Blue Peter – The Merry Widow – The Man in the Iron Mask – Return of the Goodies – Room 101 – Insomnia – 30 Dec 2005

Christmas week has been a bit packed, and today’s no exception.

The first recording starts with some CBBC continuity, as Simon talks to a boy who reads a poem he had published in a book. But when asked if he’d like to be a poet when he grows up, the boy says he’d rather be a professional footballer for Liverpool.

Then, it’s Blue Peter, with their review of the year. Starting with Zoe Salmon’s first appearance the previous Christmas.

Simon Thomas left the show, and got a bit emotional.

Gethin also joined the show, and is unveiled while dressed as Batman in this superhero bit.

Meg has puppies.

Matt gets a bit upset with Zoe when they train for a ballroom dancing competition, and she keeps leading him.

There’s a montage of Gethin puking during flights.

I hope he didn’t also puke whilst inside a Dalek.

Zoe does a sort of Faking It bit where she has to teach a class of kids. It was everything I hate about classrooms.

Ewan McGregor tells the story of how he got a Blue Peter badge when he was young.

Dawn French sings with McFly (and I honestly thought that was Mel Smith at first).

A very brief glimpse of Christopher Eccleston.

Hayden Christensen helps Konnie make a cake.

Gethin plays violin in the Blue Peter Prom, and duets with Nicola Benedetti.

Matt eats a fried tarantula.

Zoe dances the can-can. At one point, the men pull the big pants off the women. This is Gethin’s reaction.

David Tennant is in the studio to announce the winner of the Create a Monster competition – the winner was The Absorbaloff, which will appear in an episode next year.

Matt performs on the Trapeze.

Media Centre Description: The team look back over an action-packed year which included the 4,000th edition, the departure of Simon Thomas, the arrival of Zoe Salmon and Gethin Jones, Meg’s puppies and the death of Smudge the cat. There are magic moments from the summer expedition to Japan, a selection of the top presenter challenges and a look ahead to some of the treats in store for 2006.

BBC Genome: BBC One London – Friday 30th December 2005 – 10:10

After this, there’s a trailer for The Story of Tracy Beaker. Then the recording stops after a few minutes of Spirit – Stallion of the Cimarron.

The next recording starts with the end of Broadway: The American Musical with Danny Kaye doing one of his patter songs.

There’s trailers for a repeat of The Lost Prince, and Judge John Deed.

Then, Lesley Garrett introduces a performance of Franz Lehar’s The Merry Widow.

I did enjoy this, especially since I’ve performed in an amateur production of this – in fact it was the first musical production I ever did, shortly after I met my (then future) wife. I was only in the chorus, but it was a lot of fun.

Media Centre Description: Lesley Garrett stars in the Welsh National Opera’s production of Franz Lehar’s operetta.

BBC Genome: BBC Two England – Friday 30th December 2005 – 12:20

After this, there’s trailers for Return of the GoodiesThe Queen By Rolf, and an ad for BBC Red Button. Then the recording stops after a few minutes of an episode of Flog It from Brighton (in a change from the billed programme).

The next recording was edited, and it’s the film The Man in the Iron Mask. In my head, I always mix this up with The Count of Monte Cristo despite not having read either. At least they’re by the same author.

It shows how little I knew about this story that the fact it’s a story about the Musketeers was a surprise to me. Gabriel Byrne plays D’Artagnan, now captain of the Musketeers.

Gerard Depardieu is Porthos, spending his time partying with women.

Jeremy Irons plays Aramis, now a priest.

John Malkovich plays Athos, now retired from the Musketeers

He has a son, Raoul, played by Peter Saarsgard. He’s going to join the Musketeers, and he in love.

His fiancee is Christine, played by Judith Godreche.

Unfortunately, Christine catches the eye of the young King Louis XIV, played by Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s definitely a bad king. When told the people in Paris are starving, and rioting, he orders rotting food to be sent to them. He also orders Aramis to find out who the secret general of the Jesuits is, because the Jesuits have been condemning the King. And even when D’Artagnan gives him advice on helping the people, he ignores it. It’s all “Let them eat cake” with him.

Nice to see Hugh Laurie among the king’s advisers.

Because the king wants Christine, he sends Raoul to fight in the Dutch War, where he’s killed in the fighting. Athos holds the King responsible, and comes to kill him, but D’Artagnan stops him.

Aramis summons the other musketeers to a meeting and drops a bombshell. He is the secret general of the Jesuits who the King wants killed. He tells the others he has a plan, to replace King Louis. Only D’Artagnan refuses, as he’s sworn an oath to the King.

Aramis’ plan involves the eponymous man in the iron mask, an unknown man who has been held in prison for years, always wearing the iron mask.

The musketeers plan to spring him involves Aramis pretending to be a fat italian. And when he gets into the cell with the unknown man, he reveals that his huge girth was actually a dead body, dressed up to look like the unknown man, complete with mask. Sadly, we don’t get to see how he manages to then strap the prisoner to himself to escape, but that probably took ten minutes or more. It’s a neat plan, as he tells the prison guards that the dead man died of the plague, and so they burn the body.

They bring the man back to a farm, take off the mask, and when he’s cleaned up, he looks familiar.

Aramis explains that the man with them, Phillippe, is actually the identical twin of King Louis. His father, knowing that feuding brothers can often destroy a monarchy, ordered that the younger twin, Phillippe, be taken away and hidden, and nobody was to know who he was. His mother, Queen Anne, was told he had died. Aramis was the one who was ordered to hide him.

 

 

On his deathbed, the old King told Louis and Queen Anne of Phillippe’s existence. She wished to restore Phillippe’s birthright. (She’s played by Anne Parillaud).

But Louis is now King, and fears a rival. He can’t kill him, because of the sanctity of royal blood, so he orders Phillippe imprisoned in the iron mask, and it’s Aramis who has to carry this out.

 

Meanwhile at the palace, it looks like D’Artagnan and Queen Anne are in love, and have been for a while.

Christine, Raoul’s fiancee, is now with the King, but she receives a letter sent by Raoul before he died. She’s having doubts about the King, but he tells her he ordered Raoul to be kept away from the front, and can’t explain how his generals disobeyed his order.

The Musketeers plan to switch Phillippe for Louis at a costume party. It seems to be going smoothly, the switch happens, and Phillippe takes Louis’s place. Queen Anne attends the party. Aramis has already told her about Phillippe, so she knows she’s meeting her lost son for the first time.

Christine disrupts the party. She’s got proof that Louis ordered Raoul directly to the front lines so he would be killed. Phillippe tells her “However I have wronged you, I will make amends.” D’Artagnan watches this, and grows suspicious – the King is never this nice to people.

He asks Phillippe to come with him for his safety. Meanwhile the musketeers are swashbuckling away beneath the castle, trying to take King Louis away. They almost make it, but the corps of musketeers stop them leaving, and D’Artagnan brings Phillippe there. There’s a standoff, ending with the musketeers getting away, but the King remaining. So at last we get a scene where Louis and Phillippe meet each other, as is the law in all double films. It’s done well here, with one of them passing behind the other, with decent shadows and a camera move.

The King orders D’Artagnan to hunt down the other musketeers, and orders Phillippe back to the prison and the mask. There’s a scream from Christine’s quarters, and D’Artagnan discovers she’s killed herself.

The musketeers find a note from D’Artagnan giving them information about where Phillippe is being held, and saying he will delay the changing of the guard to give them time to rescue him. They think it’s a trap, but go anyway.

They free Phillippe from his cell, but getting out of the prison is going to be tricky, as all the exits are blocked, and the King himself has brought troops to stop them. D’Artagnan hasn’t betrayed them, but the king knew he would lead him to them. They’re trapped with no hope of escape. Phillippe tells them to bargain his life for theirs. But D’Artagnan says “I cannot do it. Even if I could give up my king, I could never give up my son.” Yes, D’Artagnan is actually the father of Louis and Phillippe. It’s like Darth Vader in reverse. “I never knew you existed” he tells Phillippe, “and I never felt pride as a father, until this moment.”

“If we must die, let it be like this. One for all, and all for one.” God, this is stirring stuff.

They face off against a lot of guns. The young musketeers are reluctant to fire against these legendary men, and their own captain, but the King forces them. It looks like they’re not aiming, but there’s a lot of shot being fired here.

The corridor is filled with smoke, and there’s a long pause before it clears enough to see that they are all still walking, albeit rather slowly.

D’Artagnan’s lieutenant raises his sword, then holds his hand to his heart, indicating he won’t attack, and his men do the same.

The King isn’t having any of it, and attacks with a knife. D’Artagnan knocks him away, but he recovers, and attacks again. D’Artagnan gets between him and Phillippe and gets stabbed.

He dies. Phillippe says “You were the one in the mask.”

The King’s troops break through the door, and see the King, with the musketeers, and a man in the iron mask. “You’ll put this madman where no-one can hear his insanity. Let him be fed by a deaf mute. But feed him well.”

I guess they took Phillippe’s words to D’Artagnan literally, for the design of his gravestone.

“The prisoner in the iron mask was never found. It was whispered among his jailers that he received the royal pardon and was taken to the country where he lived quietly, visited often by the Queen. The King known as Louis the 14th brought his people food, prosperity, and peace, and is remembered as the greatest ruler in the history of his nation.”

Well, I had a great deal of fun with that film. I suspect it diverged from the source text by quite a lot, but it was very entertaining, and even quite emotional at times. I did think Christine didn’t have much of a character, and wasn’t given much to do, but apart from that, I really enjoyed it.

Media Centre Description: Alexandre Dumas’s swashbuckling tale about the plan of the retired Three Musketeers to oust the cruel French ruler, King Louis XIV, from the throne and replace him with an imprisoned man whose true identity is unknown. D’Artagnan, still serving the king as Captain of the Musketeers, is forced to turn against his friends.

BBC Genome: BBC One London – Friday 30th December 2005 – 15:05

The next recording starts with the end of The Gardener’s Year: Winter. There’s trailers for Balderdash & Piffle and Who Do You Think You Are? and an ad for the FA Cup coverage featuring Lennie James.

There’s also a trailer for Three Men in a Boat and another for Balderdash & Piffle.

Then, we have Return of the Goodies. It’s a look back at the Goodies, and opens with a newsflash from Huw Edwards – continuing a tradition of the show having real newsreaders joining in the comedy.

He says the Millennium Dome had disappeared, and underneath, a landfill of old BBC properties has been discovered, so the show opens with a lovely recreation of the original show’s main set.

Graeme has some unconvincing sideburns when he enters.

There’s lots of clips, reminiscences from the three of them, plus lots of other talking heads. John Cleese’s contribution looks like it came from the earlier Comedy Connections which I looked at on one of my DVDs.

Here’s TV’s Emma Kennedy

Martin Freeman: “It was a real early experience for me of thinking I was going to die of a heart attack.”

Ronni Ancona was a huge fan as a child.

Jon Culshaw: “The Goodies were completely indestructible, weren’t they? A live action cartoon mixed in with these incredible, surreal flights of fantasy.”

Tony Blackburn talks about being the butt of the joke many times on the show.

Rolf Harris talks about being told by members of the public that they enjoyed his appearance in the show, despite it not being him in the episode that was all about him.

Phill Jupitus: “The Goodies were so of their time just capturing that perfect little bubble, and so belonged to that decade.”

David Quantick: “The Goodies were the first people to really understand that newsreaders were celebrities in themselves, but they used them as comedy characters.”

Steve Punt: “The public love seeing celebrity guests out of context and in other people’s shows.”

Mark Gatiss: “There’s a brilliant sense of the old BBC there, of people from different disciplines and serious disciplines wanting to join in the fun. And as a kid, again, you get that. You get it sort of transmitted to you, osmotically, but that the whole of TV centre was in on the joke.”

Sanjeev Kohli: “Novelty records are mostly shit, but Funky Gibbon was funky. It was, actually, funky.”

Bruce Dessau talks about the comedy revolution in the 60s.

David Gooderson was a Footlights member during that time. He also played Davros on Doctor Who, during the season when Douglas Adams was script editor. I wonder if that was coincidence?

David Hatch talks about the Footlights tour of America.

Comedy God Barry Cryer talks about the pre-Python, pre-Goodies show At Last the 1948 Show.

Producer John Howard Davies: “There was more money than we knew what to do with. We’d just colorized and it was a period of huge expansion with the BBC at the time.”

There’s a brief glimpse behind the scenes of one shot. A train shooting past was actually a facade on a removals truck. Today you’d just matte one in. This is lovely.

Director Jim Franklin talks about having to take precautions to protect the Goodies against “some of the things that they inevitably had to do.”

Guest Star Stanley Baxter was a little sceptical about playing a very sterotypical English view of a scotsman.

Some of the team blame their moving from BBC to ITV on the BBC’s production of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. They say they were told that that production had taken up all the budget.

Veteran director Bob Spiers: “It was slightly more difficult for an organization like LWT to make The Goodies. They may, I think, have slightly underestimated the complexity of the show. It is a hugely complex show and I think maybe they kind of didn’t quite get that.”

BBC Genome: BBC Two England – Friday 30th December 2005 – 21:00

After this there’s another trailer for Balderdash & Piffle.

The next recording starts with trailers for the Stephen Poliakoff drama Friends and CrocodilesWho Do You Think You Are? and The Thick of It.

Then, an episode of Room 101 presented by Paul Merton.

His guest is Phil Collins.

His contenders for Room 101 are TV evangelists, small swimming trunks, bad instruction manuals, TV List Shows, and the Gallagher Brothers. And, seemingly unrelated to any of his choices, they bring out a drum kit so that Phil can do the famous drum break from In The Air Tonight. I mean, I’ve no objection, since it’s great, but it definitely felt like it was just squeezed in with little context.

Media Centre Description: Paul Merton hosts the chat show in which guests are given the opportunity to rid the world of the things they hate. Phil Collins suggests TV evangelists and the Gallagher brothers.

BBC Genome: BBC Two England – Friday 30th December 2005 – 22:30

The next recording opens with the end of the local news, and the national weather. Then trailers for the FA Cup and Sweeney Todd.

Then, another movie. It’s Insomnia, one of Christopher Nolan’s early films, and one of the few he didn’t either write or co-write.

Al Pacino plays Will Dormer, a cop from Los Angeles who is sent up to a small town in Alaska, called Nightmute, to help investigate the murder of a girl, Kay Connell, who was beaten to death, then dumped, with no forensic evidence.

