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A Year in the Life of Blockbusters

The most popular thing I’ve published here on Dirty Feed this year has been this piece on the title sequence to Blockbusters, scanned from the 1989 Blockbusters annual. Never let it be said that I’ll pass up the opportunity to scan a few pages and profit from someone else’s hard work, rather than actually writing something informative myself.

With that in mind, then, here’s a couple more pieces from said annual. Firstly, here’s producer/director Jenny Dodd, on a year in the life of the show. (On the second page of that article is a wide shot featuring a brief look at the complicated projector setup used for the game board. Has anyone else got a close-up of this famed contraption?)

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■ Posted 18th September 2016 @ 9am in Television. No Comments Yet.

Hi-de-Hi! Edits #1: Raiding the Funny Cupboard

Jeffrey looking confused

The first episode of Hi-de-Hi! is one of my favourite sitcom pilots of all time.1 And for at least the next four series, Hi-de-Hi! is one of my favourite sitcoms of all time. This is for so many reasons, all of which is worth an article in itself, but put simply: my favourite thing about the show is that it’s the perfect mix of everything. Every single kind of comedy I love is embedded into its soul. A show that doesn’t sneer at broad comedy, yet includes moments of amazing subtlety. It knows the magic is in the blend of the two.

Recently, BBC Two have started another repeat run of the show in their Afternoon Classics slot. I’ve long meant to do a full comparison of these broadcast versions of the show compared to my DVD copy – which fully admits on the back that “for contractual reasons certain edits have been made”. I was mainly expecting just the odd music change – but actually, the changes have ended up being rather more interesting than I ever imagined, and for the the pilot at least, actually ask rather more questions of the broadcast repeat than of the DVD.

Let’s take a look, shall we? Just to clarify, the two versions we are comparing are:

Neither of these versions, you will note, is what was actually transmitted originally on the 1st January 1980. So, which version is closest to that original edit? We can perhaps make an educated guess about that later.

All times given are for the DVD version of the episode, so even if you didn’t record the repeat broadcast version, you can skip to see exactly where the changes are. Cut dialogue in the repeat broadcast version is like this.

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  1. Along with ‘Allo ‘Allo!, You Rang, M’Lord?, Dad’s Army, It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum, and… hang on, there’s some kind of link here that I can’t quite put my finger on. 

■ Posted 13th September 2016 @ 12pm in Comedy, Television. 1 Comment.

Blade Runner Afternoons

One of my most vivid television memories as a child was the title sequence to Blockbusters.1 Every afternoon I’d lie in front of the fire, and that gorgeous neon cityscape would transport me to another world.

I often wondered how it was made… and the answer came when I ended up in hospital, and I managed to borrow a copy of the 1989 Blockbusters Annual. Contained within was a four page feature on how the titles were made. I devoured it… and then had to give the annual back at the end of my stay when I had the temerity to get better. I never managed to trace down a copy over the years, and in the end those pages became a distant memory.

Nowadays, I’m an adult, and eBay is a thing. And this morning, I finally saw that feature I hadn’t seen for over twenty years. If anything, it’s even more detailed than I remember, with many absolutely gorgeous behind-the-scenes photos… and well worth sharing with you lot.

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  1. Technically, the second title sequence – the first is nice enough, but nowhere near as good as the famous one. 

■ Posted 6th September 2016 @ 5pm in Television. 1 Comment.

The Dirty Feed Guide to Good Living

I enjoy watching other people have arguments on the internet. All the fun of the fight, without actually getting hurt yourself. It can be immense amounts of fun.

After watching one such fight on Twitter recently – which cumulated in a load of deleted tweets and a half-assed apology – the person involved tweeted the following immediately afterwards:

“Spend time with people you love. Interact with the world directly. Climb/lift/eat/enjoy something. Run. Read. Play. Cry. Smile.

Go now.”

Once you’ve finished vomiting, there are all kinds of issues you could take with that. It seems to be a plea for the reader to step aside from the internet and do other things instead… ignoring the fact that on the internet I still spend time with people I love, read, play, cry, and smile.

If we want to take things further, I’d point out that for some people – disabled, physically ill, or with mental health issues – being told to climb, lift, or run instead of spending time online with people who care about you is not only thoroughly ridiculous, but actively harmful.

And to get philosophical for a moment, the phrase “interact with the world directly” sets off alarm bells in my head. As though there isn’t something direct about how we can interact on social media. And I’ve walked through real places that I should have appreciated in a complete daze. Being there doesn’t always mean that you’re there. Some of the most engaged I’ve ever been with the world has been online.

But all that isn’t the worst thing about this tweet. The mistake here is that this person took their own bad behaviour… and projected it outwards. They knew they’d behaved ridiculously, and clearly thought that stepping away from the net for a while was best for them – which is a perfectly valid choice. But to make themselves feel better, they decided to turn what was best for them into some kind of motto for good living for everyone. A motto which certainly suited them at that particular moment… but is not a general guide to life.

To repeat: that tweet is not actually about helping others. It’s simply about making themselves feel better. It’s merely a useless platitude which is too simplistic to be truly useful to anyone.

