Every so often, a tweet makes you stop, think, and re-evaluate your life. This is one such tweet.
For the record: yes, I’ve done my research and listened to the podcast, rather than trusting a quote picked out by someone else. That is indeed exactly what someone on the podcast says: specifically, Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates.
OK, I admit, I’m immediately suspicious of one-sentence platitudes on how to live your life. But the above really gave me pause. Sure, there are things I look back on where I think yeah, I was bloody stupid. (Let’s be generous and assume that by “stupid”, Ray simply means “had more to learn”.) I work in playout on a major TV channel; I like to think I can deal with channel breakdowns better now than at any point in my career.1 I know I’m a more considerate person when it comes to relationships than I used to be. And I used to be the kind of person who sneered a little at trigger warnings, privately if not publicly; I’m not perfect these days by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m certainly more aware of social issues now than I ever used to be.
But I think back to how I used to be in other areas… and I don’t feel I was stupid at all. In fact, I was better at some things than I am now. When I was writing news stories for Ganymede & Titan daily, I got a knack for how to write an entertaining news story very quickly, which I have all but completely lost now. Sure, maybe I’m happier these days writing more longform, personal stuff: but there are times when having the old skill would be extremely useful, and I just can’t do it like I used to be able to.
Oh, and I used to be able to write headlines.
Or take my current job. Am I happier directing a TV channel now than I was working as a shelf stacker in a cash and carry? Of course I am. But I’d be a fool not to recognise there were certain things about that job which made me a better person in some ways than now, if only because I was fitter and more physically dextrous. Sitting on your arse for 12 hours a day is not the way to improve yourself in this regard. Being on your feet all day scooting up and down the aisles lifting heavy boxes is, no matter how little I enjoyed it.
We are all complex creatures. Yes, we learn and improve on some things as we get older… but we lose things, too. I don’t look back on my older self and see just stupidity; I see parts of myself which I have lost, and wish that I hadn’t. The hours I used to spend swimming or cycling; my interest in programming; the articles I used to write which I’d never dare to now because of self-doubt. As we choose to improve some areas of our lives, other things fall by the wayside. That’s only natural: but to pretend no matter how hard we try that our lives consist of constant improvement is a fallacy.
If you only look back on yourself and see stupidity, maybe you’re just not giving your past self a fair chance. And more importantly: maybe you’re not giving your future self a chance to put at least some of that right.
“Television brings us the Prime Minister, and a faith healer, a bleeding boxer and a sinking ship, a coronation and an assassination. The picture we see may have been thrown across the Atlantic or even off the moon: it can then seem a highly comic sort of activity to write Act One, Scene One, rehearse in a draughty Territorial Army drill-hall for a fortnight, remove the expletive ‘Christ!’ and finally sandwich yourself between Harold Wilson being frank and somebody walking in space.”
– Dennis Potter, Introduction to The Nigel Barton Plays
Much has been written about Dennis Potter’s two plays Stand Up, Nigel Barton and Vote, Vote, Vote for Nigel Barton, which aired in consecutive weeks on BBC1 as part of The Wednesday Play in December 1965. About their takes on class and politics; on how both are some of the most autobiographical works in the Potter canon; and how both plays point to themes present in Potter’s later work.
None of that is what I want to talk about here, however. Instead, I want to take a look at the Penguin paperback The Nigel Barton Plays, published two years later in 1967. This contains an excellent introduction by Potter, and scripts for both plays. Note the word “scripts”, there. They aren’t transcripts of the broadcast version of the plays. These contain numerous differences – in fact, they are the original scripts written by Potter, stage directions and all. Which means, by comparing the contents of the book to the final plays as broadcast, we can tell exactly what Potter originally intended to make it to air – and exactly how the rehearsal process changed things.
Spoiler: Potter wasn’t lying with his amusing anecdote about removing “the expletive ‘Christ!'”.
This article, then, is not a general analysis of Stand Up, Nigel Barton. Rather, it’s a look at exactly what changed between that script and the final programme. Of course, it can’t be a comprehensive list of all changes made to the show; that would be immensely tedious, and any good points would be lost in a sea of minor word changes and rephrases. I have, however, picked up on what I think are the most interesting differences – and I have tried to include every single change when it comes to profanity, as I think that’s the most important aspect of how Potter’s work was changed from script to screen.
