Month: November 2018

The Player – Deceived – tape 1717

It’s movie day today, starting with a movie about movies. The Player was a return to prominence of Robert Altman, who hadn’t really had a bona fide hit since the 70s, and it’s easy to see why it was popular. Filled with cameos, and featuring a very cynical look at the movie business, all wrapped around a sort-of thriller plot, it really is a lot of fun, especially when your idea of fun, like mine, is recognising actors in things. I won’t remotely be able to catch every cameo, but here goes.

Here’s Fred Ward talking about long opening tracking shots, while the movie he’s in is doing a long opening tracking shot.

Buck Henry is pitching ‘The Graduate Part 2’ to executive Griffin Mill. He wrote the original, of course.

Adam Simon directed the low budget horror movie Carnosaur, based on a novel by SF writer and journalist John Brosnan.

That’s Jeremy Piven (linking to yesterday’s tape, from The Larry Sanders Show) leading the visitors around.

I’m not entirely sure, but I think this is Debra Hill and Lynda Obst, producers of The Fisher King. I don’t know where I heard that, though.

This is director Alan Rudolph, a protege of Altman.

Once the title sequence is over the plot kicks in. Tim Robbins plays Griffin Mill, studio executive. He’s been receiving threatening postcards from a writer, and he doesn’t know who it is.

He’s received a lot of them – and that book about screenwriting in his drawer – I’ve got a copy of exactly that edition.

Peter Gallagher plays Larry Levy, a new executive, looking to replace Griffin.

Brion James plays the studio head, Griffin’s boss.

Griffin works out who the writer is by going back over his call logs, and gets back to a writer called David Kahane. He goes to his house, and rings his phone. He’s not there but his girlfriend is, June Gudmundsdottir, played by Greta Scacchi. Griffin flirts a bit with her, on the phone, then finds out the writer is out at the pictures.

Griffin goes to the cinema to accidentally bump into the writer, played by Vincent D’Onofrio. Their meeting isn’t cordial, as D’Onofrio already hates Griffin for never getting back to him, and despises everything he stands for. Then, after a charged encounter in the parking lot, Griffin ends up assaulting him, and accidentally kills him.

Griffin starts seeing June, and the police, in the form of Whoopi Goldberg, talk to him because he was the last person to see Kahane alive. Given all the celebrity cameos, it’s a bit strange when she appears, picking up an Oscar from a shelf. Working out who is a character and who is themselves takes a few seconds throughout this movie.

Griffin’s life remains complicated when the postcards keep arriving. Whoever is sending the cards arranges a meeting at a hotel, but before the meeting can happen, he meets Dean Stockwell and Richard E Grant, a producer and writer pitching their movie. It’s a gritty drama about the death penalty, and they’re insistent that it has no stars, and no happy ending because “That’s reality”. This pitch becomes a bit of a running gag as the movie goes through the production process.

Lyle Lovett plays another detective working with Goldberg, following Griffin around.

Cynthia Stevenson is good as Griffin’s assistant, who’s also his girlfriend, and therefore rejected by him when he starts seeing Scacchi.

The ending of the film is very cynical. Griffin is called in for a lineup, as the police have a witness, but she ends up picking out Lyle Lovett from the lineup, so Griffin is out of the frame. Cut to a year later and Habeas Corpus, the ‘important’ movie pitched by Richard E Grant, is being screened. The ‘no stars’ dictum clearly hadn’t entirely stuck – there’s Susan Sarandon and Peter Falk witnessing the climactic execution.

The woman on Death Row, wrongly accused, is now played by Julia Roberts, with Ray Walston as the priest.

Also glimpsed in the scene, Louise Fletcher and Rene Auberjonois.

And the innocent Roberts goes to the gas chamber. The pellets drop. The chamber fills with gas. And she dies. Because That’s Real. That Happens.

Except not in this version. Suddenly, from down a backlit corridor

comes Bruce Willis as the DA who was in love with Roberts, and who has just discovered that her husband had faked his own death. But now he gets there in time to smash the windows on the has chamber.

“What took you so long?” “Traffic was a bitch.”

The real film has an ending that’s more ambivalent. Griffin is now the head of the studio, and it was his suggestions that turned the movie into a hit. His former assistant Bonnie is horrified by the compromise, and is fired by Gallagher. Griffin doesn’t help her, he just heads home.