He’s there with his partner Hap, played by Martin Donald. We learn that Dormer is being investigated by Internal Affairs back in LA, and is thinking about giving evidence to them, which would bring a lot of Dormer’s cases under scrutiny, and it’s possible Dormer was less than scrupulous in his methods when putting his suspects away.

Hilary Swank plays Ellie Burr, a young officer who is assigned to help them.

They pull in the girl’s boyfriend, who seems shifty and doesn’t have an alibi. Dormer doesn’t think he’s the killer.

They get a lead when some kids find Kay’s schoolbag in a fishing cabin near the beach where Kay was found. There’s some books, a diary, and a pencil case. But to possibly draw the killer out, Dormer suggests broadcasting on all the local news that they are looking for the bag Kay left the party with. He tells them to fill the back back up with books, put it back where it was found, and see if the killer comes to recover it.

They put the cabin under surveillance, and spot someone heading there, but a noisy bullhorn alerts the killer, and he runs. They pursue him into thick fog, the suspect shoots at one of the policemen, wounding him in the leg, and Pacino chases him. It’s very disorienting, Pacino sees a figure in the distance, shoots, only to discover when he reaches him, that he’s shot his partner Hap. Hap is scared, thinking Dormer shot him deliberately because he was going to testify against him.

He tells the other officers that Hap was shot by the suspect. He’d already picked up the gun the suspect dropped when he shot the other officer. He uses that to shoot a bullet into a dead dog, which he can then substitute with the bullet that killed Hap.

His judgement is also impaired by the 24 hour sunlight – this far north, the sun never fully goes down, and he can’t sleep – although you’d think maybe a hotel in this town might have better blackout blinds, or at the very least supply those nice sleep-masks.

He’s telephoned by a man who tells him he saw Will shoot his partner. He’s clearly the suspect they were following, and probably the man who killed Kay.

He needs to find out who this man is – He believes Kay must have known him. He practically bullies Kay’s best friend into giving him information but she doesn’t really know anything, except that Kay called him Brody, and that wasn’t his real name.

Will takes another look at the evidence from Kay’s backpack, when he receives another call from the killer. He notices the name fo the detective on the novel Kay was reading – J Brody. On the back, it says that the author, Walter Finch, lives in Alaska.

Will goes to the town where Finch lives, and breaks into his apartment. He doesn’t find much that’s useful, but he does find an author photograph that looks strangely like Robin Williams.

Finch returns to his apartment but can hear his dogs making unusual noises. Will hears him run and chases him, which leads to try to chase him across logs being floated down the river. Will almost drowns when he falls in and can’t get out, but eventually reaches the side.

He can see Finch but he’s too far away to chase.

Will returns to Finch’s apartment. While he’s there, Finch calls. He tells him they should meet tomorrow on a ferry. Before he leaves, Will hides Finch’s gun, the one he’s set up as the murder weapon for Hap, in Finch’s apartment, behind a heating vent.

Will meets Finch on the ferry. Finch wants help to deflect suspicion onto Kay’s ex boyfriend. He uses the Internal Affairs investigation as leverage. “Every one of those scumbags you put away will be back on the street before you even go on trial. With Hap gone you’re free and clear, why mess with that?” Will tells him they know Kay had all his books, and they’ll bring him in for questioning. He gives him advice on what to say. Finch wants to drive suspicion onto Kay’s abusive ex, Randy. Will tells him it’s better if the police find Randy on their own. When he leaves the ferry, he shows Will that he’s recorded the whole conversation, a “wildcard” he calls it.

Finch calls Will later and tells him what happened with Kay. And the reason he beat her to death? “I really wanted to comfort her, hold her. You know? I kissed her and got a little excited. She started laughing at me. She wouldn’t stop laughing. You ever had somebody laugh at you when you when you’re like that? Well, I mean when you really vulnerable, laughing their ass off at you. Someone you thought respected you. I just want to stop her laughing, that’s all. And then, you know. I hit her a couple of times, you know, just to, you know, just to stop her, let her know a little respect.” It’s literally that adage: “Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them.”

Finch comes in to be interviewed. Ignoring Will’s advice, he definitely wants to put the ex boyfriend Randy in the frame, saying that his abusive behaviour got worse, then he tells them that Kay was scared because Randy had shown her a gun. And he specifically looks at Will when he tells them that Randy hid the gun behind a heating vent, indicating he’d found the gun that Will planted there, and had moved it to Randy’s place.

There’s a tense scene where Will rushes over to Randy’s house to try to find the gun, but it’s not behind the heating vent, and the other officers arrive with the search warrant, and start searching the house while he’s hiding. But he’s able to appear as if he’s just arrived when they’re all distracted by the discovery of the gun hidden in some motor oil.

Ellie has been running the investigation into Hap’s shooting, and she visits the scene again, and discovers a bullet casing from the gun that Will fired at Hap. It’s a different calibre to the bullet that Will substituted into evidence, but it raises her suspicions.

She checks her own dissertation, about one of Will’s old cases, which reveals that he used a backup weapon, a 9mm gun, which matches the casing she found.

In what seems like his last night in the hotel, he’s making a lot of noise trying to block the window, so the manager comes to see him. He talks with her and confesses that once he fabricated evidence to ensure that a paedophile who had tortured a small child would get convicted.

Next day, Ellie goes to meet Finch at his lake house to collect the letters he said Kay sent him. Will goes to Finch’s apartment again, finds a book jacket that says where his lake house is, and then sees the letters from Kay are there. So Ellie is walking onto a trap.

Ellie arrives at the lake house. Finch makes small talk, and seems to look around for the letters. He pointedly opens a drawer, leaves it open so Ellie can see in, and moves on. It has a girl’s dress in a plastic bag in it – Kay’s missing dress. Ellie tries to casually ready her gun, but Finch bashes her on the head.

Will arrives a little later, confronts Finch who still tries to manipulate him, and then gets away. Instead of pursuing him, Ellie takes the time to question Will over whether he killed Hap. I know that’s the thing the film is most interested in, but I do think pursuing the murderer might have taken precedence. So Finch has time to get to a boat house, grab a shotgun, and start shooting up the house.

Will gets into the boat house from underneath (a nice reflection of the way Finch escaped the boat house near the start of the film) and they fight. Finch shoots Will with Ellie’s gun, but Will shoots Finch with his shotgun, and he doesn’t come back from that, falling into the water and slowly sinking.

Will is possibly dying from his wound when Ellie finds him. She tells him she can dump the bullet casing she found, nobody needs to know. He tells her not to. “Don’t lose your way.” Then “Let me sleep.”

Media Centre Description: Crime drama about a veteran LAPD detective who journeys to a small Alaskan town with his partner to investigate the murder of a 17-year-old girl. Evidence mounts up against a reclusive novelist, but the investigation is hampered by the region’s perpetual daylight which wreaks sleep-depriving havoc on the detective’s body clock and threatens his judgement.

BBC Genome: BBC One London – Friday 30th December 2005 – 23:10

After this, there’s trailers for Life on Mars, and Tittybangbang.

Then the recording just as Rome starts.

 

The Goonies – The Wolves of Willoughby Chase – The Worst Week of My Life – Faking It Special – 29 Dec 2005

The first recording today is The Goonies. I’ve got four copies of this particular recording strewn across various hard drives. And I don’t even like the film that much. It’s not as if one of them was edited – they’re all the full recording. Strange.

The recording opens with the end of Top of the Pops Reloaded.

There’s a trailer for The Story of Tracy Beaker

Then the movie starts. Unsurprisingly, they’ve significantly cut the opening scene, where Robert Davi pretends to have hanged himself in his prison cell. You don’t see his face at all.

Did Anne Ramsey ever play a sympathetic character? Here she plays Mama Fratelli, matriarch of the criminal gang.

Joe Pantoliano plays younger son Francis.

And the afore-mentioned Robert Davi plays Jake, the older, opera-singing son.

The titles of the movie play out during the chase with the Fratellis trying to escape the local police. Each of the main characters are introduced as the cars fly past. This is Kerri Green, who plays Andy, despite the credit saying otherwise. (Her credit was the one preceding this shot).

Corey Feldman plays Mouth. His dad tells him to turn off the TV, which is showing a police chase with sirens, and when he does, the sound continues from the chase outside. Nice gag.

Here’s the pre-credited Martha Plimpton, as Stef, who is ducking for crabs, which is one way to pass the time.

Ke Huy Kwan is Data, who is trying out his James Bond gadgets. They have a surprisingly high success rate. He was familiar at the time, as he’d played Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. And just yesterday, as I’m writing this, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in everything Everywhere All At Once after almost 30 years of being unable to get any roles in movies, and having to work behind the scenes in the industry.

Jeff Cohen plays Chunk. And adding to the delight of Ke Huy Kwan’s current success, when he got the role for EEAAO, the person who negotiated his deal was none other than Jeff Cohen, who is now an entertainment lawyer. In another Goonies link, Cohen’s college fees were paid for by the director Richard Donner.

The Fratellis are able to escape the police by joining a beach race, which is a clever idea to explain how they could lose the police in such a small town.

Sean Astin plays Mikey, He’s feeling miserable because his family are going to have to move because the bank is going to foreclose on all the properties, and sell them to property developers to build a country club. If only there was some way to find the money to stop the deal happening.

Mikey’s older brother Brand (where do Americans get these names?) is played by Josh Brolin – Thanos himself. His costume is pure 80s – headband, cut off sleeves, and shorts over a grey track suit. You can practically hear a loud bass drum machine every time he walks.

They’re not the nicest group of kids, I have to say. Mouth won’t let Chunk through the front gate until he does the “Truffle Shuffle” – a bit of fat-shaming that, while it was undoubtedly the kind of thing kids did (and probably do) it’s still unpleasant.

The mechanism to open the front gate is a ludicrously elaborate “Mouse Trap” style contraption of rolling bowling balls and buckets on pulleys which seems more like the kind of thing Data would have at his house.

Part of the contraption relies on a chicken being frightened by a balloon popping and laying an egg. This is not a reliable and repeatable mechanism.

Mikey’s father is the curator at the local museum, so naturally he has a whole bunch of artefacts in the attic. They find a treasure map to the lost treasure of a pirate called “One-Eyed Willy”. I wonder if that name is as rude to American audiences as it is to British audiences? Many people have tried and failed to find any treasure, so naturally, the kids decide that’s the way they can save the town from the developers.

Mikey also fortuitously finds a carved talisman that will obviously be important in the quest.

One thing I like about this movie is Brolin’s older brother character. He’s dressed like a jock, and is frequently annoyed by his younger brother, but everything he does in the movie is to look after him. He could so easily have been a bully – after all, Mouth is written that way – but he’s genuinely a good person.

The younger kids tie Brand to his chair with his chest expanders so they can go off and find the treasure. They let down Brand’s bike tyres so he can’t follow them – so he steals a small bike from a little girl. This seems a bit extreme. While he’s cycling after them, some of his schoolfriends, including Andy and Stef, plus his obvious rival Troy, drive past. Troy is some kind of psychopath, as he decides it would be funny to grab Brand’s arm and speed off with him on the tiny bike being dragged next to the car at high speed, only letting go so Brand gets thrown off the road at a corner.

The kids are pretty good at following clues. After almost no searching, Mikey finds a spot where three landmarks fit perfectly in the holes of the talisman he picked up. This is one of the things I don’t like about this movie – it doesn’t feel like much effort is needed to find these clues, so why did past attempts to find the treasure fail?

The place they need to get to is unfortunately occupied by the Fratelli gang. It’s an old, abandoned restaurant next to a decaying lighthouse. They get in by asking if the restaurant is open, and the Fratellis don’t want to attract attention, so they pretend the restaurant is open. Mikey asks to use the toilet, and explores downstairs, discovering Jake Fratelli bullying a deformed man who they’ve got chained up in the basement.

Lots of things happen with no explanation in this movie. Despite having been catapulted off a road, Brand finds where the kids are, and grabs Mikey as he emerges from the basement, taking the kids out of the building, giving the Fratellis space to leave (they have to bury a dead body). Then, Andy and Stef find them somehow. With the Fratellis gone, they all go back into the building to explore, and soon find that there’s been counterfeiting going on there, a Scooby Doo staple.

The Fratellis return, and the only way out is through a fireplace in the basement. They leave Chunk behind, asking him to go and get the police. He flags down a car, but of course it’s driven by Jake Fratelli.

Much of the movie is now the kids working their way through various traps and ‘puzzles’. They com across a lot of coins, but it’s only the coins thrown down the local wishing well. And coincidentally, standing around the wishing well is the same bully who tried to kill Brand with his car. At first, the kids want to get out, so they can get the police, but Mikey makes another rambly speech about Goonies never saying Die, and they should carry on to find the treasure. So instead of Andy hanging onto the wishing well bucket when Try winds it up, she’s put his cardigan she was wearing, so Psycho Troy reacts in a perfectly natural way to rejection. I think it’s those jackets they all wear. I think they turn people evil, and this theory is confirmed by every piece of high-school related media ever made.

The Fratellis have given up trying to question Chunk about where the others are, so they lock him in with the deformed man, who is actually their brother, Sloth. Although he’s scared to begin with, they end up bonding when Chunk gives him a chocolate bar.

There’s another puzzle, which Mikey unlocks with a key that they found earlier, from another unsuccessful searcher. But that causes the floor to give way, and Data falls into a deep pit with spikes at the bottom. Lucky his plastic false teeth on a spring gadget has enough strength to stop his descent and hold his weight. Truly, this boy should be an industrial designer.

A much more complicated puzzle is a complete working keyboard, and they have to play a piece of music, but not make too many mistakes, as each time they do, part of the floor falls away. Andy is the one trying to play it, but her musical knowledge is sketchy at best. At one point she says “I can’t tell if this is A# or Bb”. But A# is the same note as Bb, on a keyboard at least. Maybe it’s to do with chords.

They make it through, and finally find their goal – the most marvellous matte painting of a pirate ship ever.

Mikey finally meets One Eyed Willy.

But when the kids leave the cabin, the Fratellis are waiting for them, and they have to give them all the treasure they took.

They make Andy walk the plank. Say what you like about this film (and I will) but there’s genuine jeopardy here. And Brand again flexes his heroic side and jumps in after her. I think I like him best, maybe after Data.

To the rescue come Chunk and Sloth, who didn’t have any trouble finding them, presumably because all the traps had already been sprung. Sloth keeps the Fratellis busy while the rest of the kids jump into the water to get away. Then Sloth rips off his shirt to reveal a T-Shirt underneath with Superman’s symbol, and the score quote’s John Williams’ Superman theme. OK, I admit, I love this, and can’t fault Richard Donner referencing his own film.