While writing this piece, I have also had the pleasure of taking a look at pages of an actual copy of the script, as taken into rehearsals by Ian Fairbairn who was one of the children in the play. Aside from some different scene numbers, studying it gives confirmation that the text printed in The Nigel Barton Plays is the actual material taken into rehearsals. Many thanks to Andrew-Mark Thompson for his help here.
Let’s get going. Material from the book is styled like this, and dialogue from the show as broadcast is styled like this.
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Look, I can’t pretend the last year has been much fun. It doesn’t even seem to have been much fun for all the various fuckweasels around the world considering their general mood, let alone if you’re the kind of good and decent person who appreciates in-depth articles about sitcom edits.
But that’s no reason why you can’t grab a cup of tea, stick your head in the sand for an hour, and read some of the best stuff I’ve published here over the last 12 months. I will even ALLOW you a biscuit or two. Go on, meet you back here in five minutes.
The World is Burning
A piece which stood as my mission statement for the year, answering the question: in a world of Brexit and Trump, how can I justify writing about my silly obsessions, when there are more important things to talk about?
Our Little Genius
Looking back at the fate of an unbroadcast Fox game show from 2010. I really enjoyed doing this piece, and it’s quite atypical of my stuff – essentially a compilation of contemporary reports. (Though it’s a bit of a shame that the exciting conclusion is a little anti-climactic.)
‘Allo ‘Allo: Pigeon Post
An examination of the edits made to the ‘Allo ‘Allo episode shown on BBC One to commemorate the death of Gorden Kaye. (My favourite memory of that episode being repeated was how laughing at Nazis suddenly seemed massively useful again. Which is depressing, but nonetheless cathartic.)
Frasier: The Good Son
One of my favourite edits pieces I’ve ever written – all about what was cut from the pilot of Frasier between script and screen. When you’re writing about such an amazing half hour of comedy as the Frasier pilot, it’s incumbent on you to actually do the show justice. I really hope I did.
The only post on the internet which uses McDonald’s to talk about the intricacies of television playout
The clue is in the title. I love writing this kind of article, as it’s the kind of thing nobody else really writes about online, and hopefully gives a bit of insight into a world which is rarely talked about. (I’ve since been informed that my digression about whether local TV channels are staffed was irrelevant – they are staffed, which backs up the entire point the article is making.)
How Strong Are Your Moral Values?
About how your BBC Micro can judge your moral code, and find you wanting. This is a piece I’d planned for years, and only wanted to publish once the new site design was in place as it’s very image-heavy. I hoped it’d do really well, and be an attention-grabbing relaunch piece… but it ended up going pretty much nowhere. I’ve been writing stuff online for years, and I still can’t really predict how any given article will do.
A Public Service Announcement on Trev and Simon
About how one of the rudest jokes Trev and Simon ever did was censored… and the cumulation of something which has been going round my head for nearly 25 years. Probably the best-structured thing I wrote on here all year – my pieces sometimes have an unfortunate tendency to tail off towards the end. This one saves the best revelation for last.
Writing for Fun and Zero Profit
All about how to enjoy writing online, even if not many people read it. The last half of the year didn’t see many big updates to the site, so it was nice to sneak in something at the end of the year which got some nice feedback. Completely coincidentally, it also works as a nice bookend to the first piece listed above, which was also about how to feel comfortable with your writing.
A few other bits and pieces, then. Firstly, the above doesn’t include the most popular thing I wrote all year. For that, you have to turn to this piece on brokerage company Customs Clearance Ltd, which got nearly three times the hits of anything else… despite being really really really really really boring. That’s what happens when a company makes itself look so dodgy that people keep googling the fucker to find out whether they’re being scammed or not.
One article from last year which I really found myself liking when I reread it this piece on the incomplete archives of online game Layer Tennis. I couldn’t bring myself to list it above, as it’s highly improbable anybody reading this will care about it. But it talks about something that I expect most people who followed the game haven’t noticed, and fills in a little bit of the historical record… something that sadly even the creator of the game himself doesn’t seem that bothered with. I try my best to write things on here which nobody else would bother writing, for good or for ill, and this is definitely one of those.