One the way home, he hears another pitch. It’s from the writer who had been sending him postcards, who proceeds to pitch him the story we’ve just seen. Griffin asks how it ends. “He gets away with it?” “Absolutely, it’s a Hollywood Ending”

So that’s the story, let’s see if we can find some cameos. Joel Grey from Cabaret.

Angelica Huston and John Cusack

Jack Lemmon plays piano

Marlee Matlin

Harry Belafonte

Jeff Goldblum

Sydney Pollack, film director, plays Griffin’s lawyer in the film.

There’s a movie in production starring Scott Glenn

and Lily Tomlin

Malcolm McDowell

And in the scene right after, his daughter Andie MacDowell. (Not his daughter.)

Teri Garr – another returnee from Larry Sanders.

Cher

Elliot Gould

James Coburn

Nick Nolte

Karen Black

Burt Reynolds

That’s probably only a third of the names in the credits.

A bit of personal trivia: This was one of the first movies I bought on DVD. I was a bit of an early adopter, starting with a DVD drive and hardware MPEG decoder on my PC, which I had hacked so it could play NTSC discs on PAL TVs. DVD hadn’t been launched officially in the UK, so I had to get all my DVDs from the US for a while. Even when it was launched over here, the UK discs were often worse than the US releases when it came to extras, so I do have quite a number of US discs, and all my DVD players had to cope with multi regions. Good old region coding.

One interesting thing in the credits – the film was recorded in ‘Ultra Stereo’, the cheaper version of Dolby Stereo that’s usually only used in really low budget films, so I’m slightly surprised to see it used here.

After this (albeit dark) comedy, a proper thriller now, as Goldie Hawn stars in Deceived. I might have seen this one in the cinema, but it’s got one of those non-specific titles, so I can’t be sure.

It’s a slow burner. Goldie Hawn is stood up for a blind date, but while she’s there she sees another man who she wonders if he’s her date, Adam Lucas. But he’s not and she goes home.

The next day, the same man comes to her place of work by coincidence, with a delivery. He buys antiquities for museums, he had recognised her from the year before, they hit it off and they’re soon married with a small child.

At the museum, a curator is murdered while examining a necklace that Heard had bought. It’s made to look like suicide.

Heard goes out of town on business, but a friend tells Hawn that she’s sure she saw him in town. Then, she learns he bought a gift in New York when he was supposed to be in Boston.

He gets angry at the accusation that he’s hiding something, and leaves. After picking someone up in his car, he has an accident, and dies.

Shortly afterwards, the Social Security people tell her that Heard’s Social Security number wasn’t his, that it belonged to a man who died 16 years ago.

So she does a google search int he local library, using one of those analogue google machines they have for reading old newspapers.

She’s looking through old photographs in an album when her daughter asks about borrowing some stuff for dress up, one of which is the necklace that was a fake. The plot thickens.

Hawn goes looking for clues at Heard’s school, and finds his real name, Frank Sullivan.

She also finds his mother, still alive in New York.

After some scenes of suspense, her daughter saying there was a man in the house, and one of her friends being attacked in their apartment, she gets a call from Heard’s mother, but when she gets there she discovers Heard, alive. He tells her he had to fake his death because he was being blackmailed by a man called Daniel Sherman, who was getting him to buy fake pieces for the museum. And the necklace we saw earlier was the last one. He tells her she’s in danger if they don’t find it.

Hawn looks for it, but finds something else.

Heard has another life, and another wife.

He goes to their daughter’s school, finds out where the necklace is, then tells Hawn to get it. After some cat and mouse, Hawn tricks Heard into falling down a lift shaft, and that’s the end of him.

This wasn’t quite as twisty turny as I thought it might be. I thought the psychological stuff might have played more of a part, but this is basically ‘Goldie marries a cad.’ And I’m upset we didn’t learn that her blind date at the beginning was set up by him all along.

After this, the tape runs on, and there’s the start of Motel Hell. The tape ends during this.

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The Larry Sanders Show – tape 1721

Now, the darker side of Garry Shandling with some episodes of The Larry Sanders Show. In Hank’s Contract, Hank is making a big deal of his contract negotiations.

George Foreman is a guest.

James Karen plays Hank’s agent.

Robin Williams is another guest on the show.

Hank eventually gets one of his demands, and this feels like a callback to Garry’s previous show.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 10th December 1993 – 23:15

I’m not sure about the Radio Times listing of these episodes, as the following episode is The Flirt Episode, which is listed before the previous episode, but clearly at this time shown in a different order. There’s no indication from the intros I have that one of them was postponed, so it’s a bit of a mystery.

