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17.04.18

Vote, Vote, Vote for Nigel Barton: From Script to Screen

Posted 17th April 2018

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Vote, Vote, Vote for Nigel Barton title card

Previously on Dirty Feed, I took a look at the differences between the script taken into rehearsals for Dennis Potter’s 1965 play Stand Up, Nigel Barton, and what was finally broadcast. (Please read that first piece if you haven’t already; it contains a lot of background necessary for understanding this one.) This time, we take a look at Vote, Vote, Vote for Nigel Barton, broadcast the following week on the 15th December 1965. Fittingly enough, Vote – Potter’s cry of desperation about the state of politics – got bogged down in behind-the-scenes politics of its own, and ended up with a rather chequered production history. So first of all, it’s important to define what this article isn’t.

Unlike the relative peacefulness of Stand Up‘s production, Vote not only had a major rewrite, but that major rewrite was after the whole thing had been shot. Potter details in his introduction to the Penguin scriptbook The Nigel Barton Plays that the play was originally ready for broadcast on the 23rd June 1965, but that executives started to get cold feet and pulled the play seven hours before transmission.

Between June and the play’s eventual December broadcast, several scenes were rewritten and reshot. Needless to say, Potter wasn’t very happy about it.

“The result disfigures the play in a few important ways. Firstly, some of the savagery of Jack Hay’s cynicism had to be muted. It was argued that, in the original, the agent was ‘almost psychotic’. After much edgy negotiation, I was able to settle for what is now in the text – but I hope it will be clear […] that any further diminution in the bite or the fury of the part would have ruined the play.”

The crucial bit for us in terms of analysing the changes made to the text is the following:

“Like the new Jack Hay I, too, have my own ‘private grief’ and nothing will now induce me to publish the original Vote Vote Vote for Nigel Barton (nor the original of my Cinderella). These published texts are to be related to what was actually shown on the screen.”

Which means we have a somewhat different situation here compared to that with Stand Up, Nigel Barton. There, we could be certain that the text as published in The Nigel Barton Plays was what was taken into the rehearsal rooms. Here, Potter admits that the script published for Vote is not his original intention. These certainly aren’t transcripts, as there are plenty of differences between this script and what made it onto the screen – so they are presumably an amalgamation of his original script, and the specific scenes featuring Jack Hay which he delivered as rewrites.

So, what this article can’t detail is Potter’s original vision. You don’t get the old, even more twisted Jack Hay here, I’m afraid. We only have what is published in The Nigel Barton Plays to go on. We will, however, analyse the sections of the script which Potter admits were rewritten… and in at least a couple of instances, we can tell that the enforced rewrite on his character has entirely been ignored when it came to actually shooting the thing.

Enough background. Let’s get going. Material from the book is styled like this, and dialogue from the show as broadcast is styled like this. Note that I haven’t detailed every single change in wording between the script and the screen – only the stuff where there seemed to be an interesting point to make, or where there have been clear censorship issues.

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04.04.18

“Television is a waste of time, people”

Posted 4th April 2018

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Khoi Vinh, “Movies Watched, 2017”, 5th January 2018:

“That beats my 2016 total by five and averages out to just under sixteen a month, a pace I credit to my continued adherence to a largely television-free diet. I’m going into my third year doing this now and I don’t miss TV much at all, especially as eschewing it has afforded me the time to watch and re-watch so many great or obscure or fondly remembered movies that I’d never be able to otherwise. Television is a waste of time, people.”

Khoi Vinh, “Movies Watched, February 2018”, 8th March 2018:

Alan Partridge’s Scissored Isle” Also hilarious.

Alan Partridge’s Scissored Isle is not a movie, but a television programme, originally made and broadcast by Sky in 2016. And not only is it a television programme, but it’s a parody which makes fun of the conventions of a certain kind of television documentary. It only fully works in the context of it being a television programme.

If you’re going to dismiss an entire artform, by all means do so. But it’s probably best to be consistent about it, rather than pretending the bits you like are actually movies instead.