My advice would be: when you’ve screwed up, sometimes you should wallow in your mistake. Not for long – doing that can get very unpleasant indeed. (At some point I need to stop beating myself up for mistakes I made twenty years ago, but that’s my own issue which I need to work on.) But sitting back for a moment and simply appreciating your error, rather than turning it into some kind of grand teachable moment for the world, is often the best option. Learn the lesson you need to learn, not paper over your cracked ego by giving out useless platitudes.

Of course, I’m not saying nobody can ever give advice for life. That would not only be utterly ludicrous, but considering this article, ridiculously hypocritical. I’m just saying you don’t need to leap straight to the teachable moment when you’ve fucked up… and that teachable moment needs to be carefully considered, not an instant reaction to your own personal circumstances.

Sometimes, when you’ve behaved like a bit of a dick, the only thing the world needs from you is to recognise that you’ve behaved like a bit of a dick.

■ Posted 1st September 2016 @ 6am in Internet, Life. No Comments Yet.

The Sad State of ‘The Talk Show’ Archives

John Gruber’s The Talk Show podcast – self-described as “the director’s commentary track for Daring Fireball” – has had no less than four separate homes over the years:

As this piece is published, that’s a total of 282 episodes. Of those 282, a total of 80 are missing – all of the first 27 originally hosted at thetalkshow.net, and 53 from the Mule Radio years. (Depending on what you define as “missing”, of course – but more on that later.) That’s a full 28% of episodes which have disappeared.

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  1. Episodes #9, #23 and #27 were skipped in the numbering. 

■ Posted 30th August 2016 @ 7pm in Internet. No Comments Yet.

Being Boring

Recently, a prominent startup founder tweeted the following:

“Twitter seems very boring lately.

Actually, maybe it’s the whole tech industry—there’s less drama, fewer interesting characters to follow.”

It struck me as one of the oddest things I’ve ever seen posted on Twitter. It seems to be based on the idea that they only follow people talking about the tech industry. And if you only follow people posting about the tech industry on Twitter, of course it’s going to get fucking boring.

I follow my fair share of people posting about tech on Twitter, obviously. Speaking purely personally, none of them are the most interesting people in my feed. (The most interesting people tend to tweet about old sitcoms, or sex, or sex in old sitcoms.) But what I love reading about on Twitter is merely my personal preference. The bigger issue here is: if you only surround yourself with voices which talk about tech, do you even care about the things that tech is supposed to be enabling?

You don’t write a blogging platform for the sake of writing a blogging platform; you write it to help people tell a story. You don’t write a messaging app for the sake of writing a messaging app; you write it to help people communicate. You don’t work on self-driving cars for the sake of working on self-driving cars; you do it to improve people’s lives. Stories, communication, lives… which are not about tech. If you aren’t interested in all the non-tech stuff going on around you, why even care about tech itself in the first place? Tech isn’t there just for the sake of tech; it’s there to free people to do a million and one other things.

I work in television transmission. And of course, I have a natural interest in the technology behind what I do, and the processes involved. Hell, I still get excited about counting the news on air. But that can’t be the only thing I’m interested in. I have to care about the material I’m putting out too – what the intent behind it is, and what it means to viewers. Otherwise, it’s a) impossible to do my job properly, and b) extremely boring.

I have to care about the people and stories my work is enabling, as well as the fucking mixing desk. Even if the mixing desk is also really interesting.

If you work in tech, but all you’re surrounding yourself with is voices of people in the tech industry, you’re doing a terrible job. If you aren’t listening to the voices of the people who use your tech, then for a start you’re not getting enough context about life in order to help develop the most effective technology in the first place. But then, I have no clue why somebody would only want to listen to people talking about tech anyway. It’s such a tiny part of what life is.

Only following people who talk about tech on Twitter and then being surprised to find it boring is just the same as only following fishmongers on Twitter, and then getting bored at endless complaints about the wholesale price of cod. At best, it shows a terrible lack of self-awareness. And it does nothing to persuade people who already think the tech industry is far too insular for its own good to think otherwise.

Go and follow writers. Go and follow archivists. Go and follow sex workers. Go and follow people who are just using Twitter to do stupid jokes. Go and follow anyone who isn’t just talking about the latest Apple rumours and Android Nougat. The world may suddenly seem an awful lot less boring.

■ Posted 26th August 2016 @ 2am in Internet. 1 Comment.

Sometimes

BBC Two today at 2:45pm, before Yes, Minister:

TWO symbol

“You’re watching Afternoon Classics on Two. Now, in a tribute to Sir Antony Jay who died on Sunday, co-writer of one of BBC Two’s most witty, sharp, satirical comedies of the 80s. In the corridors of power, politics was never more popular… with Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister.”

BBC Two today at 3:15pm, after Yes, Minister:

Anthony Jay obit caption

Sometimes, when somebody dies, you don’t need schedule changes. You don’t need to drop everything to run a tribute programme right now. Nor do you need endless rolling news coverage.

Sometimes, a thoughtful continuity announcement and an obit slide is enough. Enough to show that a channel is alive, that it cares about its output, and that it’s respectful of the talent which made the channel what it is.