Larry flirts with guest Mimi Rogers leading to his wife Jeannie being slightly jealous.

Michael Richards is upset about being bumped as a guest.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 3rd December 1993 – 23:15

There’s a huge time jump before the next episode, Talk Show. Jeannie is getting tired of Larry’s show getting in the way of their marriage. Guest Catherine O’Hara is a bit embarrassed to be caught up.

Billy Crystal is another guest

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 9th September 1994 – 23:45

In the next episode, Larry finds himself hosting a dinner party at his home by accident. His next door neighbour Martin Mull turns up to see what the noise is.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 16th September 1994 – 23:45

Before the next episode, there’s the end of Loose Talk, featuring a glittering panel of Linda Smith, Jeremy Hardy, Phill Jupitus, Fred MacCauley and Kevin Day.

Then there’s a trailer – look, it’s a young David Tennant, in Takin’ Over the Asylum.

Then, another episode of The Larry Sanders Show. Hank is losing weight, with the help of weird fitness guru Richard Simmons. Meanwhile, Larry is worried about how he’s coming over with focus groups.

Has one of the best endings of any episode, as the focus group is in a room with one-way mirrors, and Hank is snogging his girlfriend behind the mirror. The focus group are talking when there’s a thump from behind the mirrors, the group stop and look round, and we hear a muffled “Hey now!”

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 23rd September 1994 – 23:45

The next episode is A Brush with the Elbow of Greatness. Larry is caught on camera bumping into a woman at the checkout. David Paymer plays a publicity agent brought in to manage the situation.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 30th September 1994 – 23:45

There’s another chunk of Loose Talk before the next episode. The panellists are Felix Dexter, Jeremy Hardy, Phill Jupitus, Richard Herring and host Kevin Day.

There’s a trailer for The Fast Show.

Then, another episode of Larry Sanders. In The Breakdown part 1 it looks like Larry’s marriage might be over, so people are trying to cheer him up. Phil the writer comes in and says ‘Kathy Ireland is trying on wardrobe.” It’s very locker-room. Artie says “Anything could happen”.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 7th October 1994 – 23:45

Part 2 is next, featuring guest Helen Hunt.

As well as Dana Delaney.

And Teri Garr. It’s almost as if Artie is booking lots of attractive women to cheer Larry up.

But in the end, it’s Beverley to whom he turns, and they both immediately regret it.

Then his ex-wife Francine turns up.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 14th October 1994 – 23:45

The next episode is The List. Larry hooking up with Francine is causing Artie to worry. Ed Begley Jr guests.

And Alec Baldwin. “Try to talk up when you’re out there on the air.” That’s not the only ‘whispering’ gag in the show.

Plus an added Baldwin brother, Daniel.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 21st October 1994 – 23:45

There’s a trailer for Omnibus on Quentin Tarantino. There’s weather from Suzanne Charlton. The tape ends here.

A Touch Of Frost – tape 1714

Here’s another episode of A Touch of Frost that I’d forgotten I’d taped.

This one is Nothing to Hide, and it’s a fairly low key story about a young drug addict who’s discovered dead in a public toilet. After the police doctor makes a cursory examination and puts it down to overdose because he doesn’t want to spend too much time in such an insalubrious place, Frost’s gut tells him there’s more to it, and a post mortem reveals the man was kicked to death.

Neil Dudgeon plays Frost’s new DC. He’s actually quite a senior officer, but he was demoted to constable after he punched his superintendent for taking credit for an arrest he’d spent months working on. So he has a bit of an attitude problem through the episode.

Felicity Montagu plays the sister of the murdered man.

Ewan Bremner plays another addict who knew the murdered man.

It’s a fairly sedate story, with few twists. I did feel sorry for the victim, though, when Frost talks to his mother, who’s less upset he’s dead, more angry. “How could we expect any different? Right from the minute he was born he was trouble.” Once again, my theory that all storytelling can be traced back to bad parenting has another example.

There’s another episode following this, called Stranger in the House. It has a very effective opening. A young woman, working late, is slightly hassled by one of the blokes in the office. “We should get to know each other.” The usual stuff. He watches ominously from the office window as she walks to her car, then leaves the office urgently.

