Drop The Dead Donkey – 24 Carrott Gold – The Making Of ‘Orchestra’ – tape 953

Here’s a repeat of Drop The Dead Donkey, which is always useful because they are preceded by a short introduction giving the context of some of the topical news of the time.

This episode is Death, Disaster ‘N’ Damien. Damien’s callousness in a warzone never fails to amuse.

Damian talks to some animal rights protesters, whom he encourages to go on a raid. Gina McKee is one of the protestors.

The next episode is the last episode is series one, The Big Day. The newsroom is abuzz with the arrangements for an interview with Mrs Thatcher. Michael Fenton Stevens appears as the PM’s media advisor.

Next, over to BBC1 for 24 Carrott Gold, Jasper does a stand-up gig at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 28th December 1990 – 21:30

Next, there’s The Making of Orchestra! in which Dudley Moore and George Solti talk about making their series about classical music.

There’s less music here than in the regular programme, but still some nice snippets.

After this, recording continues. It’s New Year’s Eve on Channel 4.

So we get to enjoy another New Year’s Eve programme, this time it’s Vic Reeves’ New Year’s Eve Big Night Out.

Among the familiar faces on Novelty Island, Wavey Davey.

Charlie Higson makes an appearance as a Stomper

Their on screen clock is slightly better than Julian Clary’s, although the show pays no attention to when it actually turns midnight.

There’s a guest appearance by Kim Wilde.

After this programme, recording continues for a while with Squeeze in concert.

In the ad breaks, there’s a trailer for 1001 nights of TV with Alison Steadman

And a trailer for Sony Discman featuring, rather strangely, Emo Phillips

Adverts:

  • Citroen XM
  • Tixylix
  • trail: 1001 Nights of TV
  • Pizza Hut
  • Alka-Seltzer
  • ELS
  • Intercity
  • Tennent’s LA
  • World of Leather
  • Chatback
  • Intercity
  • Sony Discman – Emo Phillips
  • Persil
  • Guinness
  • trail: The Producers
  • Listerine
  • Chatback
  • Lunn Poly
  • Drinking and Driving
  • Pond’s
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The Comic Strip Presents – Video View – tape 944

From Channel 4, some early Comic Strip Presents films beginning with the one that started it all and, indeed, was broadcast on Channel 4’s opening night, Five Go Mad in Dorset.

There’s an awkward bit of ironic racism at the start. I know the Enid Blyton books had their fair share of racism and classism, but I think there are probably better ways of addressing it than just having the characters say racist things, and assuming the audience knows it’s ironic. It reminds me of the scene in The Young Ones of the racist policeman who comes out with some vile language, and is clearly not supposed to be admired, but the reality was, as the production team found out after it went out, it gave the real racists in the playground just more ammunition to hurl at people. Paul Jackson admitted in later interviews that it was bad judgement.

But suspicion of lower class people or foreigners is woven into the world this show is parodying, so it’s somewhat unavoidable.

The four principals are Julian, played by Peter Richardson

Dick, played by Adrian Edmondson

Anne, played by Jennifer Saunders

George, played by Dawn French

Daniel Peacock plays Toby, another boy who’s very rude, but filthy rich, and wants to be friends with the gang, particularly Dick.

Robbie Coltrane plays a shopkeeper.

And a mysterious man who warns the gang of strange goings on at Kneecap Hill.

Which leads them to discover their Uncle Quentin, thought kidnapped, but in reality hiding out because he’s homosexual, and that’s unacceptable in those days. He’s played by Ronald Allen, most famous for Crossroads, or, if you’re a Doctor Who fan, The Dominators.

One piece of trivia: The music used throughout, which everyone recognises and immediately associates with a remembered idyllic childhood past is called Puffin’ Billy. It was the theme music for a children’s radio programme in the 50s, which is presumably why it’s always used in those contexts. It was also used in the Pixar short Tin Toy.

The next episode is Bad News Tour. It’s a spoof documentary about a bad Heavy Metal band, and it predates This Is Spinal Tap.

