Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Noel's House Party Cited in James Randi Lecture

Pretty much what we said. Our favourite bit: James Randi is so unfamiliar with the show in question he pronounces it as "No-well's House Party". "It's a television network... BBC... whatever..."

For the record (and we're not having a go at Randi here, his segments on Channel Four's The Secret Cabaret were consistently great), we can't figure out which part of House Party was being filmed here. If it was meant to be a Gotcha segment, where's the gag, considering this wasn't a conscious attempt by Noel & Co to expose Geller? And given the whole mysticism angle played up by Noel on Is It A Deal Or Isn't It A Deal, surely he wouldn't be looking to do such a thing. If it was an NTV segment, it could only have been from the circling-the-drain final series of House Party (and as such would probably have had Mr Blobby crashing into the restaurant), so what gives? Any Noel's House Party completists out there who know what's going on there?

After linking part two of the lecture, it would be remiss of us not to include the previous segment. James Randi teams up with the great Johnny Carson to debunk Uri Geller more directly on The Tonight Show:


Tuesday, 28 April 2009

How to get ITV HD on a Sky HD box

[UPDATE 17th June 2010: Hello, people of the future! This blog update still seems to get quite a lot of visits, especially now the World Cup is on. This update is here to point out that you don't actually need to go through all these steps, ITV HD now lives on Sky channel 178.]

There are times when we feel bad about giving ITV a verbal kicking, but they just make it so bloody easy. We can only withstand so much temptation. We’re just flesh and blood, dammit. Case in point - ITV are punting forward their new ITV HD channel as a great new innovation, but only making it available to Freesat viewers as part of their long-running feud with Sky. The same feud that, between 1998 and 2000, saw Sky Digital channel 103 broadcasting nothing but a message stating how you’d need to press ‘TV’ then ‘3’ on your remote to watch ITV through your analogue aerial, meaning a whole bunch of viewers with digital television (like us) simply stopped watching ITV, all for the sake of ITV plc unwilling to pay Sky’s EPG carriage fee.
The same applies with ITV HD, which isn’t available on Sky HD boxes. OR SO THEY WANT YOU TO THINK. There is a way to get ITV HD on Sky HD (providing you have a box running the new Sky HD firmware). And here it is:
What you will need for this hobby:

  • A Sky HD set-top box

  • The new EPG firmware (“sky+8.3.2”)

  • A flask of weak lemon drink

  • The internet
How to do it:

  • Press ‘services’ on your Sky HD remote.

  • Press ‘down’, then ‘right’ five times. This is the new way to get to the ‘add channels’ menu.

  • Enter Frequency 11.427, Polarisation H, Symbol rate 27.5 and FEC 2/3, then press the button for ‘Find channels’.

  • Add the channel named ‘10510’ to your ‘Other channels’ list.

  • And there you go. Surf to your ‘other channels’ list, enter the sodding PIN for some annoying reason, and watch channel 10510. While watching ITV’s range of hi-def content, you may drink your weak lemon drink.
However, don’t be expecting to see a service up there with Channel Four’s HD service. Despite a flashy launch campaign that included this trailer -
- things aren’t progressing as well as you might like. We popped over to’s HD schedule page today to see if tonight’s Barcelona vs Chelsea Champions League semi is in HD (is is, we've checked Digiguide), that’s today, which is April 28th. This is what we saw on the page of ‘forthcoming’ programmes:
Three programmes for the entire week. And the listings aren’t even for the correct week. Bad show, ITV. Try harder. One of the biggest football matches is on your channel, in HD, and you're not telling your own website. Bloody heck.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

“His Shirt Has A Pattern!” (Picture Special)

From the 22-11-1975 edition of TVTimes, here’s an advert for a shirt (we said ‘TVTimes’, so it is in keeping with our remit). It’s not too far removed from the hundreds of “Men! Buy this product and you WILL have sex with a lady as a direct consequence” adverts that littered Loaded and FHM in the 1990s, only a little more interesting. Well, cheesy. One day we’ll get around to starting the print ad blog we’ve been planning for ages, so we can put up the sort of thing we’re thinking about there. Anyway, click the pictures below for the full-sized versions.




Happily, in the same issue of The Magazine With So Much In It there was another advert for fashionable males, this time using the stock 70s/80s advertising format of a big picture and a shitload of text. We defy you all to come up with a 1970s fashion advert that is more 1970s than this:


For the records, the non-editorial pages in that week’s TVTimes weren’t a total sausage fest, as this advert aiming to let the ladies have a go at feeling all empowered and sexy proves:


Well, you know the old maxim. Aim for ‘dangerous, mysterious and sexy’, but don’t be disappointed if you end up with ‘that weird eagle-woman who hangs around by the demolished houses’. In short, neither gender is coming out of here with their integrity intact, are they?