The woman is driving, and there’s a car following, flashing headlights. She’s scared, obviously. She stops, the car stops in front of her and the man from the office jumps out of the car and runs to hers. She locks the car, terrified, as he bangs on the window, shouting at her to get out of the car.

Then a masked man sits up in the back of the car. It’s a great piece of misdirection.

There’s a serial rapist in town, and no leads. Frost is under pressure to find him. WPC Wallace is assigned to the case with him, as they don’t have a dedicated rape unit. She’s played by Caroline Harker, who looked so familiar to me, so I wasn’t surprised to learn she’s Suzannah Harker’s sister. There’s a very strong family resemblance.

Gavin Richards plays a creepy cab driver who’s suspected of being the rapist, after he assaulted a young girl in his cab.

Brian Bovell gives a nice performance as the husband of one of the victims, distraught after his wife tries to commit suicide.

After this episode, recording continues for a short time with Michael Winner’s True Crimes. Not, curiously, a retrospective of his movies. The tape ends during this.

There’s a slightly creepy Nokia advert where a man picks up some discarded flowers, then scrolls through his phone list of women’s numbers to find to give them to. It can’t have done much to dispel the idea that, in the mod-90s, the only people who had mobile phones were unpleasant yuppie types.

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Until The End Of The World – tape 1719

Regular readers of this blog might have come to realise that my tastes in film and TV are not particularly highbrow. I admit my tastes run to comedy, fantasy, SF, rather than, say, German intellectualism.

But I like to make an effort, as I obviously did here, when Wim Wenders dips his toes into the world of Science Fiction with Until The End of the World.

Now, how much of an effort I’m making might be clearer when I admit to you that I watched this film whilst also playing Spider-Man on the PS4. So some of the deep subtleties in this movie might possibly have passed me by. And watching it on my small laptop screen, in a digitised VHS recording, might mean any visual allure the film might have would not really come over very well.

But all I can say is that I was far more moved by the cut-scenes in Spider-Man than in anything the movie had to offer.

But what, exactly does the film have to offer? It’s a strange one, to be sure. The first hurdle it has to overcome is that it’s a work of science fiction, a genre that’s quite hard to get right if you’re not steeped in it. As we saw from examples like Dennis Potter’s Cold Lazarus, writers and directors who don’t have a natural feel for the genre usually end up making something that clunks a bit. And I got a bit of that here. Some of the sections where the science fiction elements actually started to be important to the plot, rather than just be set decoration, felt like they needed just one more pass by someone who can fake the science. Like the modern Star Trek writers who, when they needed a sciencey sounding plot device or piece of dialog, would write TECH in their drafts, and the team would get the science advisors to write some technbabble dialog that, although bullshit, was at least consistent with the way science is spoken on the show.

I wonder if co-writer Peter Carey, much better known as a literary novelist, was supposed to be the point man for the science fiction stuff. After all, his novel Illywhacker was the winner of the Best Australian Science Fiction Novel in 1986, although Wikipedia describes it as ‘magical realism’ which might explain a lot. It’s also described as ‘picaresqe’ which is literary shorthand for rambling and plotless, and is a word that came to my mind watching this film.

Let’s discuss the film itself, and bear in mind I could be getting any parts of the plot wrong because I was paying too much attention to webbing up bad guys.

Solveig Dommartin is the lead, as Clare, the kind of woman who would ‘wake up in some strange places’.

She gets in her car, which has an ‘online map service’ – something which did exist in some form in 1991 when the film was made, but wasn’t widely available. Even by 1999, when the film is set, it wasn’t widespread. I remember visiting the Smithsonian museum in 2000, and finding an exhibit describing how GPS worked, present by my then-boss Douglas Adams.

This supposed navigation system only seems to consist of unreadable large-area maps and pointless nagging.

Another vaguely unhelpful map screen.

She gets stuck in a traffic jam. There’s some kind of emergency with a nuclear satellite that might fall to earth, I think. Once again, the satnav is being as helpful as it can.

So she drives off the road. The satnav can’t cope with that, although I can’t quite understand why it’s showing static. In 1991, nobody really knew how video worked on computers.

Off the main road she’s suddenly in the middle of nowhere, so it’s deeply unfortunate when she has a car accident caused by the only other car in the road. This next section I have an excuse for not understanding, because all the dialogue is in French, and there are no subtitles. I’ve no idea if this is deliberate on Wenders’ part, or, more likely, Sky didn’t realise it needed subtitling. So I was vague about who these guys were, or why, when they all ended up at a hotel, one of them had a huge bag of money that he emptied out over the bed.