The kids try to get out of the cave, but there’s a rock blocking the way, so Sloth holds it up as they get out.

The Fratellis have set off the last of Willy’s traps, and a huge hole opens in front of the ship.

Out on the beach, the kids are reunited with their parents. I’m unsure of the timescale of this, but there’s been time to inform them all, and for them to get there, along with local press, half the town, and the property developers. I particularly liked Data and his dad, who has a camera device attached to his belt – you can see where Data gets it. It doesn’t work and the film pops out of the camera. “That’s OK Daddy, you can’t hug a photograph.” and his dad says “You’re my best invention.” Yup, even this makes me cry.

Sloth and the Fratellis also emerge from the cave. Chunk stops the police from hurting Sloth, even as Sloth lifts one of them up with one hand, leading to a piece of Chinese dialogue from Data and this subtitle. Which (thanks to the miracle of phone translation) says “Wow! He is a strong man.”

But, the true villains of the film are still there, and because the kids couldn’t get any of the treasure out, Mikey’s dad has to sign the papers that give the developers the right to build their golf course.

But then their Spanish housekeeper finds Mikey’s marble bag, which he’d forgotten, and which has a load of jewels in it. Just enough, we presume, to pay the debts and secure the town from the developers. Honestly, the financial aspects of this movie are about as sketchy as the rest of the plot, but it’s a happy ending.

Then they all see the pirate ship sailing off.

I think I also spotted Richard Donner as a police officer earlier in this scene, on the right.

I should be honest here. I was 23 when Goonies came out, which I think is too old to fall in love with it. I know that people younger than me love it with a passion, and my kids definitely really enjoyed it when we showed it to them. But if you’re older, the sheer manic energy of a bunch of kids shouting at the top of their voices all the time just grates. So I’ve always felt this movie is not for me. But I’m delighted for people who do love it. It’s not remotely a bad movie, I was just the wrong age to embrace it.

Media Centre Description: Old-fashioned yarn about a band of adventurous kids who take on the might of a property developing company which plans to destroy their home to build a country club. When the children discover an old pirate map in the attic, they follow it into an underground cavern in search of lost treasure. But the old pirate who had drawn the map planted plenty of dangerous obstacles along the way. From a story by Steven Spielberg.

BBC Genome: BBC One London – Thursday 29th December 2005 – 10:45

After this, there’s trailers for 2005 TV Moments and Catch Me If You Can. There’s a very blokey trailer for the FA Cup – which is weird because in my family it’s my sisters who are the football fans. There’s also a trailer for As Time Goes By. Then the recording stops after a few minutes of an episode of Last of the Summer Wine.

The next recording is a film adaptation of Joan Aiken’s The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. I’m sure I read it as a child, or it was read to us at school, as I remember the premise, which includes there being a channel tunnel built in Victorian times, leading to wolves returning to Britain.

A young girl, Sylvia, is travelling to Willoughby Chase on her own, by train. She’s given lots of advice on behaviour by an old woman escorting her to the station, including “Watch your language and try to avoid abstract nouns, they upset people.”

On the train, she meets Mr Grimshaw, played by Mel Smith, who sits opposite her, and going by casting and behaviour, is probably some kind of swindler or general wrong-un.

At Willoughby Chase lives young Bonnie, who’s excitedly waiting for Sylvia to arrive, her cousin. But she’s sad because her parents are leaving to go on a winter cruise, leaving her at the house.

Leaving her with Miss Slighcarp, a stern, new governess who you know will be evil, just from her entrance. She’s played by Stephanie Beacham.

The butler, James, is played by an almost unrecognisable Richard O’Brien, complete with a Scottish accent. It’s the eyebrows that do it.

The wolves of the title are a constant threat. Even going to the railway station to pick up Sylvia is fraught with danger. Bonnie hides in the carriage, with a gun.

Even then, the wolves attack.

Mr Grimshaw is slightly hurt when the train stops suddenly, so he’s brought back to the house to recover. But the wink he gives Miss Slighcarp suggests this was always part of the plan.

When Bonnie and Sylvia go sledging, they’re menaced by wolves, and rescued by Simon, a young boy who lives in a cave.

Returning to the house, they find all the staff walking away. Miss Slighcarp has fired almost everyone, preferring to pocket their wages herself.

The only staff kept on are Butler James, and maid Pattern, played by Jane Horrocks.

Stephanie Beacham is great in this, making the most of the evilness of Miss Slighcarp, She locks Bonnie in a cupboard, and when Sylvia creeps in to steal the key, Slighcarp is relaxing, without her wig, and pulling hairs from her nose.

The girls discover secret passages in the house.

Creeping around the hidden passages, they see Miss Slighcarp and Grimshaw forging a new will, leaving everything to Slighcarp and nothing to the children. They also throw the original will on the fire, but the girls recover it from the fire before it completely burns.

They need to contact somene who can help them expose Slighcarp, so Bonnie goes back in the cupboard, and pretends to be sick, so Slighcarp has to fetch a doctor. Then they write a note to the doctor, and intend to give it to James the butler, to give to the doctor when he fetches him, but Grimshaw gets the letter first.

Slighcarp has had enough of the girls, and bundles them in the coach, taking them to somewhere far less picturesque than Willoughby Chase.

She leaves the girls in the charge of Mrs Brisket, who runs a laundry staffed by children. She’s played by Geraldine James, who is enjoying herself as much as Stephanie Beacham is. She’s also involved in the plot to steal Willoughby Chase, and has bribed the captain of the ship the parents are on to sink the ship and so drown them.

I wonder if this is a genuine game, or just something the props team built. Octobilliards?

The girls are put to work in the laundry. There’s jeopardy when they have to repair some of the mechanism by climbing high up and reattaching chains.

Miss Slighcarp gets some good news from the papers. The ship the parents were on has sunk.

She travels back to the workhouse, and the girls’ friend Simon hitches a lift on the roof of the carriage.

Simon finds the girls, but can’t get them out before Slighcarp grabs them. There’s a chase through the workhouse which strongly reminded me of the mine sequence in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Lots of climbing around on high things, and Brisket’s son Rupert, who appeared to be the only slavedriver on staff even gets crushed between rollers.

Simon takes the girls on a sleigh, it’s all looking up, and then, on the horizon, they see a column of smoke rising – it’s Slighcarp and Brisket chasing them on a steam-powered snowmobile.

The chase attracts the wolves too, and as the speed increases, Brisket falls off the vehicle, and is attacked by wolves.

The steam engine in the snowmobile overheats and explodes (behind some scenery, a sure fire sign of a limited budget).

So everything’s fine and nothing else can go wrong. Until the wolves get into the house through the secret passage. Now it’s like Jurassic Park.

The girls run to the kitchens to get away – only to be confronted by Slighcarp, who survived the explosion.

There’s struggles, the girls push her onto the fire, and she flees the building with her dress on fire. only to land amidst the wolves.

Butler James arrives in the coach, and out of the coach emerge Bonnie’s parents, not drowned at sea after all. “It was three days in the lifeboat and two weeks on the island before we were picked up. It was so beautiful we almost wanted to stay.” Continuing the tradition of bad parenting in children’s fiction.

Finally, Grimshaw is taken away to be arrested – even then he tries to steal the household silver.

This was a lot of fun.

Media Centre Description: Fantasy drama, based on Joan Aiken’s classic children’s tale, set in a fictitious 19th-century England in which ravenous wolves overrun the land and surround Willoughby Chase – home of young Bonnie and her loving parents. But when Lord and Lady Willoughby are obliged to travel overseas, Bonnie and her timid cousin Sylvia face an even more dangerous predator, a fearsome governess.

Recorded from Channel 4 on Thursday 29 December 2005 13:53

After this, the recording continues with the start of what looks like a TV Movie of Hercules.

The next recording starts with the end of Lara Croft Tomb Raider. Always good to see Chris Barrie.

There’s a trailer for Sweeney Todd, then a weather bulletin from Helen Willetts, warning of heavy snow, and suggesting people might want to adjust any travel plans.

There’s also an advert for DAB Digital Radio.

Then, the last episode of The Worst Week of My LifeSunday. Thanks to the Previously On, I now learn that the previous episode, the end of which was cut off, ended with Mel’s waters breaking, so she’s having a baby, and as was mentioned in a previous episode, they’re having a home birth. It’s also going to be a water birth, so Howard and Dick assemble the birthing pool, almost bonding over the experience. Howard gets into his swimming trunks, as he’s going to be in the water with Mel. They’ve assembled the pool upstairs. What could possibly go wrong?

Well the first thing is Howard opening a door sharply, and smacking the midwife in the face, knocking her unconscious.

Naturally they’ve left the pool filling unattended.

It starts leaking through the downstairs ceiling, all over the cake. Howard turns off the water just in time… for the ceiling to collapse.

Dick’s brother Fraser finally tells Dick he’s gay. I was hoping for the response “I knew all along” but Dick’s response is “No you’re not.” But eventually, we do get “You’re my brother and I love you” albeit almost through gritted teeth. I thought 2005 was a little more enlightened than this, but I guess we remember what we want to remember.

The water collapse has blown all the fuses in the house, so the ambulance that’s arrived for the unconscious midwife and Mel can’t get through the electric gates. Seems unlikely there’s no manual opening but this is a sitcom after all. So Mel, in labour, has to climb the gates. Then the midwife comes out, having woken up, says she’s fine, so Mel climbs back over. At which point he midwife is sick and faints again.

She recovers, but soon both of them are climbing the gates, at which point power is restored to the house, so the ambulance can come in, and the birth can carry on at the house.

Howards birth partner technique of screaming encouragement at Mel at the top of his lungs surprisingly doesn’t cause her to snap and brain him with the gas and air.

But the baby is born safely, a little girl, and after some other suggestions, Mel settles on Emily as the name. Howard, being the idiot he is, seems to think they should discuss it more, but everyone else loves the name, and so they’re all saying hello to Emily while Howard mumbles “well we haven’t quite decided…” All this was to the delight of my youngest daughter who was watching it with me, as her name is Emily, a name my wife and I immediately both liked when we were considering names, because a) it’s a lovely name, b) it wasn’t a common family name, and c) I was a big fan of Bagpuss. She might have been called Emily Rose, had the movie The Exorcism of Emily Rose not come out just a few months earlier. Baby names can be hard.

Eve arrives with a letter for Howard. His sexual harrassment charge has been dismissed, and he’s got his old job back. So has Eve, and she can continue being his assistant.

Fraser has been reunited with his boyfriend Gerard, now that he’s come out to his family.

It’s almost a happy ending. Howard even has the chance to give Dick his CBE back, except it gets stuck to his trouser pocket, and as he pulls it out, it flies off into the fire. I guess you can’t have everything.

Unfortunately, once again, this show was running late, and the recording cuts off before the final scene, so I’ve no idea what other catastrophes might have befallen them. Thanks, Media Centre.

Media Centre Description: Sitcom. It’s all hands on deck to get ready for the baby’s arrival. Howard and Dick work together and the midwife arrives just in time. As the night wears on the anticipation builds. Will what has been the worst week of their lives turn into the best one yet for Howard and Mel?

BBC Genome: BBC One London – Thursday 29th December 2005 – 21:30

The final recording is Faking It Special in which a person wholly unsuited for a particular job has just four weeks to learn how to do it before they have to fool some experts into thinking they’re a pro. They should bring this back, and call it “Impostor Syndrome”.

The subject this time is Kate Harding, a young woman who’s quite introverted, describes herself as geeky, and spends her leisure time dressing up in 18th Century costume, and dancing to the music of Handel and Telemann. For this challenge she has four weeks to learn how to be a pop video director, and direct the band Liberty X in a video, and fool industry experts into thinking she’s a professional. And the music isn’t by Telemann. In this case, it starts with “Where’s your Head At” by Basement Jaxx – coincidentally, the end title music for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider which we just saw on the previous recording. Can she do it? “I never watch MTV because I loathe it. It’s just constant noise.” It’s not a good sign.

Her mentor for this challenge is Harvey Bertram Brown, “one of Britain’s hottest video directors”. “You have to control a large crew. There are lots of people on set, you have to know what it is you’re telling people to do, and understand how to tell them that with confidence and with clarity and with conviction.” Cut to Kate: “Fortunately, I almost never have to communicate to a large group of people because I hate the idea.” This programme is setting up the jeopardy early.

Kate second mentor is Carolyn Corben, Harvey’s directing partner.

Her first bit of training is at the Sylvia Young Theatre School, where she has to direct some of the young actors in a small piece. She’s actually pretty good at this.

I’m not sure Harvey is the greatest teacher in the world. He has to explain who all the people are on a film set, and what they do, but he does this at the breakfast table, pointing at random things like a glass and saying “This is your playback”. It’s about the worst possible way I can imagine to help her remember who everyone is. Assigning random roles to knives and forks, and expecting her to remember it is insane. Maybe they should have saved this until they actually had a full crew to introduce her to.

Kate’s own introversion is also a problem. She gets overwhelmed with some of the tasks. They bring in a woman who teaches people how to sing, so she can work on being more forceful when talking to a crew. She has to shout “I want to be heard” as loud as possible. Again, I’m unsure if this will help.

Come the actual task, she has to direct Liberty X on a video shoot for an hour – as will three other genuine professional directors. Her shoot goes really well.

Even Harvey, who’s been quite critical of Kate’s other ideas, says it looks beautiful. And the glee with which they react to Kate calling “Playback” and “Check the gate” shows how far she’s come.

Among the judges is Fearne Cotton – who was seen right at the start of the day in TOTP Reloaded.

After all four directors have done their hour, the judges give their comments. Kate gets good comments all round. When it comes to spotting the fake, only Fearne Cotton says Kate is the fake, the other two judges naming two other directors, so Kate has ‘won’.

And if you want to see how they did this twenty years before this, In At The Deep End did almost exactly this format (minus the judging bit) when Paul Heiney off of That’s Life had to shoot a pop video with Bananarama. And he got to meet Ken Russell.

Media Centre Description: Special edition of the series in which people take up a challenge to change their identities. Kate Harding, a timid, self-confessed geek who relishes living in the past as an historical re-enactor, has just four weeks in which to turn herself into a commanding ultra confident director on the set of Liberty X’s new video.

Recorded from Channel 4 on Thursday 29 December 2005 22:13

After this, the recording ends with the start of 4Dance: Dance 4 Film.

