On this tape, the first two episodes of Station X, the documentary looking at the work done at Bletchley park to crack the German code machines and read their secrets.
There’s some fascinating footage of Germans being trained to take down morse code broadcasts while the platform they’re on is being rocked around, presumably to simulate being on a boat or in a vehicle.
This was basically the first time that the people who worked at Bletchley Park could talk about what they did, as it had all been classified up until quite recently (when the programme was made). One of the people responsible for bring all this information to the public is Tony Sale, who ran the Bletchley Park Trust.
Here’s some of the people who worked there, and a few of the other side too.
I remember Donald Michie from old episodes of Micro Live. He was doing Artificial Intelligence research.
Shaun and Odette Wylie
David Balme was a sailor during an attack on a German U-Boat. He boarded the vessel, and one of the documents he recovered was the top secret code book containing the bi-gram tables used to set up the naval enigma codes
Georg Hogel was ordered to leave all documents behind and abandon ship. The only thing he took off the ship was a book of love poems he had written.
Roy Jenkins off of the SDP was one of the codebreakers, working on the later Lorenz cipher.
Tommy Flowers was the father of computers, building Colossus, the first digital computer, designed to read Lorenz ciphertexts at high speed – the paper tape would travel at 30mph – and calculate the correct settings with which to decode the text. I think I cried a little when he talks about having to destroy the Colossus, and all his designs after the war.
Helen Raimes talks of her romance with an RAF man. “We caught the train as it started moving, and he said to me ‘You know it’s over?’ And of course I was absolutely devastated, I stared out at the fields that were passing, and I said, proudly, ‘Yes I know.’ And he said ‘I mean the war.’ I didn’t think ‘My God the war’s over, how wonderful’ I thought ‘How marvellous, it’s not over between us.'”
When a book was written about the work at Bletchley, ‘The Ultra Secret’, Maureen Rodgers was slightly shocked to read about it in her newspaper. “So I said to my assembled family, ‘would you like to know what Mummy did in the war?'”
After this, the recording stops, and underneath, there’s the end of Top Ten Boy Bands. It’s presented by Paula Yates.
The first bit that’s here is looking at the Bay City Rollers, which was presumably before all the accusations about the abusive nature of their manager had come out, although the piece does talk about the band wondering where all their money might have gone.
Regular readers might have noticed that my YouTube channel has vanished. Unfortunately, someone at a media company has been finding lots of clips (including a couple of trailers) and issuing copyright takedowns on them. Unlike the usual system, which uses the automated Content ID system to identify clips, and either block altogether or receive monetisation, which doesn’t affect the status of your channel, these manually identified takedown requests act as a copyright strike, and if you get 3 within 3 months, your channel is suspended.
So that’s what’s happened to me. I’ve contacted the person who sent the takedowns, asking if they can retract them so I can manually remove the videos, but leave the rest of the channel running. But this does rely on the goodwill of the person issuing the takedowns, so I’m not holding out a lot of hope.
So that’s why all the videos have suddenly vanished. I’m rather upset about it, but there’s not a lot I can do, after all, it’s not like they weren’t all other people’s copyright.
Update: 10th November 2020: I just received a lovely email from the person at the company who sent the takedown requests, who has apologised, not realising that multiple videos meant multiple strikes, and has contacted YouTube to try to get the suspension lifted. So keep your fingers crossed that my channel might yet emerge from the ashes.
Another Update: 11th November 2020: The nice person at the unnamed media company was true to their word, and my channel has just reappeared. I’ve deleted the videos they were concerned about and sent them a nice email to thank them. I’m quite happy about this.
To celebrate this, here’s one of the first videos I ever uploaded, the daytime quiz Box Clever presented by Emlyn Hughes, an episode of which I saw being recorded.
FIrst on this tape, from Channel 4, it’s the Christmas edition of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, the movie show presented by Charlie Higson.
He talks to Stewart Copeland about composing music for films.
There’s a piece on the practice of previewing films, featuring contributions from Denise Di Novi
Director Randa Haines
Brian Gibson, director of Breaking Glass.
Kenneth Branagh, clearly interviewed while working on Wild Wild West.
Steven Soderbergh talks about how the test scores for Out of Sight didn’t go higher than 68, and how the scores are meaningless.
