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Dirty Feed: Best of 2019

Posted 11th December 2019

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“Hello again, John. Still doing your roundup of all the best stuff on Dirty Feed this year?”
“Isn’t this being published even earlier than last year?”
“Is that because you’re planning some huge masturbatory celebration of 10 years of Dirty Feed in January, and you at least want to spread out your willy waving to some kind of bearable level?”
“I really hate you.”

*   *   *

And Finally…
Firstly, a little tale of Anna Soubry presenting Central News, and some naughtiness that seemingly only I remember. (I have to admit, I was hoping a video of this might surface, especially once a few media figures retweeted the article. No luck, sadly.)

1990s Central News East logo
The Shangri-Las in the recording studio

Listen. Does This Sound Familiar?
Looking at glimpses of a lost song by the Shangri-Las. I have a fondness for this as being one of the first bits of writing about music I’ve ever done; this year I’ve tried to push myself outside my comfort zone a few times with my writing, and this piece definitely qualifies. Also: listen to the Shangri-Las, do it, do it right now.1

Night Network
If there’s one thing I want this site to achieve, it’s to post things that nobody else would ever post. Whether that’s because nobody else is capable of writing something so amazing, or because nobody else would fucking bother, is a judgement call. Whatever your answer, this piece – about the nightmares TV channel directors have to endure – most definitely counts.

In which I spin an incredibly personal anecdote from the BBC Two Toy Car ident. You heard.

BBC Two Toy Car ident
Mike Flex and Mike Channel, KYTV

KYTV: Challenge Anna
My first really substantial article of the year: a look at one of my favourite episodes of comedy ever, and exactly what changed between script and screen. (Watch out for the practical joke Geoffrey Perkins and Angus Deayton planned to play on Anneka Rice… and then chickened out on.)

Tales from a Dystopian Future
This little story is another example of how I tried to push my writing into some different areas this year. It’s certainly like nothing else on the site. It didn’t get much reaction, and I think it has its faults. But after writing the KYTV piece – which I think turned out well, but is entirely within this site’s usual ballpark – it was nice to stretch myself with something I’d never written before.

Beyond Grace Brothers
Having done a full watch of Are You Being Served? this year, I vaguely have in mind the idea to write a book on the show. This article was a test to see if I could write about the series in any kind of entertaining way. I think it turned out quite well, tackling an area of the show that I don’t think has been talked about before. (Fuck knows when I’ll have time to write that book, though.)

Mr. Rumbold on the phone
Mr. Davidson covered in soup

Fawlty at Large
Hands down my favourite thing I’ve written all year, and certainly the one to get the best reaction. This set of four articles starts off as a look at the origins of Fawlty Towers… but halfway through, turns into something else entirely, and for my money something far more interesting. John Cleese has never written anything more terrifying.2

*   *   *

A few other brief thoughts. I really struggled with the site at the beginning of the year, with the first four months especially yielding the odd fun post, but nothing truly substantial.3 Having realised I was going to let the year slip away entirely if I wasn’t careful, the second half of the year was a lot better, cumulating in the aforementioned set of articles which I’m thoroughly proud of. If you read nothing else I’ve written this year, I’d really like it to be that.

I’m also going to make my usual plea. I make a point of not having a tip jar or Patreon on this site; I don’t need them, and your money would be better spent on others. But if you’ve enjoyed any of my writing this year, I urge you to consider donating to the Internet Archive if you can. I realise that at a time when the UK seems to be going to shit, then they might not be the first organisation you’d think of for donations. But the Internet Archive do a great deal to hold people, organisations, and governments to account, and I think that’s more important than ever. Just $5 would mean something – especially as they currently have a 2-to-1 matching campaign running, which brings it up to $15 without you doing a thing.

That’s pretty much it for Dirty Feed this year; there will be a roundup of all my Red Dwarf writing later on this month, but aside from that, that’s your lot. Thanks to everyone who’s read, liked, or shared my stuff over the past year; I really do appreciate all your kind words. One person who takes the time to tell me they enjoyed something I wrote is worth 1000 anonymous hits. And people who clearly haven’t read what I’ve written but feel the need to tell me their ill-informed opinion about it on Twitter deserve 1000 hits.4

And as for next year… what’s this I see on the horizon? Could it be the site’s 10th anniversary? And do you really think I can resist the urge to bang on about it at length until you all escape to Digital Spy in desperation?

  1. I think this article may be the first ever time a picture of the Shangri-Las has appeared next to the logo of Central News East. If any fact sums up what I try and do with this site, it’s this one. 

