Month: January 2014

The Wonder Years – tape 748

More of Fred Savage’s coming of age sitcom.

After the last episode, Channel 4 news, and the continuing, but seemingly close to ending first Gulf War.

Ads:

  • Weetabix – nice animated Three Bears ad
  • Tesco
  • Prudential
  • Right Guard
  • Ikea – Mike McShane
  • Cadbury’s Whole Nut
  • BMW
  • Ovaltine
  • Walker’s Crisps
  • Volvo 440
  • Cadbury’s Boost
  • Natrel Plus
  • Webster’s Yorkshire Bitter
  • Panama cigars
  • Endekay Dental Health Gum
  • Lion Bar
  • Ambrosia Creamed Rice
  • BMW
  • Levi Jeans
  • Nike Air
  • TV Times – the first week they were able to print schedules for all stations, not just ITV.
  • Rolo
  • Tango
  • Equity and Law Pensions
  • Tesco
  • Network Q
  • Castrol GTX
  • Pizza Hut
  • Terry’s Moments
  • Royal Mail – Scientists on Stamps
  • Dulux
  • Cambell’s Kids Meals
  • knorr Bolognese
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Saturday Night at the Movies – tape 692

From Tony Slattery’s introduction, I’d say this is the first episode of the ITV film programme.

Mel Smith, Rowan Atkinson and Jeff Goldblum talk about The Tall Guy, there’s a look at two scenes from On The Waterfront to examine his acting techniques. Melanie Griffith and Tippi Hedren talk about Melanie’s rise to fame.

Behind the Screen looks at the art of the trailer makers, in a fairly disappointing segment that doesn’t really illuminate anything, but does remind me that The Dead Pool featured Liam Neeson in a ponytail square up against Clint Eastwood.

Reviewed are Alien Nation, Punchline and Crossing Delancey.

There’s a preview of Great Balls of Fire, talking to Dennis Quaid and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Next episode starts with a look at the British talent working in Hollywood, talking to Alan Parker, Adrian Lyne, Julien Temple, William Osborne, William Davis, Dick Clement and Ian LaFrenais. There’s a look at a spate of ghost comedies on video, and Paul Schrader and Natasha Richardson talk about Patty Hearst. Behind the Screens looks at a hollywood tour guide at Universal Studios.

Reviews this week are of The Tall Guy, Camille Claudel and The Dead Pool. Slattery is not flattering about Jeff Goldblum, possibly because (as he freely admits) he auditioned for Goldblum’s part.

Richard Gere is the subject of a Star Profile.

Before the next episode, there’s the end of a weird looking movie featuring Shelley Winters as the leader of a modern-day witches coven. A quick browse through imdb suggests the movie could be… The Initiation of Sarah.

After the movie, there’s an announcement: “The Initiation of Sarah replaced our scheduled film, Shooter, which will be shown later this year.” Programmes are running 25 minutes late due to an extended news. And there’s a bulletin right now.

The news bulletin reveals the reason – 93 people had died at Hillsborough when (as we now know, but didn’t at the time) catastrophically poor planning and organisation, coupled with terrible decisions by the police handling the crowds, led to too many people being funnelled into a terrace that was not large enough to hold them, leading to a massive crush. At the time, the blame was placed squarely on the fans, and it wasn’t until last year before the real truth behind the disaster was finally acknowledged – that the police panicked and let too many people into an area they knew couldn’t cope.

This news bulletin, on the day of the disaster, is already presenting the official version. “It happened when ticketless Liverpool fans surged onto terraces packed with genuine ticket holders.” In actual fact, most fans there had tickets, but all the Liverpool fans had been directed to an entrance that was inadequate to get them all into the ground smoothly. As the crowds grew outside, the police panicked, and opened doors to the already crowded terraces, letting more fans in when there wasn’t space for them, and there were other parts of the ground which could have accommodated them.

Finally, after this bulletin, Saturday Night at the Movies gets started. There’s a look at the link between Film and Fashion, there’s a look back at Granada’s Cinema interviews with Jack Nicholson, Woody Allen and Dustin Hoffman. Then there’s a look at Siskel and Ebert’s film review show.

