Well, it’s not Christmas Day, but it’s still the Christmas season, and today’s disc, the last one of the batch I’ve found, is described by the continuity announcer as “A real Christmas Treat”.
It’s The Young Visiters, a programme I remember recording (mainly because of the cast) but one which I can’t remember getting around to watching at the time.
It’s based on a novel written by Daisy Ashford, when she was 9 years old.
It has an all star cast. Jim Broadbent is Alfred Salteena, a man who wants to move up in life.
On a train he meets a woman and her daughter who also wish to move up in life. He invites the daughter to visit him, with the promise of meeting other society people. The mother is played by Anne Reid.
Her daughter Ethel Monticue, is played by Lindsey Marshal.
Alfred’s maid is played by Sally Hawkins.
Alfred manages to contrive an invitation to visit a Lord. They’re met at the station by a footman, played by Tom Burke.
The Lord’s butler Minnit is played by Geoffrey Palmer.
Lord Bernard Clark is played by Hugh Laurie.
Both men are in love with Ethel, so Lord Bernard suggests to Alfred that he go and stay with a friend of his in the Crystal Palace, the Earl of Clincham, where he can learn to become a better class of person. The Earl is played by Bill Nighy.
The Earl’s man Procurio is played by Adam Godley, last seen here playing Stephen Hawking’s dad.
His maid, Bessie Topp, is played by Sophie Thompson.
Alfred has to learn about using the correct cutlery.
His instructor is Guy Henry
The Earl takes Alfred to meet the Prince of Wales – played by acting legend Simon Russell Beale. During this meeting, Alfred is granted the title Lord Hyssop. (You can tell this was written by a nine year old).
Lord Bernard, meanwhile, proposes to Ethel.
They are both invited to a party thrown by the Earl of Clincham, where Alfred hopes to propose to Ethel too. So he’s naturally a little disappointed at the result.
Bernard and Ethel are married – the Archbishop is played by Patrick Barlow, who also wrote the screenplay.
Alfred is knighted by the Queen (played by Janine Duvitski).
When the Earl gets married, and goes to live with his wife in her country seat, he leaves Alfred to live at his apartments at the Crystal Palace. But Alfred is still lonely, until he finally proposes to the maid, Bessie Topp.
Here’s the Tivo Details. I have no idea why the cast listing here lists Tracey Ullman, Kenny Ireland and John Harding, none of whom appear. The synopsis is correct, though.
After this, there’s trailers for Carrie’s War, What Women Want, and The National Lottery – Jet Set.
Then a look at what’s coming up on this Boxing Day evening.
Then, there’s the start of Outtake TV – I guess they’d retired the Auntie’s Bloomers brand now, but this is the same thing, only now it’s presented by Anne Robinson, and it’s altogether more snide and sneery than when Terry Wogan used to present it. I don’t think it altogether works for this material.
The DVDs are still turning up. This one appeared while we’re tidying the house for Christmas (along with another that duplicates a couple of tapes I’ve already blogged).
I first thought I wouldn’t blog this one, as it’s a little bit of a cheat. It’s a DVD Rip of a commercial tape that I was lent by a work colleague, so it’s morally slightly dodgy. Plus, the contents are a lot more spoilery than just ‘what happened in this TV show’.
It’s The Devil’s Picturebook. An instructional video featuring Derren Brown wherein he presents a number of card magic illusions, and explains in detail how they are done. It’s aimed at the magic community, and does expect some knowledge of general magic principles, but it’s fascinating to see how his routines are all very carefully thought out, with a combination of the moves required mixed with creating moments of misdirection to hide some of the sleights.
He’s ‘interviewed’ by Peter Clifford, also a magician, although mostly he’s there so that Derren has someone to whom he can demonstrate his techniques.
The illusions presented here start with “3-Card Routine” in which three people each pick a card, and Derren variously reveals the cards, makes them disappear, and finds them again in various places (including in his shoe).
“Card Under Box” is a much shorter routine in which a chosen card keeps being disappeared and found under a card box.
“Oil and Water” is Derren’s version of a classic magic routine where alternating red and black cards are magically divided into groups of the same colour.
“Zamiel’s Rose” is a short card reveal that ends with some rose petals.
“Smoke” involves a cigarette.
“Out of this World” is another well-known routine involving dividing the cards into two packs of the same colour.
“Doublethink” is a double card prediction.
