Old Spooky-Chops is back

  • 4/17/2007 12:49:00 am
  • By Mark Gibbings-Jones

Back in the days of BrokenTV’s formative years, when it was less a blog than a page torn from the back of an exercise book scrawled on in leaky biro, it had a really rubbish kind of running ‘joke’ between some of its closest chums. Quite often used to pass the time on the way to another daredevil wheeze involving trees, a canal and a really excellent rope swing, there would be an unofficial contest to see who could improvise the longest, most convoluted joke possible. The twist in the seemingly endless tale being that the punchline had to be stultifyingly and overwhelmingly pointless. And that was about it. Well, it was either that or discuss whether anyone we knew had got the foil Liverpool badge in their Football ’85 sticker album yet. Yes, it really is quite fortunate that Thomas Hughes never decided to write a novel about our childhoods. And not just because he’d died 78 years before we were born.

Anyway, while we don’t remember Darren Brown (yes, we’re calling him that on purpose) being a part of our schoolyard clique, we still have a nagging doubt that he was following us around on those balmy August afternoons with a notepad, because he seems to have based an entire series on that very premise. Confused? Well, here’s our synopsis of the first episode of his new series, Trick or Treat.

"I knew you were going to call me that. Aah."

The episode begins with Darren lurking about outside the house of his victim in the middle of the night. Richard Victim, looking quite remarkably like Tubes from Soccer AM, had previously signed a release form allowing Darren to do pretty much what he likes with him. Subsequently, Darren sneaks into him room at 3am, and shoves another contract in the face of a sleepily bewildered Victim, asking him to sign it. Then, Darren asks Victim to pick one of two cards. One is marked ‘Trick’, where something nasty will happen to Richard Victim. The other is marked ‘Nice’, meaning that something ‘nice’ will happen to Victim. Unbeknownst to Victim, the card he chooses is the one marked ‘Trick’. Obviously, because where would the excitement be in having the first episode end with something nice happening to someone? On Super Edgy Friday Night Channel Four? Eh? With the card picked, Darren sneaks off, rummaging through Victim’s kitchen drawers looking for his passport.

Then, cut to a bit of business involving Choc Rolls, The League of Gentlemen and razor blades, and some adverts.

Part two. We now see Richard Victim ambling into town trying to get a new passport photo taken. Presumably because his passport had mysteriously disappeared the morning after spooky-chops had sneaked into his bedroom, but this isn’t explained fully. Guess what, readers? Darren Brown’s crack squad of prop-makers have only assembled a ‘fake’ passport-photo-taking machine in a location where Richard Victim (and presumably NO-ONE ELSE) is likely to wander. What are the odds, eh? Victim does indeed venture beyond the curtains of the mysterious booth, only to be sent to sleep by the monotonous tones of Darren Brown. What will happen next? Well, he’ll be dragged out of the booth, taken to Heathrow Airport, and plonked on a flight to Morocco. Tee hee!

Some people never learn.

After a further bit of previously filmed business, introduced by a Darren Brown voiceover stating how Americans are much more stupid than everyone else, where Darren Brown tries to pull a psychological trick on some Americans in New York, only he doesn’t quite do it right, but they pretend to be impressed anyway to save his blushes (doing a ‘magic trick’ that needs to end with you stating “well, I got most of the word right!” isn’t really good enough to go on telly, Darren). Back to the show proper.

Richie Victim, still out for the count, has now arrived in Marrakech, Morocco. In a corner of a small shop, a team of Darren Brown henchmen are hurriedly reconstructing the fake photo booth, just in time to confine an almost-woken Victim. At the right moment, the crew all retire to their special hiding places, and the luckless Victim awakes.

At this point, the watching millions can barely suppress a collective guffaw as Victim leaves the booth, finding to his massive bemusement that, no! yes!, he’s now in the middle of a foreign country full of snakes. Looking a bit surprised, he wanders around for a bit, sort of wondering exactly what is going on. And…. And…… Aaaaaand…..

Well, there’s the rub. All that happens then is a couple of captions. The first stating that the crew were watching him throughout all of this, and making sure that he doesn’t come to any actual harm. The second stating that they finally told him what was going on when he found the airport, and he was quite relieved that he wasn’t suffering a massive Life On Mars-type coma after all. But, we don’t actually see any of that. Or how he got to the airport. Or how he discovered what country he was in. Or anything. Just sixty seconds of footage of Richard Victim wandering around being understandably bewildered. That was it. The whole set up, the entire Machiavellian plot involving smuggling an unconscious person through two large airports in major cities, and all they bothered broadcasting at the end of it was a confused bloke in a crowd for around a minute.

I know we should be grateful they aren’t just transmitting continuous footage of live badgers having their faces rubbed into cheese graters, or even worse, another series of Born Sloppy, but really. Jeepers, frankly.

Still, it’s not as if Channel Four have become so monumentally lackadaisical they can’t even spell the name of the person behind the most profitable sitcom in their entire history correctly, is it?

Oh dear.

Still, at least Peep Show is still as excellent as ever.


It's a scan of a storyboard for the title sequence to a series of The Paul Daniels Magic Show.


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