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.
When I started this project, what did I expect to find? The odd missing sketch or music cue removed for rights reasons, certainly. And perhaps a few rather more unusual edits which nobody had ever spotted before.
What I definitely didn’t expect to find was this. The first episode contains eight separate instances of missing graphics in the DVD version compared to broadcast:
As to why? I don’t know for sure. My initial idea was that maybe an international clean version was accidentally included on the DVD: the idea being that it was a version of the episode designed for overseas sales, and countries would add the captions back in their own language. As we shall see though, we run into issues with this theory come Episode 2…
Two more instances of missing graphics:
The green VHS control captions are missing throughout the whole sketch. Also missing is the following caption from the same sketch:
Oddly enough, however, that’s your lot. Unlike Episode 1, the graphics are present for all other sketches, including Rowley Birkin and Jesse’s Diets, which were missing from the previous episode. Now, I understand a version of the episode where all such graphics are missing, and I understand a version where none of them are – but a version where the graphics are just missing for the first sketch?
Beats me. I have no bloody idea.
Finally, there is an additional caption for the DVD version:
Indeed, each episode of the series (excluding the first) has an episode number added to the DVD version – amusingly enough, in Chanel 9-speak rather than a straightforward number. But why?
There are many examples of programmes which have had episode titles added to the DVD versions: either as a caption preceding the programme (Spaced, Brass Eye), or superimposed onto the episode itself (‘Allo ‘Allo). Unfortunately, I’ve found it hard to trace exactly why this has been done. Sure, there are examples of when the BBFC has mandated that an on-screen title be added – see the Doctor Who release The Aztecs for an example of this – but that’s been because the main title of the release was missing on-screen. This case is the exact opposite: episode-specific titles have been added.
Maybe it’s just a remnant from the days of VHS: trying to guide the audience as to which episode they are watching, before people selected episode titles from a menu. But if anyone has any proof this was a BBFC-mandated thing rather than silliness from the distributor, let me know.
Additional episode title on DVD:
Next, by far the saddest loss for the DVD release. All four quickie sketches featuring Mark Williams as “Fred Halibut & His Little Banjolele” making his way through the Prince oeuvre are no more. There are missing after Rowley Birkin (15:27), Ron Manager (21:05), The Offroaders (24:55), and Brilliant (27:18).
Luckily, somebody else has captured them and put them on YouTube for us. They work less well all bunched together rather than spread out and punctuating the show, but they’re still marvellous:
Pretty obvious music rights are the issue here. Damn though, it’s awful when such things cut out some of the funniest material in the entire show.
Speaking of music rights, during the extremely amusing Forrest Gump parody at (15:59), “Born in the USA” is replaced by generic library music on the DVD. Gah. Luckily, these are the only two music rights issues for the whole of this series.
Finally, just a single missing caption in this episode:
I mean, one caption missing? What the hell? Why?
The usual additional episode title on DVD:
There’s only one other difference in this episode – the broadcast version has an extra Newlyweds sketch during the end credits, missing on the DVD at (28:42):
Again, I have no idea why that wouldn’t be included – or why a version of the episode without that sketch would even exist. The other two sketches in the end credits of the episode – arse lady and Cockneys – are still present and correct.
Clearly most amusing additional episode title:
The only other difference in this episode is with the Chanel 9 Question of Sport parody – although unusually for this series, this is actually a case where a sketch is longer on DVD, rather than cut. The (fairly vile) Whigfield/butchery sequence with Mark Williams at (17:34) contains the following two extra shots – blood spurting on a wall and Mark wiping it off, followed by Mark being massively creepy with a meat cleaver. A total of seven seconds extra footage on DVD.
I wonder whether this edit was done for timing reasons, or for worries about content? The blood spurting might have worried someone… although personally, I find the actual chopping up of the meat far more repulsive.
No changes at all, apart from the added episode title on DVD:
…and here we must draw a blank, I’m afraid. The BBC didn’t actually schedule Episode 7 of the series in the 2015 repeat run.
It’s worth taking a moment to ponder the peculiarity of this. Repeating just the first six episodes of a seven episode series is a profoundly odd thing to do – falling at the last hurdle, as it were. It’s especially odd when the said final episode of the series features the “moving” Rowley Birkin sketch which gets the audience applause – a sketch which I’ve never been wholly convinced by, but that doesn’t stop it being one of the best-remembered sketches in the entire history of The Fast Show.
If the BBC only had six broadcast slots available for the repeat season, wouldn’t it have made more sense to just repeat Series 1 of the show instead, which only has six episodes? To repeat Series 2 of the show under these circumstances just seems wilfully annoying.
And that’s your lot. Which means, as usual, I’ll end this article with a plea. If you have any off-airs of The Fast Show from its very original showing – including Series 2 – please let me know, either by sending an email to email@example.com or catching me on Twitter. It’d be lovely to put together a comprehensive list of every single edit made to the commercial releases of the show compared to their very original broadcasts.
Then, maybe I’ll be able to sleep at night. Please, let me sleep.
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. ↩