Red Dwarf I – Moonlighting – QED – tape 488

Now this is a nice way for a tape to open – with the end of the classic Horizon documentary The Joy of Finding Things Out, a profile of Richard Feynman.

Richard Feynman

But it’s only the end, and is shown as a tribute to Feynman, who died the previous month.

Then, Red Dwarf, with the episode Me2. There’s two Rimmers now, so they move in together. And Lister learns why Rimmer’s last words were ‘Gazpacho Soup’.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 21st March 1988 – 21:00

There’s a trailer for Brazil.

Then, an episode of Moonlighting, called Maddie Hayes Got Married. It’s the time when Maddie was pregnant, and going to marry Dennis Dugan as Walter Bishop. Dennis Dugan is now a director specialising in bad Adam Sandler movies.

Dennis Dugan

David doesn’t think Walter is much of a husband for Maddie, and offers to give Maddie a big wedding, thinking it’ll make her change her mind.

And Burt Viola jumps out of a cake dressed as a woman.

Burt Viola

And Brooke Adams, David’s girlfriend (? I can’t remember, and this episode doesn’t leave it clear) gives birth.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 21st March 1988 – 21:30

After this, recording switches to some Weather with Bill Giles. Then a trailer for Crimewatch UK.

Then, an episode of QED, the BBC science strand for people who find Horizon too much like hard work.

This episode is It’s Not Easy Being A Dolphin, and is about the world of advertising. It opens with some discussion of the famous Apple 1984 Superbowl ad for Macintosh.

I wonder how many editorial policy meetings they had to have for this programme, because it does play adverts – many modern ones as well as older ones – for a lot of brands.

The section on focus groups is fascinating (although I do wonder quite how much is staged or repeated for the camera). The researcher asking the group to close their eyes, and use a piece of clay to shape how they emotionally connect to a brand is quite creepy. “I want you to turn it into a shape corresponding to the way in which you feel about the Labour Party.”

In a previous job, we once had some Brand Experts come in for a discussion about our ‘brand’. As part of their presentation, they talked about the ‘brand onion’ – a metaphor for something with lots of layers you can peel away. I commented to colleagues how I thought it wasn’t necessarily a good thing for them to liken our brand to something that makes you cry.

Some of the explanations for their branding choices are almost laughable. Here’s what Christian Monge of Ogilvy & Mather says about how they developed the Rutger Hauer series of ads for Guinness.

“In terms of how the ads actually appear, we thought it quite important they had a sort of cultish feel about them. So, we wrote these about a year and a half ago, I suppose, and we looked around at all the things that were happening, and there was things like The PrisonerStepford WivesMax Headroom, many other sort of images from magazines and things like that, all mixed up in there. The reason for that is that it’s important that the Guinness brand is seen as a contemporary image, and of course cults is where you find individuals.”

This programme was shown in April 1988, so we presume the ads were developed in 1986. Max Headroom was indeed totally contemporary. But the Prisoner was a show made in 1967, and the Stepford Wives was made into a movie in 1975. Hardly very contemporary.

His use of the word ‘cult’ is also odd, given that it’s more serious meaning implies a group of people who subsume their own personalities into the beliefs of the overall group. It’s almost the exact opposite of individuals. Even (being charitable) if he meant cult in the pop-culture meaning, like the Rocky Horror late night screenings, a cult in that sense is always characterised as a group who all share the same strong opinions about a specific thing. Again, being in this kind of cult means that you share your opinion with the group.

I’m afraid this kind of nonsense plays right into my basic distrust of the whole advertising industry, people who appear to spend their whole time lying to their clients, to themselves, but mostly to us.

Then, a researcher on the Guinness project describes, rather more clearly, how they wanted to give the illusion of individuality to people who are really just part of a crowd.

Then he talks about embodying the brand as a central character, “a central character who was very much his own man, someone who would lift himself above the mundane and the humdrum to make his own choices.” This description is illustrated by a clip of Rutger Hauer in The Hitcher in which his character lifts himself above the mundane and the humdrum by being a psychotic serial murderer who delights in terrorising people.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 13th April 1988 – 21:30

Next on this mix of a tape, Tales from the Darkside, the cheap anthology horror show from George Romero’s Laurel production company. This episode is Madness Room, in which Stuart Whitman is married to a much younger Therese Pare.

             Ever since I was a kid I've heard bad 
             things about Ouija boards.
             Come on now, Michael, wake up and join 
             the twentieth century.

There’s a nice miniature establishing shot (given away by the smoke).

Darkside Miniature

There’s a lurid trailer for a Geraldo Rivera interview with Charles Manson (which we’ve looked at on a previous tape).

This is followed by another Darkside episode, The Word Processor of the Gods, written by Michael McDowell from a short story by Stephen King. A writer is given a home-made word processor, the last gift from his nephew, who recently died with his family in a car accident. When he starts to use it, he finds strange things happen when he types. He can make things appear and disappear at will, which is great when it comes to producing a bag of gold dubloons, but things take a rather queasy turn when he decides to delete his annoying son. It’s supposed to be heartwarming, I think, but it’s actually rather creepy.

This is followed by the News Headlines, dated as April 15th 1988.

Then, we’re introduced to the film Lipstick with the shocking statistics about the number of rapes in California, the 10% reporting rate, and the 2% conviction rate of those. “The film Lipstick is about rape.” Well done Thames, that’s how to introduce a programme without all that coy “scenes that might be upsetting” stuff.

The film stars Margaux Hemingway as a model, and features Mariel Hemingway as her younger sister – last seen a little bit older (but not much) in Woody Allen’s Manhattan.

Mariel Hemingway

There’s about 15 minutes of this film before the tape ends.


  • Times Past
  • Bembom Brothers theme park, Margate
  • Payless for DIY
  • Real McCoy’s
  • The Best of OMD
  • Holsten Export
  • trail: Cheers/Friday Night Live/Day of the Triffids
  • Whiskas
  • Anadin
  • Aer Lingus
  • Homepride
  • Kellogg’s Rasin Splitz
  • trail: Wall of Tyranny
  • trail: Murder: Live from Death Row
  • Abbey national – David Jason
  • Bourjois
  • The Best of OMD
  • BNFL
  • 7Up
  • Panasonic Wall to Wall cleaner
  • Car Buyer
  • ITV Telethon – Michael Aspel

One comment

  1. I know Freud (Sigmund) is criticised nowadays, but looking at those clay and pictorial representations of products by focus groups they did look to have something else on their minds other than stuff they’d like to buy or vote for, especially that Guinness drawing (!).

    I wonder if they still use the Four Cs? The aspirer looked like something out of a French and Saunders sketch. I don’t watch ads anymore, so it seems to me the purpose of modern ones is to annoy people into remembering their products.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s