No. No, they’re not. What we really need at this point is a grinning Terry Wogan to extol the virtues of a banjax-fixing elixir.


Thanks, Tel.


Friday, 24 April 2009

An Unstructured Review Of Reggie Perrin

(A review which might not be very interesting or well written, but it is timely. You’ll have to give us that.)

BBC One have starting showing their remake of classic 1970s Leonard Rossiter sitcom ‘The Fall and Rise Of Reginald Perrin’. It is being written by Simon “Men Behaving Badly” Nye and David “The Fall and Rise Of Reginald Perrin” Nobbs, and stars Martin Clunes (who played the part of a middle manager bored by office life perfectly in Men Behaving Badly). One writer who knows the character of Reggie Perrin inside out, and another who knows just how to get the very best out of the lead actor - the omens are very good indeed. It has been suggested that the show takes more of it’s cues from the original Nobbs-penned Perrin novels (then considered too dark and risqué for television, but hopefully now fair game), which is very promising too. Could it live up to our expectations?

Well, no. While there clearly needed to be a visible shift in mood to distinguish it from the original, going about it by simply shifting straight to Reggie getting angry with everything just made him seem liked a grumpy middle-aged sod. While Classic Perrin was merely wearied by the behaviour of his minions, NuPerrin came across as a bit of a bullying arsehole. Having Neil Stuke as Reggie’s boss (named Chris Jackson, though never referred to by his initials) was presumably to avoid direct comparison with the original CJ, but with Reggie’s boss clearly being much younger than him things seemed a little unreal, and not in a good way. Had Stuke been playing a cocksure dotcom millionaire, their confrontations could have veered toward new territory, but with him somehow being Stock 1970s Sitcom Boss Type A, it was hard to see what the character could offer. If they’d managed to transfer Matt Berry’s boss character from The IT Crowd, things could have been much better.


The jarring characterisations didn’t end there. In Classic Perrin, Elizabeth Perrin was a wife who genuinely cared about her husband, and seemed genuinely concerned about why Reggie was unwilling to open up to her. With NuPerrin, the rechristened Nicola Perrin barely seemed to give a flying stuff, more preoccupied with committee meetings and the like. Back at work, the marketing bloke is a dull methodical bore who reels off lists of research-based numbers and everyday conversations in the same dull monotone, and the staff ‘wellness officer’ is a bubble-headed new-ager. With the exception of love interest Jasmine, the people within the world of NuPerrin were uniformly one-dimensional – a shame, as that turned out to be one of the few failings with Classic Perrin. There could have been the chance to round out the characters personalities a little, but if there isn’t time to do that and cram in weak gag about self-harming emos (plus a reference to Amy Winehouse, so we know it’s set in 2009), it’ll just have to wait.



Strangely, there was no audience reaction to NuPerrin walking past Sunshine Desserts on his way to work, but a muted cheer at the first utterance of “I didn’t get where I am today by…”.


It might have been a better option to take a wholly new direction for the remake, instead of simply mentioning laptops, texting and screensavers now and then. Much as we’ll perpetually champion traditional audience-led comedy, in this instance taking a more naturalistic The Thick Of It-type approach – without an audience – could have worked well. While it might be too much to hope for the script being packed tightly with top-quality gags like (to make an inappropriate comparison) Arrested Development, and the budget wouldn’t stretch to aping (here’s another one) Scrubs, it could turn out along the lines of ‘How Do You Want Me?’, an earlier sitcom from Simon Nye. The fantasy sequences could still be included with such an approach, indeed, they might come over as more of a surprise.



(Key phrases quite deliberately missing from previous paragraph: “The Office”; “Canned Laughter”. If we’d used either of them, no court in the land would have convicted you for setting the BrokenTV offices on fire.)


There is hope. There’s a pleasing lack of catchphrase-heavy dialogue in NuPerrin. This is possibly due to lessons learned from 1996’s The Legacy Of Reginald Perrin, where devoid of the titular character, all that was left was a cast of characters saying everything was “great”, “super” and remarking on things that didn’t lead to them “getting where they are today” for seven episodes. Also, erm, it’s filmed in HD, which looks quite nice.