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The Italian Job – Comic Strip Presents… – Lost – Ross Noble – Live in Regent’s Park – Reach for the Stars: Days That Shook the World – 28 Dec 2005

Today’s collection of recordings is a varied mix.

First, another edited film, it’s The Italian Job. I’m quite surprised I didn’t have this on any of my tapes, as it feels like the kind of film I would have taped, but there’s no sign of it.

It starts off like an episode of Top Gear, with a swanky sports car hurtling around some Alps while the titles roll, only to speed into a tunnel, and collide with a bulldozer that’s blocking the exit, put there by (I’m assuming) the mafia.

We meet Michael Caine as Charlie Croker, being released from prison, saying goodbye to everyone.

One of the other inmates is Mr Bridger, played by Noel Coward which always seemed surprising to me, as Coward was mostly a writer, and always felt like someone from a bygone age, not someone appearing in movies in 1969. It felt as if Oscar Wilde had guest starred in The Likely Lads.

He’s picked up from prison by a girlfriend. “This car belongs to the Pakistani Ambassador. I’ve been out of jail five minutes and already I’m in a hot car.”

The car’s numberplate is NAN 404D which amused me, since NAN is a computing term for Not A Number – for when you do a mathematical operation that doesn’t have a proper answer, like division by zero. And 404 is the HTTP status code for Not Found. It feels like it’s a deliberate joke, even though it isn’t.

Charlie visits the tailor, played by Henry McGee.

Another tiny cameo, from Simon Dee as a shirtmaker. I’ve always been curious about Simon Dee, whose career was absolutely huge for a really short time, and then he just disappeared entirely. I was born in 1964, as his broadcasting career was just starting, and by 1970 it was over, and I don’t remember seeing him at all during that time. My only knowledge of him was as references in other programmes. It seems amazing that he didn’t have any kind of post-fame TV career. iMDb has a Blankety Blank appearance, and a Wogan appearance, both in 1988, but most of his post-1970 credits are for documentaries. We might even see one of those in a future blog.

He picks up his car from a man who calls him Captain Croker, and thinks he’s been in India for two years shooting tigers. He’s played by John Clive, who I will always remember as Robert from Robert’s Robots, one of those shows that you watch once when you’re 10, but remember for the rest of your life, despite it probably being a bit rubbish.

A blink and you’ll miss it appearance from Valerie Leon.

At the Lancaster Hotel, he goes up to a room, where his girlfriend (?) Lorna has either organised an Ann Summers party or an orgy. Or maybe both. It’s left unclear. But this is the tail end of the swinging sixties. If this film had been made a year later, it would be a Tupperware party.

After his party, he goes to another room where he’s met by the widow of the man killed at the start of the film. The man was supposed to be setting up a job for Charlie – the Italian Job of the title. Charlie assumes that’s it for the job, but she gives him the man’s plans, and then, it’s implied, they shag. I know he’s been in prison for two years, but Charlie must have some amazing stamina.

The plans are incredibly extensive, including a film where the dead man explains everything. It’s a heist, in Turin, to steal $4m, and escape while the city is gridlocked by breaking into the Turin traffic control computer centre and switching the control tapes. In this part of the film it’s like he’s saying “This is the Internet.” It’s an electronic box that disables traffic cameras.

He needs a banker, and an organisation, so he breaks back into the prison and talks to Mr Bridger, who’s outraged that Charlie has broken into his private lavatory.

He complains about it to the prison governor, played by John Le Mesurier. He also has Charlie beaten up, but then agrees to help with the heist, because it will bring foreign money into the UK. This is basically a Brexit: The Heist.

Croker needs to find the top computer expert in the country. His sister, Irene Handl, tells Croker that he’s currently ‘in a home’ basically because he’s a rapist.

He’s Professor Peach, and he’s played by Benny Hill.

They have to practice some of the driving, so they write off a few cars. And they have to test the explosives which will get into the armoured car, leading to one of the most famous lines in cinema history: “You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off.” I wonder why this line in particular became so famous. Is it totally down to people doing Michael Caine impressions?

There’s another tiny appearance from a well known (to me) actor – David Kelly plays a vicar at a fake funeral, arranged by Bridger so he can meet with Croker.

When they approach Turin, they’re met by the Mafia, who warn them off, and destroy their cars. When I was younger, I couldn’t believe that films would destroy real cars. I assumed that they would have to be destroying fake cars or scrap cars. I don’t think I quite understood how much money was spent making a film.

I’m at a loss why they need the pervy professor Peach for the computer stuff since all he seems to be there for is to swap some tapes. And even then he seems confused as to how to do this, trying to use a screwdriver before realizing he can just take the tape off.

No really, why is he here? It’s established that he likes to molest large women, so the next day he harasses a woman on the tram, and is then arrested. Maybe this plot strand will have an effect later (spoiler, it doesn’t), otherwise it’s just “ho ho he’s a pervert, how funny.”

Fred Emney is another cameo, dressed up as an English football supporter as cover, while he drops those electrical devices next to traffic cameras to disable them. Fred Emney is another person I’ve heard of, but I couldn’t say I’ve ever seen or heard any of his comedy.

The actual robbery seems to go OK. Some of the gang are also disguised as English football supporters (and one of them seems to be disguised as Boris Johnson) but my daughter asked if this was a “Where’s Wally” film.

The Mini Chase really is a lot of fun, although I don’t quite believe all the planning and preparation that would have been necessary to pull it all off, like having three free spaces at a Mini dealership that they can duck into so their pursuer drives past.

But it’s a huge amount of fun, and of course, the whole thing ends on possibly the most famous cliffhanger in cinema. “Hang on a minute, lads. I’ve got a great idea.

Media Centre Description: Classic comedy crime caper. Newly released from jail, Charlie Croker discovers that he has ‘inherited’ a brilliant plan for a bullion robbery in Italy. Aided and abetted by an imprisoned mastermind, the scheme calls for him to engineer the biggest traffic jam in history in order to steal the gold. All he has to do is overcome a few obstacles – such as a lack of money, not having a gang, and the wrath of the local Mafia.

BBC Genome: BBC One London – Wednesday 28th December 2005 – 15:25

The next recording is our first non-BBC show for a while, and starts with the end of Supernanny.

Then, back on Channel Four after a time on the BBC, Comic Strip Presents…Sex Actually.

It starts with the traditional title, the bomb dropping on a small village, but this time the bomb doesn’t explode, and the camera tracks in, as people are playing cricket on the green.

Then it cuts to an actual village, with people watching a cricket match. They watch as an unknown red car drives around the green. “Who are they? They don’t belong here.” “Maybe they’re lost.” That’s director Peter Richardson and executive producer Cleo Rocos.

The newcomers are Angie and Luccio (Sheridan Smith and Tamer Hassan). She’s very self-involved, he’s from Colombia. She’s just lost her husband, who left her a large amount of money, and she’s looking at a house in the area.

Estate Agent Roy (Phil Cornwell) is happy to show them around she she shows him the case full of cash she has.

Some of the rooms have a bit of a sex dungeon feel. “He used it as a darkroom I expect.”

Luccio asks “Tell me, this plant, what is it? I notice it’s growing in all the gardens here.” “That’s the old pampas grass. It’s not to everyone’s taste. Do you like it?” Angie says “I like it. Plumes are very phallic, ain’t they?”

Neighbours Charles and Carol (Robert Bathurst and Rebecca Front) invite them for drinks. It’s an awkward evening as he hates her, she’s drunk, and they argue all the time.

Next day they accept another invite to a neighbour’s house. It has a lot of art and designer things, all with pricetags. Angie likes this one. “I want that in our house! Then everyone will know how much we paid for it.”

Their hosts are Bilbo and Diana (Rik Mayall and Doon Mackichan). He a conceptual artist, she’s very rich. He’s obviously perving over Angie. “Why don’t you show Lurkio here your office while I show little Angie my studio?” which is an Up Pompeii reference for all us older viewers.

When they go home, they find a gift on the doorstep from their next door neighbours Roy and Jane. Roy was the estate agent who sold them the house. “I didn’t want to tell you in case it put you off the sale.”

Luccio becomes very popular doing the gardens for all his neighbours.

While cooking, he finds some burned underpants in the oven. I’m not sure of the timeline here, since it seems like they’ve been there for a while – long enough to redecorate a bedroom, have a couple of evenings out, and do several gardening jobs. Is this the first time they’ve looked at the oven?

They visit Roy and Jane. Roy advises Luccio on where the local dogging sites are. Luccio isn’t interested. “My friend, you’ve got big problems, you know.” Roy is undeterred and shows them his porn collection.

Bilbo wants to paint Angie.

Graham (Nigel Planer) who seems to be the only single man on the street, turns up at Luccio’s door, looking for a wife swapping party. “The first Thursday of the month. […] Well, Ron and Helen used to have a bit of a do. […] Wife-swapping. Only I don’t have a wife to swap, so they wouldn’t let me in.” Luccio asks what happened to Ron and Helen. “Oh, they died suddenly.”

The wife swapping is actually happening at Charles and Carol’s, although they all seem to think it’s not the same since Ron and Helen died.

Angie overhears their discussions, and goes back to Luccio. “We could make thousands. And if we had pictures, we could make even more.” “Yes, but you’d be ruining so many lives. Their careers would be finished. They would lose everything.” “Yeah, because I’d have it all!” Luccio seems to think this is a bad idea.

Luccio does some googling. He’s finding out about Pampas Grass. The story goes that having Pampas Grass outside your house meant you were ‘swingers’. I only heard this fairly recently, and was skeptical, because loads of people (including my parents) had Pampas Grass in their gardens in the 70s. It was just one of those fads. So I googled it, and I’ve found references to this being an urban myth, which triggered my confirmation bias, so I’m saying it’s bullshit.

Charles and Carol get a note through the door. “Dear pervert, Meet me at number three, or else… A friend.” When they get there, they find they’re not the first to arrive. Nobody knows what it’s about – even Angie who arrives moments later.

Charles and Carol start kicking off, and almost come to blows again, before Luccio comes in, wearing a strangely bulky dressing gown. “It was not Angie who summoned you to this gathering. It was I.” At first I thought he was doing a Hercule Poirot – and in a way, he was. He tells them that he knows they were all in the house when Ron and Helen died, but it was not a tragic accident, it was a murder, “A murder that was committed by one of you here tonight?”

He describes the scenario – someone came in, another rubber hooded figure wouldn’t attract attention – went upstairs and murdered Ron and Helen, in a way that looked like a sex game gone wrong. “Who the hell do you think you are, making these accusations? You’re just a gardener.” “Perhaps it’s time I introduced myself. Gardening is merely a hobby. My name is Inspector Lucio Alfonso Marquese Ricardo Jose De La Marco, of the Columbia Investigations Force in Bogota.” And we see why the dressing gown was so bulky.

He sent the burnt underpants back to Bogota for “carbon testing”. Somehow, this carbon testing revealed that none of the pants belonged to Ron, because he bought his at George from Asda.

He tells them that they all had motives to kill them, but then reveals that Ron, a solicitor, had Angie as a client. He then produces a projector and screen, and starts showing a lot of Angie’s selfies. “Angie in bed. Angie with a little kitten. Angie in the bathroom. Angie listening to music. And look what we have here. Angie killing Ron and Helen.”

Angie protests that Ron was charging her far too much. “he even charged me when he was asleep, because he said he dreamt about my case.” The neighbours’ sympathy is with her. Luccio takes his leave. “I’ve seen more corruption in my life then you can imagine. From drug trafficking and kidnapping to extortion. But you people from Great Wittering are more disloyal and dishonest than a simple death squad. Very well, I will return to the jungle, where pampas grass is a harmless weed. Buenos nachos, foul gringos.”

After an awkward silence, carol singers arrive. “Merry Christmas, everybody. Would you please give to the donkey charity.” This is the show’s feelgood “Love Actually” ending, as all the couples realise things about themselves, and resolve to be better people. This is only spoiled when I watched the credits, which reveal that one of the carol singers is Jeff Beck, who died a couple of weeks ago as I write this. So I think the blog’s curse counts. I’m so very, very sorry.

There’s a mid-credits sting with Nigel Planer’s character. “My name’s Graham. I live alone. My wife left me for another woman. Oh. But I got the last laugh, because three weeks later, I won two million on the lottery.” To which Angie gives him a big smile.

This is available on Britbox, but as I was checking the subtitles (I have to tweak their positions to match my recordings) I noticed that there was quite a bit cut from the BritBox version compared to this version. Some dialogue when they first meet Bilbo and Diana, some of it a bit rude, but a lot of it plot-related, but after that a whole missing scene with Roy the estate agent. I can only conclude that this underwent a wholesale tightening up, possibly for a shorter timeslot later, and that’s the version on BritBox.

Media Centre Description: Cult comedy with the Comic Strip team in a film that delves deep into middle class suburbia. Attractive young couple Angie and Luccio move into a quiet close. But they soon discover that the previous occupants met a mysterious death involving a waterbed, and the mystery unravels when their furtive neighbours are revealed to be part of a wife-swapping circle. Just who is guilty of murder?

Recorded from Channel 4 on Wednesday 28 December 2005 20:58

The next recording is LostBorn to Run. This felt like a filler episode. I assume it was a big revelation that Kate was actually in custody on the plane flight, as we see her doing various crimey things in the flashbacks.

On the island, not much new happens. A survivor I’ve never seen before tells Michael and the rest of them building the boat that they need to leave ASAP otherwise the trade winds will change, and blow the boat south, towards Antarctica, which pushes the schedule up a bit.

Locke finally shows Jack the hatch. Sayid thinks the hatch should be buried and forgotten. Jack thinks they should try to open it.

Sawyer finds out Kate is trying to persuade Michael to give Sawyer’s place on the boat to her. He finds out, and he also knows that she was in custody on the flight.

Michael becomes unwell after drinking from his water bottle. We eventually find out it was Sun who spiked the water, intending Jin to drink it so he wouldn’t be able to leave the island on the boat.

Flashback Kate reunites with a childhood friend, who’s a doctor. He helps her get to see her mother, who is dying of cancer. Her mother is not pleased to see her and will only call for help, so Kate has to run (as she’s presumably wanted for something).

The police are blocking the exit. She’s in the car with her old friend. He tries to tell her to give herself up, but she decides to gun the engine and ram a police car, whose office shoots at the car as she does so. She gets some way away but ends up crashing the car. Then sees her friend was shot by the police officer.

Walt tells Michael that it was him who burned the raft.