Luckily, the film also has a voiceover, provided bu co-star Sam Neill, so some of this is explained. Dommartin’s other co-star is William Hurt, who she meets while making a video phone call with a public videophone that offers the least amount of privacy you can imagine.

Their ‘meet-cute’ is her helping him because he’s got something stuck in his eye. I’d be astonished if this wasn’t a reference to Brief Encounter.

She gives him a lift, and it was bugging me in this scene what the stuff around the windscreen was. Is it unconvincing snow? But it was never snowing. I’ve now realised that this must be because she’s had the windscreen repaired after it got smashed in her earlier accident. Because windscreen replacement would obviously involves tons of white foam in the future, rather than sticking with old fashioned contact adhesive.

When she drops off William Hurt, she goes to find her old lover Sam Neill, a writer. It’s at this point that I remember the writing credits for the movie – the movie in which Solveig Dommartin is in a love triangle between William Hurt and Sam Neill – and the story was by Wenders and… Solveig Dommartin. You go, girl. (Also, her real hair is much nicer than her Angelica Huston cosplay wig.)

Hurt has stolen some of the money, and Dommartin searches for him, finding him in Berlin with his family, then the next day somewhere else. At one point she’s using ‘the Bear’ which appears to be some kind of search engine that has a title sequence.

The movie meanders around a bit before ending up in Australia. Flying to meet Hurt’s parents, there’s an electromagnetic pulse that destroys a lot of electronics, and although they land the plane without power, there’s more travelling before they get there. So much travelling.

Hurt’s father and mother appear to live in a Bond Villain’s abandoned underground lair, which helpfully explains why their electronic equipment is unaffected by the EMP.

Hurt’s father is played by Max Von Sydow, a scientist who has been working on a device to record what people are seeing, but also how their brain is seeing it.

It’s an attempt to bring vision, or at least the memory of vision to blind people, using a kind of VR helmet to record the images and the brainwaves.

His mother is Jeanne Moreau, who has been blind since childhood. The experiments are to try to let her experience vision in some way.

I think I zoned out of a lot of this. But Moreau dies (she was already very ill) and von Sydow is very sad. He also dies later, as the film meanders on more. Dommartin ends up working on a space station. Then the film ends.

I understand there’s a five hour director’s cut of this film. I’m not desperate to see it.

After this, there’s a bit of another movie, The Children of Sanchez starring Anthony Quinn. The tape ends during this.

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Sean’s Show – tape 1720

On this tape, some episodes from the second series of Sean’s Show, Sean Hughes’ very meta sit-com that sits in a similar category to It’s Garry Shandling’s Show. This isn’t a criticism, by the way, I like them both.

For example, when he can’t open his flat door because his hands are full, he just walks around the front of the scenery wall.

But then he lampshades it when a floor manager opens the door. “We’re not doing any of that post-modern stuff this series so stay out of the show we’re making it more conventional, higher ratings. We want thick people to understand it this time around.”

“I took a year off to read Ulysses. Great book. Well, the preface is, anyway.”

There’s references to the previous series. “Still not dry – oh, it is!”

Despite them all dying at the end of the first series (there was a flashback) the same supporting cast return for this one, including Michael Troughton as Barry.

“For higher ratings have the Golden Girls around for dinner.”

The wine bar has a couple only policy, so Sean brings his date.

Which is embarrassing when he meets Barry’s sister in law.

By the way, the band playing in the background of the wine bar, who we never see in close up, is Jarvis Cocker and Pulp.

In the next episode, Sean is visited by an old teacher of his, played by Brian Cox.

Maria McErlane makes a guest appearance.

In the next episode, Sean meets a girl at the petrol station. They do Summer Loving from Grease to no real benefit. Sean Hughes isn’t a very good singing, and there’s no subversion of the original song – it’s just done straight. It just seems a bit pointless.

“You ate all my Ready Brek!”

John Benfield from Prime Suspect plays a policeman.

“They’re doing Doctor Who next door we could borrow the Tardis”

Jesse Birdsall plays a prisoner.

Meera Syal plays Sean’s new girlfriend Trudi.

Also an appearance from Vinnie Jones.

Before the next episode, there’s the end of an episode of The Secret Cabaret, featuring David Berglas talking about debunked psychics.