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03.04.18

Sincerely Yours, The Breakfast Club

Posted 3rd April 2018

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BRIAN: Dear Mr. Vernon. We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. What we did was wrong, but we think you’re crazy to make us to write an essay telling you who we think we are. What do you care? You see us as you want to see us: in the simplest terms, the most convenient definitions. You see us as a Brain, an Athlete, a Basketcase, Princess, and a Criminal. Correct? That’s the way we saw each other at 7 o’clock this morning. We were brainwashed.

– Opening monologue, The Breakfast Club (1985)

Above is one of the most famous monologues in film history. This is the tale of how it almost never was… or, at least, how it was almost never famous.

Floating around online is an early draft of The Breakfast Club script (PDF link). There is no date attached, nor does it specify exactly which draft it is: the front page is entirely missing. It is, however, significantly different to the film which made it to the screen. Detailing even the major changes is a task for another day, and would involve comparing the script not only with the final film, but also the deleted scenes on the recent brand new Blu-ray release.

But I thought comparing that opening monologue to the one in this unspecified draft might be fun. Let’s take a look at it…

…what’s that? It isn’t present in the film’s opening at all?

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25.03.18

Two Small Notes About Going to Sicily,
Neither of Which Are About Sicily

Posted 25th March 2018

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Recently, I took a holiday across Europe from the UK to Sicily, taking in Rome along the way. Hey, anyone want to see my holiday pictures? Here’s the Colosseum in Rome:

Graffiti in the Colosseum - NOTTINGHAM FOREST WEST BRIDGFORD REDS

OK, I’m no good at travelogues. Check out this post from my consort Tanya Jones if you want something a little more sensible in that regard.

*   *   *

We spent a lot of time on the train on this holiday, and part of our journey involved an 11 hour train ride from Rome to Sicily. And as excited as I was to be travelling along the Italian coast, something else was at the back of my mind. I had a laptop. I had a power socket. And I had 11 hours to fill. I could walk onto that train with my mind totally empty, and walk off it with a whole article written on something cool.

And I’m sure that would be perfect for some people. The kind of people who conjure up magical words purely out of their magical brain, and need nothing else.

Me? It really made me realise how pretty much everything I write builds on the work of others.1 When I’m writing, I need constant access to articles online, to my DVD shelf, to my 40″ television, to books I suddenly discover I have to buy, and to help from random people on Twitter. Travelling with just a laptop and a brain – and spotty data coverage – isn’t enough for me to be able to do anything useful.

The romantic ideal didn’t work.

*   *   *

And yet, wandering around Syracuse, full of calamari, something strange started to happen. Looking out at the beautiful sea, an idea popped into my head for an article. And another one. And another one. And another one. My head felt full of ideas for the first time in ages.

None of those article ideas were about the beauty of Sicily, of course. It was all about old sitcoms, as per. But they were ideas, some of them vaguely swirling around my head for ages, which suddenly popped into sharp focus.

It’s standard advice, of course. Go somewhere new, change your surroundings, and your brain will find it easier to do things. But that’s the thing: it’s such standard advice, it’s sometimes easy just to ignore it. But it really did work for me. If you have trouble getting your brain in gear, going somewhere else really is a useful thing to do. A cliche it may be, but it did me the absolute world of good.

The romantic ideal worked.


  1. Not necessarily builds upwards

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01.03.18

I used to be able to write headlines.

Posted 1st March 2018

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Every so often, a tweet makes you stop, think, and re-evaluate your life. This is one such tweet.

For the record: yes, I’ve done my research and listened to the podcast, rather than trusting a quote picked out by someone else. That is indeed exactly what someone on the podcast says: specifically, Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates.

OK, I admit, I’m immediately suspicious of one-sentence platitudes on how to live your life. But the above really gave me pause. Sure, there are things I look back on where I think yeah, I was bloody stupid. (Let’s be generous and assume that by “stupid”, Ray simply means “had more to learn”.) I work in playout on a major TV channel; I like to think I can deal with channel breakdowns better now than at any point in my career.1 I know I’m a more considerate person when it comes to relationships than I used to be. And I used to be the kind of person who sneered a little at trigger warnings, privately if not publicly; I’m not perfect these days by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m certainly more aware of social issues now than I ever used to be.

