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The Fragility of the Web

My late-night web browsing covers a wide variety of esoteric topics. Sometimes I find myself looking at the in-depth technical specs of the Evel Knievel pinball machine. Or amazing barely-released Xenomania tracks. Or early versions of toys which ended up becoming Transformers. You get the picture.

The other day, I found myself in a spiral of links about Favrd – an old Twitter favourites aggregator run by Dean Allen1 which was shut down in 2009. At the time, Jeffrey Zeldman wrote this poignant piece about how web communities end. And everywhere round the internet, there was the plaintive cry – from Andy Baio, John Gruber, and Zeldman himself: if only Dean had kept the archives of the site online.

Pleasingly, however, we’re not left in the dark as to his motives. Dean answered these criticisms in the comments section of Zeldman’s blog. Hang on, I’ve got it here, it’s linked to on Daring Fireball… oh, wait, it’s gone?! Yes, Jeffrey Zeldman got rid of all comments on zeldman.com a couple of months back.

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  1. Dean’s online presence sadly seems to have disappeared entirely. His Twitter was last updated in 2013, and his website is long gone. 

■ Posted 29th April 2016 @ 6am in Internet. 1 Comment.

How the Internet Works #82748293

The Bodies of Leakin Park, “Hae Min Lee”, from October 16th 2014:

“Maybe my prejudice is showing through but who in their right mind lets their daughter date a man named “Adnan Musud Syed”? Putting that aside, I am intrigued that Mr. Syed is at Cumberland. I could see where he would have spent the first 5 years of his sentence there, since that is where the state likes to send violent offenders first to cool off, however, there is a point in time where an inmate has to grow a pair and face the general pop in Hagerstown. It’s been long enough, Mr. Syed is 28, let’s quit coddling him.”

Serial, Season 1 Episode 10, “The Best Defense is a Good Defense”, from 4th December 2014:

SARAH KOENIG: Reporting this story, I found plenty of examples of casual prejudice against Muslims. One of Adnan’s teachers for example: “Think about what he would have been taught about women and women’s rights.” Another teacher I talked to told me she was terrified at the time that Adnan’s relatives were going to come after her for talking to the detectives. She told me she assumed his parents were evil. On that website that lists all the bodies found in Leakin Park, the author’s commentary about Hae Min Lee’s case is: “Maybe my prejudice is showing through but who in their right mind lets their daughter date a man named Adnan Musud Syed?”

The Bodies of Leakin Park, “Hae Min Lee”, today.1 The section quoted from October 2014 above is entirely deleted. In its place:

“1) I am intrigued that Mr. Syed is at Cumberland. I could see where he would have spent the first 5 years of his sentence there, since that is where the state likes to send violent offenders first to cool off, however, there is a point in time where an inmate has to grow a pair and face the general pop in Hagerstown. Nobody is asking the tough questions as to why he is still in Cumberland, could it be unruly behavior?

2) Sarah Koenig is the most irresponsible self-serving human being on the planet. Adnan Syed is not getting out of prison ever, he’s guilty.”

Whether this change was an appropriate and convincing way of dealing with Koenig’s comments, I shall leave as an exercise for the reader.


  1. Looks like the page was edited on the 7th and 16th of December 2014 – three days and 12 days after the Serial episode was published respectively. 

■ Posted 4th April 2016 @ 5am in Internet. No Comments Yet.

Fawlty Towers: A Touch of Class

Fawlty Towers sign from pilot episode

19th September 1975, 9pm, BBC2, and the first programme of a little series called Fawlty Towers is broadcast. And whilst most of that first series of Fawlty Towers was shot in the summer of 1975, the very first episode – A Touch of Class – was recorded eight months earlier, in December 1974. The reason for this is simple: that first programme was a pilot. Unlike some programmes, which are re-recorded entirely for their first episode1, most of that pilot made it to air more or less in its original form. For instance, the opening sign is a different design in the pilot episode compared to every single other programme in the first series, and the theme music is also a different recording. Indeed, you wonder why, when it came to broadcast, they didn’t at least change the opening titles to be consistent with the other episodes, but I digress.