Behind the Screen looks at Peter Elliott, a gorilla performer, who worked on Greystoke and Gorillas in the Mist.

This week’s reviews are for Kamikaze, Fright Night part 2 and Matewan.

Mel Brooks is interviewed about his films, and Brooksfilms, his more serious production company.

After this episode, the scheduled film, Hot Shots, is replaced with an episode of The Fall Guy, presumably in an effort to get their schedule back on time. The tape runs out during this.

Adverts on this tape:

  • Sunday Express – some animal abuse
  • BSB – touting their digital stereo sound – Nicam was two years off on the BBC at this point
  • Sunday Times
  • Nivea
  • Nat West – a bizarre advert where a man living in a wooden hut somewhere exotic listens to all the great new features of Nat West current accounts, including interest. The man then tells his dog “Well old boy, could be time to go home.” I can’t imagine what his back-story must be, if he was prevented from returning home by a lack of current account interest. Perhaps he’s a mercenary who needs to do a bit of money laundering.
  • Sprite
  • Lowenbrau
  • Amstrad 9512 word processor, with Stanley Unwin
  • Heinz Weightwatchers
  • American Express
  • Websters Yorkshire Bitter
  • Sealink
  • Pizza Hut
  • Crimestoppers
  • Old El Paso Tacos
  • Recital hair dye
  • BT payphones

Quantum Leap – Douglas Adams on Graham Chapman – tape 775

Body-swapping, time-hopping scientist Sam Beckett leaps into another life in this episode from Quantum Leap. On this tape are the episodes Good Night, Dear Heart,

After the episode there’s a trail for Red Dwarf – The Inquisitor, and The Addams Family – the series, not the movie, plus a short section fro an episode of 40 Minutes – the documentary defined solely by its duration. What’s it about? About 40 minutes.

However, before we get into the episode, the recording stops, and we find St Elsewhere underneath. This was late-vintage Elsewhere, as evidenced by the disclaimer at the end that “ECUMENA is a fictional company that does not represent any actual company or corporation” – so presumably the name resembled an existing company, who complained. The programme swiftly made the company rebrand itself.

There’s more than one episode here, and flipping through it, I’m reminded what a great cast it had. Ronny Cox, Stephen Furst, Denzel Washington, Howie Mandel, David Morse, even an impossibly young Bruce Greenwood.

But following the last St Elsewhere is a surprising find. On the day following the death of Graham Chapman, The Late Show interviews Douglas Adams about Chapman, a friend and collaborator.

The Black Hole – Hooperman – tape 645

Disney’s attempt to join the 70s SF wave was The Black Hole, a plodding, portentous and ultimately pretentious movie, but which had some nice special effects, and a solid score from John Barry.

All the ingredients are there – spaceships, evil scientists, killer robots, cute robots, some gorgeous matte paintings and effects, but it all just sits there, lumpen and inert, never really engaging you. All the characters are earnest and serious, and even the attempts at humour, mostly revolving around the battered robot Old B.O.B., don’t really spark. And the film falls totally apart towards the end, where it reaches for significance like 2001, but instead just lapses into muddy metaphysics and biblical metaphor. Not to mention scenes where huge flaming fireballs (in space?) crash through the ship where the characters are running, but nobody seems to worry that they ought to suddenly be in a hard vacuum.

The whole thing feels like cargo-cult filmmaking. Someone (several someones, gong by the writing credits) looked at Star Wars, copied lots of elements from it and hoped to achieve the same thing, without really understanding what made Star Wars work for the audience in the first place.

All that said, I do have a certain affection for it, mainly because when it was released, a friend of my father, knowing I liked Science Fiction, gave me a press pack for it, which contained loads of black and white lobby stills (it was common at the time for cinemas to display stills from forthcoming movies in the cinema lobby, along with posters) and press release material, gushingly describing the movie, its stars and makers. I was always disappointed that the resulting movie was so unrewarding.