Media Centre Description: Drama series following the survivors of a plane crash who are forced to live together on a remote island, a dangerous world with many new threats. As Michael makes the final preparations to launch the raft, he is struck down by a mysterious illness.

Recorded from Channel 4 on Wednesday 28 December 2005 22:00

The next recording is Ross Noble – Live in Regent’s Park.

Media Centre Description: Geordie comedian Ross Noble’s July 2003 performance in Regent’s Park’s open-air theatre. Known for his skill in improvisation, no two shows are ever the same.

Recorded from E4 on Wednesday 28 December 2005 23:58

After this, the recording ends with what looks like the very start of a Big Brother related show, featuring Leigh Francis judging by the mask.

The next recording should strictly be in tomorrow’s entry, because the actual programme starts at 6am, but my recording started a couple of minutes earlier, so my calculation of which day it was says it’s for today.

It starts with a short burst of Ceefax.

There’s a trailer for Return of the Goodies, and Who Do You Think You Are?

Then, a documentary, Reach for the Stars: Days That Shook the World.

It’s about Yuri Gagarin becoming the first man in space, by going all the way back to Galileo’s trial for heresy. It looks like it’s trying to be 24: The End of Geocentrism.

Desktop Publishing was more of a faff in those days.

Pope Urban is very angry about Galileo’s book, despite having given him permission to write it “as long as it doesn’t prove Copernicus”.

Faced with a trial, and threat of torture, Galileo has to sign a statement saying he did not believe that the Earth moved around the Sun.

The second half of the documentary follows Yuri Gagarin’s flight into space. The Soviet authorities always seem to come out of this looking bad. The chief designer Sergei Korolev had to monitor the flight from deep inside a bomb-proof bunker. But the rest of the mission control technicians stayed on the surface because they were expendable (and in fact over a hundred technicians died when an earlier test flight blew up).

Another fact I didn’t know was that they knew the parachutes on the capsule weren’t enough to slow it down to make a safe landing on land – they didn’t do landings at sea – so Gagarin had to eject from the capsule before it landed otherwise he’d die in the impact. When he lands, he’s met by a farmer and his family, which is a nice scene.

Media Centre Description: Series recalling history’s defining moments. On April 12 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. Exactly 328 years previously, Galileo was put on trial for heresy, his crime being to suggest that the earth, far from being the centre of the universe, orbited the sun like any other planet.

BBC Genome: BBC Two England – Thursday 29th December 2005 – 06:00

After this, there’s an ad for the Red Button. Then CBeebies starts with some birthdays, and the start of The Tweenies.

Adverts:

  • Calpol
  • trail: Derren Brown: The Heist
  • Film Four
  • Just Friends in cinemas
  • PC World
  • Movie Musicals
  • trail: My Name is Earl
  • trail: Shameless
  • Virgin Mobile
  • Reader’s Digest Prize Draw
  • Nicorette
  • MFI
  • trail: Invasion
  • Vauxhall
  • Hong Kong Legends
  • B&Q
  • Magners
  • Vauxhall Corsa
  • trail: My Name is Earl
  • King Kong in cinemas
  • esure
  • DFS
  • Argos
  • trail: The Magic of Jesus
  • trail: Derren Brown: The Heist
  • trail: Desperate Housewives
  • Smirnoff Ice
  • Comet
  • Head & Shoulders
  • LG U880
  • Movie Musicals
  • The Devil’s Rejects on DVD
  • trail: Iraq: The Bloody Circus
  • trail: The Magic of Jesus
  • Wedding Crashers on DVD
  • B&Q
  • Post Office Credit Card
  • DFS
  • Memoirs of a Geisha in cinemas
  • XBox 360
  • Stoves
  • VW Commercial Vehicles
  • trail: Shameless
  • B&Q
  • Thomson Holidays
  • Renault Clio
  • Smirnoff Ice
  • Argos
  • Land of the Dead on DVD
  • Green Street on DVD
  • Carphone Warehouse
  • Oxfam
  • trail: 50 Greatest Comedy Films
  • Audi RS4 Quattro
  • Malibu
  • Canon EOS 350D
  • Gaviscon
  • Sony Centre
  • JJB
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on DVD
  • Halfords
  • Running Scared in cinemas
  • trail: The Family Man/Faking It Special
  • trail: Invasion
  • trail: Desperate Housewives
  • trail: Iraq: The Bloody Circus
  • Pringles
  • Comet
  • L’Oreal Infallible
  • Hong Kong Legends
  • Virgin Trains
  • MFI
  • Nicorette
  • LG U880
  • Baileys
  • Film Four
  • trail: E4 Music
  • trail: Lost in Lost
  • Running Scared in cinemas
  • Yell.com – James Nesbitt
  • Sky gamestar
  • PC World
  • Harveys Sale
  • Centerparcs
  • Mint
  • Renault Clio
  • trail: ER
  • Currys
  • Boots Opticians
  • Yell – James Nesbitt
  • Harveys Sale
  • Seat Leon
  • Abbey
  • Lemsip Cold & Flu Capsules
  • Virgin Mobile
  • Running Scared in cinemas
  • trail: My Name is Earl
  • Comet
  • Canon EOS 350D
  • Norwich Union DIrect
  • Toyota Yaris
  • Yell.com – James Nesbitt
  • MFI
  • Virgin Trains
  • Halfords
  • Mind Body Spirit
  • MFI
  • Green Street on DVD
  • Special K Drop a Jeans Size Challenge
  • PC World
  • trail: Four Weddings and a Funeral

Babe – My Family and Other Animals – Doctor Who – The French and Saunders Christmas Special – Julian Fellowes Investigates a Most Mysterious Murder – The Unique Dave Allen – The American President – 27 Dec 2005

I thought yesterday’s schedule was pretty packed, but at least that had a couple of things I’d already covered.

Today, we have eight recordings, three of which are whole movies, and although I’ve already had tapes with two of them on, I didn’t say much about them, so I think this might be another marathon entry.

But on the plus side, everything is great.

The first recording is Babe. It’s hard to fathom that this sweet little movie came from the same man who made Mad Max: Fury Road, but that’s range for you. OK, maybe he didn’t direct this, but  This is an edited recording, I’m afraid, so straight into the film. Incidentally, I do have this on another tape, but it was early in the blog, so I didn’t say much about it.

I notice the cinematographer is Andrew Lesnie, who would go on to work on the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

One thing I like about this film, like all great fairy stories, is that it’s not afraid to be dark. The film opens with young Babe watching his mother being taken away in a meat truck (although he doesn’t know what that is at the time).

He’s picked as a prize in a “guess the weight” competition at a local fair, and he’s won by Farmer Hoggett, who despite his name, keeps sheep, not pigs. At the farm, he meets the sheepdogs, and their mother, Fly. When I was younger, my parents bought a dog from a family just up the road when their dog had puppies. Our dog was called Shep, and her mother was called Fly, so I always liked this link. Miriam Margolyes is her voice.

There’s a duck on the farm that has decided he’s a cockerel, and he crows every morning. This annoys Mrs Hoggett, who buys an alarm clock. So the duck plans to get the interloper and remove it from the house. Things go rather wrong, and a large mess is made inside the house when a lot of paints are knocked over. Farmer Hoggett doesn’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to work out who the culprits are.

The male sheepdog, Rex, is very stern, and doesn’t like the idea of animals being things other than what they are. He’s voiced by Hugo Weaving.

Babe watches the dogs as they herd sheep. After they’ve had their turn, Babe gives it a go, but pretending to be a dog doesn’t get him very far. The sheep tell him that politeness is the way to go, and pretty soon he’s herding like a pro.

One day some wild dogs get into the sheep field. Babe drives them off, but his favourite sheep, Ma, is killed by the dogs. When Farmer Hoggett gets there, he sees the dead sheep, and Babe sitting there, with blood on his nose, and assumes the worst.

Fly swallows her dog pride and speaks to the sheep, something she never does, and learns the truth.

Farmer Hoggett is about to kill Babe when he hears Fly barking outside, and his wife tells him that there’s been reports of a pack of wild dogs from other farms. Lucky timing for Babe.

Farmer Hoggett decides to enter Babe in the local Sheepdog trials. But one night, the evil cat talks to Babe telling him that pigs aren’t for herding sheep, pigs are there to be eaten. Babe is so upset by this that he runs off into the rainy night.

Hoggett and the dogs find him the next day, freezing cold. The vet thinks Babe will die if he doesn’t get enough liquids, so Farmer Hoggett has to nurse him back to health, which he does while sing “If I Had Words”, a 1977 song by Yvonne Keeley and Scott Fitzgerald. I always wondered why this fairly niche pop song would be a favourite for someone like Farmer Hoggett. Maybe he was really a fan of Saint Saens’ Organ Symphony, which was the song’s tune, and is used on the soundtrack.

The climax of the film is at the sheepdog trials. Farmer Hoggett has entered Babe, and even though the committee running it think he’s mad, and/or bringing the event into disrepute, they can’t find anything in the rules to stop him. While this is going on, Babe goes to talk to the sheep he’ll be herding, only to discover that they won’t talk to him. Will Farmer Hoggett be made to look like an idiot? What can be done. And it’s now up to Rex, who has been in the literal doghouse for much of the film after he attacked Babe, to have his redemption arc, and run back to the farm to ask the sheep what to do. They tell him the secret password that Babe must use.

We don’t even get a scene where Rex talks to Babe and explains the password – it’s played out in a brief TV shot, which is a nice touch.

Then Babe has to herd the sheep. Babe talks to the sheep, and we see the TV coverage, the audience at the showground, Mrs Hoggett watching in horror and embarrassment, as she knew nothing about it, and the TV commentators are making jokes about the situation, as the music swells to a dramatic crescendo. Then the dramatic music stops. And the sheep start walking neatly through the obstacles. This scene is almost silent, with just the very quiet background sound. Until the sheep are herded into the final pen, Farmer Hoggett slowly closes the gate, and as we just barely hear the latch of the gate click, the whole audience erupts into a huge ovation.

Then the judges give their scores – all of them a perfect 100, including the head judge who wanted Hoggett to withdraw. And it’s here that the music returns, and triumphant main theme of the Organ Symphony.

“And though every single human in the stands or in the commentary boxes was at a complete loss for words, the man who in his life had uttered fewer words than any of them, knew exactly what to say.” “That’ll do pig. That’ll do.”

What a great film this is.

Media Centre Description: Engaging fantasy based on Dick King-Smith’s classic story about an orphaned piglet which is adopted by a sheepdog and learns how to herd sheep. Babe at first seems destined to end up on the dining table at Christmas, but the farmer realises that the animal’s unusual talent may bring him glory in the sheepdog trials. With the voices of Christine Cavanaugh, Miriam Margolyes and Hugo Weaving.

BBC Genome: BBC One London – Tuesday 27th December 2005 – 11:35

The next recording starts with the end of an episode of Neighbours. There’s trailers for Chicago and 2005 TV Moments.

Then, My Family and Other Animals. It’s based on Gerald Durrell’s memoir of when his family moved to Corfu. Typically, their first problem on arriving is that none of the houses they are shown have toilets. “Why do you need toilets when you have the sea.” His mother is played by Imelda Staunton.

They’re helped by Spiro, a Greek taxi driver who had worked in England for some time, and helps them navigate the language barrier, and find a villa with toilets. He’s played by Omid Djalili.

His sister Margot (Tamzin Merchant) attracts some admirers.

Brother Larry is an intellectual, struggling with his writing.

Russell Tovey plays his other brother Leslie, who is obsessed with guns.

Gerald himself is played by Eugene Simon.

There’s quite a few guest stars. Is Chris Langham playing Greek worse than Omid Djalili playing Greek?

They have a number of houseguests, including Jason Watkins.

Miranda Hart

And Tom Goodman Hill, who plays a tutor for young Gerry, but is more interested in pursuing her sister.

I quite enjoyed this. While the thought of moving an entire family across the world on a whim would terrify me, I did like seeing young Gerald spend all his time exploring the insects and animals on the island, pursuing his own interests.

Media Centre Description: A new adaptation by Simon Nye of Gerald Durrell’s autobiography. The eccentric and bohemian Durrell family uproot themselves from 1930s England and settle on the Greek island of Corfu, where the young Gerald experiences a new life of freedom and adventure and has the chance to observe the animal kingdom.

BBC Genome: BBC One London – Tuesday 27th December 2005 – 18:00

After this, trailers for Friends and Crocodiles, Chicago, DAB Digital Radio, BBC Three’s Outtakes and Judge John Deed.

Then, the start of Eastenders.

The next recording is another edited one. It’s the first of a Doctor Who double bill – The Unquiet Dead. In the cold open, an undertaker’s dead clients are coming back to life. And it’s not the first time, as the undertaker calls “Gwyneth! Get down here now! We’ve got another one!”

The Doctor and Rose are aiming for Naples in 1860, but end up in Cardiff in 1869. Rose has to dress appropriately.

Mr Sneed the undertaker talks to Gwyneth, his maid, about the walking dead grandmama. As they travel the streets looking for the woman, he asks her to use her ‘sight’. “She’s lost, sir. She’s so alone. Oh, my Lord. So many strange things in her head.” “But where?” “She was excited. About tonight. Before she passed on, she was going to see him.” “Who’s him?” “The great man. All the way from London, the great, great man.” Gwyneth is played by Eve Miles, her first appearance in Doctor Who, but she would return, first in Torchwood, as Gwen.

Who’s the great man Gwyneth is talking about? It’s Charles Dickens, in town to do his one man show, and played by Simon Callow, who is something of a Dickens scholar himself.

The dead woman is indeed in the audience of his show, and as Dickens is starting to recount A Christmas Carol, she starts glowing, and some kind of spirits start flying around. I don’t think, when I was young and watching 70s Who, that I would ever have imagined the show being able to do a scene like this, which feels heavily inspired by the climax of Raiders of the Lost Ark, and which looks pretty good. TV effects had come a long way.

The Doctor and Rose are there, as are Mr Sneed and Gwyneth. Rose sees them take the old lady out of the theatre and follows them. Gwyneth tries to tell Rose that the woman is suffering from ‘brain fever’, but Rose can feel that she’s stone cold. And Mr Sneed somehow has some chloroform handy to kidnap Rose. I don’t know, maybe that’s standard issue for an embalmer.

The Doctor sees them leaving in their carriage, and jumps into the nearest one to follow it. It’s Dickens’ carriage, and he gets in, demanding the Doctor leave, until the Doctor realises who he is, and starts gushing like a fanboy.