Charlie Higson visits the Odeon Leicester Square to review The Mask of Zorro.
The next piece is about film producer Chris Hanley. I don’t know an awful lot about Vincent Gallo, but this is exactly my mental picture of him.
Director Michael Oblowitz handily uses a nearby cactus to indicate how prickly someone can be.
James Toback doesn’t like working with anyone except actors.
I confess, the subject of this segment, Chris Hanley, is unknown to me, but I don’t tend to watch a huge amount of American indie films, especially (as it would seem) very man-heavy films.
Screenwriter Larry Gross.
Next, legendary film editor Anne V Coates talks about her work, and a film she admires, Shane.
Next, the last of a regular series about the making of British film Fanny and Elvis starring Ray Winstone.
Written and directed by Kay Mellor.
The show ends with a preview of films coming at Christmas.
After this, there’s an episode of The South Bank Show, following Sir Simon Rattle as he prepares for his final concerts for the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra before becoming principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic.
This programme looks at the rehearsals for a new piece written for the Millennium by composer Judith Weir.
After this, recording continues with the very first International Indian Film Awards. Taking place at the Millennium Dome, it’s a lavish awards ceremony, and they throw in a few faces familiar to a British audence, among the many stars of Hindi cinema, only a few of which I’ve heard. It’s introduced by someone I have heard of, Amitabh Bachchan, so famous he topped a recent BBC poll for the greatest star of stage or screen.
Meera Syal was there to present the award for best International film, which went to East is East.
Also there to present an award was Miranda Richardson.
Kylie Minogue presents an award and also performs – appearing on a swing descending from the ceiling, with no safety harness that I could see. It’s a health and safety nightmare.
Jackie Chan received a special award, because who doesn’t like Jackie Chan?
Angelina Jolie also presents, alongside Shah Rukh Khan, another huge name in Indian Cinema.
Backstage after the awards, there was Nina Wadia.
After this, there’s some football, with Uefa Euro 2000 Today, presented by Bob Wilson. I was almost worried that he’d been a victim of the blog curse, as there was a news article about his death when I googled him with Bing, but it turns out there was another goalkeeper called Bob Wilson, almost the same age, who died earlier this month. So I’m sorry about him, but this Bob Wilson is still with us.
It’s over to the Sci Fi channel for Babylon 5 – Thirdspace. One of several stand-alone TV Movies that the show produced. The opening establishes this as taking place after the Shadows were defeated, but before President Clark has gone. Ivanova is running a ‘mousetrap’ for raiders, leading a freighter as bait for raiders, so that the White Stars can swoop in and capture them.
On B5, Lyta Alexander is distracted from a routine scan by strange visions of a strange artefact.
On the way back from the mousetrap, Ivanova discovers the same artefact, and brings it back to B5.
And Lyta is now seeing premonitions of something bad happening on the station.
Interplanetary Expeditions arrive – that’s the corporation that first dug up the shadows, so already it’s a bit dangerous. Shari Belafonte plays their representative Elizabeth Trent.
Oh God – Zack Allen and Lyta get stuck in a lift, so he chooses that moment to ask her out. I guess there’s supposed to be comedy here, because Lyta has gone a bit mad because of the artefact and isn’t listening to him. But really, stuck in an elevator? Guys, don’t do that.
A bunch of repair bots suddenly start heading for the artefact, on a collision course.
They’re destroyed by some Starfuries, and Lyta is discovered as the one who sent the bots to crash into the artefact.
William Sanderson off of Blade Runner makes an appearance. Everyone’s seeing visions.
Now Ivanova and Vir are sharing a vision.
The Interplanetary Expeditions leader gets the artefact restarted, thinking it’s a new kind of jumpgate they can use. But she, along with a lot of people on the station, is being influenced by the artefact. Lyta does an exposition dump for Sheridan and Delenn explaining that this was a Vorlon machine to access a new universe, but the inhabitants of the other universe are horrible and want to kill all other life.
Sheridan knows what to do – and it involves a tactical nuclear weapon.
I know Star Trek was responsible for ripping off B5 for Deep Space Nine. Is this Joe Straczynski’s revenge, as Sheridan’s trip into the artefact to plant the bomb is remarkably similar to Spock’s journey into V-ger in Star Trek The Motion Picture. Even down to the thrusters on his back.
