The most popular thing I’ve published here on Dirty Feed this year has been this piece on the title sequence to Blockbusters, scanned from the 1989 Blockbusters annual. Never let it be said that I’ll pass up the opportunity to scan a few pages and profit from someone else’s hard work, rather than actually writing something informative myself.
With that in mind, then, here’s a couple more pieces from said annual. Firstly, here’s producer/director Jenny Dodd, on a year in the life of the show. (On the second page of that article is a wide shot featuring a brief look at the complicated projector setup used for the game board. Has anyone else got a close-up of this famed contraption?)
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One of my most vivid television memories as a child was the title sequence to Blockbusters.1 Every afternoon I’d lie in front of the fire, and that gorgeous neon cityscape would transport me to another world.
I often wondered how it was made… and the answer came when I ended up in hospital, and I managed to borrow a copy of the 1989 Blockbusters Annual. Contained within was a four page feature on how the titles were made. I devoured it… and then had to give the annual back at the end of my stay when I had the temerity to get better. I never managed to trace down a copy over the years, and in the end those pages became a distant memory.
Nowadays, I’m an adult, and eBay is a thing. And this morning, I finally saw that feature I hadn’t seen for over twenty years. If anything, it’s even more detailed than I remember, with many absolutely gorgeous behind-the-scenes photos… and well worth sharing with you lot.
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April Fools’ Day tends to get a bit of a bad rap these days. Every year, my Twitter feed gets more and more filled with complaints about how lame it is. As someone involved in a few April Fools over the years, I admit I find myself getting a bit defensive about it. My argument: it’s easy to get hung up on the “prank” aspect of it, with a roll of the eyes, or a scowl. The very best April Fools take the prank aspect as a starting point… and do something interesting instead. The real joy in most good April Fools gags is them going off and doing something else entirely.
The best example of this that I’ve been involved with was pretending the script for the Red Dwarf movie had been leaked. Sure, of course we were trying to fool people into thinking it was true. But beyond that, the actual script extracts we wrote as part of it… kinda have their own interest. They certainly set my mind thinking as to how a Red Dwarf movie would work – which ends up being far more interesting than the actual prank itself.
Still, I get it. Perhaps the internet does make the day lose a bit of its lustre. These days, as soon as you wake up on April 1st and check online, you’re inundated with EVERY WEBSITE DOING A FUNNY. It can get rather wearing, especially when there’s so much crap about – and as you’re automatically on your guard, the whole thing is far less fun. In the old days, it was different. The April edition of a magazine might plop on your mat, way before April 1st… and maybe, just maybe, catch you unawares. The whole thing had a… less mechanical air.
Which leads us to this article. Some of my favourite April Fools growing up were in the pages of Acorn User and The Micro User; two Acorn computing magazines I was absolutely besotted with. I thought it’d be fun to take a look at some of the April Fools they ran over the years. It’s not a complete rundown of every single one they ever did – just a sample of some of the more interesting ones. Neither are they all gold: I’ve not cherry-picked just the really good ones just to make my point. But it’s a nice reminder of the days when April Fools gags were given just a little time to breathe.
It’s also perhaps a reminder that some of the best April Fools gags are often ones targeted at a very specific audience, rather than a general one. By their very nature, April Fools are a bit self-indulgent – and they’re one place where in-jokes can run riot to very good effect. (Another reason why I think some of the Red Dwarf ones I’ve been involved in work so well.) If you don’t have the background knowledge required for some of these, they’ll inevitably fall rather flat. I’ll give some notes as we go, but that’s very much Worth Bearing In Mind.
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I’m getting quite the collection of these little pieces of ephemera: leaflets given out at sitcom recordings. From The Brittas Empire, Every Silver Lining, new Yes Prime Minister, and Birds of a Feather, comes the latest: Up the Women, Series 2 Episode 3, “Bowls”.
RX: 16th February 2014, Studio 2, The London Studios.
TX: 4th February 2015, BBC Two, 10:00pm.
Compared to some of the lovely leaflets in my collection, this maybe isn’t one of the best – crooked, and not especially well laid out. (There’s a big gap where something interesting behind-the-scenes could have been added.) The character descriptions are good, though. Anyway, I highly recommend you give the series a try if you haven’t already. I’m thoroughly enjoying it.
As ever, I’m always on the lookout for more of these – so if you have any hanging around, please, scan ’em in and send me a link. Unless you don’t want you. You heartless bastard.
From the series of “articles” which brought you the programme leaflets for The Brittas Empire, Every Silver Lining, and new Yes Prime Minister, comes this: the last episode in the series of the ITV revival of Birds of a Feather, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”.