Following the movie, there’s Hooperman, with a christmas episode, which is followed by a trailer for Poirot, which sounds like it’s trailing the first ever episode. Some ads are followed by a trail for Cilla Black’s New Year’s Eve show (guest starring Julian Clary) then a news bulletin. The Lockerbie bombing is the lead story.

Ads:

  • BT
  • Seagram – in a strange anti-drink driving advert entitled The Mourning After.
  • Andrews Answer – strapline: The new answer to the Morning After – awkward juxtaposition of ads there.
  • Allied Sale
  • Philips CD-Video – amazingly, this was a thing, though never a very popular one here.

  • Citroen BX – Joe McGann and someone I recognise but can’t put a name to.
  • Capital Gold radio – a great new radio station

Parrot Sketch Not Included – South Bank Show: Barry Humphries – tape 790

Parrot Sketch Not Included was a 20th anniversary celebration of Monty Python, introduced by Steve Martin. It consisted of an introduction by Martin, followed by a compilation of sketches from the programme, with no documentary or interviews included. Sue Vertue, now producer of Sherlock, was production manager for the compilation, and John Lloyd was one of the editors.

However, the pythons did appear. In a cupboard.

Python reunion

Python reunion

Shortly after the programme was completed, Graham Chapman died. It’s obvious from the scene above that he was very sick when they filmed it.

Following this, Melvyn Bragg’s South Bank Show looks at Barry Humphries. It’s odd that, as a rule, I’m not a fan of character comedians being interviewed in character – Leigh Francis is a particular offender since he is never out of character, but I was always bothered by Lily Savage too, when she popped up on Wogan as if she were a real person. But for some reason, that’s never bothered me with Dame Edna. Possibly because Humphries is far funnier than pretty much anybody else around.

Following The South Bank Show, the recording continues with some ads, then the beginning of A Concert for Armenia, which features, among others, John Ogden and Brenda Lucas playing Lutoslawski’s variations on Paganini for two hands, Yehudi Menuhin and Igor Oistrakh playing the Bach Double violin concerto. My goodness, but Bach wrote some beautiful music. There’s a story often told about when they were deciding the music to put onto a gold disc and send into space on the first Voyager probe (which recently left the solar system entirely and is travelling int interstellar space). Carl Sagan was leading a discussion about what music to include, and when Bach was discussed, Freeman Dyson said that sending Bach would seem too much like showing off. In the event, the record contains several Bach pieces. The story was repeated later by Douglas Adams, who also, in his novel Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, has another suggestion as to the origins of Bach’s magnificent work.

The concert runs out when the tape stops, interrupting a great performance of the finale of Tchaikovsky’s fifth symphony.

Ads:

  • BT
  • Highland Spring
  • Rover 200 series
  • Cockburn’s
  • Sun Alliance
  • Oracle
  • Crimestoppers

Without Walls – A Nightmare on Elm Street – tape 699

First on the tape, part of a Channel 4 programme Without Walls – an arts & culture show. Recorded primarily for Reel Secrets which looked at horror films. Before that, J’Accuse has Michael Dibdin who doesn’t like Agatha Christie. In the discussion of the book later retitled ‘And Then There Were None’ he chooses to refer to it by its original title more than once, which feels gratuitous to me.

Reel Secrets is presented by story guru Robert McKee. He looks at the Horror genre calling it “the most exacting film genre”.

Interestingly, the two films he looks at as the best examples of recent years are Alien and A Nightmare on Elm Street. No doubt some people wuld quibble with labelling Alien as horror and not SF, but they’re wrong.

He makes a nice comparison with the bad mothers in Nightmare on Elm Street, who aren’t there to help their children, and the computer in Alien, also called Mother, which is programmed to preserve the Alien at the expense of the crew.

The intertitles in this programme are frankly revolting, with the titles on fragments of script being cut out of bodies or drenched in blood.

Someone had a lot of fun with these intertitles

Someone had a lot of fun with these intertitles

One of the experts on this show is Dr Raj Persaud, now a familiar face on TV, here credited with his full name Rajendra.

A early TV appearance from Dr Raj Persaud

A early TV appearance from Dr Raj Persaud

Reel Secrets is followed by a recording of A Nightmare on Elm Street (shown afterwards, I think).