Adrian Edmondson plays Vim Fuego

Nigel Planer plays Den Dennis, perpetually confused at the technicalities of filming a documentary.

Rik Mayall plays Colin Grigson, not the hard-boozing rocker he likes to pretend he is.

Peter Richardson is Spider Webb.

Jennifer Saunders plays Rock Journalist Sally Friedman

Much like in Spinal Tap, the director of the film, Sandy Johnson, becomes a character in the film.

Dawn French plays a young schoolgirl who becomes a groupie.

The next episode is Susie. Dawn French is Susie, a free spirit who’s feeling trapped in her rural community.

Adrian Edmondson is her boring husband

Nigel Planer is Dave, her lover.

Peter Richardson is rock star Gary Dreadful, who buys the big house in the village, and with whom Susie also falls in love.

Alan Pellay, a semi regular in the Comic Strip troupe, plays Richardson’s assistant Ray.

Next it’s Gino – Full Story and Pics. Keith Allen plays Gino, a man on the run from the law.

Adrian Edmondson plays an angry writer

Lionel Jeffries, director of The Railway Children, plays a cab driver.

Alan Pellay gets into the cab Gino has stolen, wanting a lift to Capital Radio.

Comic Strip supremo Michael White plays another cab fare.

Along the way, the usual suspects are encountered. Jennifer Saunders takes the stolen cab, and ends up in the middle of nowhere with Gino.

Robbie Coltrane is a manic epileptic driving a jaguar.

Dawn French plays a woman to whom Gino and Saunders go in search of breakfast.

She lives with her husband Rik Mayall, paraplegic after an accident and an appalling person. French takes the opportunity, while a wanted man is in her house, to murder Mayall and blame Gino.

Arnold Brown plays a shopkeeper.

After this, recording switches to the end of an episode of the Twilight Zone.

Then, Mariella Frostrup is covering horror films in Video View.

Among the films covered are:

There’s also a long look at Stephen King’s World of Horror.

After this, recording continues for a minute with the start of an episode of Men – a series I have never heard of until now. The tape ends just as it starts.

Adverts:

  • Clorets – Hale & Pace
  • The Highlands and Islands Telecommunications Initiative
  • Batchelors Savoury Rice
  • Tennents Extra
  • Daily Star
  • St Ivel Real
  • First Direct
  • trail: Out on Tuesday
  • Pimm’s
  • Coca Cola – Generations
  • Burger King
  • Grolsch
  • First Direct
  • Clerical Medical
  • AA Insurance
  • First Direct
  • trail: The Viz Documentary
  • Whiskas
  • Hellbound: Hellraiser II on video
  • First Direct
  • Rita, Sue and Bob Too
  • Barclays
  • Vauxhall Nova
  • The European
  • Clerical Medical
  • Holsten Export
  • Kenco
  • Wall’s Feast
  • Fairy Liquid
  • Findus Lasagne
  • Ireland
  • Phileas Fogg
  • Strongbow
  • trail: Vic Reeves Big Night Out
  • Tesco
  • She Devil in cinemas
  • Abbey National
  • Tesco – Dudley Moore
  • Evian
  • The Evil Dead on video
  • Golden Wonder
  • Bernard Matthews 6 Golden Drummers
  • Partyline
  • trail: The Brotherhood of the Rose
  • Grolsch
  • Party Chat
  • Ariel
  • Millicom
  • Dairylea
  • British Gas
  • Impulse
  • Chatline
  • Kellogg’s Honey Nut Loops
  • Colgate
  • Dairy Crunch
  • Asda
  • Michelin
  • Wash & Go
  • trail: Sharky’s Machine

The Batman – tape 890

Here’s the first several episodes of the 1943 serial The Batman. It’s dark, dingy, cheap looking, and quite racist.

It portrayal of the Caped Crusader is controversial. Here he is pointing a big gun at someone.

The main villain is a Japanese stereotype, Dr Daka played (in yellowface) by J Carroll Naish.