Fawlty Towers - opening titles from A Touch of Class
Fawlty Towers - opening titles from The Builders

Opening titles from A Touch of Class

Opening titles from The Builders


One detail, however, was changed between the initial pilot recording, and its broadcast. Polly was originally meant to be a philosophy student – and that’s what she was in that pilot episode. For the series, they decided to change her to being an art student – and so they reshot parts of the pilot to incorporate the change. To quote John Cleese, in an interview on the 2001 DVD release:

CLEESE: She in the pilot episode was a philosophy student, and we didn’t feel that worked as well as art student, so we re-recorded just a little – maybe four or five minutes – and cut that into the first episode before it was transmitted to the general public.

The obvious question to ask, then – at least, if you’re me – is: which parts of the transmitted episode were reshot? And was it really four or five minutes of material? But whilst you could easily guess about one section which was reshot, for years that was all the information we really had about the change.

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  1. Citizen Smith is a good example of a show which had a pilot, and then was completely reshot for its first episode broadcast six months later – both are on the DVD, and it’s fascinating to compare them. 

■ Posted 20th March 2016 @ 11am in Comedy, Television. No Comments Yet.

Men Behaving Badly: Stag Night

Men Behaving Badly - title sequence

Last time I talked about the BBC Writersroom on this site, I wasn’t exactly complimentary. But it’s not like there aren’t positive things which have come out of the initiative – and one of those things is the Script Library: a collection of BBC TV, Radio and Film scripts.

Of course, the scripts that garner the most attention are things like Steven Moffat’s four solo-written scripts for Doctor Who Series 9. But if you dig deeper into the archive, there are all kinds of other gems. And one of those gems is the script for Series 6, Episode 1 of Men Behaving Badly: Stag Night. And if you pay attention, you’ll notice there are there’s all kinds of little changes compared to the final broadcast version of the episode which are Really Rather Interesting.

Let’s take a look, shall we? Cut or changed material is marked like this. Note that I haven’t listed every single slight difference in the dialogue; in general, the actors seem to have been at liberty to reword things as they saw fit. Let’s concentrate on the interesting changes.

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■ Posted 4th February 2016 @ 12pm in Comedy, Television. 1 Comment.

Dirty Feed: Best of 2015

Happy New Year, everyone. And another year, another opportunity to be self-aggrandising and pretend it’s all in the spirit of “reflection”. Nevertheless, here are some of my favourite articles on Dirty Feed from the last 12 months. ENJOY IT YOU SCUM, ENJOY IT OR I WILL HAVE YOU KILLED.


On Automation.
Specifically, why automation isn’t to blame when a TV channel falls off air. Mainly written so I can smugly point to it when someone randomly complains about TV automation on Twitter. Yes, I am a complete cunt, why do you ask?

11 Things Wrong With Fawlty Towers
By far my most popular article all year in terms of hits… mainly because most of the words are John Cleese’s, not mine. My main aim was to prove to everyone that the John Cleese commentaries on the Remastered boxset are absolutely glorious, and well worth repurchasing the show for alone.

Acorn Fools’ Day
A trek through some fun April Fools gags in Acorn computer magazines of the 80s and 90s – and one of those articles I’ve been meaning to write for years, and then finally got round to. I’d love someone to write something similar about magazines for other platforms. Please?

Duncan Newmarch: “The Jingles I Grew Up With”
A chat with BBC continuity announcer Duncan Newmarch about why he loves radio jingles so much… and why he put together a montage of them which lasts two hours. I really must do more interviews, as “somebody else talking instead of me” is usually a relief to everybody.

24 Hours in Channel 5 TX
Probably the best thing I wrote all year, about a topic which really isn’t talked about much: how a television channel these days is actually put together. (I promised a follow-up piece answering all your questions which has yet to be published: hopefully it’ll be finished this month.)

One Foot in the Grave: Hearts of Darkness and The Thrilling Conclusion
Finally, the answer to a question I’ve been wondering for years – exactly what was cut out of the One Foot in the Grave episode Hearts of Darkness when it was released on DVD? It was extremely satisfying to finally get to the bottom of the mystery… especially when the answer was one nobody could have predicted.

‘The Quatermass Experiment’ Experiment
A piece ostensibly about the differences between the original broadcast and DVD release of the live 2005 version of Quatermass… but which turns into musings about the nature of live television drama about halfway through. This just nipped in right at the end to be my second-most popular piece of the year, which is nice, as this is the main reason the site quietened down for the last few months – it was an absolute bitch to research and write.