“Extreme Mental Effort” is an illusion that uses some of Derren’s ‘mind-reading’ which looks amazingly difficult, but turns out to have the simplest technique of any of the tricks shown here.
“Invisible Deal” is a trick where the subject has to pick a card, but they’re only using an imaginary deck of cards.
“Invisible Deal Force” is a similar trick, but this one sees Derren forcing a particular card without using cards.
“Mental Force” is a trick that Derren used at the start of one of his TV episodes, where he influences the subject to pick the 3 of diamonds.
After the end of the show itself, there’s a rather silly sequence in which Derren does an impression of Guy Hollingworth, another card magician. I’m sure it’s done with love.
After this recording, the tape ends and rewinds, so we actually get a bit of actual TV, which is the main reason I felt I had to include this disc. Although what we have is a few programmes from the Learning Zone, so it’s tricky to find the exact date. But I think I’ve managed.
There’s a lot of a documentary about curare – Return of the Flying Death.
There’s a short programme – What can Medics Learn from Crocodiles?
Another short programme in which Mike Bullivant off of Rough Science takes a look at herbal medicines.
Then the recording finally stops during The Challenge – To Build the Largest Water Garden in Europe.
A couple of very different programmes are on this disc, starting with The American Nightmare, a documentary that looks at the horror films of the late 60s and 70s, reflected through American history.
Tom Savini shows some of his sculptures of great movie monsters.
John Landis remembers his early horror experiences: “I was at my cousin’s house and I remember being I was under 10, but we were watching The Wolfman and when it got too scary, like too scary, too scary, we changed the channel. Where on another channel was Son of Frankenstein. It was channel 9 and channel 13. So we changed it and watched Son of Frankenstein until he got too scary. We changed back to The Wolfman.”
George A Romero remembers, when they had just finished Night of the Living Dead, and he and Russ Streiner were driving to New York to try to sell the movie to a distributor, when they heard on the news that Martin Luther King had been assassinated.
The film’s premise is that America was going through a collective trauma. The civil rights movement (particularly the backlash against it), assassinations, and the war in vietnam. Tom Savini has a picture of him when he was serving in Vietnam.
Wes Craven on the cultural forces at play with his notorious horror film Last House on the Left. “It just seemed to be like there was nothing to be trusted in the establishment and everything to be trusted in yourself and. In your generation, so that was kind of the context in which Last House was made.”
Tobe Hooper on the genesis of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: “I was shopping and I was in a Montgomery Wards, the hardware department and the crowd was crushing in and I wanted out of there and I found myself standing right in front of a rack of chainsaws. And just the idea happened I know how I could get out of here quickly. And something happened within about 30 seconds. It it truly seems like 10 seconds, 30 seconds, whatever this the skeletal structure for the film and a lot of the texture too just fell in place about kids, isolation, no gas, you know, straight out of the no gas time.”
David Cronenberg: “I can very distinctly remember having that, that conversation with my mother, you know, saying, well, wait a minute. You mean everybody’s going to die, you’re going to die, everybody’s going to die, you know? So that one thinks the unthinkable things and imagines the unimaginable things, and in that way gains some control over them. I mean, that’s the trick, you know, is that if you don’t think about it, you can’t have any control over it whatsoever. If you think about it, you have at least the illusion of control, which is a beginning.”
John Carpenter: “I didn’t mean to put an end to the sexual revolution, and for that I deeply apologise.”
After this, there’s a trailer for Every Time You Look At Me. Then there’s the start of BBC News.
There’s a change of place with the next recording – it’s an episode of Penn & Teller’s Bullshit on Mediums.
I’d forgotten quite how sweary this series was. They claim it’s partly because it’s on Showtime – a cable channel which doesn’t have the censorship of network television, and partly (Penn says) that calling someone an asshole isn’t libellous.
The mediums the programme looks at are John Edward
James Van Praagh
Van Praagh has people on his show sign an NDA which prevents them discussing anything that happened on the show.
I’ve almost finished with the new crop of DVDs and today’s is something a bit more serious. It’s a two part documentary from the Storyville strand, House of Saud.
My wife spent a fair portion of her life in Saudi Arabia. Her father (who’s English) was hired by the Saudi ministry of works to help draft the country’s standards for electrical safety. So the family lived in Riyadh for quite a few years, only returning to England for a few months in the summer. When I met her, she had returned to England to study violin-making in London, and when we got engaged, I went to Riyadh at Christmas to spend it with her family, which was quite interesting. I don’t travel much, so going somewhere so different was educational.
