Men Behaving Badly: Stag Night
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.
From the opening pre-credits scene, with Gary and Dorothy in bed:
DOROTHY: When I went away did you sleep with a woman?
GARY: How do you mean ‘woman’?
DOROTHY: A woman. They’re the ones who have what you and Tony call ‘chest puppies’.
GARY: Absolutely not! Absolutely not, love! No! No way!
This was changed to “shirt potatoes” in the final episode, which is rather more amusing. Chest puppies is far too tame at this point in the series.
From the same opening scene:
GARY: Okay. Let’s get married.
DOROTHY: Propose to me properly.
HE REACHES OVER AND TAKES A WRAPPED CONDOM OUT OF A PACKET. HE UNWRAPS IT AND BITES OFF THE TIP. THEY LOOK INTO EACH OTHER’S EYES AFFECTIONATELY AND GARY PUTS THE ROLLED-UP CONDOM ON DOROTHY’S ENGAGEMENT FINGER.
DOROTHY: Oh Gary. You’ve bought me a ring.
In possibly the single best change in the final episode, this line was replaced in the final episode with Dorothy simply saying “It’s lovely” – meaning we go from something dully explaining the joke, to amusingly riffing on it.
A hefty chunk from the beginning of the scene straight after the titles:
A FEW WEEKS LATER. TONY AND GARY ARE SITTING IN A SIMILAR POSITION ON THE SOFA WATCHING THE TV, LAGER PROBABLY IN HAND. GARY IS IDLY LEAFING THROUGH A COPY OF BRIDES MAGAZINE.
TONY: You know Mark Phillips married Princess Anne in his uniform. Do you reckon he’d forgotten to pick his suit up from the dry cleaners so he thought, oh bugger I’ll have to wear what I had on yesterday?
GARY: Yeah. Still, it could have been worse, he could have ended up in a tank top.
TONY: Yeah. And you know Princess Di’s dress was all creased when she went up the aisle, I reckon that was because the Queen had been hogging the iron.
GARY: Uh huh.
TONY: ‘Cos you’re not telling me, when you’re nineteen odd, you’ve got the confidence to barge over to a Queen and say “How long are you going to be ironing that… top? Queen.”
TONY: So is Dorothy going to wear white?
An extremely interesting cut. The script for Stag Night is dated 7th May 1997, and the episode was first broadcast on 6th November 1997. Right bang in the middle of that was Princess Diana’s death on the 31st August 1997. There’s some kind of link here that I can’t quite put my finger on.
A short erection gag, cut from the same scene:
GARY GOES QUIET. TONY LEANS OVER AND STARES. GARY QUIETLY PUTS A CUSHION ON HIS LAP. TONY DOES THE SAME. GARY TURNS THE PAGE, TO EVEN RAUNCHIER LINGERIE ADVERTS. GARY AND TONY REACH OVER FOR BIGGER CUSHIONS AND REPLACE THE SMALLER CUSHIONS ON THEIR LAPS.
THEY REACH OVER FOR A D.I.Y. MAGAZINE AND THE RADIO TIMES (E.G. PATRICK MOORE ON THE COVER) AND GAZE AT THEM. AFTER A MOMENT THEY THROW THEIR CUSHIONS ASIDE.
GARY: So are you ever going to get married?
This is replaced by Tony simply asking Gary if he wants a beer, and a bit of getting-up-with-a-cushion-over-your-privates business. Perhaps the different magazines simply wouldn’t register on-screen clearly enough to make the gag work.
Again, from the same scene:
TONY: (GLANCING AT LINGERIE ADS) Although sometimes you really want to wolf down a hamburger, don’t you.
GARY: Yeah, you do. Still, the great thing is, nothing will change. I’ll still be the same Gary and she’ll still be the same unique…
HE PETERS OUT, WATCHING THE TV.
TONY: Gary, if I was a girl, with a girl’s bottom and everything, would you marry me?
Not a gag I especially miss.
From the very next scene, with Debs and Dorothy chatting about marriage:
DEBORAH: Come on, Gary’s sort of special. What other man would offer to pierce his nipples as a wedding present?
DEBORAH: Apart from Tony.
DOROTHY: Mm. Maybe that’s the trouble. You never felt that if Humphrey Bogart had married Lauren Bacall in Casablanca he would have been happy to spend the honeymoon dabbing disinfectant on his nipples.
DEBORAH: Well, it’s a different era, isn’t it.
DOROTHY: (GLOOMILY) Yes it is.
A KNOCK ON THE DOOR. DEBORAH GETS UP.
