough in TV presentation to post on forums, or not interested whatsoever. Same goes for jingles, same goes for Red Dwarf, same goes for anything.
Sure, a general audience doesn’t tend to spend every evening pondering unused BBC Two idents, listening to some of the worst radio jingles ever made, or comparing episodes of Red Dwarf and Hancock’s Half Hour. But to presume that somebody doesn’t have an interest in a subject just because they don’t hang around on a forum risks being hugely patronising. Where did all those people interested in Red Dwarf magically appear from and give Dave those record ratings?
Answer: they were always there. They just didn’t spend much time reading a website about it, that’s all. But it doesn’t mean they didn’t care.
* * *
And yes, I used the “For ‘Em” joke back on Ganymede & Titan in 2004, on Noise to Signal in 2006, and here on Dirty Feed in 2010.
I am a complete twat.
The story of the film Nailed is a complicated one.
Not the story we see on-screen, mind you, which is straightforward if quirky: Alice, a waitress (Jessica Biel) gets a nail lodged in her head during a marriage proposal, goes a bit weird, and ends up fighting for better health insurance. No, the complicated part is the story of how the film got made. Or more specifically, one particular scene.
First, a bit of background. Nailed was shot by David O. Russell in 2008, and had endless financial problems at the hands of production company Capitol Films.1 Shooting was halted numerous times due to people not being paid, and eventually production ended with the film incomplete. In 2010, Russell finally walked from the project for good; the film was eventually sold on to a new company, finished without Russell’s involvement, and was released as Accidental Love in 2015 to piss-poor reviews. (With Russell’s name removed from the credits – the director was now the pseudonymous Stephen Greene.)
And here comes the bit I’m really interested in. Let’s take a look at the following Entertainment Weekly article: “The David O. Russell Film You Were Never Supposed to See” from February 2015, which details the original production of the film back in 2008:
“In the push and pull for control, producers held the film negatives hostage and postponed a crucial nail-gun scene – when the nail gets planted in Biel’s head – until the last day of shooting in an effort to maintain some leverage against Capitol’s perceived resolve to release an unpolished film. When one of the unions pulled the plug for good, the sequence had still not been shot. The film was left incomplete.”
This tale is backed up by producer Doug Wick, who is quoted as saying the following in this article in Collider, back in August 2012 – before the film was even finished and released:
“…oddly enough the last scene that we had scheduled – partly because we thought this way [the financier will] have to finish the movie – is the scene where Jessica Biel gets a nail in her head. That’s why it’s called Nailed, she doesn’t have insurance and she can’t get the nail out. So the last two days were getting the nail in her head, and we shut down so we didn’t have the final scene that was the scene that was the premise of the movie. There was no way to cut the movie together without that scene, so I don’t know what he was thinking by shutting us down then. At that point everybody was like, ‘We can’t cut the movie together, there isn’t a movie.’ And then he never came through with the rest of the money.”
All very interesting. So, you may be wondering, how did they actually manage to release the film without that crucial scene?
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