After this, recording continues, and there’s a short look at 2001: A Space Odyssey which was being re-released at the time;
There’s also a look at the film Supernova.
Then, after this programme, there’s another one that I didn’t know was here – it wasn’t listed in my database. It’s Free Enterprise, which I vaguely remember being a thing, but I’m not sure what. Let’s take a look.
It starts promisingly, with a writer (Mark, played by Eric McCormack) pitching a movie called “Bradykiller” – a serial killer who only stalks women called Marsha, Jan or Cindy.
19 years earlier, and look where we were – I mentioned Star Trek The Motion Picture earlier without any idea this film was here. Mark, our writer, is 12 and trying to get in to see the movie, but the movie theatre doesn’t admit under 18s without an adult.
He gets advice from none other than William Shatner. “I’m one of the top ten imaginary friends kids have. Just behind John Travolta, Reggie Jackson and Farrah Fawcett Majors.”
We also meet young Robert, also a Trek fan, getting beaten up for wearing his Star Trek uniform to school.
Sadly, they grow up into entitled, whiny fanboys who treat women like alien creatures to be conquered. But because this movie is clearly made by people exactly like this, they are able to find women to go out with them. However, I can have fun spotting all the references, like the Eagle Transporter.
When a woman picks up the Sandman hardcover he wanted, he goes into full gatekeeping mode. “Who are you buying it for.” But luckily, she’s a manic pixie dream girl who likes all of the same nerdy things they do.
Would LA really have a UFO-themed restaurant?
The real William Shatner also appears – he wants to put on a one man show, a musical version of Julius Caesar.
A Logan’s Run dream.
I sense a glimmer of self knowledge trying to get out. “Robert, Dude, great party. But where are all your friends of colour?”
And also, “That’s because you’re sexist, misogynistic and narcissistic.”
But Shatner actually does get to do a hip hop Julius Caesar.
That was interesting. I think I’d have enjoyed it more if they’d stuck to nerdy references, and had the characters not been such whiny, entitled pricks. But at least they put nerd references into the end titles, too.
The recording continues with a bit of an anime, Goodbye Lady Liberty. Which my son recognised as he knows all the Anime.
Staying with movies today with two this time, starting with The Cable Guy, which (I always forget) was directed by Ben Stiller.
Matthew Broderick has broken up with his girlfriend and had to move out, so he’s moving in to a new apartment.
He needs the Cable TV installed, so waits in for the Cable Guy to arrive, which he finally does in the manic form of Jim Carrey. If you like the Jim Carrey performance that Jim Carrey gives in virtually every Jim Carrey film, you’ll probably love him here as he’s taking the Jim Carrey to 110% here.
Sadly for me, I side with Tommy Lee Jones when it comes to Jim Carrey. When they were working together on Batman Forever, Jones didn’t like Carrey, and once, when Jones was eating at a restaurant, and Carrey happens to come in. Carrey himself tells the story:
“The maitre said, ‘Oh, I hear you’re working with Tommy Lee Jones. He’s over in the corner having dinner.’ I went over and I said, ‘Hey Tommy, how are you doing?’ and the blood just drained from his face,” Carrey said. “And he got up shaking — he must have been in mid kill me fantasy or something like that. And he went to hug me and he said, ‘I hate you. I really don’t like you.’ And I said, ‘What’s the problem?’ and pulled up a chair, which probably wasn’t smart. And he said, ‘I cannot sanction your buffoonery.'”
I’ve always liked Tommy Lee Jones.
When Carrey sets up his TV, there’s a news piece about two former child stars, twins, one of whom killed his brother. You can tell this is going to be significant because a) it’s a news report on a TV and b) the accused killer is played by Ben Stiller.
Carrey wants to be friends with Broderick. Yet another element of the film that makes me deeply uncomfortable. But Broderick is persuaded to join him on a visit to the satellite. I like this shot in particular.
But Carrey keeps trying to insert himself into Broderick’s life, ruining a basketball game with his friends. Jack Black plays his best friend.
He takes him to a Medieval Themed restaurant and jousting place. Janeane Garofalo plays a waitress.
He and Broderick end up fighting – it’s the second reference to Star Trek’s Amok Time in a few tapes.