The reference to Lauren Bacall was changed to Ingrid Bergman in the final episode… which is just as well, seeing as it’s Bergman in Casablanca and not Bacall. I’m rather fond of the wistful talk of “another era” and Dorothy’s gloomy response though, so it’s a shame that was cut.
Once Tony’s arrived:
TONY: It’s weird isn’t it, that in a week’s time you’ll be Gary’s other half.
DOROTHY: I thought we’d already established that Gary’s two halves are Homer Simpson and Christopher Biggins.
Christopher Biggins is changed to Ethel Merman in the final episode, which is a far more pleasingly odd reference.
Again, from the same scene:
DEBORAH: Knickers, Tony.
TONY AUTOMATICALLY PUTS SOME OF DEBORAH’S KNICKERS BACK IN THE BASKET AND GOES BACK TO HIS ‘INTERESTED’ EXPRESSION.
In the broadcast episode, Neil Morrissey does a bit of additional finger-smelling business here, because… well, why wouldn’t you, given the opportunity?
Ah, the bit in the episode where Neil Morrissey gets to do his solo slapstick routine:
TONY HANGS UP BUT IS STILL PUMPING. HE LOOKS AT VARIOUS ACCESSORIES: A LARGE METAL STRAINER, PLASTIC TUBING, SURGICAL RUBBER GLOVES… THE PUMPING APPEARS TO BE MAKING NO DIFFERENCE. HE GIVES UP AND FINDS AN ELECTRIC PUMP. HE TRIES TO GET A HAND IN THE RUBBER GLOVES BUT CAN’T. UNABLE TO RESIST, TONY ATTACHES THE GLOVE TO THE ELECTRIC PUMP. THE GLOVE BALLOONS TO A HUGE SIZE AND EXPLODES.
IMPRESSED, TONY LOOKS AROUND FOR SOMETHING ELSE TO INFLATE. HE ATTACHES THE PUMP TO THE POOL. IT QUICKLY INFLATES.
GARY COMES IN, FROM WORK, IN TIME TO SEE THE POOL EXPLODE. HE TAKES IT IN HIS STRIDE.
GARY: Nice one.
TONY: Ta mate.
GARY: What are you doing?
In the final episode, the pool doesn’t actually explode. For an explanation, let’s turn to Simon Nye’s introduction to the episode in the excellent Men Behaving Badly scriptbook: “The birthing pool was supposed to explode when inflated, but it decided instead to bulge and mutate, which was much spookier and funnier.” I’m surprised they didn’t rig it to explode on cue, or something, but there you go.
Just as everyone is about to go out to their respective stag and hen dos:
GARY: (VERY MACHO) Listen, I’m not apologising, on my last proper night of freedom, for doing what men do. It’s a stag night, so I’m going to be acting like a stag.
DOROTHY: (AFFECTIONATELY) Don’t overdo it, though, will you love.
GARY: (SUDDENLY MEEK) Course not love.
THEY KISS AND LEAVE.
Clunes and Morrissey take the opportunity to raise their fingers above their head to simulate some antlers, and do some appropriate unscripted stag-like yells in this scene, which have all the hallmarks of something amusing thrown in during rehearsal.
The morning after
Gary and Tony wake up after the night before. Oddly, there are quite a few dialogue changes in this scene, but here’s the most important bit, which was entirely snipped:
GARY: You paid for her to sleep with me?!
TONY: To be fair, mate, why do you think she was here when we got in?
GARY: I thought she’d seen me and followed me home, in a nice way.
TONY: Why would she have done that?
GARY: Because she liked me!
TONY: Oh, I’m sure she liked you, but not in a sexual way. (CONFUSED) No, hang on a minute-
GARY: Dorothy won’t marry me if she finds out I slept with a prostitute the weekend before our wedding.
TONY: You said you wanted to enjoy yourself.
GARY: Not that much!
TONY: You could have said no.
GARY: Of course I couldn’t have said no! (A BEAT) No wonder she kept calling me ‘Dearie’.
TONY: Sorry mate.
AN AWKWARD SILENCE. TONY LOOKS CONTRITE.
TONY: What was it like-?
GARY: I can’t remember! I don’t think she was very… involved-
TONY: Well, she wouldn’t be, would she, it was a job of work to her.
GARY: I know.
TONY: She didn’t get any pleasure out of it-
GARY: (SNAPPING) I know.
TONY: When I rang round I tried to pick someone you’d like. Her parents come from the West Country, like yours.
Tony’s confused moment doesn’t really work, but I’m ludicrously fond of the snipped ‘Dearie’ gag.