Back at the funeral parlour, Rose wakes up – and so does the son of the dead woman, who she killed when she first woke up.

“There’s something inside the walls. The gas pipes. Something’s living inside the gas.”

The Doctor hears Rose shouting for help. He gets the dead people to talk. “Failing! Open the rift. We’re dying. Trapped in this form. Cannot sustain. Help us.”

Even after seeing all this, Dickens doesn’t believe what he’s seeing. He searches the dead bodies for wires. “I’ve always railed against the fantasists! Oh, I loved an illusion – revelled in them, but that’s exactly what they were, illusions. The real world is something else.”

Rose and Gwyneth talk. Gwyneth tells Rose about her life. They talk about various things, how Gwen lost her mother at 12. Then Gwen mentions Rose’s father. “Maybe your dad’s up there waiting for you too, miss.” But Rose hadn’t told her about her father. Gwyneth can see into Rose’s mind. She can see her life in the future. and more. “And you. You’ve flown so far. Further than anyone. The things you’ve seen. The darkness. The big bad wolf.” This is the second reference to Bad Wolf, after a line of dialogue in The End of the World from the Moxx of Balhoon, about the situation on Platform One being “a classic Bad Wolf scenario”.

The Doctor also realises Gwyneth’s gift, and decides they need a seance. This brings out the creatures who are possessing the corpses. They call themselves The Gelth. “Once we had a physical form, like you. But then the War came. The Time War. The whole universe convulsed. The Time War raged, invisible to smaller species but devastating to higher forms. Our bodies wasted away. We’re trapped in this gaseous state.” They aren’t to know, but this prompts the Doctor to want to help them, having lost his planet to the same Time War.

There’s a discussion on the morality of using the bodies of the dead to house the Gelth. Rose thinks it’s wrong. The Doctor, possibly driven by his survivor’s guilt, thinks it’s acceptable, and gets surprisingly cross. “Do you carry a donor card?” “It’s different, that’s…” “It is different, yeah. It’s a different morality. Get used to it. Or go home.”

Gwyneth agrees to help them, and they go to the morgue (of course it’s the morgue) which is the weakest part of the rift where the Gelth are coming through. The Gelth start appearing, more and more of them. And it seems they might have been economical with the truth. “You said that you were few in number!” “A few billion! And all of us in need of corpses!” Plus, they go from being friendly and blue, to being red and scary looking (again, definitely inspired by Raiders).

Rose and The Doctor are trapped in the morgue by the Gelth zombies.

Dickens escapes the house, pursued by one of the Gelth spirits, which is then sucked into the gaslight of a streetlamp. He goes back in and starts extinguishing the gaslamps, but opening the gas taps. He returns to the morgue, does the same thing, and all the Gelth are pulled out of the zombies. But the rift is still open. Gwyneth says “I can’t send them back. But I can hold them. Hold them in this place. Hold them here. Get out.” She takes out a packet of matches. The Doctor stays with her, but realises that Gwyneth is already dead, she’s just holding on. He runs, and Gwyneth strikes the match.

Then it’s time to say goodbye to Charles Dickens, who has been given a whole new lease of life and enthusiasm. He asks the Doctor if his writing survives, if people still read him. The Doctor tells him his works live forever. And the show ends with him walking through the snowy streets of Cardiff, wishing people Merry Christmas, and saying “God Bless Us Every One.” Lovely. So apart from going out in April, this really was the first Christmas story of the new series.

Media Centre Description: The Doctor takes Rose back through time to 1869. But in Victorian Cardiff the dead are walking and creatures made of gas are on the loose. The time-travellers team up with Charles Dickens to investigate Mr Sneed, the local undertaker.

BBC Genome: BBC Three – Tuesday 27th December 2005 – 19:00

The next recording is another edited episode of Doctor WhoAliens of London. There’s a nice opening, where The Doctor and Rose arrive back at the estate, and the Doctor tells Rose that they’ve just been gone 12 hours. But when she goes to see her mum, Jackie is shocked to see her, and Rose sees “Missing” posters with her face on. Then the Doctor comes in and tells her they’ve been gone for twelve months, not twelve hours.

The Tardis gets tagged. Another appearance of Bad Wolf.

Jackie is (rightly) angry and suspicious of The Doctor. “How old are you then, 40, 45? What, did you find her on the Internet, go online and pretend you’re a doctor?” “I am a doctor.” “Prove it. Stitch this.” and she slaps him.

To get out of the flat, they head to the roof, and talk about how Rose can’t tell anyone about what they’ve done, so she can’t explain to Jackie where she’s been. “I’ve seen all that stuff, up there, the size of it, and I can’t say a word. Aliens and spaceships and things… and I’m the only person on planet Earth who knows they exist.” Then a huge Alien spaceship flies over her head. With the subtitle “PAAAAAARP!” That’s probably not a Viz reference – but given the rest of the episode I can’t be sure.

This whole effects sequence is magnificent as the ship flies over London, taking in all the landmarks.

I mean all the landmarks.

I’m not joking here. Literally all of them.

OK, maybe not all of them – here it’s heading down Whitehall towards Westminster Bridge and Big Ben, but they missed a chance to skim Nelson’s Column – about the only landmark they did miss.

They didn’t miss Big Ben, though. This was such a cool shot, and not really surprising they included it in all the trailers. It was the show’s Independence Day moment.

Incidentally, here’s a still from just before the spaceship hits, and if you look at the numbers on Big Ben’s face, you can see that the whole image has been flipped left to right. When it was shot, the ship hit the tower approaching from the left, but that crossed the 180 degree line and wouldn’t look correct when it was edited with the preceding shot and the subsequent shots, so they had to flip it to make it work.

The Doctor’s delighted, and wants to see what’s happening, but they can’t get near, and he doesn’t want to risk taking the Tardis in, in case it’s spotted. “So history is happening, and we’re stuck here.” “Yes, we are.” “We COULD do what everyone else does. Watch it on TV.”

These news montages are always fun. I wonder if that helpline number went anywhere. an 08 number implies a freefone number.

This was Tiffany Wells’ first appearance on the show, although her character didn’t have a name in this episode.

It looks like Jackie’s hosting an Alienwatch party. She makes a remark about having to let the Doctor come in. “Make him welcome or risk never seeing you again.”

There’s a Blue Peter clip, where Matt makes a cake spaceship. This would have been filmed specially, and fairly easy to arrange because then Blue Peter Editor Richard Marson is a massive Doctor Who fan.

There’s a lot of story beats covered by this TV montage. The spaceship crash landed in the Thames, a non-terrestrial body was recovered from it, and was taken for examination to “Albion Hospital”. Then we cut from the TV to inside the hospital, where General Asquith (played by Rupert Vansittart) is shown the alien body. He looks surprised. “And that’s real? It’s not a hoax or a dummy, or..?” but we don’t see the body yet.

“I’ve x-rayed the skull. It’s wired up inside like nothing I’ve ever seen before. No-one could make this up.”  The medical examiner is played by Naoko Mori, another actor who would later go on to appear in Torchwood.

Andrew Marr plays himself, reporting on the apparent absence of the Prime Minister, who hasn’t been seen since the emergency began.

One arrival at Downing Street is Joseph Green, Chairman of the Parliamentary Commission on the Monitoring of Sugar Standards in Exported Confectionery. As Andrew Marr comments, “hardly the most important person right now” He’s met by Indra Ganesh, junior secretary to the MOD and ushered upstairs.

They’re interrupted by Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North, Penelope Wilton. This was her first appearance, and she reappeared in The Christmas Invasion, just a couple of days ago. Her catchphrase of introducing herself with her identity card was established early.

Once they’ve brushed her aside, Green is taken upstairs, and informed “with the city gridlocked and the Cabinet stranded outside London, you become Acting Prime Minister.” In the Prime Minister’s office, he’s met by two others, Margaret Blaine from MI5 and Oliver Charles, Transport Liason. She tells Green there’s no more news about the Prime Minister. “I personally escorted the PM from the Cabinet Room to his car.” The car has disappeared. So Green, Blaine and Charles go into the main office, along with the emergency protocols in the event of an alien incursion. And once there, and alone, they just start laughing…

Rose catches the Doctor leaving the flat. She asks him where he’s going. He tells her this is a first contact situation, and Earth should be left to handle it alone, without him interfering. Rose says “Promise you won’t disappear” so he gives her a Tardis key. Notice it’s not some kind of sci-fi key shape, it looks like a regular door key. This was another deliberate design choice, so kids could pretend that their door key is a Tardis key.

The doctor goes to the Tardis, and he’s spotted by Mickey, who we haven’t seen yet in this episode. He runs down to the courtyard and towards the Tardis as it’s disappearing, runs into the wall, and does a pratfall. Mickey wasn’t treated with much respect in these early episodes.

Back at Downing Street, Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North is still trying to get face time with Joseph Green to talk abut cottage hospitals, but they’re all far too busy with very important alien business. But when they leave her alone next to the Prime Minister’s office, she just walks in and starts reading the secret briefing memo for alien incursion. Are they just very short handed in Downing street?

At Albion Hospital, Doctor Sato is hearing movement in the morgue. Meanwhile, The Doctor has piloted the Tardis there, and walks out into a room full of soldiers.

But Doctor Sato opens the door to the morgue drawer where she put the alien body, and what she sees makes her scream. The Doctor and the soldiers hear that, and immediately The Doctor switches to command mode. “Defence plan delta! Come on, MOVE!” I love this moment.

The Doctor finds the alien, which looks very much like a walking pig. It runs away, he tells the soldier with him not to shoot. But when it encounters more soldiers in the corridor, one of them shoots it. The doctor runs in. “What did you do that for? It was scared!”

Back at Downing Street, Harriet Jones hears angry voices outside, and hides in a cupboard. It’s General Asquith wondering why the acting government has done nothing at all. But Green, along with Blaine and Charles, don’t seem to be taking it seriously. And they seem to be farting quite a lot. Margaret Blaine says “I’m shaking my booty” – a line that my children found hilarious when it first went out, and they were six and four. Grown up Doctor Who fans didn’t much like the farting, if I’m remembering the reception on the forums, but I can attest it played very well with the kids.

General Asquith isn’t having any of it. “Under Section 5 of the emergency protocols, it is my duty to relieve you of command. And by God, I’ll put this country under martial law if I have to.” Then the three of them start unzipping their foreheads, and from her hiding place in a cupboard, Harriet Jones sees something clearly terrifying.

The Doctor is discussing the pig alien with Doctor Sato. “Now someone’s taken a pig, opened up its brain, stuck bits on. Then they strapped it in that ship, made it dive-bomb, it must’ve been terrified. They’ve taken this animal and turned it into a joke.” “So it’s a fake, a pretend, like the mermaid. But the technology augmenting its brain, it’s like nothing on Earth. It’s alien. Aliens are faking aliens? Why would they…?” she asks, but the Doctor has already gone.

Back at Jackie’s house, they’re toasting the Martians when Mickey comes in, and everyone goes quiet. He’s not had the best twelve months. “You disappear, who do they turn to? Your boyfriend. Five times I was taken in for questioning. Five! No evidence. Couldn’t be, could there? And HER whispering round the estate, pointing the finger. Stuff through my letterbox – all cos of you.” And he’s happy to tell Rose that the Doctor’s gone, left her.

She goes out to the square with Mickey, and Jackie follows them. Then the Tardis appears, and they all end up inside. “Oh, just what I need. Don’t you dare make this place domestic!”

Jackie’s shocked by this revelation and goes back to the flat. The TV is asking people if they know anything, to call the hotline. So Jackie calls, “I’ve seen an alien and I know his name. He’s called the Doctor. It’s a box, a blue box. She called it a Tardis.” This trips some keyword alarms in a big way in Downing Street.

The Doctor has traced back the path of the spaceship as it came to Earth and discovered that it started – from somewhere on Earth.

In Downing Street, it looks like whatever Green and Blaine are, they’ve now taken control of General Asquith, and the discarded skin of Oliver Charles is left on the table.

The Doctor is looking at the news channels, as alien experts arrive at Downing Street. He recognises UNIT, and Mickey knows that he used to work for them. “Oh, yeah, don’t think I sat on my backside for 12 months, Doctor, I read up on you. Look deep enough on the Internet or in history books – there’s his name. Followed by a list of the dead.”

The Doctor doesn’t want to risk the Tardis again, so he wants to borrow Mickey’s car, but when they leave the Tardis, they’re surrounded by troops and helicopters. “Take me to your leader.”

They’re driven to Number Ten. The Doctor doesn’t seem to mind the attention.

Jackie is interviewed by a policeman. A rather large policeman. A large, farting policeman. He’s played by Steve Speirs, who was the very boring welshman in Extras.

While the Doctor is taken in to the expert briefing, Harriet Jones, who’s not allowed in, takes Rose to the Prime Minister’s office, and shows her the former skin of Oliver Charles. Rose starts looking for whatever technology must be being used to change skins, and when she opens a cupboard, the body of the Prime Minister falls out.

In the briefing, The Doctor explains that the spaceship came from Earth, and was a diversion from something that was discovered a few days ago. Then he realises he’s wrong. “If aliens fake an alien crash and an alien pilot, what do they get? Us. They get us. It’s not a diversion, it’s a trap. This is about us! Alien experts, the only people who know how to fight them – gathered together in one room.” Then, all the aliens start unzipping – Green and Asquith at the briefing, Margaret Blaine with Rose and Harriet, and the policeman with Jackie.

Whilst this three-way jeopardy is great, the length of time it take for them all to unzip and reveal themselves rather defuses the tension.

Green takes out a button. “Thank you all for wearing your ID cards. They’ll help to identify the bodies.” He presses the button, and the badges start electrocuting everybody. Marvel stole this for Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Media Centre Description: The Doctor takes Rose home, but when a spaceship crash-lands in the Thames, London is closed off and the whole world goes on red alert. While the Doctor investigates the alien survivor, Rose discovers that her home is no longer a safe haven.

BBC Genome: BBC Three – Tuesday 27th December 2005 – 19:45

The next recording starts with the end of Casualty @ Holby City. There’s trailers for Life on Mars and the Ideal Christmas Special.

Then, The French and Saunders Christmas Special. I like the joke at the start. Dawn’s trying to get into the living room, Jennifer says she doesn’t know who she is. “I’m a little fat thing with a massive ego. Desperate for approval. Mummy Mummy look at me.” Jennifer jumps up and opens the door, only to be disappointed. “Oh it’s you. I thought you were Ricky Gervais.”

The two background artists are on Eastenders.