But I think back to how I used to be in other areas… and I don’t feel I was stupid at all. In fact, I was better at some things than I am now. When I was writing news stories for Ganymede & Titan daily, I got a knack for how to write an entertaining news story very quickly, which I have all but completely lost now. Sure, maybe I’m happier these days writing more longform, personal stuff: but there are times when having the old skill would be extremely useful, and I just can’t do it like I used to be able to.

Oh, and I used to be able to write headlines.

Or take my current job. Am I happier directing a TV channel now than I was working as a shelf stacker in a cash and carry? Of course I am. But I’d be a fool not to recognise there were certain things about that job which made me a better person in some ways than now, if only because I was fitter and more physically dextrous. Sitting on your arse for 12 hours a day is not the way to improve yourself in this regard. Being on your feet all day scooting up and down the aisles lifting heavy boxes is, no matter how little I enjoyed it.

We are all complex creatures. Yes, we learn and improve on some things as we get older… but we lose things, too. I don’t look back on my older self and see just stupidity; I see parts of myself which I have lost, and wish that I hadn’t. The hours I used to spend swimming or cycling; my interest in programming; the articles I used to write which I’d never dare to now because of self-doubt. As we choose to improve some areas of our lives, other things fall by the wayside. That’s only natural: but to pretend no matter how hard we try that our lives consist of constant improvement is a fallacy.

If you only look back on yourself and see stupidity, maybe you’re just not giving your past self a fair chance. And more importantly: maybe you’re not giving your future self a chance to put at least some of that right.


  1. Those who work in the industry will know that now I’ve been foolish enough to say this, I fully expect to be tested on it shortly. 

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25.02.18

Stand Up, Nigel Barton: From Script to Screen

Posted 25th February 2018

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Stand Up, Nigel Barton - title card

“Television brings us the Prime Minister, and a faith healer, a bleeding boxer and a sinking ship, a coronation and an assassination. The picture we see may have been thrown across the Atlantic or even off the moon: it can then seem a highly comic sort of activity to write Act One, Scene One, rehearse in a draughty Territorial Army drill-hall for a fortnight, remove the expletive ‘Christ!’ and finally sandwich yourself between Harold Wilson being frank and somebody walking in space.”

– Dennis Potter, Introduction to The Nigel Barton Plays

Much has been written about Dennis Potter’s two plays Stand Up, Nigel Barton and Vote, Vote, Vote for Nigel Barton, which aired in consecutive weeks on BBC1 as part of The Wednesday Play in December 1965. About their takes on class and politics; on how both are some of the most autobiographical works in the Potter canon; and how both plays point to themes present in Potter’s later work.

None of that is what I want to talk about here, however. Instead, I want to take a look at the Penguin paperback The Nigel Barton Plays, published two years later in 1967. This contains an excellent introduction by Potter, and scripts for both plays. Note the word “scripts”, there. They aren’t transcripts of the broadcast version of the plays. These contain numerous differences – in fact, they are the original scripts written by Potter, stage directions and all. Which means, by comparing the contents of the book to the final plays as broadcast, we can tell exactly what Potter originally intended to make it to air – and exactly how the rehearsal process changed things.

Spoiler: Potter wasn’t lying with his amusing anecdote about removing “the expletive ‘Christ!'”.

This article, then, is not a general analysis of Stand Up, Nigel Barton. Rather, it’s a look at exactly what changed between that script and the final programme. Of course, it can’t be a comprehensive list of all changes made to the show; that would be immensely tedious, and any good points would be lost in a sea of minor word changes and rephrases. I have, however, picked up on what I think are the most interesting differences – and I have tried to include every single change when it comes to profanity, as I think that’s the most important aspect of how Potter’s work was changed from script to screen.

While writing this piece, I have also had the pleasure of taking a look at pages of an actual copy of the script, as taken into rehearsals by Ian Fairbairn who was one of the children in the play. Aside from some different scene numbers, studying it gives confirmation that the text printed in The Nigel Barton Plays is the actual material taken into rehearsals. Many thanks to Andrew-Mark Thompson for his help here.

Let’s get going. Material from the book is styled like this, and dialogue from the show as broadcast is styled like this.