And frankly, having watched some of this recently, I really can’t be bothered to spend my time watching it. It doesn’t even have the charm Flash Gordon. Here’s some title cards, though so you get a sense of the story.

Episode Two is preceded by the end of what looks like an Eastern European cartoon about… I’m going to say space-travelling mashing machines powered by toy windmills.

The tape ends right after chapter ten, and there’s no adverts on this one at all, despite being on Channel 4.

The Purple Rose Of Cairo – A Sticky New Year – tape 891

This tape starts with the end of Chris Evert’s Wimbledon Farewell.

There’s a trailer for Hannah and her Sisters.

Then The Purple Rose of Cairo. Woody Allen’s version of The Last Action Hero.

Mia Farrow plays a woman, married to a boorish unemployed Danny Aiello, who finds escape in the movies.

She goes to see the movie The Purple Rose of Cairo several times, when suddenly, one of the characters, Tom Baxter (Jeff Daniels) starts talking directly to Farrow. Then he walks out of the screen and leaves the movie house with her.

The rest of the characters in the movie don’t know what to do without Tom, so they sit around waiting for him to return, to the confusion of the audience, and soon, the press and studio. The film cast includes John Wood and Edward Hermann.

The actor who plays Tom, Gil Shepherd, thinks Tom walking around could damage his career, and his agent, Michael Tucker, tells him he needs to sort it out.

Shepherd runs into Farrow and then confronts Tom, telling him he has to go back to the movie. Tom wants to stay in the real world.

It turns into an existential question about whether reality is better than fiction. And in the end, Tom goes back onto the screen as Farrow chooses real life with Gil, who says he’s fallen in love with her.

But there’s no happy ending for Farrow, as Shepherd heads back to Hollywood as soon as Tom’s back in the movie, leaving her alone with just the movies.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 31st December 1989 – 19:15

After this, there’s a trailer for Drama on Two, including Simon Gray’s Old Flames.

Then, recording continues with the start of Sviatoslav Richter at the Barbican.

Shortly into this, recording switches to Channel 4 later in this New Year’s Eve.

It’s Channel 4’s live New Year programme, Sticky Moments Live with Julian Clary.

It’s not the most edifying of New Year experiences. A little of Clary’s shambolic pseudo-quiz goes a long way. And they spared no expense with the countdown graphics to midnight.

The audience sound like they’ve had a drink or two, shouting out random rubbish when Julian is recounting an anecdote. It’s all a bit Stag Night comedy club audience, and not particularly entertaining.

After this, recording continues. You can tell this is before Channel 4 sold their own ads, as during the ad break there’s quite a long section with just this caption, because LWT (or Thames) didn’t sell enough ads to fit the timeslot.

The tape then runs out during some live American Football.

Adverts:

  • Norwich Union
  • Highland Spring
  • trail: Treasure Hunt
  • trail: Tanita Tikaram – Ancient Heart
  • Royal Caribbean Cruises
  • Miller Lite
  • Renault 19 Chamaude
  • 7Up
  • Black & Decker
  • trail: ‘Round Midnight
  • Rover Metro – Michael Barrymore
  • Butlin’s
  • Labatt’s – Tony Slattery
  • London Underground
  • Marathon
  • Heineken
  • World Cup 90 stickers
  • Esso
  • Castella Classic – Russ Abbott
  • British Airways
  • Labatt’s – Tony Slattery
  • The Sofabed Factory
  • When Harry Met Sally in cinemas

The Flash – tape 956

Here’s some episodes of the 1990 series of The Flash.

First, an episode called Done with Mirrors. It opens with 70s teen heartthrob David Cassidy stealing a revolutionary battery from Star Labs.

But he’s double-crossed by his associate, Stasia (Signy Coleman).

Meanwhile, Tina McGee and Barry Allen aremeeting Tina’s mother, played by Carolyn Seymour off of Suvivors – was she in every 90s genre show?

Stasia is being pursued by Cassidy, but she recognises Barry as an old school friend, so she inveigles her way into his life for some cover.