RX: 24th November 2013, Studio 2, The London Studios.
TX: 6th March 2014, ITV, 8:30pm.
As I was at the recording of the episode, I can let you into a little secret – they shot the last scene of the episode a number of different ways:
- Firstly, as broadcast, with Sharon and Tracey just sitting on the sofa realising Dorien is at the door
- Secondly, with Tracey getting up, opening the door, and Dorien just standing outside.
- Thirdly, with Tracey answering the door, Dorien stepping in, and them both hugging… to the audience going “Ahhhhhhh”.
Bearing in mind the episode was already too over-sentimental and syrupy at times, you can imagine what I thought of that last ending. (For the record, I also predicted they’d use the ending as broadcast.) Also worthy of note: the episode as we saw recorded didn’t have the final outside shot with everyone saying goodnight. Do I spy a last-minute fix in the edit, perhaps?
For the truly anal amongst you, at this session they also re-recorded the first scene of Episode 2, where Sharon sits down with a nice cup of hot chocolate and is interrupted by the phone. (Who knows what ludicrous catastrophe made the first version unusable?) They also recorded a version with her scraping shavings of Dairy Milk onto the top of it, but used a second take which didn’t include this. Why not impress your friends with this fascinating piece of trivia?
Anyway, I’m always interested in these programme leaflets, so if you have any hanging around, please scan them in and stick them up somewhere. I’ll give you a great big girly kiss on the bottom.
One day, I will get this jingle sung to the title of this post; something I love about running this site is detailing lovely pieces of television ephemera. Recently, I got a great email from Paul Hudson, who worked for the BBC VT department in the 70s, and he sent me a couple of things you might find of interest. I certainly did.
First up, a couple of canteen menus from the BBC’s Wood Norton Training Centre, from June 1971. (Look, you know the kind of site this is by now.) I rather fancy the Bilberry & Apple Price myself. Only 6p! Rather tastier than anything hot served up at my workplace. Which wouldn’t be difficult, seeing as absolutely sod all hot is served up at my workplace.
The other piece of interest is the front page of a script for Braden’s Week – a consumer affairs programme which was a forerunner to That’s Life! What I love about this is that script pages tend to make appearances for what are ill-advisedly called “cult” shows – Doctor Who and the like. It’s lovely to see an example for the kind of workhorse show the BBC made which were popular, but rarely talked about now.
Thanks hugely to Paul for these scans. I’m always interested in things like this, so if you have anything rattling around in an obscure box somewhere, and the inclination to scan it in, I’d love to hear from you. I guarantee you it’s more interesting than the kind of stuff I find in my boxes. They’re more fun when you worked for the BBC in the 70s.
As regular readers of this site will know, I have lots of little obsessions – and one of the more obscure ones is the leaflets that used to be handed out to the audience at sitcom recordings. I’ve already detailed such little leaflets for episodes of The Brittas Empire and Every Silver Lining, but sadly these just doesn’t seem to be made any more – I have certainly never been given any since I started attending audience recordings in 1999.
Up until last year, that is. Imagine my delight when I went to see the first episode of the new Yes, Prime Minister series recorded, and a good old-fashioned leaflet was waiting on each audience member’s chair. Whether this was a holdover from the series’s roots as a stage production, or simply because Gareth Gwenlan and Jonathan Lynn like doing things the old way, it was a lovely little souvenir to take home to remember the recording.
Anyone care for a scan?
Lovely stuff. I wish every sitcom recording still did this. I’m still on the lookout for more of these, by the way – if you have any hidden away in drawers, why not hunt them out and scan them in?
Taken from the January 1979 issue of Hi-Fi News & Record Review – click for a bigger version:
OK, so you thought the Brittas Empire ticket and programme leaflet were obscure? Back in 1993, my girlfriend attended a recording of BBC sitcom Every Silver Lining. On a British Legion trip. A rude comment about the blue rinse brigade would be demeaning but accurate.
Luckily, being the type of person she is, she kept the programme leaflet given out at the recording, a scan of which follows below. Click to enlarge. Anyone care to guess how many of these still exist?
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Piss poor. But move on.
I presume it’s not just me who has a list of sitcoms they wish they’d been at recordings of. From Fawlty Towers to Blackadder to Men Behaving Badly, for me the list extends even to specific episodes of a series. The fact I will never see the Red Dwarf episode Back To Reality recorded pains me immensely.
Another sitcom on the list is the vastly underrated The Brittas Empire. A few years back, however, someone eBayed their audience ticket and leaflet given out at the show – and I now present this material which I have refused to allow to become ephemera. Click for bigger versions:
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