This is where I usually make my excuses about not finishing the long-promised redesign of this place, and not restarting my podcast. Podcast excuses will have to continue for the time being, but unexpectedly I actually managed to launch the redesign of Dirty Feed last year. There’s still plenty of room for improvement – hey, anyone fancy a logo which doesn’t just look like it was ripped off from Adult Swim? – but at least you can now browse this place on your phone without wanting to stab yourself in the genitals.
And finally: what have I got planned for the year to come? While there’s lots of stuff I like from last year, I think the balance of the site has been a little off, especially in the last six months. This year, I’d really like to do less throwaway stuff, and drag the focus of the site back to something I’ve neglected a little recently: some proper, meaty articles, especially about telly. So you can probably expect fewer updates this year, but hopefully a little more of substance, whatever that means around here.
Now, where did I put my copy of this?
At this festive time of year, I thought I’d talk about something pleasant for a change. So, what about that Max Landis, eh?
“Netflix’s first blockbuster movie, the $90 million fantasy-actioner Bright, is a steaming pile of orc shit; a nonsensical garbage pile featuring elves, orcs, a checked-out Will Smith, Chicanx gangster stereotypes worse than those regrettable “Homies” figurines (a trademark of its director David Ayer), and a slow-motion shootout set to Bastille that’ll make you want to go full Sam Neill in the final third of Event Horizon – that is, rip your own eyes out and run around naked attacking people.
It is also, according to the testimonies of several industry people on Twitter, written by an alleged sexual predator.”
If you don’t know the full story, go and read the full piece over on The Daily Beast. I’ll wait – I’m not going to recap the whole thing.1
You back? Good. Now, as is my usual practice, I’m not going to talk about the main issue here; I can offer no insight into that whatsoever. Instead, I’m going to go off at one of my usual tangents. The following is in no way as important as the real discussion going on elsewhere… but I think it is important, in its own way.
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Gather round the campfire, fellow pop culture writers. Uncle John has something to say. You can sit on my lap if you like. Of course I don’t insist you sit on my lap, Henry. Calm down.
What’s that, Betty? You don’t stick things on the internet for other people to enjoy for free? Go off and read some of my other stuff, then. This piece isn’t for you.
The rest of you: listen up. Recently, I’ve heard a lot of you complain how difficult it is to get your stuff noticed online these days. No, no, this isn’t about you, specifically. I’ve heard a lot of people say it. Hell, I put myself in that category. Take a look at this Tumblr post I made back in 2013.
I’m not going to patronise you and tell you I can make everything better. You might get something from this, or you might not. But the below is how I deal with writing online, when there’s just so much stuff out there it’s difficult to get any kind of attention at all. You might think I’m just talking load of old shit. But I’ve found it helpful, and I thought it was worth getting it all down in case anyone else found it helpful too. Especially seeing as it’s the the end of December, and we’re all busy figuring out our plans for next year.
(I’m also going to leave out any talk about money – from Patreon or otherwise. Whether the below is helpful or not, I definitely can’t make anyone rich.)
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This year, for my partner Tanya’s 40th birthday, I bought her a very special present. Don’t worry, this piece isn’t about what a great boyfriend I am.1 This piece is simply about how something fun can be brought into the world.
The theme for my gifts this year was obvious: the year 1977. Which means, of course, I could just go to town on eBay. But what else can you buy for the girl who has everything, if by “everything” I mean an original poster for Confessions from a Holiday Camp?2 And then it struck me. Wouldn’t a jingle singing her name be fun?
Not just any old jingle, however. A jingle from 1977. A jingle first sung four decades ago.
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Sometimes, you read something which manages to encompass a philosophy so different to your own, in just a few short words.
Take, for instance, this post on kottke.org. Not the image, by Jessica Hische, but the short blogpost underneath by Jason Kottke himself.
“It’s been a loooong couple of days / weeks / months / years / decades / centuries / millennia, hasn’t it? Sometimes you have to laugh, just a little. And then back to it. Thanks for the chuckle, Jessica Hische.”
The idea of laughter as a break, before you get back to the real stuff. I just can’t get my head around that.
Laughter is the real stuff, for me. As much as possible. It’s who I am, it’s what I think life is. Whether that’s sitting in front of Steptoe and Son, or whether it’s lying in a hospital bed in intensive care, convulsing with laughter because of something someone said, in pain for every single second of it.