  2. With thanks to Tanya Jones for inspiration and help with this; so much so, in fact, that the pieces really deserve a shared byline. 

  3. Fun game: try to figure out which piece I was sure was going to be great, but I’ve since decided really isn’t, and was misguided and pointless publishing in its present form. 

  4. To the face. Specifically to the face. 

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Dirty Feed: Best of 2018

Posted 30th December 2018

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“Hey there, John. What’s this?”
“It’s a list of all my favourite articles I’ve published on Dirty Feed in 2018.”
“But don’t you usually wait until the 1st January to post that?
“Just so you could anally point out that you only post your yearly roundup once the year is actually over, unlike everyone else?”
“Does this mean you’re dumbing down your material to chase a more mainstream audience?”
“Yes. Could you go away now, please?”
“A mainstream audience that you’re never going to achieve, incidentally.”
“Fuck off.”

[

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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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Dirty Feed: Best of 2016

Posted 1st January 2017

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Man, people whinged too much about 2016. True, there was Trump, Brexit, and celebrity deaths aplenty, and on a personal note I nearly died of pneumonia. Still, I published some fun stuff on Dirty Feed, and isn’t that what really counts?

Time for my traditional self-regarding list, then. Below are a few of my favourite things I published here last year. (If you enjoyed any of it and can afford it, please consider donating to the Internet Archive.)

Fawlty Towers: A Touch of Class
Tracking down which parts of the first episode of Fawlty Towers were reshot between the original pilot recording, and the programme’s actual broadcast the following year. The second most popular piece on the site all year, and contains possibly the only time Dirty Feed will ever concentrate on somebody’s hairstyle.

The Fragility of the Web
I’ve written a lot of stuff about the web this year, most of it to general disinterest. This piece can stand to represent all of them: on how easy it is to destroy the web even when you think you stand to protect it. Not my best-written piece of the year, but a piece which gets to the heart of why I care about this stuff.

Who Framed Michael Eisner
Did the creators of Who Framed Roger Rabbit really manange to sneak in a flash-frame of Disney CEO Michael Eisner’s phone number into the film? (No.) Can I use this topic to talk about Python edits instead? (Yes.)

Blade Runner Afternoons
Ever wondered about how the famous Blockbusters cityscape opening titles were created? The show’s 1989 annual reveals all, with some beautiful behind-the-scenes pictures. This was the most read piece on the site all year. (I also posted some more behind-the-scenes stuff from the annual here.)

Hi-de-Hi! Edits #1, #2, #3
Comparing the DVD release of Hi-de-Hi! and its afternoon repeats on BBC Two. I maintain that Mr. Partridge really did once tell Peggy to “fuck off”. (Comparing all 58 episodes of the show is probably the biggest undertaking I’ve done on here all year. Final piece coming in January.)

“Network, we’ll have to come back and do the draw…”
About the lottery breakdown Bob Monkhouse dealt so expertly with back in 1996… and my own personal relationship to it. But not quite as wanky as that sounds. Nearly as wanky. But not quite.

A George & Mildred Christmas
A late entry, sneaking in at the very end of the year, about George & Mildred‘s Christmas episodes… and how the last episode manages to question the entire setup of the whole show. I’d love to write more stuff like this in the coming year.

Other things I wrote which I think turned out well: about the cut Diana joke in Men Behaving Badly, a skilful piece of presenting, the weirdest abandoned website ever, Elstree being silly, a guide to social media for game developers, why I dislike Digital Spy, old documentaries getting things wrong on purpose, and about ghosts of the internet.

However, my favourite piece I wrote all year wasn’t even on Dirty Feed. Instead it was published over on Ganymede & Titan, the Red Dwarf fansite once described as “a crock of shit” by Iain Lee. That piece was Hancock’s Half Hour: The Tycoon, and is all about the similarities between the Hancock episode The Tycoon, and the Red Dwarf episode Better than Life. It’s (nearly) everything I’d like my writing to be, but don’t always manage.

Back to Dirty Feed. Last year ended up being a bit of a mixed bag for the site. Sadly, I didn’t manage to get back to doing this, or finish this. On the other hand, I did publish more pieces on the site than any previous year, and for various reasons the year didn’t really lend itself to bigger projects in the end.

Thanks to everyone who has said nice things about the site over the past 12 months – I really do appreciate it. And I have lots of plans for the upcoming year. I may even finish the article I teased at the end of my Best of 2015 piece. Who knows?

