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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BBC Two today at 2:45pm, before Yes, Minister:
“You’re watching Afternoon Classics on Two. Now, in a tribute to Sir Antony Jay who died on Sunday, co-writer of one of BBC Two’s most witty, sharp, satirical comedies of the 80s. In the corridors of power, politics was never more popular… with Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister.”
BBC Two today at 3:15pm, after Yes, Minister:
Sometimes, when somebody dies, you don’t need schedule changes. You don’t need to drop everything to run a tribute programme right now. Nor do you need endless rolling news coverage.
Sometimes, a thoughtful continuity announcement and an obit slide is enough. Enough to show that a channel is alive, that it cares about its output, and that it’s respectful of the talent which made the channel what it is.
Sometimes, that’s all you need to prove that there really are real people working on a channel, who are there to add context and do what linear television is best at… instead of doing all the work weeks ago, then buggering off and leaving the channel to just be a box running pointlessly in the corner.
Sometimes, a little thought is all that matters. No fireworks. No razzmatazz. No fawning. Just a channel calmly doing its job.
As we enter the final run-up to Red Dwarf XI‘s broadcast in September, it occurs to me that I haven’t mentioned any of the stuff I’ve done over on Ganymede & Titan recently – the Red Dwarf fansite described by someone on Tumblr as “a shining example of how NOT to do fandom”.
A few articles I’ve written which may interest you, then:
- End of Part One – About the ad breaks in Red Dwarf X… and about how more careful placing of them could have ended up with a better-structured programme.
- Nice Going On The Idiotic Gaffe Front, Sirs – On how a fansite deals with spoilers, when most of them are escaping from the production or channel itself.
- “We’ve found a stasis leak on Floor 16…” – Taking a look at how much of online Red Dwarf fandom from 2004 still exists on the web now. (Spoiler: virtually none.)
- Hancock’s Half Hour: The Tycoon – One of my favourite things I’ve written anywhere this year, all about how the basic story of the Red Dwarf episode Better Than Life was done by Hancock’s Half Hour 30 years before… even the science fiction premise.
It strikes me how most of the above aren’t really pieces purely about Red Dwarf. Whether it’s about the impact of ad breaks on TV shows, how productions and channels should be thinking about spoilers, how the web has changed since 2004, or how science-fiction style concepts are done in non-science fiction shows, there might be stuff that interests you above even if you aren’t a hardcore Red Dwarf fan.
For people who are hardcore Red Dwarf fans though, we have some fun stuff coming up over the next few weeks. Our DwarfCasts have really kicked into gear this year, with our commentaries on the episodes Queeg and Demons & Angels being some of my favourite ones we’ve done recently.1 In the lead-up to Red Dwarf XI, however, we’re going to be publishing new commentaries on Red Dwarf X every weekend – and the one for the first episode Trojan is already up.
I sometimes find writing and participating on Ganymede & Titan to be a weird experience these days, considering my extremely mixed opinions on any Red Dwarf made since 1993. And it can lead to some interesting moments. Our next Red Dwarf X commentary due this weekend is on the episode Fathers and Suns, and features the slightly bizarre sound of me – usually the person slagging off the show – defending an aspect of the episode to Ian, who is usually far more positive about the series than me. That tension will hopefully make for some good listening.
Or, y’know, just really fucking annoy everyone.
“Now on BBC One, expect the unexpected – for the first time, Mrs Brown’s Boys goes completely live. Be prepared for strong language and adult humour. Agnes and her family are waiting in the wings – so it’s time to hand over to the director in BBC Scotland…”
— BBC One network continuity announcement into Mrs Brown’s Boys Live, 23rd July 2016
“Alan Carr hosts the comedy Live at the Apollo, now at 11:15. Before that on BBC One, strong language and adult humour, as we catch Agnes live – and on the hop…”
— BBC One network continuity announcement into Mrs Brown’s Boys “Live”, 30th July 2016
Last year, one of my most popular pieces here on Dirty Feed was this analysis of the 2005 live version of Quatermass – specifically, the differences between the original live show, and the edited version now widely available on DVD. Near the end of the piece, I wrote the following:
“Maybe we should be careful not to overstate the originality of the 2005 Quatermass. Sure, the BBC billed it as its first live drama for over 20 years. But looking to other broadcasters, Coronation Street did its first live programme in 2000, five years previously – and looking across to America, ER‘s live episode was in 1997. But still, as the beginning of the BBC’s renewed interest in live drama and comedy – through to EastEnders, Two Pints, Bollywood Carmen Live, and next year’s Mrs. Brown’s Boys live episode – it’s extremely important.”
One the 23rd July, that live Mrs Brown’s Boys episode was transmitted – and a week later on the 30th, we had a repeat. If ever there was a piece which I just had to write, this was it. Did much change between the two broadcasts? And if it did, will the show incur the hell and fury which Quatermass unleashed from these very fingertips?
Let’s take a look. All times given are from the repeat version of the episode, so you can watch along and see where the changes were, even if you haven’t got a copy of the original episode itself. Incidentally, the version now available on iPlayer is the edited repeat version.
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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.
Opening titles from A Touch of Class
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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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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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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“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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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.
Another month, and another set of articles I’ve written over on Ganymede & Titan – the Red Dwarf fansite where Rob Grant’s daughter once posted the immortal words “John is a whore”. This month, I’ve been posting a few joke history investigations:
You will note from the update at the end of that last article that I am currently making my way through the entirety of The Burkiss Way. As punishments go, it’s not exactly a severe one.