Sometimes, that’s all you need to prove that there really are real people working on a channel, who are there to add context and do what linear television is best at… instead of doing all the work weeks ago, then buggering off and leaving the channel to just be a box running pointlessly in the corner.

Sometimes, a little thought is all that matters. No fireworks. No razzmatazz. No fawning. Just a channel calmly doing its job.

■ Posted 24th August 2016 @ 7pm in Television. No Comments Yet.

Congealed Smegma

As we enter the final run-up to Red Dwarf XI‘s broadcast in September, it occurs to me that I haven’t mentioned any of the stuff I’ve done over on Ganymede & Titan recently – the Red Dwarf fansite described by someone on Tumblr as “a shining example of how NOT to do fandom”.

A few articles I’ve written which may interest you, then:

It strikes me how most of the above aren’t really pieces purely about Red Dwarf. Whether it’s about the impact of ad breaks on TV shows, how productions and channels should be thinking about spoilers, how the web has changed since 2004, or how science-fiction style concepts are done in non-science fiction shows, there might be stuff that interests you above even if you aren’t a hardcore Red Dwarf fan.

For people who are hardcore Red Dwarf fans though, we have some fun stuff coming up over the next few weeks. Our DwarfCasts have really kicked into gear this year, with our commentaries on the episodes Queeg and Demons & Angels being some of my favourite ones we’ve done recently.1 In the lead-up to Red Dwarf XI, however, we’re going to be publishing new commentaries on Red Dwarf X every weekend – and the one for the first episode Trojan is already up.

I sometimes find writing and participating on Ganymede & Titan to be a weird experience these days, considering my extremely mixed opinions on any Red Dwarf made since 1993. And it can lead to some interesting moments. Our next Red Dwarf X commentary due this weekend is on the episode Fathers and Suns, and features the slightly bizarre sound of me – usually the person slagging off the show – defending an aspect of the episode to Ian, who is usually far more positive about the series than me. That tension will hopefully make for some good listening.

Or, y’know, just really fucking annoy everyone.


  1. There’s also this interview with Mac McDonald, which I had precisely nothing to do with, but is bloody great. 

■ Posted 9th August 2016 @ 11am in Comedy, Television. No Comments Yet.

A Guide to Social Media Done Right
for Game Developers

I don’t usually write this kind of thing, but I feel I just have to share this with you. Doing social media for games is hard, and media fragmentation makes getting attention for your product virtually impossible at times. If only somebody would write a clear, concise guide about best practices in order to give your game the edge it deserves in this crowded marketplace.

Fear not. @Origamiwars is here to show you how to do social media right. Rather than just give you a dry list of rules, let’s take a look at how this pioneering account did things. If you’re at all involved in social media in a commercial context, then what I’m about to tell you is well worth your time.

Incidentally, don’t worry that the account is currently called “AppleCustomerService”. There’s some spectacularly clever stuff that this account does later on which will explain everything. Suffice to say that until this morning, this account was called “OrigamiWars”. All will become clear.

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■ Posted 6th August 2016 @ 3pm in Internet. 1 Comment.

Mammy Gets The Snip

Mrs Brown's Boys Live title screen

“Now on BBC One, expect the unexpected – for the first time, Mrs Brown’s Boys goes completely live. Be prepared for strong language and adult humour. Agnes and her family are waiting in the wings – so it’s time to hand over to the director in BBC Scotland…”

— BBC One network continuity announcement into Mrs Brown’s Boys Live, 23rd July 2016

“Alan Carr hosts the comedy Live at the Apollo, now at 11:15. Before that on BBC One, strong language and adult humour, as we catch Agnes live – and on the hop…”

— BBC One network continuity announcement into Mrs Brown’s Boys “Live”, 30th July 2016

Last year, one of my most popular pieces here on Dirty Feed was this analysis of the 2005 live version of Quatermass – specifically, the differences between the original live show, and the edited version now widely available on DVD. Near the end of the piece, I wrote the following:

“Maybe we should be careful not to overstate the originality of the 2005 Quatermass. Sure, the BBC billed it as its first live drama for over 20 years. But looking to other broadcasters, Coronation Street did its first live programme in 2000, five years previously – and looking across to America, ER‘s live episode was in 1997. But still, as the beginning of the BBC’s renewed interest in live drama and comedy – through to EastEnders, Two Pints, Bollywood Carmen Live, and next year’s Mrs. Brown’s Boys live episode – it’s extremely important.”

One the 23rd July, that live Mrs Brown’s Boys episode was transmitted – and a week later on the 30th, we had a repeat. If ever there was a piece which I just had to write, this was it. Did much change between the two broadcasts? And if it did, will the show incur the hell and fury which Quatermass unleashed from these very fingertips?

Let’s take a look. All times given are from the repeat version of the episode, so you can watch along and see where the changes were, even if you haven’t got a copy of the original episode itself. Incidentally, the version now available on iPlayer is the edited repeat version.

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■ Posted 1st August 2016 @ 11am in Comedy. No Comments Yet.

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