Gary and Dorothy confront each other:
GARY: Well you’ll be pleased to hear that I also had someone to stay last night, someone rather special.
DOROTHY: How is Clive?
GARY: No, actually, not Clive, actually. A woman. And out of respect for you I wouldn’t let her sleep with me in our bed. Now that is commitment.
DOROTHY: At least when I have a silly little fling I don’t claim it was like putting a tortoise away in its box for the winter.
THEY GLARE AT EACH OTHER.
DOROTHY: Well, this whole idea’s obviously a terrible mistake, isn’t it.
DOROTHY WALKS AWAY, OUT OF THE ROOM. GARY WAITS FOR HER TO COME BACK. SHE DOESN’T.
Interestingly, the tortoise line is a callback to the very first scene of the show – so it’s a shame that was snipped, robbing us of a nice bit of structure. The scene as broadcast also has some extra dialogue which isn’t in the script – a snapped exchange of “Yes, it clearly is” / “Yes” / “Right” / “Right” – which sells the argument far better than how it was originally written.
But the biggest change is that in the final episode, it’s Gary who leaves the room rather than Dorothy, which is far more interesting in terms of a role-reversal of how this kind of scene is usually portrayed.
Once Tony gets back from delivering the baby:
DEBORAH: What are they going to call him?
TONY: They’re thinking about Tony.
DEBORAH: Oh, how nice.
This part of the script originally had a bit of a logic problem, as the previous scene clearly establishes the baby was a girl, not a boy. This is fixed by changing Tony’s line in the final episode to “They’re thinking of calling her Toni… with an i”. Lovely. Fixed. Next!
Continuing the scene:
DEBORAH LOOKS AT HIM WITH AFFECTION. THEY ARE SITTING CLOSE TOGETHER.
TONY: Actually, don’t stop.
DEBORAH: No, I’m bored now.
TO THEIR MUTUAL SURPRISE, THEY KISS.
An additional bit of business in the final episode, but not in the script: as they kiss, Tony puts the cushion on his lap. Which is both extremely amusing, and is a lovely callback to earlier in the episode.
From the final scene of the episode, the traditional Gary and Tony chat:
A BIRTHING POOL, UNOCCUPIED BUT FILLED WITH WATER, IS SET UP WHERE THE SOFA NORMALLY IS.
TONY AND GARY SUDDENLY BURST UP OUT OF THE WATER, SPLUTTERING, AND GO INTO THEIR HOME- MADE SYNCHRONISED SWIMMING ROUTINE – GRINNING FIXEDLY AND DOING VARIOUS WOULD- BE BALLETIC MOVES.
WE SWITCH TO A VIEW OF THE POOL FROM A CEILING-MOUNTED CAMERA, WATCHING FOUR LEGS FLAIL ABOUT, THE ODD ARM ETC. THEY POSSIBLY END WITH SOME SYNCHRONISED LAGER-DRINKING AND LAGER-CAN-TOSSING.
THEY STOP AND RECOVER THEIR BREATH.
TONY: And they say synchronised swimming doesn’t deserve to be in the Olympics!
THEY REACH OVER AND PUT A RAFT MADE OF EMPTY LAGER CANS INTO THE WATER. ON IT IS THE TINY BATTERY TV, WHICH THEY NOW WATCH.
This rather complex sequence – which would clearly be difficult to do in a small birthing pool in a studio – is replaced with our heroes just popping out the water having held their breath, and Gary saying “Eleven, not bad.” Probably a good call – it’s difficult to see how this could really be made to work, funny though it is on paper.
And finally, a quickie gag from the same scene:
AS THEY STAND THERE AIR SUDDENLY BUBBLES TO THE SURFACE BEHIND THEM. NEITHER DRAWS ATTENTION TO IT.
GARY: I was reading in Bride Magazine, the average wedding costs eight thousand pounds.
TONY: How much is yours going to cost?
GARY: Seventy-three quid.
TONY: After you’re married is Dorothy going to take your name?
GARY: No, I think she’s quite attached to Dorothy.
I wonder whether Nye spent much time trying to decide the funniest-sounding cost of a wedding.
And that’s your lot. No huge changes – every scene is in exactly the same order as scripted, and huge chunks of the script are identical beyond some phrasing differences. But sometimes with these things, the smallest changes can be the most intriguing.
And the Script Archive makes this kind of thing all too easy. You don’t have to beg production team members, get lucky on eBay, or LITERALLY STEAL SCRIPTS to have fun with what could have been. Pick the script of a show you love, sit down in front of the final broadcast episode, and you may be surprised at what you find…