So this explains why I recorded this particular documentary, when, to be honest, geopolitics isn’t something I’m deeply immersed in. But let’s see what the documentary reveals.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the reason this documentary was made was partly because the majority of the people involved with carrying out the September 11th attacks were from Saudi Arabia. I don’t think this image will ever not be shocking.
The modern Saudi Arabia came about when Abdul Aziz Al Saud, grandson of Mohammed Al Saud, who was the first person to unify some of the warring tribes in the desert. That unity didn’t last, and the area was factional, until Abdul Aziz “rode out with 40 of his brothers and cousins to restore the glory of his ancestors.”
One of his descendants, Prince Amr Al-Faisal, describes his vision. “He wanted it to be a nation. To be a state like other states. To have hospitals, roads, schools, factories, all the elements of a modern state, and to take its place among the nations rather than to be a forgotten backwater where nobody cares what they live or die, what’s happening there, but to be a player in the international scene.” One aspect of the Saudi royal family is that there are an awful lot of princes.
“But maintaining the unity of this vast desert was a difficult task. Marriage was one of the answers. The King married a daughter of every tribal chief. In the areas he conquered. He produced 45 legitimate sons.” Hence all the princes.
Talking of Princes, here’s Prince Sultan bin Salman. “King Abdul Aziz was in the desert, saw an old lady and the old lady was crying and he found out that she had nothing, literally nothing. So he used to have under his seat in the car bags of money, because people are poor and there is no way to distribute money in the system. There was no system. So he grabbed a bag of coins, you know, like 50 rials, a good sum, and gave it to the lady. And. And the lady started hitting the ground. And she prayed and she said “May God open the treasures of the Earth for you”. And this was before the discovery of oil.”
They discovered oil when they were searching for water, a more useful resource in this desert country. They needed foreign investment to exploit the oil. Many countries were interested but it was the Americans who put down the cash. This was the formation of Aramco.
When the Americans came to Saudi, they built compounds for themselves – self contained areas where they weren’t restricted by the traditions of the Saudis. Looks like they could even invite Santa Claus. Christmas was always a little tricky in Saudi.
Abdul Aziz meets with President Roosevelt. One of the sources of tension between America and Saudi Arabia was the treatment of Palestine, where land was taken from Arabs to form the Jewish state of Israel.
One of Abdul Aziz’s sons talks about his preparation for the transfer of power when he died. He prepared for his succession with the help of Prince Saud and Prince Faisal. He said: “Your understanding and unity will be the continuity of Abdul Aziz’s reign, the preservation of your family, the unity of your country and its well being. Do not fight amongst yourselves. Beware of differences.” So the transition of power was smooth and happened in a natural way, I witnessed it.”
His successor, his eldest son King Saud, wasn’t considered the statesman that his father was. One person says “People who dealt with him never considered him bright.” Another says “I don’t recall anything substantive that Saud ever said on whatever the issues might be.”
King Saud was not a good leader. He spent too much money, and, despite being effectively the head of the most islamic nation, he also had a drink problem. After some years, his brothers decided he had to go, and he was quietly sent to exile in Greece, being succeeded as King by his brother King Faisal.
He oversaw a lot of modernisation. Shocking things like schools for girls, or a television service. During a protest, where a group of young men tried to break into the Riyadh television station and destroy the broadcasting tower, the protestors fired at the police, who fired back, killing some of the protestors, including a Prince. The father of the Prince went to King Faisal asking him to punish the policeman who killed his son, Faisal wouldn’t, saying the protestors shouldn’t have fired on the police. His refusal would have repercussions much later, as the brother of the dead man would eventually kill the King himself.
Faisal wasn’t happy with the American support for Israel, particularly when the Israelis occupied Jerusalem as part of the Arab-Israeli war. The Americans didn’t really take him seriously, until he withdrew huge amounts of of oil from the world market, quadrupling the price of oil, and causing a worldwide shortage. This made the Americans realise they had to take Saudi Arabia seriously.
The next recording is part two. And look, Nixon has sent Henry Kissinger to solve the oil embargo. That won’t screw up geopolitical relations at all, will it? Sure enough, after they had talks, “Kissinger gave an interview in which he said the United States cannot stand having its oil supplies disrupted and if it should become necessary, the United States would be prepared to invade to intervene in Saudi Arabia to take over the oil fields.” How this man won the Nobel Peace Prize is beyond me.