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01.01.18

Dirty Feed: Best of 2017

Posted 1st January 2018

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Look, I can’t pretend the last year has been much fun. It doesn’t even seem to have been much fun for all the various fuckweasels around the world considering their general mood, let alone if you’re the kind of good and decent person who appreciates in-depth articles about sitcom edits.

But that’s no reason why you can’t grab a cup of tea, stick your head in the sand for an hour, and read some of the best stuff I’ve published here over the last 12 months. I will even ALLOW you a biscuit or two. Go on, meet you back here in five minutes.


The World is Burning
A piece which stood as my mission statement for the year, answering the question: in a world of Brexit and Trump, how can I justify writing about my silly obsessions, when there are more important things to talk about?

Our Little Genius
Looking back at the fate of an unbroadcast Fox game show from 2010. I really enjoyed doing this piece, and it’s quite atypical of my stuff – essentially a compilation of contemporary reports. (Though it’s a bit of a shame that the exciting conclusion is a little anti-climactic.)

‘Allo ‘Allo: Pigeon Post
An examination of the edits made to the ‘Allo ‘Allo episode shown on BBC One to commemorate the death of Gorden Kaye. (My favourite memory of that episode being repeated was how laughing at Nazis suddenly seemed massively useful again. Which is depressing, but nonetheless cathartic.)

Frasier: The Good Son
One of my favourite edits pieces I’ve ever written – all about what was cut from the pilot of Frasier between script and screen. When you’re writing about such an amazing half hour of comedy as the Frasier pilot, it’s incumbent on you to actually do the show justice. I really hope I did.

The only post on the internet which uses McDonald’s to talk about the intricacies of television playout
The clue is in the title. I love writing this kind of article, as it’s the kind of thing nobody else really writes about online, and hopefully gives a bit of insight into a world which is rarely talked about. (I’ve since been informed that my digression about whether local TV channels are staffed was irrelevant – they are staffed, which backs up the entire point the article is making.)

How Strong Are Your Moral Values?
About how your BBC Micro can judge your moral code, and find you wanting. This is a piece I’d planned for years, and only wanted to publish once the new site design was in place as it’s very image-heavy. I hoped it’d do really well, and be an attention-grabbing relaunch piece… but it ended up going pretty much nowhere. I’ve been writing stuff online for years, and I still can’t really predict how any given article will do.

A Public Service Announcement on Trev and Simon
About how one of the rudest jokes Trev and Simon ever did was censored… and the cumulation of something which has been going round my head for nearly 25 years. Probably the best-structured thing I wrote on here all year – my pieces sometimes have an unfortunate tendency to tail off towards the end. This one saves the best revelation for last.

Writing for Fun and Zero Profit
All about how to enjoy writing online, even if not many people read it. The last half of the year didn’t see many big updates to the site, so it was nice to sneak in something at the end of the year which got some nice feedback. Completely coincidentally, it also works as a nice bookend to the first piece listed above, which was also about how to feel comfortable with your writing.


A few other bits and pieces, then. Firstly, the above doesn’t include the most popular thing I wrote all year. For that, you have to turn to this piece on brokerage company Customs Clearance Ltd, which got nearly three times the hits of anything else… despite being really really really really really boring. That’s what happens when a company makes itself look so dodgy that people keep googling the fucker to find out whether they’re being scammed or not.

One article from last year which I really found myself liking when I reread it this piece on the incomplete archives of online game Layer Tennis. I couldn’t bring myself to list it above, as it’s highly improbable anybody reading this will care about it. But it talks about something that I expect most people who followed the game haven’t noticed, and fills in a little bit of the historical record… something that sadly even the creator of the game himself doesn’t seem that bothered with. I try my best to write things on here which nobody else would bother writing, for good or for ill, and this is definitely one of those.

This is where I usually make my excuses about not finishing the long-promised redesign of this place, and not restarting my podcast. Podcast excuses will have to continue for the time being, but unexpectedly I actually managed to launch the redesign of Dirty Feed last year. There’s still plenty of room for improvement – hey, anyone fancy a logo which doesn’t just look like it was ripped off from Adult Swim? – but at least you can now browse this place on your phone without wanting to stab yourself in the genitals.