In the next episode, it’s a Rashomon-style story. Sean and friends wake up in hospital and can’t remember what happened the night before. Michael Sheen appears as a mugger. This was only his third credit in iMDb.

Also appearing, Anita Dobson.

Also also appearing, Shaw Taylor

That’s the last episode on this tape. Following this, there’s part of an episode of News York, one of Laurie Pike’s shows about US TV channels, this one covering a local news channel. The tape ends during this.

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Star Trek Deep Space Nine – Newman And Baddiel – The Road To Wembley – Newman And Baddiel Christmas In Pieces – Smashie And Nicey: The End of an Era – tape 1722

First on this tape, it’s clearly Christmas on Sky One.

My pet hate on Star Trek is funny foreign foods.

Keiko is teaching children about the wormhole, when Vedek Winn comes in, and tells her she’s teaching the children blasphemy. I love Louise Fletcher, and she’s great as Vedek Winn. Always so measured and calm, and twice as scary because of it.

Chief O’Brien is investigating the strange death of one of his engineers in a power conduit.

Tensions on the station are getting high, as Winn encourages the Bajorans to take their children out of school. Then someone sets a bomb at the school (which was luckily empty at the time).

O’Brien’s new assistant appears to be conspiring with Vedek Winn to do something bad.

Vedek Bareil, a more Federation-friendly Bajoran religious leader, comes to visit the station.

As a result, he’s almost assassinated. This is good stuff.

It’s episodes like this that give me some understanding why DS9 is held in high regard by many. I think my only problem with it is that I’m seeing all these episodes out of order, and not really appreciating any long term plots.

After this, recording switches to the end of Les Lives, a five minute spin-off of Reeves and Mortimer that I never knew existed.

Then, Newman and Baddiel On The Road To Wembley. A look at the preparation for their Wembley Arena show. Introduced by David Baddiel saying how enjoyable the process has been. Of course, I’m watching it looking out for signs of the apparent friction between the two. Haven’t spotted any yet.

The work in progress gigs show a few cracks. “Never get actually pissed off on stage with your partner” he says, on stage.

Wow, I genuinely didn’t expect honesty here. “Writing comedy with someone is a very divisive and difficult thing at the best of times. And when one of you is a psychotic and the other one is a very difficult person who always thinks he’s right, then it becomes a hundred times more impossible.”

“Me and David both end up always directing a lot of it, which is one reason why most people won;t work with us. People only tend to work with us once.”

I can’t tell if he’s just joking here. “I felt I did the majority of the work in the last series, and yet we have to, sort of, because it’s kind of even handed we have to share the benefits half and half.”

Sean Lock is a guest on the show.

This really isn’t sugar-coating things. During a phone interview with Radio 5, the interviewer first asks David if he’s really an “outgoing bloke who sleeps with a lot of women” (he’s not) then asks Rob Newman “Rob, you don’t go for David’s sex gags?”

Talking about having to have some distance from each other after the tour, David Baddiel says “If possible we would both go to separate poles for a while.”

I’m genuinely surprised just how much ‘warts and all’ stuff got into this. Here’s the whole thing (uploaded by someone else).

BBC Genome (for all of DEF II of which this was a part): BBC Two – 13th December 1993 – 18:25

Next, Newman and Baddiel Christmas In Pieces. I’m not too impressed with Rob Newman’s Paul Daniels.

I spotted I’m Alan Partidge’s Simon Greenall

I don’t think this is in the best possible taste.

They do the stabilisers gag they did in their live show.

After the credits, Sue Lawley presents a special episode of Biteback.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 20th December 1993 – 21:00

And finally on this tape, a true piece of history: Smashie and Nicey: The End of an Era. I love Smashie and Nicey. Don’t you mate?

The show opens with the two DJs bursting from the office of the FAB FM controller Johnny Beergut. This is a reference to former Radio One controller Johnny Beerling, but a bit unfair, since it was Beerling’s successor Matthew Bannister who was responsible for the mass resignations of a lot of the old-school DJs Smashie and Nicey were based on.

Some celebrity cameos, as Smashie and Nicey race to the press conference, including Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman on a Zimmer Frame.

David ‘Kid’ Jensen gets punched in the face and falls down the stairs. I wonder if he does his own stunts?

There’s some genuine pathos in Mike Smash’s recounting of his miserable childhood, playing the recording he made of one side of a conversation so he could have someone to talk to.