It gets creepier, as Carrey installs a whole bunch of new home cinema equipment in Broderick’s home, then hosts a Karaoke party. As Carrey does more Jim Carrey stuff, performing karaoke, he’s set up Broderick with another woman who (we later learn) is a prostitute.
To make up for this, when Broderick is appalled that the woman was a prostitute, Carrey starts working on Broderick’s girlfriend, Robin, who’s having a date with Owen Wilson.
That twin brother murder thing is still happening – now Eric Roberts is playing both brothers in the TV Movie.
Carrey, after Broderick tells him they can’t be friends any more, gets him arrested for possession of stolen goods. Charles Napier is one of the officers.
After a brief spell in jail, he’s out on bail, and now Carrey is organising a party for his family. His mother and father are played by George Segal and Diane Baker. There is an embarrassing game of Porno Password. This really is pushing all my social anxiety buttons.
After Broderick punches Carrey at the party, the revenge is quick, as Carrey has been bugging his apartment, and he sends a video of Broderick slagging off his boss to the whole company.
Then there’s a final confrontation, on the big satellite dish, and Carrey plummets to his doom vaguely unspecified injury.
And the very dull payoff of the twin murder Ben Stiller running theme is that his fall interrupts the cable signal for everyone watching the live verdict.
After this, over to Sky Premier for another movie, Coming To America. I’ve watched part of this before, but I think the first time I tried, the recording cut out before the end.
This is definitely a wish fulfilment fantasy, as Eddie Murphy is playing a 21 year old prince of the wealthy African country Zamunda.
James Earl Jones plays his father, the King.
Arsenio Hall is his best friend Semmi.
He doesn’t like the idea of an arranged marriage, so he persuades his father to let him to travel to America to find a wife. He flies to New York, and heads to Queens. Nice product placement for British Airways Concorde.
Visiting the local barber shop, the regulars are familiar. Here’s Eddie Murphy, under some impressive Rick Baker makeup.
This is Arsenio Hall.
And this, too, is Eddie Murphy.
They attend the ‘Miss Black Awareness’ pageant, where the host is another Arsenio Hall character.
And Eddie Murphy also has another character.
Prince Akeem is smitten by Lisa McDowell, who organised the event.
Finding out her father runs the nearby restaurant, McDowell’s, he gets a job there. Her father is played by John Amos.
But she has a boyfriend, the rather weaselly Darryl, played by ER’s Eriq La Salle.
Louie Anderson works at the restaurant.
He’s trying to stay undercover, but he’s recognised at the basketball game by a fellow countryman, played by Vondie Curtis-Hall.
Sam Jackson has a small role as a man holding up the restaurant, who is subdued by Akeem.
Lisa is upset with Darryl when he tells her father they’re engaged without asking her first, making for a very awkward moment at a party.
Semmi is finding it hard to live like a poor person, so he has their room upgraded.
There’s a nice callback to a previous John Landis/Eddie Murphy film, when Akeem gives a big wodge of cash to two homeless men, and it’s Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy from Trading Places.
Lisa’s sister Patrice visits their room, and Semmi tells her that he’s a prince, and Akeem is his servant.
It’s bad news for Akeem, though, when his father and mother arrive in New York, after Semmi sent a telegram asking for more money.
Mr McDowell is visited by the king, and all of a sudden he’s very nice to Akeem, but when the King learns that Akeem was seeing Lisa, he tells her that Akeem isn’t interested in her and is just ‘sowing his wild oats’. Then he tries to pay off Mr McDowell for his inconvenience, but McDowell stands up for his daughter. This film is doing everything right in my book.
Akeem follows Lisa onto the subway and tries to persuade her that he really loves her. But the fact he’s a prince has changed things, and she can’t be with him. Even after he says he’ll renounce his kingdom.
So Akeem has to return to his country, and his arranged marriage. That’s an impressive train.
But – surprise – it’s Lisa beneath the veil. Of course it is.
I really enjoyed that. It definitely pushes all my buttons, and I can see why it’s still regarded so highly by people. Now I’m quite looking forward to the sequel they’re promising.
After this, there’s the start of another film, The Myth of Fingerprints. The tape ends after about 20 minutes of that.