And finally: what have I got planned for the year to come? While there’s lots of stuff I like from last year, I think the balance of the site has been a little off, especially in the last six months. This year, I’d really like to do less throwaway stuff, and drag the focus of the site back to something I’ve neglected a little recently: some proper, meaty articles, especially about telly. So you can probably expect fewer updates this year, but hopefully a little more of substance, whatever that means around here.

Now, where did I put my copy of this?

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29.12.17

On That Deleted Max Landis Interview

Posted 29th December 2017

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At this festive time of year, I thought I’d talk about something pleasant for a change. So, what about that Max Landis, eh?

“Netflix’s first blockbuster movie, the $90 million fantasy-actioner Bright, is a steaming pile of orc shit; a nonsensical garbage pile featuring elves, orcs, a checked-out Will Smith, Chicanx gangster stereotypes worse than those regrettable “Homies” figurines (a trademark of its director David Ayer), and a slow-motion shootout set to Bastille that’ll make you want to go full Sam Neill in the final third of Event Horizon – that is, rip your own eyes out and run around naked attacking people.

It is also, according to the testimonies of several industry people on Twitter, written by an alleged sexual predator.”

If you don’t know the full story, go and read the full piece over on The Daily Beast. I’ll wait – I’m not going to recap the whole thing.1

You back? Good. Now, as is my usual practice, I’m not going to talk about the main issue here; I can offer no insight into that whatsoever. Instead, I’m going to go off at one of my usual tangents. The following is in no way as important as the real discussion going on elsewhere… but I think it is important, in its own way.

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  1. Regular readers of this site may be thinking – you’ve just linked to a Daily Beast article? Seriously? I’ll be honest: I didn’t want to, and searched around for other sites to link to instead. But The Daily Beast were one of the earliest sites to cover the story, and in my opinion it was the best-written piece, so I have – reluctantly – decided to use them as the source for this article. But my issues with how they behaved over the Nico Hines story still stand – until they explain exactly how their editorial processes failed, it’s difficult to have much respect for them. 

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26.12.17

Writing for Fun and Zero Profit

Posted 26th December 2017

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2 Comments

Gather round the campfire, fellow pop culture writers. Uncle John has something to say. You can sit on my lap if you like. Of course I don’t insist you sit on my lap, Henry. Calm down.

What’s that, Betty? You don’t stick things on the internet for other people to enjoy for free? Go off and read some of my other stuff, then. This piece isn’t for you.

The rest of you: listen up. Recently, I’ve heard a lot of you complain how difficult it is to get your stuff noticed online these days. No, no, this isn’t about you, specifically. I’ve heard a lot of people say it. Hell, I put myself in that category. Take a look at this Tumblr post I made back in 2013.

I’m not going to patronise you and tell you I can make everything better. You might get something from this, or you might not. But the below is how I deal with writing online, when there’s just so much stuff out there it’s difficult to get any kind of attention at all. You might think I’m just talking load of old shit. But I’ve found it helpful, and I thought it was worth getting it all down in case anyone else found it helpful too. Especially seeing as it’s the the end of December, and we’re all busy figuring out our plans for next year.

(I’m also going to leave out any talk about money – from Patreon or otherwise. Whether the below is helpful or not, I definitely can’t make anyone rich.)

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05.12.17

In Jingle Heaven, Since 1977

Posted 5th December 2017

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This year, for my partner Tanya’s 40th birthday, I bought her a very special present. Don’t worry, this piece isn’t about what a great boyfriend I am.1 This piece is simply about how something fun can be brought into the world.

The theme for my gifts this year was obvious: the year 1977. Which means, of course, I could just go to town on eBay. But what else can you buy for the girl who has everything, if by “everything” I mean an original poster for Confessions from a Holiday Camp?2 And then it struck me. Wouldn’t a jingle singing her name be fun?

Not just any old jingle, however. A jingle from 1977. A jingle first sung four decades ago.

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  1. Though I am, obviously, and you’re unlucky not to have me. 

  2. Yes, I know Star Wars is from 1977. But Star Wars doesn’t include tits, music by Ed Welch, and at least one stunningly racist joke. 

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