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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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13.10.17

Listen to My Sexy Voice Talking About Red Dwarf

Posted 13th October 2017

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Another year, and another series of Red Dwarf. And if you’d told me a few years back that I’d be saying that in 2017, I’d have told you off for talking BOLLOCKS. Yet here we are.

Sadly, with another series of Red Dwarf comes another series of LIVE DwarfCasts over on Ganymede & Titan, the Red Dwarf website where I recently wrote about not liking Red Dwarf very much. So what better person to sit and pontificate about the show for the next five Fridays, starting at 9pm tonight? Just visit our Spreaker page twenty minutes before the show starts for some HOT STREAMING ACTION. Don’t worry, I’m just there to cause trouble – there are people far more qualified than me who are actually running the show.

We’re going at UKTV Play pace this year, rather than broadcast pace – so if you want to join us, make sure you watch the episode available for streaming late Thursday evening, not the episode broadcast on Dave the same day. (We know it’s confusing. We know.) This week, that’s the second episode in the series, Siliconia, available right now.

Oh, and as for the first episode? That was last week, and I couldn’t make it. Don’t worry, we got Clayton Hickman to do it instead. Go and visit his Redbubble store, BTW, if you like an obscure TV show called Doctor Who. I’ve never heard of it, personally. I prefer Starhyke.

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06.08.17

Bob Says It’ll Be Alright on Carrott’s Commercial Wars

Posted 6th August 2017

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Ah, Sunday. Where the vast majority of my Twitter feed seems to want to sit around and read/watch/talk about telly. So in lieu of anything else new here, I thought I’d point you towards a load of articles and videos other people have done instead.

Enjoy.

i.
First off, we have some brilliant analysis of Robot Wars by Christopher Wickham. Fancy learning about a robot which was renamed between the BBC Choice showing, and its BBC Two repeat? Or what about a rigged trial round? Or, indeed, a rigged Grand Final? Or a bunch of other obscure trivia about the show? Most of the CONTROVERSIAL BITS discussed have associated YouTube links, and I highly recommend you don’t rush through them – sit back and watch the fights in full alongside the articles. It’s worth it. Even when it’s difficult to nail down exactly what happened, some of those fights look very strange indeed in the final edit.

Out of all of the above, perhaps the thing which blows my mind the most is the existence of Robot Wars Revealed – a 1998 BBC Choice behind-the-scenes spin-off series. It being the early days of digital television, hardly anyone saw it – and seemingly only one episode is in general circulation. It’s incredible how easily things can slip away; even programmes made in the last 20 years. What programmes are you watching now that in 2037 you’ll think “Oh, I wish I could see that again”, and be unable to?

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17.05.17

The only post on the internet which uses McDonald’s to talk about the intricacies of television playout

Posted 17th May 2017

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McDonald's logo on black

Let’s take one of this site’s brief excursions into something which is actually a current news story.

“McDonald’s has decided to withdraw its latest TV advert, which was criticised for exploiting childhood bereavement.

The fast food giant had already apologised for “upset” caused by the advert, first aired on 12 May.

It features a boy who struggles to find something in common with his dead father until he goes to McDonald’s.

A spokeswoman for McDonald’s said the British advert will be removed from all media this week and it will review its creative process to avoid a repeat.”

I don’t really want to get into whether the advert is offensive or not; there are plenty of places elsewhere where you can get into that kind of debate. I want to pull my usual trick and pick out one sentence in the story and talk about something entirely different instead.

Today, that sentence is the following:

“Due to the lead-times required by some broadcasters, the last advert will air on Wednesday 17 May.”

My response: what the fuck?

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19.03.17

The Cook Report: Colin Stagg

Posted 19th March 2017

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The Cook Report, 26th November 1996, ITV, 8:30pm:

ROGER COOK: Colin Stagg was the the prime suspect in the Rachel Nickell murder case. He was charged after an undercover policewoman enticed him to talk about his fantasies of sex and violence. A judge threw the case out before a jury was even sworn in, and condemned the murder squad’s tactics. Although innocent in the eyes of the law, many people still see him as guilty.

Stagg was found not guilty. Robert Napper pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Rachel Nickell in 2008.