The Graduate on stage. Now on its thousandth cast. With Wee Jimmy Krankie in the Dustin Hoffman part.

There’s a great sketch about three nuns visiting the Vatican, featuring Sally Phillips.

They do Boy George and George Michael.

But halfway through the sketch, it cuts to someone watching the recording on monitors.

“At this point in the recording, the producers decided to call in Dr Tania Byron.” “I’ve got just 40 minutes to turn this around. I’m deeply shocked by what I’m seeing, and in fact I’m going to go in, stop them and pull them out for a chat.”

I love any behind the scenes stuff. I like the way they all go out through the door in the set, then walk around in front of it.

Dr Byron thinks their behaviour, i.e. making fun of celebrities, is impacting their ability to attract celebrities on the show.

There’s a Mastermind sketch featuring John Humphreys.

Rufus Wainwright appears at the Beckenham Folk Festival, with some unwanted accompaniment.

The ladies at Peartree Farm have started the Peartree Farm Kiddie Crash Nursery.

Another money spinning idea is toddler lookylikeys. Here’s Cher.

Chicago. On stage, with its 1000th cast. Yes, that’s Wee Jimmy Krankie again.

Another sketch is interrupted by Dr Tania Byron, this one with Jackie Stallone and Bridget Nilsson. “When’s it going to stop?”

There’s a sketch based on Vera Drake, which I have never seen, although I know what it’s about. In the sketch, though, she performs abortions with milky tea. “Biscuit, dear?”

Finally, will Dawn and Jennifer be able to treat special guest Elton John with the respect he deserves?

He’s joined by “Kiki Dee” and, in a brilliant gag, “Our own, very Tiny Dancer, Billy Elliot” once again played by Wee Jimmy Krankie. (That’s Jennifer as Kike Dee, too.)

Media Centre Description: Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders return for a Christmas special with a host of send-ups and sketches. Vera Drake, Chicago and The Graduate all get the typical treatment, while in the ultimate makeover, extensive plastic surgery turns the girls into warring former in-laws Jackie Stallone and Bridget Nielsen. Dr Tanya Byron helps them learn to be nicer to their guests, and musician Rufus Wainwirght finds he has two enthusiastic backing singers who won’t take no for an answer.

BBC Genome: BBC One London – Tuesday 27th December 2005 – 21:00

After this, there’s trailers for Chicago and Balderdash & Piffle.

The next recording is a bit of a puzzle. It’s Julian Fellowes Investigates a Most Mysterious MurderThe Case of the Earl of Erroll. Was I a Julian Fellowes fanboy at the time. I did watch Never Mind the Full Stops (no episodes remain in my collection) and I quite enjoyed Gosford Park, but this doesn’t really seem like the kind of programme I would really be interested in.

In this, Fellowes tells the story of a posh real-life murder, which happened among the British community in Kenya. So Julian gets to walk around the savannah in a fetching hat, pronouncing on the story.

The story is dramatised, with Fellowes appearing every few minutes to explain the plot. I say dramatised, but it’s mostly boring rich British people wandering around, having the odd affair, and going to posh parties, despite there being a war on. And the only actor I recognise is David Calder as a cuckolded husband. Every single person involved in this story is a terrible person.

Media Centre Description: During the second world war, the trial of a Baronet accused of murdering an Earl in colonial Kenya caused a sensation back in London. An infamous playboy, the Earl of Erroll was conducting a very public affair with Diana, the young bride of Sir Delves Broughton when he was shot dead in his car in January 1941. Julian Fellowes asks whether it was a crime of passion, or whether this high profile figure was a victim of political assassination.

BBC Genome: BBC One London – Tuesday 27th December 2005 – 21:40

After this, there’s a trailer for Sweeney Todd starring Ray Winstone, and an ad for the BBCi Red Button.

Then the start of the news, leading with news that Vitamin D could cut your cancer risk, and heavy snow in Kent.

The next recording starts with trailers for Return of the GoodiesWho Do You Think You Are? and Balderdash & Piffle.

Then, another episode of The Unique Dave AllenPope.

Media Centre Description: Dave Allen presents his favourite stand-up routines and sketches on the subject of the Pope, as well as giving his own insights into the story of Adam and Eve.

BBC Genome: BBC Two England – Tuesday 27th December 2005 – 22:35

The final recording here is another edited one. It’s The American President. I did talk about it a bit when I looked at it on one of my tapes. And I agree with everything I said there.

It’s written by Aaron Sorkin, almost a pilot for The West Wing. It even starts with a walk and talk, as President Andrew Shepherd (Michael Douglas) and his speechwriter Lewis Rothschild (Michael J Fox) discuss a speech where the president dumped an important paragraph.

The West Wing’s Nancy McNally, Anna Deveare Smith, plays his press secretary Robin McCall.

Martin Sheen plays his chief of staff, A.J. MacInerney.

David Paymer plays Leon Kodak, who runs the polling.

One the key bills that they’re trying to pass is a bill to reduce carbon emissions. The President thinks he can pass the bill with a 10% cut, but the lobby group the Global Defense Council want the bill to cut 20% emissions. John Mahoney runs the group.

Wendie Malick off of Dream On also works there. Mahoney wants to bring in a political strategist to help push their goals.

The President is a widower, with a young daughter.

The strategist hired by Mahoney arrives at the White House. She’s quite excited about being there. “Forgive me. This is my first time at the White House. I’m trying to savour the Capraesque quality” she says to the security guard. Malick says “He doesn’t know what Capraesque means.” “Yeah I do” says the security guard. “Frank Capra. Great American director. It’s a Wonderful Life, Mr Smith Goes to Washington. Sidney Ellen Wade of Virginia, knock em dead.”

Sidney Wade is played by Annette Bening. She’s there to talk to A.J. MacInerney about the climate bill. She’s making a strong case for the 20% reduction, and is dismissive of the president’s weaker bill. “The president’s dreaming, AJ. The president didn’t critically misjudged reality. If he honestly thinks that the environmental community is going to whistle a happy tune while rallying support around this pitifully lame mockery of environmental leadership just because he’s a nice guy and he’s done better than his predecessors, then your boss is the chief executive of Fantasyland.”

But the President has walked in behind her and heard all that. His response. “Let’s take him out back and beat the shit out of him.”

Later, the President asks to talk to Sidney privately somewhere “less intimidating”. So she’s shown into the Oval Office.

Richard Dreyfuss plays the republican candidate for President, Bob Rumson. When the President starts dating Sidney, he’s happy to use it to suggest that it reflects badly on the President’s character.

This film was released in 1995, so the White House computer system is running Windows 3.1.

I’m not saying that sometimes this film plays on political stereotypes, but Bob Rumson is plotting his character assassinations in a literal smoke-filled room, something that’s back in the news now that the idiot republicans have removed restrictions on smoking in offices at the US Capitol.

Another West Wing alum, Joshua Malina, (co-host of the excellent West Wing Weekly podcast) plays one of Sidney’s colleagues, David. I’d like to think his surname is Rosen, his character name in the political drama Scandal.

The main political thrust of the story is one that The West Wing would do more than once, the attempt to get the required number of votes for legislation. There’s two bills in play, the climate one that Sidney is lobbying for, and a Crime Prevention bill, which has been a bit neutered because they’re worried about the gun lobby. There’s a running count of how many votes are in play for each.

But when the President learns (from Sidney herself) that they could get enough votes to pass the crime bill if they shelved the climate legislation until after the election, and with the President’s approval rating dropping because Rumson has been smearing Sidney on TV incessantly, he decides to do the political thing, and try to get the crime bill passed, and the climate bill shelved. As a result, Sidney is fired, as the President discovers when she comes to the White House to collect her stuff. He asks “What do you think went on here today?” “I know exactly what went on here today, I got screwed. You saw the poll, you needed the crime bill, you couldn’t get it on your own, so I got screwed.”

The next morning, the President makes an impromptu appearance at the White House press room, and gives a big speech. It covers a lot of the issues of ‘character’ that Bob Rumson has been talking about for the past few weeks, and I mentioned this in my previous look at the film. He says (of Rumson) “You gather a group of middle-aged, middle class, middle income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family and American values and character, and you wave an old photo of the president’s girlfriend and you scream about patriotism. You tell them she’s to blame for their lot in life. You go on television. And you call her a whore.” And the moment he says that, he looks straight down the camera.

He then announces that he’s sending the climate bill to Congress, and the Crime bill is going to be rewritten so that it works, and gets assault weapons and handguns off the streets. This was the bit of the speech at the start of the film that the president dumped, so Lewis is obviously happy to hear that.

But what about Sidney? In the Oval Office, The President is trying to get a regular car organised so he can drive to her house and talk to her. But he doesn’t need to because she was listening to his. “I was in my car. It just kind of steered its way over here.” “Sidney, I didn’t send 455 to the floor to get you back.” “And I didn’t come back because you sent 455 to the floor.” Then they hug. It’s all about the hugging, for me. So I’m in tears. This is a great film.

Media Centre Description: Charming comedy about a widowed president who attempts to juggle his romantic life with his political commitments. President Andrew Shepherd finds his otherwise uneventful private life thrust into the public glare when he unexpectedly falls in love with a feisty environmental lobbyist. As it is election year, Shepherd’s new-found romance only adds to the problems faced by his tightly run campaign team.

BBC Genome: BBC One London – Tuesday 27th December 2005 – 23:00

Incidentally, looking at the tapes which Babe and The American President were one throws up a couple of coincidences. The American President was a Christmas Day blog entry, which is not much of a coincidence, but the other film on that tape was the Sandra Bullock classic The Net – and on the end of the tape with Babe on it, there was also about half an hour of the same film. Not particularly mindblowing, but I thought I’d mention it, mainly because I really like The Net.

The Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show – Who Framed Roger Rabbit? – The Philadelphia Story – Doctor Who – The Unique Dave Allen – Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism – 26 Dec 2005

It’s Boxing Day 2005. Normally, I’d relax, eat leftovers all day and generally slob out, but it turns out I recorded quite a lot on this day, so let’s see what treats we have.

I have two copies of the first recording today, but one of them is the unedited file, which starts with the end of BBC Breakfast in which the main presenter decides to try to read the weather from the weather graphic, and doesn’t really know what he’s looking at. “There’s a 5 heading south somewhere there” he says, about the wind speed and direction.

The actual weather presenter is stuck outside on a balcony at Television Centre. At least her duffel coat looks warm.

There’s an ad for the BBCi Red Button and trailers for Balderdash & Piffle and As Time Goes By.

Then, a very early morning showing of The Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show from 1977. Very enjoyable, but I did look at it on a previous tape, so I won’t repeat myself. That tape was from Christmas Day 1993.

Media Centre Description: A classic Christmas edition from 1977 with special guests Penelope Keith, Paul Eddington, Richard Briers, Elton John, Arthur Lowe and John Le Mesurier.

BBC Genome: BBC One London – Monday 26th December 2005 – 09:00

There’s trailers for The Unknown HancockCelebrate Oliver! and Spy Kids.

Then this recording ends with the start of The Wrong Trousers, which by the kind of coincidence that has ceased to surprise me on this blog, was also on the same tape as the episode of The Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show, and was shown on Boxing Day 1993.

The next recording looks to have been edited, so apologies for that, but it’s a good one. It’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit? It’s the kind of thing I might have expected to have already seen, but I don’t think I would have taped it from the TV, as I definitely had bought it on VHS. But I obviously wanted the convenience of a better quality digital copy, so here it is.

This is such a dense film. I feel like if I did my usual watchalong style, pointing at things I like, this would take forever. So maybe I should just pick a few things here and there. Like the opening cartoon sequence, which is clearly based on the Looney Tunes opening, but for the fictional Maroon Cartoon company. I won’t speculate how much negotiation must have gone on for Disney and Warner Bros alone to allow all the characters used.

There’s an awful lot of violence in this opening. It makes Itchy and Scratchy look like the Teletubbies.

When the sequence ends, and the film switches to the live action world, the director of the film, Raoul, is played by uber-producer Joel Silver.

Yes, Baby Herman was looking up that woman’s skirt, with a terrifying expression on his face. Definitely a Me Too candidate.

Let’s appreciate the work that Bob Hoskins does in this movie. Half the time, he’s acting against nothing.

He’s Eddie Valiant, a private detective, who’s hired by RK Maroon, head of Maroon Studios, to spy on Jessica Rabbit, wife of Roger, because he thinks she’s having an affair. Maroon has just done a deal with Disney. “Dumbo and half the cast of Fantasia. Best thing is, they work for peanuts.”

Joanna Cassidy plays Dolores, and old flame of Eddie’s. She’s got the whole hardboiled act down. When a man in the bar annoys Eddie by joking about him working for Toons, and asks her what Eddie’s problem is, she delivers the great line: “Toon killed his brother. Dropped a piano on his head.”

Eddie goes to the Ink and Pain club. On stage, Daffy Duck and Donald Duck are playing Listz’s Hungarian Rhapsody – or Duelling Pianos as this version is sometimes known.

Eddie meets Marvin Acme, who owns the Acme corporation, and Toontown where all the Toons live. He squirts ink onto Eddie’s shirt, which then disappears, because it’s disappearing ink. He’s very excited to watch Jessica Rabbit’s performance.

Betty Boop is working in the club. Times have been hard since the cartoons went to colour.

Jessica performs her song. Her singing voice is Amy Irving. The effects work here, for what looks simple, is amazing. She pinches Acme’s cheeks, then take his hankie and buffs his head with it, then drops it in front of him. It’s a real hankie. I think these particular scenes were shot with the actress Betsy Brantley playing Jessica’s part, and the animation sits over her, but it must have been painstaking work, with no computers to help at the time.

Marvin goes to see Jessica after the show, and Eddie takes pictures. Roger is heartbroken when he sees them, in RK Maroon’s office. Maroon gives him a drink to help him, but it has an unexpected effect, making him fly around the room like a rocket.

Eddie is visited the next day by a detective. He takes him to the Acme factory, where Marvin Acme has been killed – someone dropped a safe on him, and the police think it was Roger.

Also there is Judge Doom, who seems to have it in for Toons in particular.

He demonstrates what will happen to Roger when he finds him. “I’ll try him, convict him… And execute him.” Which he demonstrates using a poor Toon shoe. Is a Toon Shoe sentient? This seems like murder to me.

Back at his office, Eddie is visited by Baby Herman, who tells him that he doesn’t think Roger murdered Acme. “Every toon knows Acme had a will. He promised to leave Toontown to us toons. That will is the reason he got bumped off.” Eddie is sceptical, but back in the office, he looks at the pictures he took of Acme and sees that his Last Will and Testament is poking out of his pocket.