A movie today, and it’s Office Space. I have a mixed attitude to writer/director Mike Judge. On the one hand, I never liked King of the Hill or Beavis and Butthead, but on the other hand, there’s Idiocracy, which is looking more and more like prediction than whimsy, Silicon Valley, which was mostly pretty good, and this film, which does the whole Office thing about as well as anything else. Like the painfully slow commute. I’m fairly lucky in that the only job I’ve had where I drove to work was ten minutes away from where I lived, so the drive was fine.
Gary Cole is great as the dull boss Bill Lumburgh. “You apparently didn’t put one of the new cover sheets on your TPS reports.” He also uses a phrase I hate that’s pervasive, particularly in the area of technical demos. “I’m just going to go ahead and…” It’s one of those placeholder phrases that people use all the time, seemingly just to fill up space, and it’s meaningless. It’s also been around forever – I swear that when Doug Englebart invented the YouTube tech demo in 1968, demonstrating the Xerox Alto windowing system, he used that phrase at one point.
One line that resonated deeply with anyone who has worked in an office: “PC Load Letter? What the fuck does that mean?”
I like the fact that Peter (Ron Livingston, who looks like a less buff Brendan Fraser) is reluctant to ask waitress Jennifer Aniston out because “I’m just another asshole customer. You can’t just walk up to a waitress and ask her out.”
Richard Riehle plays Tom, who’s the first to find out there’s an ‘efficiency expert’ coming in, as cover for major redundancies.
Hey, it’s Mike McShane as a hypnotherapist. He hypnotises Peter to be completely relaxed and chilled out until he snaps his fingers, but before he can bring him out of that state, he drops dead of a heart attack – this being the inciting event for Peter’s actions through the rest of the film.
John C McGinley and Paul Wilson are the efficiency experts. It took me a moment to place Paul Wilson – he’s one f the bar regulars at Cheers.
Stephen Root as Milton, who’s really possessive about his Swingline stapler, is really good.
In his newly chilled-out state, Peter doesn’t bother going in to work over the weekend as Lumbergh wants him to. Then, he drifts into the office on Monday, intending only to pick up his address book, but his ‘efficiency’ interview is that day, so he attends, and he’s so relaxed, and completely honest about his job and lack of motivation that by the end, the two Bobs are suggesting that maybe the company should be giving employees stock options.
He also asks Jennifer Aniston’s Joanna for a lunch date, where he explains he’s not going to bother going in to work any more. Later, she’s reprimanded by her boss because she’s only wearing the bare minimum number of pieces of flair – the stupid badges they have attached to their uniform.
When he learns that he’s getting a promotion when several of his coworkers are getting fired, he talks to Michael Bolton (not that one) about ‘a virus’ that takes all the fractional parts of calculations in the accounting software, and funnelling them into their own account. Exactly the same idea as Superman III which the movie is honest enough to reference in the dialogue.
As usual, I’m spending a lot of the time spotting old software packages in the background, like the Borland dBase box here.
It’s still a fairly enjoyable film
The tape ends after this.
In the ad break, there’s a Sky One trailer for The X Files featuring a brief appearance from the Reverend Lionel Fanthorpe, off of Fortean TV.
Comedy today, and first on this tape is The Peter Principle – Un Homme et Une Femme. It’s the bank-based sitcom starring Jim Broadbent as the ineffectual Peter. He watches a news report on his branch which suggests that bank managers are going to become a thing of the past.
The plot of this episode revolves around rather a lot of dodgy innuendo about transsexuals. Geoffrey tells a story about a Brazilian transsexual called Lola from Camberwell, who he met, and was surprised by her undercarriage.
Meanwhile, Paulo (Ivan Kaye) is a Brazilian restauranteur who wants a loan. Peter has been told to refer all loans to head office, but Paulo goads him into approving the loan by implying he takes orders from Susan, but that doesn’t stop him flirting outrageously with Susan, which puts David’s nose out of joint because he fancies Susan, despite being married. I’m really having a problem with this show’s attitude to women.
So David, to try to ‘win back’ Susan, suggests that he put her on the fast track management course. See what I mean?
So Peter has to go to his restaurant to ask for the loan back. But Paulo has already bought a ticket to Rio. He wants to meet someone there. Peter thinks he’s talking about a sex change (because of Geoffrey’s story earlier) but he’s talking about another chef, so as he describes what will happen to the chicken on the table, Peter thinks it’s surgery he’s talking about. Hilarity ensues.