COLIN STAGG: There’s nothing there to tie me in with any crime whatsoever.
ROGER COOK: There’s no forensic evidence.
COLIN STAGG: No forensic, no.
ROGER COOK: Which there wouldn’t be, one would think, after two months. If there had been, it would have gone, wouldn’t it?

Stagg was found not guilty. Robert Napper pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Rachel Nickell in 2008.

COLIN STAGG: Nobody can remember what they were watching on TV two months ago, at a certain time, but it was around about that time quiz programmes were coming on.
ROGER COOK: So it fitted what you needed to say, some people might say?

Stagg was found not guilty. Robert Napper pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Rachel Nickell in 2008.

ROGER COOK: Question 28 on the lie detector test said “Are you a violent man?” – and you said…
COLIN STAGG: I said no.
ROGER COOK: Right. Did you stab your brother?

Stagg was found not guilty. Robert Napper pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Rachel Nickell in 2008.

ROGER COOK: There are two good examples of violence there.
COLIN STAGG: I was reacting like any normal human being would.
ROGER COOK: Well, that’s for others to judge, I guess. Some people though would say that this is another example of your continuing inconsistencies, and that there have been so many untruths, so many lies told, perhaps you don’t know the difference between the truth and a lie.

Stagg was found not guilty. Robert Napper pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Rachel Nickell in 2008.

ROGER COOK: In all, Lizzie James was sent dozens of letters, each more revolting and sexually depraved than the last, some disturbingly similar to the attack on Rachel.

Stagg was found not guilty. Robert Napper pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Rachel Nickell in 2008.1

ROGER COOK: But the lie detector was only one of three tests we asked Colin Stagg to take. We also took him to a hypnotist used by many doctors, who told us he’d resisted all attempts to induce hypnosis. And after a psychiatrist explained that the truth drug – though completely safe – was also difficult to defeat, he finally refused to take it.

Stagg was found not guilty. Robert Napper pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Rachel Nickell in 2008.

ROGER COOK: Yet all these other questions, Colin Stagg, remain unanswered.
COLIN STAGG: I’ve answered them as best as I could, and I did my best.
ROGER COOK: Then it’s up to the viewers to decide who to believe.
COLIN STAGG: Fair enough.

Stagg was found not guilty. Robert Napper pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Rachel Nickell in 2008.

*   *   *

One final thing, in case anyone thinks that all this is very easy to point out with the benefit of hindsight. When Colin Stagg was acquitted in 1994, Justice Ognall said the honeytrap set by the Met police was “not merely an excess of zeal, but a blatant attempt to incriminate a suspect by positive and deceptive conduct of the grossest kind”.

That was 1994. This episode of The Cook Report was 1996. And yet it constantly relies on clip after clip after clip of Stagg’s police interview, along with Cook stating the police’s point of view over and over again.

To call this programme reprehensible doesn’t need hindsight. It’s the fact the programme entirely missed the actual story which was plainly in front of them which is hard to believe.


  1. Thank fuck Roger Cook doesn’t have access to my browser history. He’d have me down as Jack the Ripper within minutes. 

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08.02.17

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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21.01.17

Our Little Genius

Posted 21st January 2017

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Our Little Genius publicity photo

In late 2009, a project was announced with a great deal of excitement.

“Fox announced on Wednesday that it is seeking participants for a new game show that will allow parents of young geniuses – age 6 to 12 – to put their kids’ knowledge to use winning “life-changing money.”

The series, to be called Our Little Genius, will feature the children competing to answer “increasingly difficult questions as they work their way up to win their family hundreds of thousands of dollars.” The new series is being created by Mark Burnett, the producer behind Survivor and Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader.”

– The New York Times, 11th November 2009

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25.12.16

A George & Mildred Christmas

Posted 25th December 2016

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George and Mildred in bed

Watching things on DVD has an odd habit of hiding patterns in TV shows, as well as showing them. For all that watching classic Doctor Who exposes the runaround nature of some of the middle episodes in a serial, if you’re watching the show out of order, the links between serials go awry. Even if you decide to watch a programme like, say, George & Mildred completely in order, the fact that the show had a Christmas episode each year between 1977 and 1979 is easy to go unnoticed.

Let’s take some notice, shall we?

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14.12.16

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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03.12.16

“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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