We’ll certainly be sticking with the show for at least the next couple of episodes, partly because we’ve still got faith in Nobbs and Nye to take this down a less well-trodden path, and partly because slagging off a sitcom based on the first episode is a bit like dissing a watercolour of a horse painted by a three year old child just before they grow up to be William Hogarth. It had better improve pretty soon though, because from where we’re sitting NuPerrin is coming across like seeing Horne and Corden ‘reimagining’ Hancock’s Half Hour.


Thursday, 23 April 2009

Gawd Save The Queen Mum, It's Only Saint George's Day, Innit?

It's Saint George's Day, and to mark the occasion this blog post is going to be written exclusively in the English language, or your money back! No Albanian or Minangkabau for us today. As such, we'd better keep it brief, and make sure we don't ruin that boast by accidentally using a phrase from another language. So, with one eye on avoiding a linguistic cul-de-sac (eh? Oh bugger), how about we find the most English thing possible, and post a clip of it?

But just what could be the most English YouTube clip possible? Some Sun readers beating up a paediatrician? Richard Littlejohn's perpetually peeved face yelling about how you're not allowed to call them 'blackboards' any more? A cheeky builder from Nantwich having his back covered with a massive tattoo of Del Boy and Rodney? Or is the question wholly moot because you can't express the personalities of forty million unique individuals within a single lazy stereotype?

Not even close. It's this:


OR SO WE THOUGHT. Simon (from ace music blog Sweeping The Nation) suggests there's another song about mid-1980s snooker than outdoes Snooker Loopy. And here it is:

So, which is best? Erm, if we're being brutally honest, neither is very good. We'd only written that pre-amble because we were confident we'd find the clip from 1995's The Ant & Dec Show on Children's BBC where Chas and Dave perform a version of Go West while dressed as the Pet Shop Boys. That would have been so much better, but The Internet let us down. Snooker Loopy was a last minute replacement. This post isn't coming together as well as our one on Britain's Got Talent, is it? We can't even think a suitable way to hark back to the gag on avoiding non-English words, then saying 'dénouement'. Bah.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Let’s Have A Cack Celebration

This week sees the release of Depeche Mode’s one hundredth studio album, Sounds Of The Universe. Despite our disappointment with pretty much everything they’ve done since Ultra, we’ve just bought it. In preparation for the new offering, to rekindle our affection for Basildon’s finest noisesmiths we’ve spent much of the last week chasing down as many DM remix bootlegs as we can find.

As one might expect by their very definition – albums containing unofficial remixes compiled by people with no access to the original components of each track – they’re generally a mixed bunch, but there’s one thing many of them have in common: really bad cover art. With this in mind, we present to you -


This may seem a little harsh. After all, the intent behind each compilation was to collect together rare, exciting and exclusive cuts from the Dep’s back catalogue. “That may well be,” say we, “but a lot of these were sold through record shops and eBay, so a bit of care when it came to the artwork wouldn’t have gone amiss, now would it?”

“Oh yeah, and I suppose you can do better, bignose?” You may well be saying at this point. Well, taking about five minutes, including the time it took to load Photoshop and type a query into Google Images, we cobbled together the following:


Yep, rubbish. But hey, literally five minutes work. So, let’s see some designs worse than that one. With sarcastic comments as if we’re Mark fecking Farrow or someone*.

(*Mark Farrow is one of our favourite designers of album art and packaging, and not someone who routinely slags other people’s work off, like we’re about to. We should probably point that out. We could just have made a joke about us being the Piers Morgan of album art criticism, but that’d just make us look schtoopid after that previous update.)

6. Bloodlines


An image taken by typing “leaf” into Google Image Search. A Photoshop filter that dicks around with a few colours. A vaguely gothic freeware font. Thirty seconds work. Job done.

5. Only When I Lose Myself


So, you’ve got a folder full of freeware Photoshop filters. Why not try applying them all at once?

4. We Create A Monster


The band name is copy-pasted from the Ultra artwork, meaning this cover was designed some time since 1998. That just makes the background a little bit baffling, as it’s seemingly the result of the demo mode of some public domain artwork generator given away free on a coverdisk from CU Amiga circa 1993. Add on some clip-art and some Word Art from Microsoft Word 97, and you’ve got an album cover. Of sorts.

3. Apologize 4.0


Yeah, you probably ought to.

2. The Butterfly Effect


The image itself could have worked, but when it comes to the lettering… ach. We’ve just tried looking in our ‘fonts’ folder to try and find out the name of that horrid typeface, but come up short because – despite it being a Windows default – we’ve long deleted it. And to compound matters: it’s in pink. Look, if you’re going for ‘dark and moody’, steer clear of pink lettering in a rubbish font. Really. We’re not being needlessly sarcastic when we say that when it come down to this album cover, presumably it’s only a coin-toss that saved us from seeing Comic Sans here.