Interspersed with Super 8 footage of his father being generally awful to him (as also played by Paul Whitehouse). I guess it was inevitable he’d become a DJ. Or a serial killer.

The sheer amount of detail and effort that’s gone into this programme is amazing, even more impressive when it’s not even dwelt upon. I love the artwork Dave Nice has in his house, and it’s mostly just backgrounds. I particularly like the green face painting. My grandparents had the painting of the green Chinese woman in their house, so it has a strong childhood pull for me.

Dave Nice as Napoleon

As well as the production design, the care that’s gone into the archive footage is astonishing. Here’s Nicey on Blue Peter with Christopher Trace and Valerie Singleton. The matching of the footage is perfect, as is the matting of Trace’s hand – you can just see a bit of fringing around the hand if you freeze frame it, but it’s near flawless.

Equally well done is Nicey dancing with Freddie and the Dreamers. He’s perfectly synchronised, he has a shadow on the floor, all the blur matches, and they even interact when Freddie does his jump and kicks Nicey in the crotch. It’s fabulous work.

Watching the show, I’d thought that the Freddie and the Dreamers clip was a separate programme to the Blue Peter clip, but no, it’s all from Blue Peter, and the original clip is on YouTube.

More brilliant Nicey art, Warhol this time.

Another fabulous bit of editing and compositing, with the Beatles this time. As Nicey turns his head, you can still see George Harrison’s face through the large lenses of his glasses. And the cringey questions he’s asking fits perfectly with the pauses and embarrassed shuffling of the band. I wonder if it took a lot of research to find the clips for this.

Smashy made an appearance on Dixon of Dock Green. What I love about this clip is that the added footage of Smashy carrying something in and tripping over matches perfectly with the actor slightly stumbling over his line, as if he was put off by the trip. Just beautiful.

And particularly exciting for me was his sole appearance on Doctor Who.

The superimposed titles also match perfectly – I suspect all these titles were all generated for this clip to help the matching, but it looks perfect to my eye.

Even the stuff without any compositing looks like genuine footage of the time, complete with scratches on the film.

I fear this whole entry will tail off into lots of pictures of film dirt.

They used a photo from a photoshoot outside Broadcasting House, for the launch of Radio One, for this picture of the Radio Fab launch. Smashy replaces Kenny Everett from the original.

I don’t recognise who Dave Nice replaces in the original picture, so I checked on Getty Images and it’s Pete Drummond, not a name that’s familiar to me.

I love the armbands

Some of the Top of the Pops appearances are great

“Sometimes we championed things that needed championinging.” “I remember one episode in ’74 we devoted entirely to black music. There was a lot of controversy about that one.” “You would not believe the complaints that show got.” “Even some black people complained and it was a show devoted to them.” This is how you do a blackface gag.

I love the Deptford Dralons ads. How long ago were Alan Freeman’s Brentford Nylons ads? My gut tells me they were around in the early to mid 70s. This one places these pre-decimalisation, but pre-decimal money is just funnier on its own, so I’m not quibbling.

The many young men that keep being glimpsed in the backgrounds of shots around Nicey’s mansion and quickly duck out of shot are a running gag. Slightly edgier today than it might have been on broadcast.

Another brilliant bit of editing and compositing is when Nicey replaces Bill Grundy for the infamous interview with the Sex Pistols.

John Peel makes an appearance

Lovely to see the Nationwide titles.

They got actual Michael Barratt to present this item, about Smashy not dealing very well with the breakup of his marriage to Tessa, paralleling Tony Blackburn’s similar on-air breakdown after his wife, Tessa Wyatt, left him because he had an affair.

The Dave Nice Video Show was clearly the Kenny Everett show, although I don’t think Kenny’s show was quite as horribly sexist and racist as these clips are. I think we can assume that this is what the show would have been like if Nicey had been the star, and not a reflection on Kenny Everett. I hope.

Their inclusion in Band Aid is another perfect bit of compositing. Here’s some selections.

With an appearance from Sir Bob himself

Now Smashie is doing Noel’s House Party

Katie Puckrick from The Word interviews the pair. I’m glad they got her to do it, and not Terry Christian.

They won’t let Tony Blackburn into the party.

And another appearance from Alan Freeman. Are they calling him ‘Flaff’? I can’t make it out. It’s definitely not ‘Fluff’.

Nicey’s appearance on Comic Relief with Angus Deayton didn’t go well.

I can’t quite see who’s on Smashie’s mug. Is it Benny Hill?