Personally speaking, “and then back to it” reads like the most depressing five words in the world.
It means back to… nothing.
Another year, and another series of Red Dwarf. And if you’d told me a few years back that I’d be saying that in 2017, I’d have told you off for talking BOLLOCKS. Yet here we are.
Sadly, with another series of Red Dwarf comes another series of LIVE DwarfCasts over on Ganymede & Titan, the Red Dwarf website where I recently wrote about not liking Red Dwarf very much. So what better person to sit and pontificate about the show for the next five Fridays, starting at 9pm tonight? Just visit our Spreaker page twenty minutes before the show starts for some HOT STREAMING ACTION. Don’t worry, I’m just there to cause trouble – there are people far more qualified than me who are actually running the show.
We’re going at UKTV Play pace this year, rather than broadcast pace – so if you want to join us, make sure you watch the episode available for streaming late Thursday evening, not the episode broadcast on Dave the same day. (We know it’s confusing. We know.) This week, that’s the second episode in the series, Siliconia, available right now.
Oh, and as for the first episode? That was last week, and I couldn’t make it. Don’t worry, we got Clayton Hickman to do it instead. Go and visit his Redbubble store, BTW, if you like an obscure TV show called Doctor Who. I’ve never heard of it, personally. I prefer Starhyke.
The owner of a prominent podcast network tweets:
I sit here on holiday in France: a trip made possible by technology. I made that trip with my girlfriend: we met 15 years ago, through technology. I’m currently writing on a laptop, able to share my thoughts at the touch of a button: something made possible through technology. And I’m here at all because I survived pneumonia last year: an infection which nearly killed me, and which I only got through because of, y’know, technology.
Technology is what we make it, and we can make it for good or evil. And of course, there needs to be far more focus on making it work for good right now, which is something Silicon Valley needs a sharp lesson on. But to say “technology is generally bad for us” avoids the very issues which we need to focus on, just as much as the tech bros who laud technology over everything. Both are distasteful.
All of which I thought was obvious, and I’d never bother writing about this usually. But I thought the owner of a podcast network famous for many, many tech-orientated shows saying the above was especially perverse, and worth pointing out. Where wan platitudes replace considered thought we all lose, whatever those platitudes are. And much like this mistake from Jeffrey Zeldman, people look up to Dan and his like for an example.
Still, if I was making shows about something I thought was bad for us, I’d run as far away from them as possible. Through some flowers, perhaps, holding the hand of someone I loved. But don’t trip up and smash your head on a rock. You might need some of that damn technology to fix that.
A week on from Radio 1 Vintage – the BBC’s joyous three-day celebration of 50 years of Radio 1 – my brain is still buzzing. Much like 2011’s Radio 1’s Longest Show Ever, or 2014’s Phillip’s Live 24 Hour TV Marathon, I felt like this was something which was made just for me.1 My diseased brain often ponders the production values of old episodes of the The Radio 1 Chart Show: here was Radio 1 Vintage doing the same thing. My little obsessions were acknowledged… if only for a little while.
The sheer amount of stuff the station pumped out over those three days – 54 hours, across 53 separate programmes – is a treasure trove of material which deserves time to sit, ponder and reflect on. Though one thing is for sure: as delightful as Radio 1 Vintage was, it’s almost more delightful to see how happy it made people – people way beyond the usual radio anorak crowd. I love imagining brain synapses firing off across the UK, when a jingle someone hasn’t heard for 30 years comes blaring out the radio.
Ah yes, those jingles. Sure, they were far from the only great thing about Radio 1 Vintage, but they were a huge part of the fun. And if you loved those jingles, you might love this. Back in 2015, I linked to “The Jingles I Grew Up With” by my great mate Duncan Newmarch, celebrating his radio experiences across the years. For 2017, and in celebration of Radio 1’s 50th anniversary, he’s re-edited it to include loads of Radio 1 and Radio 2 stuff he missed the first time round.
So if you’re suffering from Radio 1 Vintage withdrawal symptoms, this might be just what you’re looking for. (If you get to the end of it, you might hear something fun to do with Dirty Feed too. But the real meat is those glorious Radio 1 and Radio 2 jingles.)
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