Faisal is assassinated by the brother of the Prince who was shot while protesting the introduction of television.
The next King was one of Faisal’s brothers, Khalid.
One of the things he faced was rising radicalisation in young muslims who believed the royal family were corrupt and westernised. This was around the time of the Iranian revolution that exiled the Shah and installed the Ayatollahs as the supreme power. The holy mosque at Mecca – the holiest place in all of Islam, it’s the direction that all muslims pray to wherever they are in the world – was taken over by insurgents who would shoot at people from the minarets, amd held off a frontal attack by Saudi forces. In the end, they had to ask for help from the French special forces. It’s interesting to note that most of the pictures of Mecca in this section are computer generated – a combination of there likely being no contemporaneous footage of the actual event, but there also not being much general footage of Mecca, because of the islamic aversion to having images of anything religious.
When the Russians invaded Afghanistan, the Saudi government encouraged young Saudis to join up and fight in Afghanistan alongside their muslim brothers. One of their leaders was Osama Bin Laden.
By 1982, there was another king. Crown Prince Fahd had effectively ruled for a decade before being confirmed as the new King
He had supported Saddam Hussein in the Iran/Iraq war. Here’s a picture of him giving Saddam a gold plated (or possibly solid gold) rifle. And then, in 1988, Saddam invaded Kuwait.
Iraq was potentially poised to invade Saudia Arabia, and the Saudi’s small army were not match. Bin Laden offered his troops currently in Afghanistan to aid the Saudis. But the response was “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.” The narration says “The Saudi regime was uneasy that a private citizen claimed to have the means to raise an army.” Bin Laden was a millionaire, with an ideology. Always a dangerous combination, as we’re seeing all the time these days.
Fahd turns to the Americans for protection.
Some things change – the rights of women to drive was being pushed for, and there was a protest with dozens of women driving without men.
But the government, in the midst of a war, needed the support of the religious establishment, so the women were charged, and their names published on this list: Names of Fallen Women and Advocates of Vice and Corruption on Earth.
King Fahd has a stroke, so his half-brother, Crown Prince Abdullah, takes over the running of the state. When George W Bush becomes president, and sides strongly with Israel over Palestine,
But it seemed like there was a possibility of some kind of peace process. “Within 24 hours we had a response from the President to the Crown Prince, in which the President laid out his vision for Middle East: Two states. Shared Jerusalem. Just settlement of refugee issue in very clear terms and he said. But we can only do that if we can stop the violence. The Crown Prince responded to the president. And said this is a positive step and you need to articulate this publicly and the President agreed to do so. Three days later. Osama bin Laden crashes the airplanes in the towers and into the Pentagon, and the whole peace process is pushed to the back burner.”
We’re still finishing up our small cache of rediscovered DVDs, and on today’s disc there’s one programme – Hawking. It’s a BBC film made quite a while before the movie The Theory of Everything and stars young Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Hawking. The film does a nice fake-out at the start. We first see a young Hawking sitting watching television – he’s actually watching Professor Fred Hoyle on TV saying that the universe has no beginning – that it always existed. This is the Steady State theory, of which Hoyle was the main promoter. I thought perhaps that this was a bit of Archive footage, but Hoyle is played here by Peter Firth.
Hawking is watching the TV, sitting in his characteristic slumped pose. But when Hoyle’s broadcast ends, he stands up and switches the TV off. This is young Stephen Hawking, before his motor neurone disease took hold.
Intercut with these scenes are scenes from later – 1978 to be exact – as scientists Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson are being interviewed before their Nobel Prize ceremony. Penzias plays a recording for the reporter – it sounds like white noise – and tells him “This is the most profound thing you will hear in your entire life.”
The earlier scene with Hawking is actually in St Albans – which just a few miles from where I live. That’s Lisa Dillon who plays Jane Wilde.
Phoebe Nicholls plays Hawking’s mother Isobel.
It’s Hawking’s 21st birthday, and he had invited Jane to his party. They’re in the garden, looking up at the stars, vaguely flirting. She suggests they should go back to the party. But he finds he can’t get up.
In hospital, he undergoes some unpleasant tests.
Eventually, the doctor tells him he has motor neurone disease. The neurones that send signals to his muscles are dying. Eventually, his muscles will waste through lack of use. And he will die.