After Nightmare, another Reel Secrets looks at comedy on film. Oddly enough, Raj Persaud also pops up as a talking head on this one.

"The Producers is Me Brooks' most psychologically interesting film"

“The Producers is Me Brooks’ most psychologically interesting film”

McKee looks specifically at The Producers and Big and draws attention to the various techniques comedy uses to achieve its goal.

Tantalisingly, the trail for next week’s programme promises Paul Whitehouse as Mike Smash pays tribute to his old mates, including Dave Lee Travis. The segment is called Hang The DJ. Sadly, it’s not on this tape, so I don’t know if I ever recorded it.

This recording stops, and a previous recording underneath appears – looks like a comedy/parody of some sort revolving around a school production of Romeo and Juliet.

I don’t recognise anybody in the cast, and everyone seems to think that shouting a lot is inherently funny. A quick search for the name of the school leads me to discover this is The Underachievers. Based on the short section here, I can’t recommend it.

Ad breaks:

  • Ford Transit
  • Tic Tac – the classic animated ads. “The inner mint flavour did a rumba on my tongue”
  • Trailer for Deceived – scored with music from Aliens
  • Nutrasweet
  • Anadin Extra
  • Courage Best – Chas & Dave, Gertcha
  • Barclay’s Bank
  • Miele vacuum
  • Divine Madness
  • Biactol
  • Castlemaine XXXX
  • Peugeot 106
  • Dulux
  • Amstrad Word Processors
  • Kuffs trailer

LA Law – tape 796

“The programme that quite literally follows the letters of the law, the letters being, of course, LA”

These episodes are later vintage LA Law – Amanda Donohoe and John Spencer are in the credits, and it’s after Diana Muldaur made her memorable exit from the show (the first episode makes mention of her). Episode codes are 8L08, 8L11, 8L12, 8L13

Departed star Jimmy Smits returns for a story that follows up a storyline from a previous series concerning his brother’s death by drunk driver. I feel you can’t go wrong with series TV brining back a much loved character to guest star. But then I watch Doctor Who, so I would say that, wouldn’t I?

Incidentally, one episode guest-stars Gates McFadden, Dr Crusher from Star Trek The Next Generation, which means that both of the Enterprise D’s chief medical officers have appeared on LA Law.

Wil Wheaton's TV mum Gates McFadden does a french accent in LA Law

Wil Wheaton’s TV mum Gates McFadden does a french accent in LA Law

Another thing which strikes me about the show is that it opens with a fairly prolonged establishing shot of the LA skyline, while the guest actors credits play. On one of these episodes, these credits (and remember this if after the main titles have played) run for 49 seconds before they finally get to the first scene. I can’t imagine any TV show having the luxury to take that much time just for guest credits today, given that many shows have forgone even a title sequence. These were simpler times.

LA Law was one of the first shows to really use the modern techniques of the ‘colorist’. Although shot on film (35mm I would presume) all postproduction would have been done on video, where the colorist can ensure a really consistent visual feel for the series. Part of this is that it’s a very soft-looking show, like it was all filmed through gauze. Compare it with an earlier Bochco show like Hill Street Blues, which was (I believe) still postproduced on film, and has a much sharper look, which certainly suits the subject matter. LA Law is more glossy and glamorous, so the soft focus and subdued lighting fit the show, but it does mean that these old shows are unlikely to reappear in any HD format (not without a hugely expensive remastering process).

They even published a series of books. How exciting.

There are five LA Law books available. They're published by Boxtree price £3.99 each

There are five LA Law books available. They’re published by Boxtree price £3.99 each

Despite being broadcast on Thames, my LA Law recordings tended to be devoid of ad breaks, since I was watching while taping it. All there is here is a small chunk after the last episode, with a trailer for Firm Friends starring Madhur Jaffrey and Billie Whitelaw – a drama, not a comedy as the name could suggest. At least, there were no jokes in the trailer. Paula Yates appears in a brief trail for 01 (formerly 01 for London, so this is after the London dialling codes changed the first time).