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Dirty Feed: Best of 2015

Posted 1st January 2016

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Happy New Year, everyone. And another year, another opportunity to be self-aggrandising and pretend it’s all in the spirit of “reflection”. Nevertheless, here are some of my favourite articles on Dirty Feed from the last 12 months. ENJOY IT YOU SCUM, ENJOY IT OR I WILL HAVE YOU KILLED.

On Automation.
Specifically, why automation isn’t to blame when a TV channel falls off air. Mainly written so I can smugly point to it when someone randomly complains about TV automation on Twitter. Yes, I am a complete cunt, why do you ask?

11 Things Wrong With Fawlty Towers
By far my most popular article all year in terms of hits… mainly because most of the words are John Cleese’s, not mine. My main aim was to prove to everyone that the John Cleese commentaries on the Remastered boxset are absolutely glorious, and well worth repurchasing the show for alone.

Acorn Fools’ Day
A trek through some fun April Fools gags in Acorn computer magazines of the 80s and 90s – and one of those articles I’ve been meaning to write for years, and then finally got round to. I’d love someone to write something similar about magazines for other platforms. Please?

Duncan Newmarch: “The Jingles I Grew Up With”
A chat with BBC continuity announcer Duncan Newmarch about why he loves radio jingles so much… and why he put together a montage of them which lasts two hours. I really must do more interviews, as “somebody else talking instead of me” is usually a relief to everybody.

24 Hours in Channel 5 TX
Probably the best thing I wrote all year, about a topic which really isn’t talked about much: how a television channel these days is actually put together. (I promised a follow-up piece answering all your questions which has yet to be published: hopefully it’ll be finished this month.)

One Foot in the Grave: Hearts of Darkness and The Thrilling Conclusion
Finally, the answer to a question I’ve been wondering for years – exactly what was cut out of the One Foot in the Grave episode Hearts of Darkness when it was released on DVD? It was extremely satisfying to finally get to the bottom of the mystery… especially when the answer was one nobody could have predicted.

‘The Quatermass Experiment’ Experiment
A piece ostensibly about the differences between the original broadcast and DVD release of the live 2005 version of Quatermass… but which turns into musings about the nature of live television drama about halfway through. This just nipped in right at the end to be my second-most popular piece of the year, which is nice, as this is the main reason the site quietened down for the last few months – it was an absolute bitch to research and write.

And bringing up the rear: why Comedy Central are IDIOTS, the history of jingles, how journalism works, and a look at edits made to The Fast Show on DVD. Oh, and this site hasn’t updated since I slagged it off, which is amusing.

So, a little self-indulgent ramble. Whilst I don’t sit obsessing over stats, “Are people reading your stuff?” in a general sense is always nice to know. 2015 has been the most successful year yet for Dirty Feed in that regard, with more readers than ever – in fact, slightly more than 2013 and 2014 combined. This is mainly down to a few pieces being shared rather more than usual, so thank you if you’ve retweeted, linked to, or written about one of my bits of nonsense over the past year. I really appreciate it.

In terms of the writing, I’m never happy that I’ve written enough, and I certainly didn’t write as much as I planned to. On the other hand, some of the pieces I did get round to writing are some of my favourites I’ve ever done. It feels like Dirty Feed has established its own voice more than ever, and hopefully that voice is “Things most people wouldn’t bother to write about, but you’re vaguely glad that somebody has.”

Sadly, my planned redesign and relaunch of my podcast didn’t happen, and in 2016, the lack of a proper responsive, mobile-friendly design is nothing short of ludicrous. These are my two priorities for the forthcoming year. No excuses.1

And that’s quite enough of that. Happy 2016 everyone. I hope you’ll join me for more nonsense this year. Right, I’m off to research old Buffy fansites which disappeared off the net ten years ago.

I’m not joking. That is literally what I am doing.

  1. There might be excuses. 

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Dirty Feed: The First Five Years

Posted 1st January 2015

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BBC Master startup screen, with Dirty Feed instead of BASIC, because I'm hilarious obviously

Exactly five years ago today, Dirty Feed came into being. (Actually, that’s strictly not true – it was called Transistorised for most of that first year – but let’s ignore that, as it was a rubbish name.) After Noise To Signal closed, I wanted a place of my own to post my nonsense. No real plans, no ambitious proposals: just “let’s talk about stuff I’m interested in and see what happens”.

I rarely do navel-gazing posts here – in fact, bizarrely, even the change in name from Transistorised to Dirty Feed wasn’t actually noted on the site. But I thought I’d allow myself something just this once. What follows is a list of some of my favourite things on the site over the past five years. I ORDER YOU TO ENJOY IT.

[

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