But he still embarks on his PhD. His father Frank takes him to Cambridge, and without Stephen knowing, he finds his PhD supervisor, and asks him for his help. “Physics means everything to him. I want him to be happy, Mr Sciama.” Sciama replies “What can I do?” “I want you to set him a question that he can finish. Something easy enough for him to finish. Before he dies.”
Dennis Sciama is played by John Sessions. He tells Frank that he can’t do what he asks.
Stephen briefly meets Fred Hoyle.
There’s some famous faces among Stephen’s college friends. Bertie Carvel plays George Ellis.
Tom Ward off of Silent Witness plays Roger Penrose.
Alice Eve plays Martha Guthrie, whom Hawking chats up in the bar using Einstein’s theory of relativity. It almost works until she asks him what his star sign is.
He has another encounter with Hoyle. “The thing about a big bang is that it’s wrong. Irrational and wrong. It’s my term, “big bang”. Do you know why I called it that? Because it sounds like a cartoon. Big-bang theory is cartoon physics.”
Penzias and Wilson are still telling the story of the noise. It’s more radio noise than can be accounted for by the energy of all the galaxies. One theory is that pigeons pooping in their antenna horn was causing the extra noise. “We had the pigeons shot.” They cleaned out all the poop. “The pigeons were innocent. The noise was still there.”
Hawking visits Hoyle’s lab again. He talks to Hoyle’s assistant, who shows him Hoyle’s new paper. Hawking reads it, and spends the whole night working out the equations.
At Hoyle’s lecture, Hawking stands up at the end and tells him he’s got his maths wrong. Dennis Sciama tells him he should work on something original rather than just demolishing other people’s work.
He sits in on one of Roger Penrose’s lectures, where he talks about the work he’s doing on singularities – stars collapsing. This is quite radical at the time. Penrose: “It’s what frightened Einstein.” Hawking: “Singularities can’t exist – the laws of science don’t allow for them.” Penrose persists. “Wrong. Singularities do exist.”
He takes a train. When the train next to them starts moving, the woman opposite him starts talking about how strange things happen on the Cambridge platform. “Backwards, now. We are having a time of it.”
Hawking has an insight, and gets out of the train, looking for Penrose who had seen him onto the train. He starts drawing a diagram on the ground to explain his idea. “What if the whole of the universe were trapped in a region whose boundary shrinks to zero?” Penrose: “A singularity? Nothingness.” “Your theorem works for collapsing, dying stars. It proves that a singularity must exist. What if it works for this? Could it work? Roger, what would it mean if it did?” “A collapse in reverse.” “Which is?” “An explosion.” “Bang.”
Hawking proposes to Jane, but she has to take some time to think about it.
He throws himself into his dissertation based on this idea.
Dennis Sciama and Penrose have read his dissertation. Sciama: “The first three chapters – nothing special. The fourth…” Penrose finished the thought: “Mozart.”
Jane visits him at his rooms (despite women not being allowed). He has to go and see the bursar at Caius college, as he’s been given a fellowship. Hawking tries to explain his specific needs, but the bursar isn’t being helpful. Jane takes over. “You listen to me, and you listen very carefully. This man cannot walk up stairs. His illness won’t allow it, and his illness will get worse. He needs housing with easy access. And YOU are going to find it for him because if you don’t, all the newspapers will hear about how the bursar of this college treats a man of huge courage, brilliant mind and the capacity to imagine faith like a piece of nothing. Do you understand me? And he’s going to be my husband.”
Curmudgeonly old Fred Hoyle is still skeptical. “If you’re right, which you’re not, there should be some left-over radiation from the big bang. And somebody should have heard it. But they haven’t, have they? I wonder why that could be? Could it be because it isn’t there? Where’s the fossil, Hawking? Where’s the fossil?”
Cut To Arno Penzias’s tape of the 3 degrees of excess heat noise they couldn’t explain. “This noise, this goddam beautiful hiss… It connects. It’s the sound of the beginning of time. The leftover heat from the big bang. The three degrees that hasn’t cooled yet. It’s everywhere. It’s all around us. It’s 15 billion years old. And we found it.”
I really enjoyed that. It was interesting, and surprisingly emotional.
We’ve still got a few DVDs left to look at, and today, it’s more from Derren Brown with one of his specials – Seance.
The show wants to make clear that the participants are not actors or stooges.
