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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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Scrapings from underneath somebody’s crusty bellend

Posted 30th August 2017

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Ah, it’s been rather quiet over here on Dirty Feed recently, hasn’t it? Sorry, I’ve been busy over on Ganymede & Titan, the Red Dwarf fansite I write for because I hate Red Dwarf.

Here’s what I’ve been up to over there, if you’re interested.

Better Than Reality
A short piece looking at the genesis of some of Red Dwarf‘s most popular episodes, as found in Radio 4 sketch show Cliché – Rob and Doug’s first solo writing credit. (I didn’t get much feedback on this one, and I don’t think it’s the best-written piece I’ve ever done, but the fundamental point is fascinating, I think.)

End of Part One, Red Dwarf XI Edition
A look at the placing of ad breaks in Red Dwarf XI, because I’m the only person in the world who would actually bother to write that article. (I did enjoy the person who told me on Twitter that ad breaks shouldn’t be used to set up cliffhangers in British TV shows. I told them they lost that argument in 1955.)

Observation Dome: Back From The Dead
About bringing an old part of Red Dwarf fandom back from the dead. (I’ll be writing more about this on Dirty Feed shortly.)

Red Dwarf and Me: Artificial Reality
On my relationship with Red Dwarf these days, which has been percolating in my mind for five years… and I only just figured out how to write it. The comment thread is lovely and well worth a read too.

Red Dwarf, there.

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Red Dwarf: An Accidental Trilogy

Posted 31st July 2017

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When I’m not writing over here, you can find me over on Ganymede & Titan – the Red Dwarf fansite started in 1999 which is unaccountably still running. Having just published a brand new piece of mine over there today, it strikes me that over the past three years I seem to have accidentally written myself a little trilogy about the history, influences and themes of the show.

As they’re some of my better pieces, with a strong linking thread, if you feel like diving into my Red Dwarf writing you could probably do worse than check out the following. They do go into the show in a little more depth than “Dave Hollins was on the radio, and then it turned into Red Dwarf“.

History of a Joke (2015)
Tracing the history of a single joke Rob and Doug have used in various forms, right from their first solo radio show Cliché in 1981, to their novel Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers in 1989.

Hancock’s Half Hour: The Tycoon (2016)
A look at how the basic structure of the Red Dwarf episode Better Than Life was done by Hancock’s Half Hour thirty years earlier: even the supposedly science fiction element.

Better Than Reality (2017)
A brand new piece, which takes a look at how a single sketch in Cliché informed ideas that Red Dwarf would use time and time again – in Better Than Life, Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers, and beyond.

If any of my Red Dwarf writing interests you, give the above a go. They’re some of the best stuff about the show I’ve written over the past few years, so if you don’t like them then for fuck’s sake don’t hunt down any of my other shit.

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Now That’s What I Call Alan Partridge:
2017 Mixcloud Edition

Posted 2nd April 2017

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Back in 2010 – long before this bugger was released – I created an I’m Alan Partridge soundtrack album. It featured not only songs from the show, but also clips and jingles and a few surprises, hopefully all mixed together in something approaching a fun way. It’s by far the best thing I’ve done on this site, and it’s been a slow inexorable decline ever since.

Originally it was hosted by MediaFire, until it got booted off for copyright infringement. Then it was hosted on my Dropbox, where amazingly it managed to survive until very recently. But with the latest disabling of all Dropbox public folders, it managed to fall offline yet again. So I thought it was about time I uploaded it somewhere legal rather than trying my luck once more.


Now, I really must get round to making that Maid Marian and Her Merry Men album…

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Hi-de-Hi! Edits #4: Goodnight Campers

Posted 8th February 2017

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Ted and Peggy

So, here we are. After looking at the pilot, Series 1, and Series 2 through 5, we reach the conclusion of our series of articles comparing Hi-de-Hi! as released on DVD, and the version repeated on BBC Two last year. Unfortunately, we run into a little bit of a problem.

Throughout the whole rest of the show – the entire Dempster run, in fact – the two versions are absolutely identical. Sure, one episode wasn’t shown, as detailed below, but every single other episode had precisely no edits made to it whatsoever. Which even for Dirty Feed, leaves us with a bit of a damp squib of an ending.

In an attempt to save this piece from being an entire waste of time then, I have a few other notes on the remaining episodes of the series…

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‘Allo ‘Allo: Pigeon Post

Posted 27th January 2017

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Hans, Kurt, Rene and Helga

What an excellent time for BBC One to broadcast an episode of ‘Allo ‘Allo. True, it was done in tribute to Gorden Kaye who died on Monday, but it feels like this was a good week to laugh at some Nazis.

However, you know me by now. Ignore the laughter, or moral truths, we all know why we’re really here. “Oh, I wonder whether there have been any edits made to the show…” And blow my chickens up, there has been. To clarify then, here’s the two versions of the episode Pigeon Post I’m comparing:

In other words, the version broadcast by BBC One on Wednesday is 2’43” shorter than the version on DVD.

Without either an off-air of the very original broadcast or paperwork to hand1, we’re left with a bit of guesswork – but I think we can work out what happened with reasonable certainty. The longer version on DVD is probably the original broadcast (aside from the episode title caption), and the episode broadcast on Wednesday is a cut-down version for repeat transmission to fit a standard slot – which I suspect is the version the BBC have been showing for years.2

Let’s see what’s missing, shall we? Cuts to the repeat broadcast are indicated like this.

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  1. At some point, I’ll go down to the BBC Written Archives and hopefully be able to clarify some of these articles. 

  2. It’s on record that David Croft was meddling with Are You Being Served? in the 90s to tighten up the episodes for the repeats, so it wouldn’t surprise me if these edits to ‘Allo ‘Allo were done at roughly the same time. 