Peter has to get £6,000 from somewhere. Geoffrey takes the opportunity to humiliate him a bit.
Peter doesn’t like Susan being on the fast track course, and using his computer (the only one in the office that can connect to the internet – those were the days).
He gets stroppy with a postman who has to deliver a message to Susan, and insists the message go through him, not realising it’s a strippergram from Paulo.
Susan is really embracing this fast track thing
Paulo’s sister, who is managing the restaurant while he’s away, comes into the bank, and of course Peter thinks it’s Paulo, returned from Brazil as a woman. Hilarity ensues.
After this, there’s a trailer for Muscle and one for the BBC Comedy Zone.
Then, there’s a few seconds of the start of Beast but recording switches to a bit later, and the first episode of Jack Dee’s Full Mountie. This is the first episode (after we saw Episode 2 a little while ago). We’ve seen a lot of the participants of this in the other episode, but here’s Jack Dee in 1990.
Even further back, a performance from Jerry Seinfeld.
Barry Humphries: “Edna is now claiming, in public, that I embezzle her.”
“Two or three agents came up to me and said ‘Really like what you do, but you swear too much, you’re no good to me'”
Mark Thomas talks about the agent who had laminated business cards for use in jacuzzis.
Graham Norton is staying in the hotel room where John Lennon and Yoko Ono held their bed-in for Peace.
Next, another episode of The Peter Principle – Greyhound Day. The nervous Evelyn is worried about her latest role at the bank. “No, you don’t look ridiculous.”
The Kopas brothers, two farmer’s sons, are in to listen to their late father’s will. Steve O’Donnell is familiar from Bottom, and Kenneth MacDonald is even more familiar from It Ain’t Half Hot Mum.
David’s still having problems with his marriage. “She slashed all my suits. Luckily she missed this one.”
The two farmers want to know who gets their father’s prize greyhound. Geoffrey has the idea to mate the greyhound with another and sell the puppies. Hilarity ensues.
David and Susan go to a seminar which involves an overnight stay at a hotel. Bradley has mixed up David’s case with Geoffrey’s so when David asks Susan to take a look at what he’s got, she finds some unusual items. Hilarity ensues.
Trying to work out where this broadcast fell was a bit harder. The genome link goes to a Match of the Day listing, with the Peter Principle listing attached – I can only assume this was an OCR error, or possibly an artefact of the way the listing was printed. The actual broadcast time was 11:45pm.
Before the next episode there’s a trailer for It’s Only TV… But I Like It.
Then, The Peter Principle – There’s Something about Geoffrey. Geoffrey is retiring soon, and is enjoying winding Peter up. Although the show isn’t clear if this is early retirement or redundancy. Might be both, I guess.
This leaves a vacancy for his job. Bradley is interviewing.
Evelyn has brought her baby in, Cue inevitable ‘mistakenly drinks breast milk’ gag.
There’s a royal coming to visit, so Peter’s obviously excited. One of his customers is a photographer, played by John Rapley, who’s one of those familiar faces from loads of TV. There’s not a bad running gag about him wanting people to guess how many cameras he has. We never find out.
There’s another applicant for Geoffrey’s old job. Yes it’s an attractive woman who is obviously dressing in crop tops because it makes men behave like gibbering idiots and therefore give them jobs. Have I mentioned how poorly this series treats women? You could argue it treats men just as badly, I suppose, but it doesn’t make it less tiresome.
However, her entirely inappropriate dress code does give us a good gag. When David first meets her (and obviously turns into a gibbering moron too) he compliments the design on her top. “Nice Rrrrrs.”
Meeting the Royal, Peter gets stuck to the carpet tiles.
After this, there’s a star-studded trailer for BBC Comedy, featuring Ronnie Corbett, Ronnie Barker, Harry Enfield, June Whitfield, Geoffrey Palmer, Jack Dee, Stephen Fry, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Peter Sallis, Richard Wilson, Paul Whitehouse, Victoria Wood, Caroline Aherne, Craig Cash, Mark Williams, Charlie Higson, Neil Morrissey, Angus Deayton and Spike Milligan.