And bringing up the rear: why Comedy Central are IDIOTS, the history of jingles, how journalism works, and a look at edits made to The Fast Show on DVD. Oh, and this site hasn’t updated since I slagged it off, which is amusing.

So, a little self-indulgent ramble. Whilst I don’t sit obsessing over stats, “Are people reading your stuff?” in a general sense is always nice to know. 2015 has been the most successful year yet for Dirty Feed in that regard, with more readers than ever – in fact, slightly more than 2013 and 2014 combined. This is mainly down to a few pieces being shared rather more than usual, so thank you if you’ve retweeted, linked to, or written about one of my bits of nonsense over the past year. I really appreciate it.

In terms of the writing, I’m never happy that I’ve written enough, and I certainly didn’t write as much as I planned to. On the other hand, some of the pieces I did get round to writing are some of my favourites I’ve ever done. It feels like Dirty Feed has established its own voice more than ever, and hopefully that voice is “Things most people wouldn’t bother to write about, but you’re vaguely glad that somebody has.”

Sadly, my planned redesign and relaunch of my podcast didn’t happen, and in 2016, the lack of a proper responsive, mobile-friendly design is nothing short of ludicrous. These are my two priorities for the forthcoming year. No excuses.1

And that’s quite enough of that. Happy 2016 everyone. I hope you’ll join me for more nonsense this year. Right, I’m off to research old Buffy fansites which disappeared off the net ten years ago.

I’m not joking. That is literally what I am doing.


  1. There might be excuses. 

■ Posted 1st January 2016 @ 12pm in Meta. 1 Comment.

‘The Quatermass Experiment’ Experiment

Quatermass addressing the nation

On the 2nd April 2005, BBC Four broadcast the BBC’s first live drama for over 20 years: a remake of The Quatermass Experiment, starring Jason Flemyng. It had a mixed reaction at the time – and indeed since – but I thought it was absolutely fabulous. Both as a programme in itself… and to finally watch a complete version of that first Quatermass story which doesn’t involve Brian Donlevy.

On the 31st October 2005, the DVD of the programme was released. Right at the beginning of the show, this caption was added:

Additional opening DVD caption

This caption is a blatant lie.

The version of the programme on DVD is not what audiences saw live on the 2nd April. It is, in fact, an entirely different edit. If you’re familiar with the programme, perhaps you’ve heard that one scene was replaced with a version from the rehearsal due to an actor drying, or that an off-screen crash was trimmed. Both are true; however, this is far from the full story. The programme was extensively re-cut, with many changes made across the entire programme.

I think you can see where this is leading. Below is a list of all the changes made to the DVD version compared to the programme’s original broadcast. All times given are for the DVD release, so even if you haven’t got access to the original version, you can still tell at which point a change was made.

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■ Posted 20th December 2015 @ 9am in Television. 9 Comments.

The Fast Show: Series 2 DVD Edits

The Fast Show Series 2 - selected article

Some people fantasise about power. Some people fantasise about money. Some people fantasise about getting their genitalia constantly sucked by a steady stream of people they have specially recruited. Me? I fantasise of comparing the original broadcasts of every single episode of The Fast Show with the versions released on DVD, and noting down each and every difference. Every so often, someone will pop up on a forum and query something which has changed on the commercial releases of the programme; it’d be nice to get all the facts together in one place.

Sadly, it was difficult enough to track down the original broadcast of a single episode of One Foot in the Grave, let alone every last episode of The Fast Show. But back in September of this year, BBC Two repeated the first six episodes of Series 2. And these repeats are certainly the closest we can easily get to the original versions without disinterring some dusty old off-air VHS tapes.1

Let’s take a look and see what’s different, shall we? Just for clarity, we are comparing the 2015 repeats with the version released on The Ultimate Fast Show Collection DVD set. If this doesn’t sound like your kind of thing, then feel free to go and read the exact opposite of this article.

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  1. It is possible, of course, that the BBC have done some minor edits to the programmes for the 2015 repeat run. They would be interesting to document, certainly, but are unlikely to have a great effect on the differences detailed here. 

■ Posted 24th November 2015 @ 6am in Comedy, Television. No Comments Yet.

Hearts of Darkness: The Thrilling Conclusion

Screengrab from Hearts of Darkness. Everybody in the car looking annoyed.