He also asks the TV audience to participate in the seance, and there’s a phone number to call. is anyone getting Ghostwatch vibes? (Don’t call this number as your vote won’t count and you may still be charged.) The show is presented as a live show, much like Russian Roulette, although this was just another bit of misdirection.
The programme takes place at a disused Doctor’s training college, and Derren has assembled a group of twelve students to take part in the night’s happenings
The first part of the show presents a typical victorian medium setup, but for this he uses a couple of the students in place of the medium, and puts them in a trance, there’s a variety of things on a table next to them, and when the curtain closes, one of the things would make a noise – or in this case get thrown out of the curtain. But the subject doesn’t remember doing it at all. We’re then shown CCTV from above the subject where we can see them clearly throw a tambourine out of the cabinet.
Derren sets up the scenario that the seance is supposed to investigate. In the 1970s, a group of 12 students gathered, and under the influence of one of their number, they all drank bleach and died, except for the one leading them, who died sometime later in a car accident in Australia. Then he lays out photos of the twelve students, and gets the 12 participants, and the audience at home, to concentrate on the pictures, and follow instructions to end on one of them. See if it works for you.
Here’s the instructions. Follow them yourselves and see where you end up:
Start on any of the colour photos.
move left or right until you’re at a black and white picture.
Now move up and down until you’re on the first colour picture.
Move diagonally to the first black and white picture.
Finally, move left or right until you hit a colour photo.
Whichever photo you’re on, that’s the one to concentrate on.
If you’ve followed the instructions carefully, you should always end up on Jane’s picture. This is what’s known as a Magician’s Choice, where it seems like you have a free choice, but you always end up choosing what the magician wants you to pick.
Next, there’s some ‘automatic writing’ where two of the students have to close their eyes and write down the name of a city, supposedly being guided by spirits to the city of Jane’s birth. They both write London – perhaps not surprising since this was all being shot in London.
Next, they use a Ouija board, another classic part of spiritualism, and they spell out the name “Jane”.
The final part of the show features the actual seance. It took place in a completely dark room, with some luminous objects on the table, and everyone holding hands.
One of the students is given the role of the medium, and she has to says what the spirits are telling her, supposedly hearing from Jane, and giving details of her life.
Naturally, things are hurled around, noises are made, and the students are freaked out. Then, after everything settles down, Derren asks one of the students to take out an envelope she’s been holding, which contains a DVD of home movie footage of Jane, supplied by her brother, along with a letter from her brother talking about Jane, and her life, which includes many of the details that the ‘medium’ had said during the seance. Spooky!
Then, Derren leaves to bring something to show the students. He walks out of the building, over to one of the trailers used by the production, where he meets the actress who played Jane – all the 1970s students were fake, as was the story about suicide.
The show is obviously taking pains to reassure the audience at home that everything’s OK. I wonder how much of this reassurance was because of the experience the BBC had with Ghostwatch? Not only do we get these captions, but afterwards, the continuity announcer reads the same disclaimer, word for word. They’re not taking any chances.
The next programme is a change of pace. It’s the first episode of Comedy Connections featuring The Goodies. I do like the graphics used in this show.
Graeme Garden laments at one point that Clean-Up TV campaigner Mary Whitehouse once wrote a letter saying what a nice, family-friendly programme The Goodies was, so after that they kept trying to do things that would provoke her condemnation.
Bill Oddie, at Cambridge, was reluctant to join Footlights. “I couldn’t bring myself to join it, although I knew they were doing the sort of thing I would like to have done.”
Tim Brooke-Taylor on his Cambridge alumni: “In hindsight, of course, these are big names. John Cleese and Graham Chapman and all these guys. But they were good friends, you know?” He started at Cambridge reading Economics and Politics, then changed to reading Law, “and giggling at the back of lectures with John Cleese.”
John Cleese: “Tim was an almost perfect example of a fairly confident public school chap.”
Their footlights show, Cambridge Circus, went on tour, even ending up on Broadway, and the Ed Sullivan show.
Sometimes I can’t tell if the narration is being sarcastic. Talking about The Frost Report, “David Frost was a bit of a Magpie when it came to collecting talent, so the Frost Report cast its net wide to include writers and performers from not only Cambridge, but from Oxford too.” Now that’s diversity.
Producer John Howard Davies on The Goodies. “Didn’t know quite where to place it. In my mind it was half a children’s program, half an adults programme, half an American Monkees type program.”