Here’s a nice nod to the comic’s history – the original Golden-Age Flash was Jay Garrick. And in a nice twist, in the current TV version of The Flash Garrick is played by none other than John Wesley Shipp – this series Flash.

The next episode here is Beat the Clock. Jazz musician Wayne Cotrell (Jay Arlen Jones) is on death row, accused of murdering his wife, the famous singer Linda Lake.

Barry’s colleague Julio Mendez knows the Cotrells, and Barry takes a phone call from another friend of Cotrells trying to contact Julio, telling him he has a tape that’s proof that Wayne didn’t kill Linda. But there’s only an hour before Wayne is to be executed.

Angela Bassett plays the murdered wife, who is not actually dead, but who is being held hostage, and amnesiac, by Wayne’s brother, who wants to record new music and make a fortune.

Also in the cast is Ken Foree as the murderous Whisper.

The next episode is Double Vision. The episode ordering here is very odd. So far we’ve had episodes 18, 10 and now 4. I wonder why the y are broadcasting in such a strange order. At least there’s no real series arc to mess up.

Barry is shot with some kind of dart, and becomes under the control of a man with an Oculus Rift and a Nintendo Power Glove.

After this episode, recording switches to The Channel Four Daily looking at the opening of Batman Returns.

The tape ends during the news bulletin.

In the adverts, there’s one featuring a remarkably young Mark Strong pushing catalytic converters.

Adverts:

  • trail: The Simpsons
  • Ariel Color
  • Woolworth’s
  • Sunkist
  • Goblin Laser Vacuum Cleaners
  • trail: This Weekend on the Movie Channels
  • trail: Unsolved Mysteries
  • 2 of a kind
  • Citroen ZX
  • Lionel Richie – Back to Front
  • Comet
  • Direct Line
  • Sky 2 of a Kind
  • trail: Sky News
  • trail: 21 Jump Street
  • trail: WWF Superstars
  • trail: WWF Superstars
  • Fiat
  • Bird’s Eye Country Club Cuisine
  • Slim-Fast
  • Andrews Antacid
  • The Real McCoys
  • Kenco
  • trail: July on the Movie Channels
  • trail: Boxing
  • trail: Roots
  • trail: The Simpsons
  • Andrews Antacid
  • Arrid Extra Dry
  • Coca Cola
  • Fairy Liquid
  • The Real McCoys
  • Panadol Extra
  • trail: Dire Straits Live
  • trail: Sky Sports
  • trail: WWF Superstars
  • trail: Unsolved Mysteries
  • Bold
  • Murphy’s
  • Fruitini
  • Kodak Gold
  • Pedigree Chum
  • trail: Eve of Destruction
  • trail: The Simpsons
  • trail: WWF Superstars
  • trail: July on the Movie Channels
  • Daz – Danny Baker
  • Crunchy Nut Cornflakes
  • Prima
  • TV Licensing
  • The Real McCoys
  • Servis
  • trail: July on the Movie Channels
  • trail: Sky News
  • trail: 21 Jump Street
  • trail: Spearfield’s Daughter
  • Argos
  • Skittles
  • Optrex
  • Servis
  • Lenor
  • Granada Visionhire
  • Persil Micro
  • trail: Arachnophobia
  • trail: WWF Superstars

Common Pursuit – The Trojan Mouse – The Comic Strip Presents – tape 893

This tape opens with the end of Did You See featuring Brian Rix, John Wells and Edna Healey, presented by Jeremy Paxman.

There’s a trailer for Monday Night’s programmes.

Then, an adaptation of Simon Gray’s stage play, Common Pursuit (stripped of its definite article in the adaptation).

I saw this play when it was staged in London in the mid 80s, with an all star cast including Stephen Fry, John Sessions, John Gordon Sinclair and Rik Mayall. Of these, only Stephen Fry survived the transition to TV – this was in the days when he and Simon Gray liked each other, before the infamous breakdown during the production of Cell Mates.

The play concerns a group of people who meet at Cambridge, where Kevin McNally has assembled a group with the intention to publish a literary magazine, The Common Pursuit.