Then, another episode of The Peter Principle – Truly Bradley Deeply. This one has a recording glitch right at the start, where a few seconds of the programme are missing. Clumsy fingers, probably. It’s just after Christmas, and Peter has to apologise for his behaviour at the Christmas party because he got so drunk he can’t remember what he did. He didn’t do anything, but everyone pretends they’re disgusted with him, giving them all a chance to slap him round the face.
David asks Susan how her Christmas was. “Oh you know. Family, Hemel Hempstead, Rain.” My favourite line in the whole programme, especially since Claire Skinner’s family actually do come from Hemel Hempstead.
After Susan makes it clear that she doesn’t want to pursue a relationship, he gets cross with Peter about a budget report, saying people have to be made redundant.
After Peter sacks Bradley, Barbara tells him he can’t sack him, because Bradley is his son, and tells him that he’d had a fling with Bradley’s mum when he was drunk, years ago. Of course Peter believes him.
David And Susan are keeping it on a professional level.
David still insists someone has to go, but Peter discovers security footage of David and Susan kissing, so he sends a fax of the picture to head office – but Evelyn sends it to David’s house instead. So Peter goes to David’s house and finds Bradley’s mother Jean, who is a cleaner, working at David’s house. Naturally, she’s a woman so she must be ready to hop into bed with anyone.
They’re interrupted by David arriving early, with a woman who we assume is Susan. Peter has to hide. Not very well.
Peter resigns, so David can have his cuts. But later at the branch he learns that Bradley isn’t his son – Barbara was lying to protect Bradley’s job. It’s all looking bleak until there’s a phone call from the Regional Director, saying he can’t fire Bradley, and that he’ll find the extra money. Because he’s actually Bradley’s father. We can tell that because he eats a Creme Egg the same way as Bradley. I’d really like to know where they’re getting all these Creme Eggs right after Christmas.
A little bit of politics today, starting with a short programme introducing the background to the main programme, Hamilton v Al Fayed – The Sleaze Trail presented by John Sweeney (later famous for shouting very loud at a scientologist).
After this, recording switches and there’s the first in a new series of Trouble at the Top – Spend Spend Spend. It looks at the attempts to make a West End musical based on the true story of Viv Nicholson, a woman who won £150K on the pools, then blew the lot in ten years. She now lives on £100pw, and hopes to make some money from the show.
The producer hoping to put the show on is Andre Ptaszynski, who was also the producer on two Steven Moffat shows, Joking Apart and Chalk.
He’s having trouble raising the full cost of the show – over a million pounds. One of his investors is Jimmy Mulville, in his role as head of Hat Trick Productions.
Starring in the show, as Viv, is Barbara Dickson.
It’s an interesting documentary. The show is reasonably successful – it ran for almost a year, and won Best Musical at the big theatre awards (over The Lion King). But I was quite uncomfortable with Ptaszynski’s treatment of Viv Nicholson. He seemed to want nothing to do with her, and only ever spoke to her reluctantly. Even after the Premiere, he didn’t speak to her. It doesn’t seem like actual malice, just a rather posh man who has no use for an older, working class woman, despite using her story as the basis for the show.
So I feel like it’s a victory for Viv at the end of the show when we see her receive her first cheque from the show, and learn that she made more than £10,000, while Andre had yet to cover his costs.
First on this tape, a compilation episode of Not The Nine O’Clock News starting with an apology over the squashed hedgehogs.
‘All Out Superpower Confrontation’ is a banger. I still know most of the words.
The Pint of Guinness joke is good.
They did a variation on the ‘Made in Wales’ adverts a few times, like this one.
Can we just appreciate Pamela Stephenson’s impressions. Always very over the top, and yet nailing the core of the subject. Here she’s doing Annie Nightingale.
Her Judith Hann is a favourite of mine. “That is, until now” is a phrase I’ve used before.
Plus, the classic “A microprocessor base”
I’ve always assumed that Billy Connolly appeared on the show because he would hang out with Pamela Stephenson during rehearsal and recording, so they stuck him in the odd sketch because, well, you would, wouldn’t you?
This episode is showcasing all of Stephenson’s greats, with possibly her greatest of all, Janet Street Porter.
Stout Pride was always a favourite of mine.
I don’t think I’d ever noticed before that Rowan Atkinson the skinny person who’s identifying as a stout person (how current does this sketch feel?) is wearing an oversized suit.