Having the black commissionaire shake Smashie’s hand and completely ignore Nicey was a nice touch.

This really is a thing of greatness. But I always loved Smashie and Nicey. I wish I still had my Comic Relief tape they did one year. There was some brilliant material on that

Credit spot: This was directed by Daniel Kleinmann, who would, in a couple of years, become the titles designer for the James Bond series, starting with Goldeneye.

Here’s someone else’s upload of the whole thing, so I apologize for the slightly poor quality.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 4th April 1994 – 21:55

After this, there’s trailers for Throw Momma from the Train and Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit.

Then the tape ends just as the main news bulletin starts, leading with a Dutch air crash

Quantum Leap – tape 1676

Judging by the crappy theme tune arrangement, here’s more episodes from the final series of Quantum Leap. Now I’ve recovered from rewatching the finale, let’s look back to better days.

First on this tape is Liberation. Sam leaps into a woman attending a women’s liberation rally, complete with some bra burning. In the absence of a mirror, a man takes a polaroid and gives it to him/her so we can see what she looks like.

Al is truly awful. “Chicks in cells. Talk about a major fantasy.”

Sam’s husband is unhappy with his wife and daughter having independent opinions. When discussing a possible promotion at work, where a man and a woman are up for it, he’d rather give it to the man ‘because he’s got a family to provide for’ and ignoring that the woman also has a family. “If I did give Evie promotion I could save a lot of money on salary.”

The women of the family are certainly reading the right books.

There’s a nice scene, where both candidates for the promotion are having dinner at Sam’s house. He urges Evie to speak up, and when she does, the other man either ignores her ideas or laughs it off. When Sam’s husband asks “Why didn’t you bring up these ideas at the meeting this afternoon?” “I didn’t think anyone would listen.”

Of course, the central flaw with much of this is that it’s the man (Sam) who’s solving all the problems of sexism. And the climax, where Sam has to defuse a potentially violent situation by trying to appeal to rule of law to stop the women’s rights activist shooting the chief of police, feels a little off. The activist ends up in handcuffs, shouting angrily, rather suggesting that she wasn’t the ‘right kind’ of feminist. I feel this episode is trying to be on the right side, but it drops the ball a bit.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 29th March 1994 – 21:00

The next episode is Dr Ruth. It’s a bit of a gimmick episode, as Sam leaps into the body of Dr Ruth Westheimer, the sex therapist.

Having a celebrity leap means we get a rare look at Al in the waiting room with the real Dr Ruth.

I really don’t buy Sam being so embarrassed at discussing sex, which seems like it’s just there for the laughs.

And boy is Al still awful. We get a two minute litany of euphemisms for breasts from him until he’s able to say the word itself, and we’re supposed to think this is progress for him.

Sam is helping a woman who’s being sexually harrassed by her boss. But he claims she was obsessed with him and he tried to let her down lightly.

But of course he’s lying, and goes back to assault her. Lucky Dr Ruth gets there in time to put the boot in.

I like the way they make use of having been in the waiting room for the transition to the next subject – rather than seeing Sam leap into a body, we see Dr Ruth changing into the next leapee – who doesn’t look like a nice person.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 5th April 1994 – 21:00

However, I don’t have the next episode on this tape, Blood Moon, so we skip forward a few weeks (snooker meant we skipped a couple of weeks in the schedules) for Goodbye Norma Jean.

Bloody Hell, Al is being horrible AGAIN. Leching over Marilyn swimming naked. Ugh.

Nice to see the Griffith Observatory.

There’s some famous faces from Marilyn’s past, like Peter Lawford.

And director John Huston – not the best resemblance.

Clark Gable is more convincing

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 3rd May 1994 – 21:00

Finally on this tape, Return of the Evil Leaper. There’s a reprise of the first Evil Leaper story which, I confess, I can’t remember.

Neil Patrick Harris plays a bad guy in this.

Alia, the Evil Leaper, arrives, along with her hologram played by Carolyn Seymour. She really did have a varied career in the US, she pops up in everything.

The story involves a college fraternity. I hate college fraternities. I blame them for everything bad about today’s America. Exhibit A.

We see the waiting room again.

In the end, Sam and Alia, the Evil Leaper, leap together.

The finale of this story was on another tape, but I clearly didn’t have much of a clue what was going on.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 10th May 1994 – 21:00

After this, there’s a trailer for Later with Jools Holland, and then the tape ends.