Tim Roth plays Nick Finchley, the louche future theatre critic. I think this was Mayall’s role in the original.

James Fleet plays Peter Whetworth, writer and serial philanderer, always using his friends as alibis as he cheats on his wife.

He’s billed as Wentworth in iMDb but he’s Whetworth in the Wikipedia article, and on an on-screen note.

American movie star Andrew McCarthy plays Martin Musgrove, who’s not the intellectual giant that the others seem to be, but he can offer financial support.

Stella Gonet plays Marigold, McNally’s girlfriend, who frankly doesn’t get much of a character here – a general problem with the whole plot.

Ian Bannen plays famous poet Hubert Stout, who offers the magazine some support at the start.

While we’re obsessing about the spelling of people’s names, Stephen Fry’s character is billed in iMDb as ‘Humphrey Taylor’ but his name is shown on screen (twice) as ‘Humphry Tayler’. Now, I’ve no idea if that spelling is correct, or if it’s the work of a slightly sloppy set decorator. Given that the on-screen credit is ‘Humphry’ I think it’s more likely that the iMDb credit is wrong, and Gray just chose an odd spelling for Tayler.

This is a nice play, about thwarted literary aspirations, the pressure of having (or not having) a family, infidelity and moral philosophy, and has a melancholy ending. It takes place over a span of about 20 years, from its beginning as the group meets for the first time, through various points in time when they all happen to coincide again, and there’s a nice structural conceit where the last few minutes of the very first scene aren’t actually seen until the very end of the play. This isn’t for some shock revelation that changes the meaning of everything we’ve watched, merely a bittersweet reflection of the people we’ve been watching, while they were still young and relatively carefree.

I would highly recommend reading Simon Gray’s writings, by the way. He’s written extensively about the production of various of his shows, including this one, and he’s very candid.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 8th March 1992 – 22:00

After this, recording switches to a Sunday Morning, with the end of See Hear who have a political debate in the week preceding a General Election.

There’s a look ahead to more programmes for the morning.

Then, The Trojan Mouse, a look at ten years of the BBC’s Computer Literacy Project. Ian McNaught Davies presents a look back at how the BBC taught a whole generation of people (me included) to program computers.

Among the luminaries interviewed are the two main designers of the BBC Micro (and subsequently the ARM chip that now powers most smartphones) Steve Furber

And Sophie Wilson

They tell the now infamous story of how Acorn boss Herman Hauser told each of them separately that the other knew how they could build a prototype micro for the BBC in a week, hoping to play them off against each other.

Another famous face from the BBC world was Nazir Jessa, boss of Watford Electronics. I bought my first floppy disk drive from Watford Electronics, while they were still in a small shop down a residential street in Watford.

From the BBC, there’s Executive Producer John Radcliffe

And the Editor of the project David Allen

In the section about the vicar who uses his Archimedes to create a parish magazine, it’s nice to see him using Impression, the desktop publishing package I worked on at Computer Concepts.

Here’s the whole programme.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 5th April 1992 – 10:30

After this, there’s a brief flash of an advert for Acorn User magazine, quite unusual for the BBC.

Then recording switches to an episode of The Comic Strip Presents – The Red Nose of Courage. It’s the story of John Major’s rise from failed circus performer to the heights of British Politics. Major is played by Adrian Edmondson.

Alexei Sayle plays his father.

Jennifer Saunders plays Margaret Thatcher.

Dawn French plays Glenys Kinnock (in Neil Kinnock’s place as leader of the opposition).

Rik Mayall plays the Shadow Home Secretary.

Nigel Planer plays the Home Secretary

Robbie Coltrane plays the Speaker

It’s not a bad outing, and ends on a very cynical note. “Is it not true that the labour party have thrown off the mantle of socialism in favour of a much more practical and realistic ‘I want it and I want it now’ way of thinking?”