1. Sounds Of The Universe


Really, now this takes the biscuit. The typeface used for the album title and the ‘epeche ode’ part of the band name is quite nice, but just look at the rest of it! Let your kid sister have a play on MS Paint, did you!? Jeepers H Crackers. Of all the hamfisted stabs at putting together an album cover for your crappy bootleg mix of tracks you’ve copied from other Dep Mode bootleg albums, this is by far the… [checks iTunes ‘Now Playing’ window more closely] ah. Erm. Yeah.


Monday, 20 April 2009

The Big Piece About Britain’s Got Talent


Britain’s Got Talent, eh? Maybe we should write something about that, given that it seems to be even more of a phenomenon than ever this year. Thing is though, we haven’t watched any of it this time round.

This isn’t due to some self-imagined intellectual agenda on avoiding The Light Channel when Harry Hill isn’t on it, or because we’re always too drunk to focus on anything by the time it airs. There is another reason. Conjure up a mental image of this tableau: you’ve got an unheralded, slightly old-fashioned variety act, who have been practicing their mesmerizingly original act for almost twenty years. It could be sword-swallowing, badger juggling, identifying the contents of sealed packages solely by their Amazon sales rank, it doesn’t really matter.

They’ll have been spending as much of their spare time as possible honing their five minute act, with the ambition of one day making the leap onto television (not necessarily in a literal sense). It’s not easy, what with having to work at the hospice on twelve-hour shifts, then getting home to look after the three kids on their own, but somehow they’ve always found a couple of spare hours every evening to nip off to the garage to perfect that tricky triple-somersault onto the vaulting horse of spikes.

Sure, it meant time in hospital, those three months in an oxygen tent after getting distracted by their mobile just as they hit the springboard, that four months without any solids after falling awkwardly off the flaming skateboard, but some lessons are best learned the hard way.


One day, they read an advert about auditions for a new talent show being launched on ITV, former home to the iconic show Sunday Night At The London Palladium. This is wonderful timing, their act has now been honed to near perfection. They go through a number of regional heats. A few bumps, scrapes, arguments and a Soviet-class amount of patient queuing along the way, finally, they are told by a researcher that they have been given the chance to perform on the big televised stage. Launch show for the series. Live. Ten million viewers will see them. This is it. The culmination of all that effort. It’ll all be worth it when they walk out onto the stage, leaving behind the countless hours of practice, the broken bones, the acrimonious splits from three different partners, and into the homes, no, into the hearts of the British public, ready to give the performance of their lifetime.

Only for Piers Morgan to sit there afterwards, oozing with smarm, wrongness, and oily glee, his mad-shaped head having decided that he hasn’t been needlessly nasty about someone for a few acts, so he’ll tell the next act that they look stupid and they should just go back to their day job, whatever that is. Piers Morgan. Disgraced former newspaper editor Piers Morgan. Thin-lipped smugtard Piers sodding Morgan. Yeah, you tell ‘em Piers. They may been able to master the art of riding a flaming unicycle along a greasy tightrope while blowing a glass swan at the same time as looking after a family and doing a sixty-hour-a-week job, but have they ever been asked to appear on Comic Relief Does The Apprentice? No. No, they haven’t.

Mind you, they’d probably be able to recognise an amateurishly faked photograph of British soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners, so it’s all relative, isn’t it?


(We may watch it next week.)


Sunday, 19 April 2009

While Channel Four Had Max Headroom...

Thames' Christmas tape for 1985 couldn't quite stretch to the level of plastering Matt Frewer in latex and digitising him a bit, so don't expect much from this clip. Now, who wants to see Rod, Jane and Freddy being shot at by a BBC Micro Mode 7 phallus? Roll 1:20... (warning: contains Jim Davidson)


Thursday, 16 April 2009

You Are No Longer Here: Huge Pictorial Update

"The colour of infinity inside an empty glass / It's for this experimental film / Which nobody knows about / And which I'm still figuring out / What's going to go in my experimental film?"

So sang They Might Be Giants on their track “Experimental Film”, the album opener for their underrated 2004 opus ‘The Spine’. Sadly, TMBG have never actually made a film along those lines. But luckily, a British pop duo with a similar sense of longevity have.


It’s generally regarded that The Monkee’s ‘Head’ is by far the strangest movie starring a pop band ever made. However, there is a challenger for the crown: 1988 saw the release of It Couldn’t Happen Here (dir. Jack Bond), a frankly deranged outing for Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe.

