Saturday, 8 December 2007

Yule (B)Log VIII: Indiana Jones and the Pint Of Lager

Central TV Christmas Tape 1984 (YouTube link)

It's time for the second of our looks back into the world of Christmas Tapes. Way back when, we looked at ATV's Bongotastic 1977 effort. Today finds us seven years into the future (erm, from then, not now, obv), where ATV has transmutated into the more regionally focussed Central Television. As we lived in the region at the time of the changeover, we could fill a whole update about how a seven-year-old BrokenTV eagerly awaited the first sighting of a whole new ITV region. Except, showing an early sign of the lackadaisical timekeeping that would blight our later life so frequently, we overslept and missed the big 9.25am launch party. We would probably have been slightly scared by the new 'slowly exploding good morning orb' ident, anyway.

But that's all by the by. Here's a look at their Christmas tape from 1984, by which time BrokenTV's parents had moved to the Granada region, so we're not going to get any of the local references unless they're Shaw Taylor-based. Will it feature little more than eighth-generation bad VHS soft grot? Let's take a look.

By Christ's soupy beard, the tape gets off to a marvellous start, with a wonderfully lo-fi rendition of the Central ident, accompanied by a BBC-Micro-SOUND-command-issue reworking of the Central jingle. As it plays, a Zaxxon-ish spaceship flies around the Central orb. This is more like it!

The tape then fades to a short clip of a proper film, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, or more specifically the bit near the start where Indy has just avoided lots of booby traps in order to reach an ancient idol. Only, in a nice bit of inventiveness, in place of the idol is...

...a refreshing pint of lager in the middle of the Central TV Bar. Yay. By using a cunning body double (a member of the VT Crowd in a jacket and fedora), the scene is recreated in full. Not quite up there with Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation, but nice to see nonetheless. As (real) Indy runs away after claiming his prize, the scene is intercut with VT Bloke dashing down the corridors of Central HQ. Sadly, the 'real' footage of the giant boulder scene is used - we were hoping for a giant can of film or an irate Central canteen lady to pursue VT Bloke, but thems the breaks. Instead, we cut to the VT clock, and we're into the Christmas tape proper.

Now we're into more traditional Christmas tape territory. A montage of local news reporters fluffing their lines ("it really does seem as if Spring is... erm... oh, fucking hell"), local dignitaries falling over on ice rinks, a man with a quite magnificent beard being distracted by the set collapsing behind him, VT staff mooning the camera, Emu chowing down on a boom-mic, Jimmy Greavsie Greaves saying "oh, for fack's sake", Spitting Image mis-takes. All the stuff you might expect.

Then, hurrah, a spoof ad-break. Brilliantly, there's what seems to be a genuine faux pas from a continuity voiceover, with the announcer stating how "[The Fall Guy] is going to need a stunning cunt to get him out of this scrape... I'm sorry... I... (dissolves into fits of laughter)", followed by an advert for The Ronco Electro Shocker, and a slightly misogynist take on an old Impulse advert that actually turns out to be a dull joke about Ampex Tapes (which, at nearly five minutes in, sets a new record in self-restraint for VT staff compiling a Christmas tape).

From there, it's onto "Part Two", and quite possibly the weakest joke ever committed to tape. The title sequence to Blockbusters, but with a soundtrack of... the theme to Ghost Busters. With changed lyrics to suit to pictures ("We're not scared of Bob Holness... we're not scared of the Gold Run!"). Far be it from us to denigrate anyone else's stab at comedy (Radio Four's comedy department still haven't got back to us about our radio sitcom detailing the funny goings on in an abortion clinic), but our sides remained intact throughout.

Then, a slice of camp croonery with... is that Joey Boswell off of Bread? One final out-take from a regional news broadcast later, and it's time for the traditional shot of The VT Crowd dancing about in party hats and bad jumpers. The end. And there was only one visible nipple in the whole thing. Crikey.

Verdict: Better than the 1977 effort, if only for the Fall Guy continuity mishap. Although, disappointingly, it's not the one with the 'adult' version of Bullseye, despite what the YouTube comment says. 7/10.


7 .:

Anonymous said...

What's more disappointing is that in the Blockbusters 'skit', there's a large chunk of footage from either a rehearsal or some other bit of comedic business where Bob Holness is evidently playing the part of the solo contestant, against two crew members (look at the footage of the guy punching the teddy bear). Has anyone ever found the whole version of that, since it'd probably be a hell of a lot funnier than the included version.

PS. You might want to do the Thames '85 one next, that features a lot more VT pr0n for the more perverted .

Mark X said...

The footage used in the woeful Blockbusters skit really did remind me of the "It's nice being [x]" songs from TV Offal, so I suppose it wasn't entirely without merit. You're quite correct, an entertaining bit of business with an all-Bob 'Busters would be worth seeing.

re: The Thames '85 one - I'll probably give that a go soon, but I've got my eye on a Granada one next. I'm beginning to suspect the whole Christmas Tapes thing was actually an incredibly far-sighted and overcomplicated attempt to sneak lots of porn onto YouTube twenty years in the future.

Mark X said...

No, thirty years. Cripes.

Anonymous said...

Funny you mention "It's nice being [x]" - I work at VLS's old university (York), and he still has a bit of a legendary status among some of the staff. Stories of him giving the Islamic call to prayer from York Minster are still shared to this day.

Anyway, the camp singing in this one appears to be Jonny Logan and 'Nasty' Nigel Lythgoe, which, if I've got my timelines right, would be about the time Nigel moved more into production rather than choreography.

Mark X said...

It's a real shame VLS doesn't seem to do much more than exec produce slightly disappointing documentaries these days. I recently re-watched Inside Victor Lewis-Smith, and while there is definitely a lot of stuff that doesn't work, his programmes were unlike anything else on TV, and always worth watching.

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