And then Alexei Sayle tears the Magna Carta in half and blows up the Houses of Parliament.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 9th April 1992 – 22:30

After this, there’s a very brief bit of recording from the Election Night coverage – nothing interesting, I’m afraid – before that recording stops and underneath there’s some concert footage from someone I don’t recognise in The Session.

The tape ends during this.

Adverts:

  • Carling Black Label
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Horizon – Winter Kills – Hit And Run – tape 887

First on this tape, an episode of HorizonFrom Earth to Miranda looks at the two Voyager spacecraft, launched in 1977 and designed to visit the outer planets.

There’s a lovely mix of traditional animation, 1970s era CGI, and imagery from the Voyagers themselves.

We also get to see some of the scientists involved. Here’s Chief Scientist Edward Stone.

Andrew Ingersoll could have come from central casting.

Linda Morabito tells the rather amazing story of her discovery. She was an engineer working on the image processing system, analyzing and enhancing the images returned by Voyager, and one day she noticed an anomalous crescent on the edge of an image of the moon Io. After eliminating all the other possibilities, like a camera anomaly or a previously unknown moon behind Io, she concluded that the explanation was an active volcanic eruption. It had been assumed that Io had no active volcanoes, and this was the first observation of an active volcanic eruption ever outside Earth.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 29th January 1990 – 20:10

After this, I was clearly watching, as I ruthlessly cut out any trailers, and we’re on to the next programme that night, another in the American Tales season that also brought us True Stories. This is Winter Kills, a paranoid thriller starring Jeff Bridges.

Here’s how Bridges is introduced, making a phone call to his girlfriend from a ship at sea.

He’s interrupted when a helicopter arrives bearing a badly burned man, who confesses to having assassinated Bridges’ brother, President Tim Kegan, 17 years ago. This launches Bridges into an investigation into his brother’s murder.

The Kegan family is clearly modelled on the Kennedy family, and the dominating patriarch of the family is played by John Huston, a monstrous bully of a man, who sends Bridges to talk to various possibly involved people.

These include Sterling Hayden, who spends his time driving around in a big tank.

Anthony Perkins, who runs the intelligence services singlehandedly, it would seem.

Also involved is Bridges’ girlfriend, Belinda Bauer.

As a thriller, it doesn’t really make much sense, mostly because almost everything that Bridges discovers is told to him by someone we later learn is either lying, or isn’t the person he thinks they are. It doesn’t really work as a mystery of any kind. But it definitely works at the paranoid aspect. Twice, Bridges misses out on being killed because he notices a women riding a bike with a child on the back. This is never explained.

He’s told things we then see as flashbacks. Elizabeth Taylor appears in one of these. She doesn’t have any lines, and is uncredited.

The most bizarre moment is when he returns to his sumptuous apartment after a long time away, and without warning, the maid who’s ‘freshening his room’ suddenly attacks him and tries to throw him off the balcony.

This, in itself, isn’t bizarre in a thriller where he’s dodged death at least twice already. Where it becomes truly bonkers is the moment when Bridges is trying to tear his way out of the blanket she’s thrown over his head, and in doing so also manages to rip the maid’s dress open so she’s suddenly topless. At this point I wondered if the script had been written by Patrick Stewart from Extras. “It was too late. I’d seen everything.” I suppose it was 1979 when this was made, and gratuitous female nudity was almost compulsory.

Don’t let these gripes put you off, though. It’s not a bad thriller, and Jeff Bridges is at his most ‘young movie star’ in it – the film wastes no chance to have him with his shirt off, despite it being winter, and therefore very nippy. And Huston is brilliant as the horrible father. He even gets a final scene that reminded me very strongly of Alan Rickman’s in Die Hard.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 29th January 1990 – 21:00

Next, the final episode of Hit & Run, wherein Ruby Wax has to visit Manchester to appear on Open Air to respond to viewers questions about her show. She travels up with her father.

She also visits the Kirby Vacuum Clearner sales team in Scotland, who sing company songs and have the kind of motivational meetings more akin to a religious cult.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 30th January 1990 – 21:00

After this, there’s an advert for the Radio Times, then the recording stops.