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Hi-de-Hi! Edits #3: Filth and Lewd Innuendo

Posted 14th December 2016

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Spike and Peggy dicking around with a film can

YVONNE: Something will have to be done about Ted’s act. He’s getting positively revolting.
BARRY: Tonight he did the one about the two sailors and the gruyère cheese, followed that with the midget and the giraffe… and finished up with the one about the curate and the cucumber. Then in the same breath he introduced us, and we had to go straight on and do our Spring in Park Lane fantasy waltz. Well, Yvonne was in tears. I was so embarrassed I didn’t know where to put my face, let alone my feet.
YVONNE: He was distraught, Mr. Fairbrother. And let’s face it, Barry’s the last person in the world you could call po-faced.
JEFFREY: Yes, I do know what you mean. He was very near the knuckle tonight.
GLADYS: He’s been getting worse.
JEFFREY: To be fair on Ted, I think the audience eggs him on. He gets carried away.
YVONNE: A good comedian does not have to resort to filth and lewd innuendo.
BARRY: With Ted, it isn’t even innuendo. He says it.

Hi-de-Hi!, “It’s a Blue World”

Good morning, campers. On we go, with our comparison of the 2000s DVD release of Hi-de-Hi! and its repeat this year on BBC Two afternoons. Previously, we took a look at the pilot. Then we investigated Series 1. This time, we manage to examine the whole of Series 2, 3, 4 and 5 – taking us right to the end of the Jeffrey Fairbrother years.

And in the middle of all this, we discover a moment where Hi-de-Hi! doesn’t even indulge in innuendo. It goes right out and says it.

As ever, the exact two versions we are comparing are:

One thing which is immediately apparent is that as the series progresses, there are fewer and fewer different edits of the programme – indeed, many episodes are identical. Only the episodes with differences are listed here. All timings given are from the DVD version.

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“Network, we’ll have to come back and do the draw…”

Posted 3rd December 2016

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BBC 1, 30th November 1996, 7:50pm, The National Lottery Live. And a 15-year-old John Hoare, already over-excited from Noel’s House Party, watches in wonder as his other very favourite thing in the whole world happens: the telly goes wrong.

Yes, it’s the infamous 107th draw, where the lottery machine failed to act as a lottery machine and draw some damn balls. Like many TV moments I didn’t record on VHS, the memory faded over the years… until some kind soul uploaded it to YouTube back in 2010. Brilliantly, the video includes both the initial failure of the machine, and the hastily-improvised update show which aired after Casualty, where the balls were drawn successfully.

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Hi-de-Hi! Edits #2: Marty’s Golden Moment

Posted 14th November 2016

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Maplins Holiday Camp sign

JEFFREY: Hello campers. Hi-de-hi.
CAMPERS: Ho-de-ho.
JEFFREY Yes folks. This is a big one. One of the high spot… lights of the week. Holiday Princess competition. Now now Dads put down your binoculars. Hi-de-hi.
CAMPERS: Ho-de-ho.
TED: Get him off, somebody.
JEFFREY: And here to act as your Master of Ceremonies is your friend… and indeed he’s my friend as well… Ted Bovis.

Hi-de-Hi!, “The Beauty Queen Affair”

With an introduction like that, this article can’t fail to disappoint. I’m afraid the Holiday Princess competition is nowhere to be seen. Instead, let’s get back into our series of articles looking at the differences between the DVD release of Hi-de-Hi!, and the recent BBC Two Afternoon Classics run of the show. Last time: the pilot. This time: Series 1, in all its “one of the best series of a sitcom ever made” glory.

To recap, then. The two versions of the programme we are comparing are:

Off we go. Cut sections are detailed like this, though take note of exactly which edit they are cut from – this time round, both the DVD and the broadcast versions have different sections removed. All times given are from the DVD.

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  1. Note that there has been a newer release of the DVD which may not have all the differences listed here. If you want to fill in any details about that release in the comments, feel free. 

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Hi-de-Hi! Edits #1: Raiding the Funny Cupboard

Posted 13th September 2016

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Jeffrey looking confused

The first episode of Hi-de-Hi! is one of my favourite sitcom pilots of all time.1 And for at least the next four series, Hi-de-Hi! is one of my favourite sitcoms of all time. This is for so many reasons, all of which is worth an article in itself, but put simply: my favourite thing about the show is that it’s the perfect mix of everything. Every single kind of comedy I love is embedded into its soul. A show that doesn’t sneer at broad comedy, yet includes moments of amazing subtlety. It knows the magic is in the blend of the two.

Recently, BBC Two have started another repeat run of the show in their Afternoon Classics slot. I’ve long meant to do a full comparison of these broadcast versions of the show compared to my DVD copy – which fully admits on the back that “for contractual reasons certain edits have been made”. I was mainly expecting just the odd music change – but actually, the changes have ended up being rather more interesting than I ever imagined, and for the the pilot at least, actually ask rather more questions of the broadcast repeat than of the DVD.

Let’s take a look, shall we? Just to clarify, the two versions we are comparing are:

Neither of these versions, you will note, is what was actually transmitted originally on the 1st January 1980. So, which version is closest to that original edit? We can perhaps make an educated guess about that later.

All times given are for the DVD version of the episode, so even if you didn’t record the repeat broadcast version, you can skip to see exactly where the changes are. Cut dialogue in the repeat broadcast version is like this.

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  1. Along with ‘Allo ‘Allo!, You Rang, M’Lord?, Dad’s Army, It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum, and… hang on, there’s some kind of link here that I can’t quite put my finger on. 

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