We were a sprightly fourteen years old by the time we finally got to see the film, after having to wait for the video release due to being slightly too young to catch the limited cinema release (it was rated ‘15’). Before then, like most viewers of Top of the Pops, No Limits and The Chart Show, we’d seen the trailer-cum-pop-video for the movie umpteen times, used as it was for promoting the Pettoes' 1987 Christmas number one, their majestic cover of ‘Always On My Mind’. Basically, it looked like the best gosh-darned film ever.

Look at all that stuff going on. Joss Ackland playing a Stephen Wright-quoting serial killer. Neil dressed as Elvis. Glitzy London nightspots playing host to altercations with a trio of rappers. Babs Windsor on the phone to Neil. A giggling dummy in an air traffic control tower holding a gun. A biplane. Chris chucking a huge breakfast over Barbara Windsor. Gareth Hunt and a plastic chicken. Loads of other shenanigans. How could it possibly be anything other than a rip-roaring caper comedy to rival the Italian Job and It’s A Mad Mad World?

Then we finally saw it, and found out that all of the events in the promo aren’t actually connected. They’re just a bunch of stuff that happens, with little rhyme or reason attached to their place in the plot, such as it was. The basic story is this. Neil and Chris buy a car, and go off somewhere. Along the way, things happen, many of which make little sense, especially to a fourteen-year-old who doesn’t feel quite so grown up all of a sudden. But, surely when we grew up, we’d know exactly what was going on in this film. We were just too young to ‘get’ it, that's all. Surely.

Twenty years pass. We purchase a VHS copy of It Couldn’t Happen Here from a car boot sale for the princely sum of One British Pound. Earlier on today, we connected up our old VCR, and put the tape on. At long last, with the worldly ways we’ve picked up in the interim, this is all finally going to slide into some sort of coherent…. nope, it’s still utterly bewildering.

There are a few things we did notice upon watching the film, which we are about to outline in bullet point form, because it’s easier than putting them into proper paragraphs, and because then you’d all be expecting ‘context’ and ‘reasoning’ and shit.

* It’s not really a very good film. It is however quite interesting, not to mention oddly compelling. The sort of film that should be watched at least once by everyone who is into this sort of thing (either surreal British films, the Pet Shop Boys, or former Carry On actresses being pelted with fried eggs).

* Throughout the entire film, where Neil and Chris meet up then go off and have adventures on the way to somewhere, they never actually speak to each other. Not even once. For reasons we can’t quite put into place, this is an excellent thing.

* Watching this film proves just how brilliant the album Actually really is. We’d forgotten just how good, which is quite shocking as it was the first album we ever bought with our own money. At Our Price records in Wrexham, in 1987, for £5.99, on vinyl, if you were wondering.

* The overall experience of watching the film can be explained quite well by putting together snapshots of several choice moments from it, and then trying our best to explain what’s going on. If you haven’t got a copy of it, this might well be as close as you’ll get to seeing it, seeing as it’s now been removed from Google Video (mainly because Google Video doesn’t exist any more), it has long since been deleted on VHS, and there are no plans for it to be released on DVD.



The intro to the tremendous Disco Mix of It’s A Sin swells in the background. Eerie blank-faced men in hats, overcoats and brightly coloured wigs clamour around What The Butler Saw machines, near the seafront of Clacton-on-sea.


One of the machines is being inspected by a youthful Neil and Chris, who have sneaked away from the blind Catholic priest who has taken their class to the seaside. The camera cuts to what is being played on said machine. A maid (played by Babs Windsor) is dusting.


A butler (played by Neil Tennant) mischievously sneaks behind and tweaks her bottom. The maid giggles, and butler Tennant gives her a peck on the cheek. RELEVANT INFO. in the film, Babs Windsor plays Neil Tennant’s mother.


The master of the house (played by Chris Lowe) appears, holding a riding crop. The butler scarpers, as the master proceeds to chase playfully after the giggling maid, practicing the swing of his crop as he goes. Suddenly, the maid grabs hold of the riding crop, and the tables are turned. Master Lowe slips, and falls on a chaise longue. The maid jumps on top of him, and they embrace.

The camera cuts back to the exterior of the machine. Young Tennant/Lowe are nearly spotted by Fr Joss Ackland (well, smelt – he is blind, after all), and they run off. With them departed, Fr Ackland tries looking at the machine, only to declare it isn’t working.


In the scene immediately following, the boys are in a different part of the funfair. They are standing next to a ferris wheel that Blind Father Ackland has stumbled onto.