Yet another Pamela Stephenson tour de force, as Esther Rantzen in the That’s Life sketch. The way her voice goes super high on the ‘we’ in the classic line “It was then that we contacted the Electricity Board”. With the reply “I’m sorry, this really has got nothing to do with us.” Lines that I have definitely repeated myself.
Griff’s Cyril Fletcher might be a little cruel.
And can we just appreciate the detail of Esther’s huge dress, pegged down like a tent. Magnificent.
The programme closes with Lufthansa Terminal’s classic, ‘Nice Video Shame about the Song’.
After this, recording switches and there’s an episode of Bookworm presented by Griff Rhys Jones.
There’s a piece on the cookery writer Elizabeth David, featuring contributions from Terence Conran. It’s just over a month since he died, so I don’t feel like this was my fault, but nevertheless, I’m so very sorry.
David’s biographer Artemis Cooper.
David’s niece Julia Caffyn.
There’s a profile of Iain (M) Banks. David ‘Kid’ Jensen is a fan.
He’s another great writer who died far too young. And he comes across in this as a really lovely person. I should read more of his stuff.
Finally there’s a chilly piece about travel writer Colin Thubron, who travelled to Siberia, the coldest inhabited place in the world.
After this, there’s a trailer for Modern Times and one for Food & Drink.
Then the recording ends, and underneath there’s a chunk of BBC News 24. No era-defining news, here, that I could see. There’s an episode of Hard Talk with former hostages Brian Keenan and John McCarthy, but this was long after they’d been released.
At the end of this recording there’s a little nugget, Zero 30, an arts and entertainment round-up presented by Christopher Price. It covers the recent death of Frankie Vaughan, the announcement that analogue TV would be switched off by 2006 (I checked, and the switch-off actually started in 2007 and wasn’t completed until 2012), and the start of a feature on American Beauty.
Today’s tape is a mixed bag with some familiar programmes, and the occasional novelty.
First, The Simpsons – King-Size Homer. Homer decides to gain weight so he can be put on disability, and work from home. This is in no way reflective of my own working from home lifestyle.
Next, more from The Simpsons and an episode called Faith Off. Homer attends a fundraisers at his old college.
After Homer gets a metal bucket glued to his head, they accidentally visit a revivalist preacher, voiced by Don Cheadle.
Bart miraculously gets the bucket off Homer’s head, and becomes a preacher himself.
After this, there’s an episode of Futurama – Why Must I Be a Crustacean in Love? Dr Zoidberg has to return to his home planet for mating.
But he’s rubbish at courting, so Fry helps him, a la Cyrano de Bergerac. Trouble is, when his intended, Edna, discovers it was Fry saying all the things, she wants him instead.
So Fry and Zoidberg have to fight to the death. Since the plot of this episode comes from the classic Star Trek story Amok Time (there’s a musical cue from that as well) there’s a cameo appearance from the same weapons they used in that story.
After this, recording continues briefly with the start of an episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun but then switches.
Then, there’s an episode of the Rob Grant SF comedy The Strangerers – 9: The Getawaying. I don’t think I have all the episodes of this, so I have no idea whether it will make sense. But Grant had enough clout to get his name above the title.
Jack Docherty and Mark Williams are aliens.
Morwenna Banks plays the Super Supervisor.
Nina Wadia turns up as a waitress.
Mark Heap and Sarah Alexander are humans, involved with a group trying to kill the aliens.
This, although it might be hard to tell, is Paul Darrow and David Walliams.
And it all ends with a lie. This was the last episode, and there was no second season. I found it rather dull, if I’m honest.
After this, recording continues with a bit of the start of Third Watch. Then recording switches to BBC One, and a trailer for Home Truths.
Then, randomly, an episode of Film 2000 in which Jonathan Ross reviews the following films:
He talks to Michael Caine on the set of the film Shiner.
he also talks to Kristin Scott Thomas about her latest film Up at the Villa.
And following the success of East is East at the Baftas, he talks to Jimi Mistry. It’s strange because in this he talks about East is East being ignored, but my memory is that you couldn’t move for coverage of it, which is partly why I don’t like it at all, because all of the coverage was of a nice, light comedy, and what it actually was was a grim slice of life drama with the occasional bit of dancing. I felt missold.