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Who Framed Michael Eisner

When it comes to rumours and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, you all know the drill. Eddie Valiant and Jessica chase Judge Doom out of Toontown, they crash spectacularly, sail through the air, Jessica’s dress hitches up, and you may or may not be able to see her hairy minge. The whole thing has been investigated in great detail, although frankly not quite enough detail for my taste.

Still, that’s not what this piece is about. No, my query is about another rumour associated with the film – and specifically, about this scene in Toontown with Eddie:

allyson

We’ll let the previously linked to Snopes article give us the basics (emphasis mine):

“In another scene, Bob Hoskins steps into a Toon Town men’s room. Graffiti on the wall reads “For a good time, call Allyson Wonderland”, with the phrase “The Best Is Yet to Be” appearing underneath it. Allegedly, Disney chairman Michael Eisner’s phone number replaces the latter phrase for one frame. Although the “Allyson Wonderland” graffiti is clearly visible on laserdisc, Eisner’s phone number is not. If the phone number was in the film originally (as rumor has it was), it was removed before the home versions of the movie were made available.”

The removal of this phone number seems to apply to every single home version of the film I – or seemingly anyone – has ever come across. LaserDisc, VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, the lot. If Eisner’s phone number was ever there in the film’s theatrical release, it’s gone from the retail versions. If is was ever there, of course. Because without evidence, this really starts to take on the feeling of an urban legend. Notably, Snopes has no actual evidence to offer, and the article goes out its way to label the phone number story as a rumour.

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■ Posted 2nd June 2016 @ 10am in Best Of, Comedy, Film, Television. 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

Opening titles from A Touch of Class

Fawlty Towers - opening titles from The Builders

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 Best Of, Comedy, Television. 1 Comment.

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.

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 Comedy, Television. 3 Comments.

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 Comedy, Television. 1 Comment.

The End of an Era: Yewtree Edition

On the 31st Aug 15, an event was to happen of such earth-shattering proportions, that it was to shatter the earth to its very proportions. Smashie & Nicey: The End of an Era was repeated on BBC Two, for the first time since 2010. And… well, an awful lot has happened since 2010. Were we about to get a butchered-to-hell edit?

Perhaps surprisingly, no. The edits were minimal – in fact, comparing the two versions side-by-side, I only spotted two. Let’s take a look, shall we?

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■ Posted 1st September 2015 @ 9am in Comedy, Television. No Comments Yet.

An Archive of Mediocre Television Reviews

Having gone on yet another explosive rant about Sam Wollaston recently, I am reminded that I’ve never linked to any of the TV reviews I’ve written for other sites on here. Part of me, to be honest, is disinclined to do so; some of the pieces I’m not very proud of at all. But there’s some good stuff amongst the dross, and besides: I’m cursed with a bizarre sense of fair play. If I’m going to be slagging people off on Twitter, or writing about poor journalism on here, it only feels fair to actually link to some of the stuff I’ve done which I’m not that keen on, rather than pretend it never existed.

So, here is a full archive of television reviews I have written elsewhere. These are mainly from the now-defunct media blog Noise To Signal, although there’s a couple from still active Doctor Who site Unlimited Rice Pudding!, and one from Red Dwarf fansite Ganymede & Titan. It doesn’t include anything lurking in Dirty Feed’s archive, or reviews of anything which isn’t strictly a television episode.

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■ Posted 25th August 2015 @ 6pm in Comedy, Meta, Television. 2 Comments.

The Most Important Thing You Will Ever Read About 9/11

The A.V. Club, “Fans discover Friends deleted an airport security subplot after 9/11″:

“For a show set in New York City in the late ’90s and early 2000s, it’s odd how little Friends ever touched on the events of September 11. In fact, the show never once commented on the tragic occasion, with the closest mention coming from an “FDNY” shirt Joey wore in later seasons. And yet recently, Friends fans uncovered a deleted subplot from an eighth season episode that actually dealt with airport security that was cut from a post-9/11 episode. Of course, it had nothing to do with the then-recently upgraded TSA practices; it just happened to be a bomb joke in an airport.”

OK, so let’s take a look at that video. Firstly: “Uploaded on Feb 6, 2007”. Slightly stretches the definition of “recent” in this context, doesn’t it? As in: the video was actually uploaded far closer to 9/11 than to today. Five and a half years on from 9/11; eight and a half years ago from now.

Secondly… what’s all this “fans” thing? That video – official opening scrolltext and all – is clearly an extra on a DVD release. So it’s less a “fans uncovered” thing, and more “production tells everyone ages ago in an officially licensed commercial product”. Sure, glancing around, it seems the video has gone viral recently – but pretending that this is new is just inaccurate.

Thirdly: embedding a video which purely rips off an extra from a DVD release makes me feel rather queasy. True, I did it on this G&T article – but it’s hardly the main focus of the article, and I did a load of pimping of the DVDs before I felt comfortable with it. The video in the A.V. Club article is really the main content of the piece, and it’s not attributed correctly anyway. Bleugh.

Despite my “hilarious” headline: of course none of this is the most important stuff in the world. And yet… it does point towards a major problem with some of the writing of this kind of material online: the pretence that everything has to be new, now, current. There’s an interesting article to be written about how material from 2007 suddenly goes viral, and the author steadfastly refuses to take it.

This article misrepresents when the material was released, and where the material came from. Two very important facts, waylaid in the attempt to make the story seem exciting and new. That’s just rubbish.

■ Posted 24th August 2015 @ 11pm in Comedy, Journalism, Television. 1 Comment.

How Journalism Works Part #274952

So, a new series of The Brittas Empire is apparently in development.

The Mirror:

“The show ran for 53 episodes from 1991 to 1997 and regularly attracted nearly 10 million viewers.”

Mail Online:

“During its six-year run, some 53 episodes of the show were broadcast.”

The Express:

“At the height of its success, The Brittas Empire would draw an estimated 10 million viewers for the BBC, running for 53 episodes between 1991 and 1997.”

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■ Posted 10th July 2015 @ 4pm in Comedy, Journalism, Television. 4 Comments.

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