Occupying the other compartments of the ferris wheel are:


A plump woman in her underwear eating a big cake,


Two members of a motorcycle gang getting drunk,


A pair of mud wrestlers,


Dracula and an unsuspecting maiden,


And a man doing horse.


The bit everyone know about. Neil and Chris stop to pick up a lady hitch-hiker, only for serial killer Joss Ackland to jump her (off-camera), and nip into the car instead. As they drive, Neil sings ‘Always On My Mind’, while Joss Ackland reels off a load of gags stolen from Stephen Wright.


Unlike the ‘Always…’ video (as embedded above), the scene in the film stays with the interior of the car. However, this remains interesting thanks to the cavalcade of wonderful facial expressions Ackland treats us to as Neil sings. If you do get a copy of this film, keep your gaze fixed on Ackland’s fizzog throughout the song. It’s a visual treat that keeps on giving.


A brilliant scene in an all-night cafe. Neil and Chris have just ordered an opulent feast from the waitress (“…and the Chateau La Fete 1942”), when a fastidious ventriloquist (played wonderfully by Gareth Hunt) enters, and sits down at the adjoining table.


His actions cause Neil and Chris to giggle themselves silly, as he very deliberately reels off his order to the waitress in his very best Shakespearean voice (“egg… beans… and chips. Two sausages… one large… one small…” – look, it’s funny when you see it, okay?).


Before his meal is served, his dummy demands to be let out of his suitcase. The ventriloquist relents, and as he scoffs his meal, the dummy trots out an existentialist dialogue on the very concept of time, and whether teacups actually exist. While all this is going on, a biplane pilot (played by Neil Dickson, pretty much reprising his role from Biggles: Adventures in Time) sits in the background, repeatedly trying to calculate two divided by zero on a Speak & Math machine.


After getting annoyed with the expensive feast enjoyed by the Boys in the all-night cafeteria, the ventriloquist’s dummy has now employed the biplane pilot, and tasked him with killing Neil and Chris.


As the pilot reads a book on existentialism (written by the dummy), his wooden paymaster’s voice plays out over a public address system. Sinister Dummy repeats the details of the meal ordered by the boys (“Oysters… finger bowls… on a silver platter…”) with scornful derision. Wowed by the philosophical musings on the subject of chronology, the pilot hops in a plane, and sets out to shoot the Boys’ 1952 Ford Zephyr off the road.

This he does, only doing enough to halt their car in it’s tracks, leaving Neil and Chris alive, but very much hampered in their quest to reach Wherever It Is They’re Going To. This pleases the pilot, who laughs manically, as does the dummy, watching from a nearby control tower.




In an earlier scene, Neil mentions to his mum (played, of course, by Peggy Mitchell, meaning Neil is at least step-brother to Grant and Phil) how “Dad used to leave the house in a flaming temper”. After the Boys fail to get their car fixed (by letting a load of skinheads bang out a tune on the engine with spanners, just after they’ve finished kicking the shit out of a telephone box), we see a scene where a much younger Neil’s Mum (played by someone who isn’t Babs Windsor) looks forlornly across the street to a neighbour snipping off a buttonhole for her husband. She looks down at her husband leaving the house, and thinks to herself why a similar floral accoutrement wouldn’t really work for him:


Yes, Neil’s dad would leave the house in what was – quite literally – a flaming temper. Well, a flaming suit anyway.


Real fire, mind. British CGI at the time could barely make it beyond the odd Quantel spinny box. A man hangs a 'brickwork’ poster on top of an advertising billboard, as Neil’s Dad walks to his car.


The car is, of course, similarly aflame.


Anyway, Neil and Chris get the train instead, which contains a menagerie. But going into more detail with that would involve listing another scene, so you’ll just have to track down a copy of the film if you want to see any more.

In summary: A wholly interesting (if not, as we said earlier, actually that good) little curio, all cobbled together to appease fans after Neil and Chris declined to go on tour. Now, why can’t Girls Aloud do something like this?

EXCLUSIVE BREAKING NEWS: Thrillingly, we've been contacted on Twitter by Chris Lowe (blimey), who tells us "Very interesting. There are plans to release it on DVD." You heard it here first, assuming that isn't already mentioned elsewhere.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

The Truth

Without wanting to seem overly mawkish, we'll just link to a piece from this morning's Today programme. A truly moving account of the disaster from Alan Green, followed by some insipid point-evasion by David Blunkett MP.

Click image to open in new page/tab


After listening to the above, this is well worth reading, and makes it quite clear what a certain soaraway publication is capable of. To those seeking an alternate point of view on the matter, read the comments from 'David Duff' underneath the Bob Piper blog post.