Eddie needs a lie down. His office has a fold down bed, so he pulls it down, and settles down, only to discover Roger has been sleeping there.

Roger tells Eddie he’s innocent, and it’s all a set-up, and messing around, he finds a pair of handcuffs, and cuffs him and Eddie together. Which is a problem because Eddie doesn’t have the keys to the cuff.

He takes Roger to Dolores’ bar. “Is that a rabbit in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”

Eddie goes in the back, finds a hacksaw and starts cutting the cuffs off, but the tea chest they’re leaning on is rocking. “Hold still, will ya” says Eddie. Roger slips out of the cuffs to hold the chest steady. When Eddie notices what he’s done, Roger sheepishly hops back and puts the cuff back on. “Do you mean to tell me that you could have taken your hand outta that cuff at any time?” “No, not at any time. Only when it was funny.” For some reason, this is one of the movie lines I’ve quoted more than any other. It became a bit of a catchphrase at Computer Concepts, particularly when discussing hard to find bugs.

Eddie thinks that Maroon had Acme killed so he could have Toontown. He leaves Roger with Dolores and goes back to the office, where Jessica visits him. She tells him that Maroon forced her to play Patty-cake with Marvin Acme so he could blackmail him. He said if she didn’t do it Roger would never work again.

Dolores arrives, and after Jessica leaves tells Eddie that Maroon didn’t want to own Toontown, the Cloverleaf company did. The same company that just bought the Los Angeles Tram system. If Marvin Acme’s will doesn’t show up before Midnight, Cloverleaf will own Toontown.

Back at the bar, and Roger isn’t keeping a low profile. He’s busy entertaining the regulars.

Eddie takes him to the back, and Judge Doom arrives, looking for him. He’s offering a reward.

Eddie thinks the guys at the bar will give him up, but Roger doesn’t. “Why ? because you made him laugh?” “That’s right. A laugh can be a very powerful thing. Why, sometimes in life, it’s the only weapon we have.”

It looks like one of them is going to rat on Roger. He says he’s seen a rabbit. “Where?” “He’s right here in the bar. Well, say hello, Harvey” as he puts his arm around an invisible rabbit. I;m just quibbling when I point out that the film Harvey didn’t come out until 1950, three years after this film is set.

Doom tries another tack. He starts knocking on the walls with a particular rhythm – “Shave and a Haircut”. “No toon can resist the old Shave-and-a-Haircut trick.” Eddie thinks he’s mad, then looks at Roger, who’s desperately trying not to make a noise. Until he fails, bursts through the door to complete the phrase – “TWO BITS!”

Doom grabs Roger and is about to put him in the Dip when Eddie asks if he can have a last drink. He gives Roger the drink. and he reacts the same way, hurtling around the room, letting out a high pitched whistle that smashes glasses. While he’s distracting Doom, Eddie takes care of the weasels, and only just stops Roger from propelling himself into the Dip Barrel. Then he pushes the barrel over, and the two of them escape.

Outside they need a getaway vehicle, and they find Benny the Cab who has been locked in the weasel’s van.

They hide out in a cinema. There’s a newsreel, and one of the stories is that of RK Maroon receiving $3.5m for the sale of his studio – to Cloverleaf. That’s the connection.

Eddie goes to see Maroon at his office. While he’s talking to Maroon, Roger is bashed on the head with a frying pan and thrown into a car trunk – by Jessica. Maroon tells Eddie he wanted to sell his studio, but they would only buy if Acme sold his factory too. “The stubborn bastard wouldn’t sell, So I was gonna blackmail acme with pictures of him and the rabbit’s wife. Blackmail, that’s all.” But before he can spill the whole plot, someone shoots him through the window.

Eddie sees Jessica driving away, and he follows, but she goes through the tunnel leading to Toontown. Eddie is reluctant to follow, since the last time he was there, his brother was killed. But he prepares by getting his Toon gun, complete with animated bullets.

In Toontown, he’s still pursuing Jessica. There’s a cameo from Droopy as a lift operator.

Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny aren’t very helpful when he falls out of a tall building.

Eddie follows Jessica, then is almost shot himself before Jessica shoots at the potential assassin. She tells Eddie it’s Judge Doom. Eddie shoots at Doom, who runs round a corner. The three bullets screech to a halt, argue about which direction he went, then shoot off in the wrong direction, leading to Eddie giving one of the greatest punchlines ever. “Dum Dums”.

While they pursue Doom, Jessica drops a bit more exposition. “Doom wanted to get his hands on Toontown, and he wouldn’t stop at anything.” “So he gave you the will for safekeeping?” “That’s what he told me. Except when I opened the envelope, there was only a blank piece of paper inside.” “Huh. A joker to the end.”

Doom is waiting at the end of the tunnel, and pours Dip all over the road, making Benny skid and crash. Then he takes Eddie and Jessica to the Acme warehouse. He tells one of the weasels to frisk Jessica. The weasel puts his hand down her front, and pulls it out with a bear trap on it. “Nice booby trap” says Eddie, another very adult joke.

Judge Doom explains his whole plan. He unveils a machine design to spray Dip at high pressure, enough to literally wipe Toontown off the map. Because his plan is to build a Freeway through LA. When Eddie asks why people would drive when the Red Car trams are so convenient, he says he’s already bought the Red Cars, and he’ll close them down. Incidentally, this whole plot was inspired by the movie Chinatown, and according to the writers, in reality, the mass transit system in LA was indeed bought up by car and tire makers, and put out of business.

Roger arrives with a gun, but gets a ton of bricks dropped on him. He’s tied to Jessica, and suspended in front of the wall between the factory and Toontown, so that when the Dip machine breaks through, they’ll be killed too.

Eddie has only one thing left to try. He starts up a fairground organ playing ‘Merry-Go-Round Broke Down’ – the name of the Looney Tunes theme – and starts singing a comedy song, and doing pratfalls, to make the weasels laugh themselves to death. Which works a treat.

That leaves only Judge Doom to stop. There’s more fighting with various cartoon items. Eddie almost gets squashed by a steamroller. Then he gets Doom’s hands and feet stuck with glue, and Doom is squashed instead.

But Doom isn’t dead. He’s a toon himself. And not just any toon – he’s the toon who killed Eddie’s brother.

It’s almost curtains for Eddie until he uses another Acme gimmick, the boxing glove on a spring, to reverse the Dip spray straight onto Judge Doom. And he does say “I’m Melting” but doesn’t quite say “What a world” which I was sad about, as I like a good Wizard of Oz reference.

The wall to Toontown comes down, and some of the toons come in to see what’s happened. Lots of cameos in this scene.

Dolores arrives with the police. Everything is sorted out, except for who owns Toontown. Dolores notices that Eddie has blue ink all over his shirt. It was the disappearing ink that Acme squirted on it.

Eddie pulls out the love letter Roger wrote to Jessica, on a blank piece of paper he found in her dressing room after Acme had been there. It’s actually Acme’s will, and the text starts reappearing.

And the film ends with Porky Pig telling us “That’s All Folks.

Media Centre Description: Madcap, innovative, comic fantasy in which a cartoon rabbit, framed for a murder he did not commit, teams up with a down-and-out private eye to clear his name. This Oscar-winning combination of live action and animation is set in a mythical 1940s Hollywood where humans and cartoon characters exist side by side.

BBC Genome: BBC One London – Monday 26th December 2005 – 11:10

The next recording is also one that I’ve edited. It’s another movie, The Philadelphia Story. I’ve definitely seen this one for the blog.

I do love it, though. There’s a bit where James Stewart and Ruth Hussey, playing a reporter and a photographer, who have been sent to cover Katherine Hepburn’s wedding (against her wishes) have been put into one of the many rooms in the house. He’s very cynical about the opulence of the house. For fun, he phones one of the random internal numbers and orders caviar sandwiches. The mother of the house answers, confused. Then Stewart says “This is the voice of doom. Your days are numbered to the seventh son of the seventh son.” What’s odd is that this is a joke that we had, either at home or at school, and I had no idea that this is where the joke originated.

It also has one of my favourite lines ever. Towards the end, after a party when much alcohol was drunk, Tracy (Hepburn) can’t remember the evening, and it looks like she might have spent it sleeping with Connor (James Stewart). But he steps up to tell her that they just kissed, and he left her in her room, alone. “Why? Was I so unattractive? So distant? So forbidding or something?” Connor replies “You were extremely attractive, and as for distant and forbidding, on the contrary, but you also were a little the worse, or better, for wine, and there are rules about that.”

Media Centre Description: Sparkling, sophisticated comedy classic about a bored heiress, destined for marriage to a stuffy executive, whose wedding plans are thrown into disarray by the arrival of her dashing playboy ex-husband. What then follows is a hilarious, often poignant observation of life and love among the super-rich, as the family gradually comes to realise the importance of integrity and true values.

BBC Genome: BBC Two England – Monday 26th December 2005 – 14:35

Next, it’s Doctor WhoThe End of the World. I recorded the original run of the show when it went out, on TiVo, but my TiVo archiving is a bit hit and miss. I might get around to finding those recordings on a drive somewhere, but for now, let’s take advantage of a BBC Three repeat run of the series.

This is the second episode. I do have a recording of the first episode, Rose, but not until April 2006.

After a ‘Previously On’ – something new for Doctor Who, but a modern version of repeating the lead-up to the previous episode’s cliffhanger – The Doctor is asking Rose where she wants to go. There’s lots of close-ups of the gadgets and dials on the Tardis console. It’s very different to the white, modern (for the time) look of the old Tardis. When I visited the Tardis set with my family, the children  had a lot of fun turning dials and pressing buttons.

They travel 5 billion years into the future. To the very moment that the Sun expands, and destroys the Earth. Sure, he tries to give it an uplifting spin – “But you never take time to imagine the impossible, that maybe you survive.” – but this is the most Emo first date imaginable.

They’re on Platform One, an observation platform, protected from the expanding solar radiation by forcefields, as is the (now uninhabited) Earth for now. But in less than an hour the forcefields protecting the Earth will be switched off.

They’re met by a Steward who demands to know who they are. But The Doctor flashes a blank piece of paper at him and tells him they’re invited guests, which the man happily accepts. It’s the first appearance of Psychic Paper, which is an incredibly clever gimmick to get over the perennial Doctor Who plot problem of them turning up absolutely anywhere and people wondering who they are. Plus, it’s the kind of thing that kids can make for themselves. Brilliant.

The other illustrious guests start to arrive, including representatives from the Forest of Cheam – Jabe and her fellow trees.

I believe The Moxx of Balhoon started off as Russell T Davies making fun of silly Sci Fi names in an interview before the show started, but then he made it into a real character.

The Adherents of the Repeated Meme give all the guests presents of silver balls.

The Face of Boe, who would be something of a recurring character. All these aliens are really showing off the higher budget of the series, compared with our memories of the classic series.

The special guest is the Lady Cassandra, “The Last Human”, who has had rather too much cosmetic surgery. She even has a catchphrase, “Moisturise me” which my kids loved. She’s voiced to perfection by Zoe Wanamaker. And if the programme didn’t have such a lightness about it, this could be really disturbing body horror.

She brings with her “Another rarity. According to the archives, this was called an iPod, it stores classical music from humanity’s greatest composers.” The jukebox then starts playing Soft Cell’s Tainted Love. Another great gag.

As the guests are mingling, unnoticed by them, one of the silver balls given as gifts opens, and a mechanical spidery thing comes out.

Rose gets a bit overwhelmed by the event, so she ducks out. She meets a young plumber fixing a problem with the water, called Rafallo. A lot of these aliens are blue. Who says Avatar has no cultural footprint?

Poor Raffalo doesn’t last long, though, as she’s attacked by more of the spider bots.

The Doctor finds Rose in one of the observation lounges. She asks why they’re all speaking English, he explains it’s the Tardis telepathic circuits translating in her head, and she makes a very good point. “Your machine gets inside my head? It gets inside and it changes my mind, and you didn’t even ask?” Then she asks where he comes from, and he gets very frosty, and won’t tell her. It’s their first argument. But Rose is pragmatic. “As my mate Shireen says, don’t argue with the designated driver. Can’t exactly call for a taxi. No signal.” Then the Doctor does some jiggery-pokery with her phone, and she’s able to phone her mum, back in 2005.

There’s a rumble. The Doctor says “That’s not supposed to happen.” In the Steward’s office, he’s noticed too, and makes a reassuring announcement about “gravity pockets”. Then he notices one of the spider bots, which deactivates the Sun Filter on his window, vapourising him.

Rose talks to Cassandra. She learns that Cassandra calls herself the last human because “The others… mingled. Do you know what I call them? Mongrels.” So Rose tells her that she was born on Earth, so she’s the last human.

The Doctor and Jabe are investigating the strange shudders of the platform. They talk about her background, a descendant of the Amazon rainforest. Then Jabe tells him that she scanned him earlier, and she knows where he comes from. “The metalmachine had trouble identifying your species. It refused to admit your existence. And even when it named you, I wouldn’t believe it. But it was right. I know where you’re from! Forgive me for intruding, but it’s remarkable that you even exist. I just want to say… how sorry I am.”

Someone attacks Rose, and seals her in an observation room. Then, the Sun Filter starts descending. The Doctor has found the Steward’s office, and notices that another sun filter is programmed to descend elsewhere. So it’s a race against time whether he can reverse it before Rose gets fried.

But who is responsible for the sabotage? The Doctor has found one of the spiders, so he sends it to find its master – The Adherents of the Repeated Meme. But The Doctor reveals them to just be droids themselves. The real saboteur is Cassandra. Who then explains her entire plan, then teleports away, leaving everyone to burn as the forcefields drop.

Jabe and the Doctor find the manual controls to raise the forcefields. It looks like a level from a videogame with huge fans rotating across the only walkway. Health and Safety regulations must be rubbish in the year 5 billion.

 

Jabe has to keep a lever pulled down to slow the fans – despite the rising heat, and her being a tree. “Jabe! You’re made of wood.” “Then stop wasting time – Time Lord.” The first reference to him being a Time Lord.

The windows start cracking and letting in the sun. Rose is still in jeopardy.

Jabe burns up, the fans start spinning faster, and the Doctor has to use some kind of Time Lord meditation technique to get past them – which he could have done earlier, and saved poor Jabe the trouble. He turns it off and on again, and the shields go up just in time.