This is a continuation from Part One of this article, about edits to the One Foot in the Grave episode “Hearts of Darkness”. Make sure you read that first – this won’t make any sense without it…

“On BBC 1 now, One Foot in the Grave. When a day in the country turns sour, and disturbing practices are brought to light, Victor Meldrew comes to the rescue.”

Continuity announcement for the first broadcast of “Hearts of Darkness”

Finally, we have it. After many years of wondering, I’ve finally tracked down a copy of the original broadcast version of “Hearts of Darkness”. Many thanks to go Andy Walmsley for digging out his recording. I am eternally grateful.

And his effort is well rewarded. Because what we’ve found is even more interesting than we might have guessed. Because no, the DVD version isn’t the same as the original broadcast, as I suspected in my last article. But neither is it the expected edited version either.

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■ Posted 19th October 2015 @ 7pm in Best Of, Comedy, Television. 1 Comment.

One Foot in the Grave: Hearts of Darkness

Final shot of programme, just to ruin it for everyone

“Wakey, wakey, everyone! It’s quite nice out here now. I’ve just been watching two frogs having sex!” – Mr Swainey

14th February 1993, BBC1, and the first showing of the One Foot in the Grave episode “Hearts of Darkness’. The episode, dealing with abuse in an old people’s home, caused a certain amount of controversy for its scenes of violence – to the point where the episode was edited for all future broadcasts.

Here’s a quote from David Renwick on the DVD commentary for the episode:

“The version we’re seeing now has been edited, I mean was edited for repeat transmission by the BBC – not in accordance with my wishes, I have to say – and some of the kicking that Arabella Weir does in one of the scenes that’s coming up has been removed, because people complained.”

Which indicates that not only was the episode was edited for repeats, but indeed the DVD set itself contains the edited version.

Before we get into the nitty gritty about this, it’s worth pausing for a moment and talking about why this matters. True, edits to programmes have been an ongoing feature of this site. But this particular edit brings up two especially interesting points.

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■ Posted 8th October 2015 @ 10am in Best Of, Comedy, Television. 1 Comment.

A Dirty Montage

Whilst I’m getting my shit together to actually write something on here, here’s something fun to be getting along with. Over the past few years I’ve been getting some jingles sung for the site, courtesy of JAM Creative Productions of Dallas. My chum Duncan Newmarch has put together a montage of some of these jingles… with the odd added sound effect added here and there.1 Some of the jingles, including the first, are hot off the mixing desk this week:

Yes, that definitely wins the award for “Most Uses of the Word ‘Dirty’ in Two and a Half Minutes of Audio”.

These jingles were all originally sung for US or UK radio stations between the years 1976 and 1991. It gives me a kick that this site can use versions of the same material made for New York’s Z-100 in the 80s, or Radio 1 in the 90s. (For a bit more on the history of these jingles, check out this article I wrote earlier in the year.)

You will have heard some of these jingles on the front of a few of my audio posts, but the main reason I’ve been buying them is for my podcast, which abruptly stopped in September 2012. I’ve been feeling guilty about that for ages, especially as people have actually been asking when it’s going to return. The reason I haven’t really talked about it on here is simple: it felt self-indulgent, and I didn’t want to promise a date I couldn’t keep. Which is good, as it’s been “a couple of months” now for three years.

So, I’d best answer the question properly. Put simply: those first few podcasts were meant to be 10-minute trial offerings, leading up to a proper series of half-hour episodes. Unfortunately, in 2012, I suddenly – to my immense surprise – got a proper career, and things took a back seat for a while. Which is a shame, as I promise a section about Friendship is Magic in those trial episodes, and I had an awful lot to say about that series in 2012. Sadly, it’s all rather been said by now. Hey-ho.2

Anyway, I still don’t want to give a date, but I do have solid plans to actually return to making podcasts. I’ve spent far too much on these sodding jingles not to. In the meantime, enjoy these gorgeous silly jingles. I think every podcast could do with one.


  1. He also takes full responsibility for writing the lyric “DIRTY IN THE MORNING / DIRTY IN THE EVENING / DIRTY FEED! – DIRTY ALL DAY LONG.” 

  2. Not neigh-ho. Or, indeed, hay-ho. I have very specifically said “hey-ho”. 

■ Posted 19th September 2015 @ 1pm in Jingles, Meta. No Comments Yet.

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