Thursday, 9 April 2009

Hot Chart On Chart Action With Stew, Mat and James (4)

We haven’t coloured in our Horne & Corden vs Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle ratings chart for a while, have we? We haven’t even remarked on the story about them being given a new series on BBC Two, which was later denied, only for claims that ITV are trying to poach their second series to pop up. Here’s the latest information with which to redress the first part of this imbalance, in graphical form.


(Source data: Digital Spy, Broadcast, MediaGuardian, etc.)

As we can see, both shows have lost viewers over the course of their first series. However, while Stew Lee has shedded around 15.2% of his audience between the first and most recent episodes, Horne & Corden have lost 52.0% of viewers by the time of their latest show. That saw just 392,000 people tuning in, insomuch as digital viewers ‘tune 'in’ to anything. Binary in? Bit in? There should be some sort of conversion table for elderly television references.

Being fair, figures rose impressively between eps three and four of H&C, possibly due to manufactured tabloid outrage over the ‘electric wheelchair’ gag in ep3, so data up to the fourth episodes of each show is considered, the drop in viewers is a more respectable 20.4% to Lee’s 15.2%. However, it’s the series as a whole we’re going to be considering, so by our calculations, unless Stew Lee and his comedic means of transport lose 427,000 viewers for next Monday night’s episode (which either is or isn’t about religion, depending on which listings guide you look at), Lee should remain on top.

Here’s another exciting chart of the respective week-by-week fortunes of the two shows.


A huge drop between weeks four and five for Horne and Corden, there. Now, we haven’t got around to watching all of episode four, but from this data we can only conclude that the grand finale to the episode was a huge song and dance number claiming that all BARB diarists routinely fellate livestock. In any event, the numbers tell their own tale, one which is going to be completely ignored when Horne and Corden get a second series, and Stewart Lee doesn’t. Prove us wrong, BBC honchos, prove us wrong.

As for coming up with a third part of our Comedy Showdown series, we’re looking into it. You just wouldn’t believe how hard it is to find a seeded torrent of Little and Large on the internet.


You're Doing It Wrong

When you get a spare minute, we'd recommend that everyone should read the Wikipedia entry for Tom & Jerry. It contains several bits of information we weren't previously aware of (or at least, which we'd learned from Stay Tooned with Tony Robinson and subsequently forgot). Assuming we're not falling for Wikipranksters, key facts include:

  • Jerry's full name is Gerald "Jerry" S. Mouse, and in the first short of what would become Tom & Jerry, was to be called 'Jinx'.
  • In the first five T&J shorts, Tom was exclusively quadrupedal, with the last being 'Dog Trouble'. However, Jerry was bipedal from the very beginning.
  • Despite the first Tom & Jerry short (Puss Gets the Boot) being nominated for an Academy Award, MGM weren't willing to finance any further escapades of (what was then) Jasper and Jinx ("haven't there been enough cat-and-mouse cartoons already?"). Luckily, animation's Hanna and Barbera decided to go ahead and make one anyway, just in time for MGM to relent, and order another two adventures. The second T&J proper bagged another Oscar nom, and their popularity grew.

The main thing we learned (or re-learned, due to Tony Robinson-based amnesia) was that we were horribly wrong in our assumption that Chuck Jones took over production duties on T&J once Hanna-Barbera moved on. H-B actually saw production stopped by MGM, who decided to greedily close down their animation studio after realising repeats of existing shorts made just as much money as the new releases. The studio shut in 1957, and H-B moved on to cartoons for television (which, whatever you may think of them, ultimately led to Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law, so hurrah for that).

In 1960, MGM had seen the folly of their ways, and looked for someone to start making brand new Tom & Jerry shorts. However, they didn't move straight on to Warner Bros. legend Chuck Jones, as we'd thought. With a beady corporate eye on the bottom line, they approached Czech-based studio Rembrandt Films to come up with new Tom & Jerry cartoons on the cheap, from behind the Iron Curtain. Director Gene Deitch and his team had only actually seen a handful of Tom & Jerry shorts, meaning that there's an almost alarming air to the 'new' adventures, with Tom being owned not by Mammy Two-Shoes (latterly 'Mrs Two-Shoes' in the more ideologically correct edits), but rather Generic Unnamed Angry Fat Man, who basically mistreats Tom in several quite harrowing ways. Essentially, it's a mash-up of classic Tom & Jerry, and some of the disturbing 'Parasite and Worker'-esque East European animations that Channel Four used to scare children in the mid-1980s. But don't take our word for it, someone excellent has put them all on YouTube:

"High Steaks" (1961, Dir. Gene Deitch)

Luckily, this didn't last too long, and by 1963 Chuck Jones was in control. The antics of T. Cat and G.S. Mouse were now going in yet another direction, but this time a more anarchic, lively, and most importantly, enjoyable direction. Despite what anyone else might claim, the Chuck Jones T&J shorts were great. Yes, they were. Identifiably different from the H-B years (which still edge it overall), but no less enjoyable for that, unless you're a lunatic.

"Penthouse Mouse" (1963, Dir. Chuck Jones)

Sadly, MGM pulled the plug on cinematic outings for the duo in 1967. They did make a return years later, this time on ABC's The Tom & Jerry Show. And this is how rubbish it was:


Monday, 6 April 2009

New From BBC Toys and Games

You’ve got to love the 10am to 1pm shift on 6Music, haven’t you? That dizzying array of good records being spoiled by having samples from things that were on telly or cinema in the 1980s. The bits where listeners are invited to phone in and do nothing more than say how great they think the DJ is. The phalanx of sidekicks noisily expressing how good they thought the thing the DJ just said was. Man, if we could actually have sex with the hours between 10am and 1pm on 6Music weekdays, we think we would actually do that.

Sadly, that leaves a huge 21-hour gap every weekday when we’re not listening to the banter of inane Chris Moyles tribute act George Lamb. This makes us sad, and during these hours we are often found in shop doorways, drinking a mixture of White Lightning, lighter fuel and our own salty tears, muttering “shabba” repeatedly, and clumsily trying to slash ourselves with a comb. Well, thanks to BBC Worldwide, we could soon be spared of this very specific anguish, with an exciting new product for boys and girls of all ages, which we EXCLUSIVELY reveal here.


Full-sized version of image: here.


Thursday, 2 April 2009

Getting The Network Together, Tonight


No time for a proper update yet this week, not even an update to the Stewart Lee vs. Horne and Corden ratings chart (mainly because no-one we can find has published the viewing figures for episode three of the former. If anyone can help there, we’ll be indebted). We’re still very much impressed with the video on offer at the ITV website, which we think, with a bit of work, could become even better than the Beeb’s iPlayer. How so? Well, because the ITV site offers up a selection of programming from the ITV network’s archive. Not just full episodes from there, but entire series of shows going back as far as the 1950s.

It’s not yet perfect. The selection of programmes could do with being expanded, but to be fair this may be dictated by the rights to many programmes now being outside of their control. The default playing window size is also quite small (the screenshots below are actual size as they appear on the ITV website). Not too bad for a clip, but a little wearying if you’re going to watch an entire series on the default setting. It’s all the more silly when you expand to full-screen mode, and realise the video is being pumped out at a bitrate high enough to enjoy at a higher resolution.

We’re probably preaching to the converted here (the captions on the size suggest this content has been online for ages already), but nonetheless here are links and shots to a few things we’ve found. Sadly, the Spitting Image link only provides video of a few select clips (alongside clips of – groo – Headcases), but the following classics and curios are on there. Warning: fond memories of programming past may become tarnished after viewing some of the following shows. Oh, and sadly, despite the heading we’ve used for this update, Bruce’s Big Night isn’t on there. A glaring oversight, we’re sure you’ll agree.



Metal Mickey (1980): series one.



Catweazle (1970): Series one.


Robin of Sherwood (1984): Series one.



Press Gang (1989): Series one.



Whicker’s World (various years). Including one show called “I Wear a Uniform, Pack a Gun, But I am Still a Woman”. Ladies? Doing ‘man’ things? The very thought!


Doctor in the House (1969): Series one.



The Army Game (1957): Series five.

Because it’s 2009, it’s expected that we won’t be able to relate emotionally to any of these shows unless there’s a comment from a modern day ‘celebrity’ telling why we should like each programme. So, we get Piers Morgan telling us how Alan Whicker “appeared to be having an absolutely brilliant time”, or Ben Shepherd remarking on how he wanted to ‘be’ Dexter Fletcher’s character in Press Gang (“he was American and he was cool”). That pettiest of gripes aside, high fives all round for the ITV archive gang.

Fingers crossed for more additions soon, and toes crossed that the BBC will take this idea and run with it. Their own archive minisite is nice enough, but ITV are ahead of them here. In fact, we’re going to boycott BBC Three completely until we can access at least three different streaming episodes of Emu’s Broadcasting Company on iPlayer. There. How d’ya like them apples, Auntie Beeb?


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