Bill tells the remarkably true story about the man who was watching the Ecky-Thump episode, and laughed so hard he died. “His wife wrote to thank us.”
They had a Top Ten hit. Which I used to love.
The show attracted a lot of celebrity appearances, including Jane Asher.
Bob Spiers was responsible for an awful lot of comedy on TV. His is a name you see all the time.
They were so upset when Mary Whitehouse gave them a good review that they kept trying everything they could to get a reaction from her, even casting Beryl Reid as a thinly disguised version of her.
A show poking fun at South Africa and Apartheid got into trouble at the BBC not because of racism (of which there were some common slurs) but because (As Tim thinks) the BBC didn’t want to upset the South African government. Bill: “Good satirical stuff. But the BBC? Whoa, we got called in and they were not going to put this one out.” Graeme: “They said it was it was unfair to the South African police, who we were a bit critical of, this being just after there’d been Sharpeville massacre and shootings.”
The BBC dropped the show in 1979, for budgetary reasons. Or possible because they blew up Television Centre. London Weekend Television poached them, but only made one series and a Christmas special. Bob Spiers thinks that they too were surprised at how much it cost, and the resources needed to make a show like The Goodies.
Lastly on this disc, a programme that wasn’t written on the disc itself. It’s a documentary called Alchemists of Sound, all about the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. It’s a lovely look behind the scenes at how many TV Themes, music and electronic sound effects were created by a small group of innovators. We get to see a lot of faces whose names would be familiar to those of us who watched TV during the 70s and 80s (and before – it was founded in the 50s). People like Roger Limb who, as well as composing for several Doctor Who stories, also composed the “Magic ‘E’ Song” for Look and Read – a song I remember myself.
(Incidentally, if you’re wondering who the chap in the background is, so am I. Because he appears in the back of almost every interview in this programme.)
Mark Ayres (name misspelled in the caption) has been something of an archivist for the Radiophonic Workshop, helping preserve a lot of the history and music.
Brian Hodgson talks about the influence of the French Musique Concrete movement on the workshop.
Founder member Desmond Briscoe talks about its beginnings: “Increasingly. The demands of certain scripts and things call for strange things to happen. The producers, I suppose, got to know that there was at least one member of the drama studio managers who liked doing strange things with sound.”
Maddalena Fagandini had worked with Luciano Berio in italy.
Dick Mills was a really familiar name. He talks about creating the sound effect for the Goons – Major Bloodnok’s stomach.
David Cain: “We used tape. We hit things, we shouted at things, we shook things, we recorded everything and then we played about with it with with whatever we had at that time, which was fairly crude really.”
There’s archive footage of Delia Derbyshire, most famous for her arrangement and recording of the original Doctor Who theme.
She demonstrates how they use tape loops to produce compositions.
Malcolm Clarke wrote the music for The Sea Devils.
Composer John Baker demonstrates the techniques used, including editing tape with razor blades.
I remember Bleep and Booster.
Robert Popper and Peter Serafinowicz talk about the influence of the Radiophonic Workshop music on Look Around You.
The Workshop even released a record, under the name Ray Cathode.
It’s interesting to see the reaction of the old-hands at the workshop to the appearance of synthesizers, like the Moog (presented here by Walter Carlos of Switched On Bach fame).
Two more famous names – Peter Howell and Paddy Kingsland.
There’s a mention of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Where I used to work.
There’s a very brief glimpse of one of the last composers at the Workshop, Elizabeth Parker.
The winding down of the Workshop is a bit if a sad ending – another victim of John Birt’s ‘Producer Choice’ restructuring that meant every part of the BBC had to act like it was in an open market. But the final story comes from Mark Ayres, who came in to act as archivist, to catalogue the tape library. He discovers, to his horror, that all tapes recorded after 1983 had been thrown out.
So I hit the roof and then spent a couple of weeks opening every door in Maida Vale and said well where would these tapes have gone? What was the process by which these tapes were skipped? And they said “well we get a guy and he’d move the tapes out and then he’d order the skip” OK where would he put the tape before they were moved out? “Oh in an ante-room somewhere”. Well they weren’t in anteroom. Eventually I found a room which was actually the BBC Symphony Orchestra Band store and there were all these tapes in piles and it was a brilliant piece of BBC inefficiency. Because they’ve thrown all these tapes out, but nobody had ordered the skip.
But to end on a sad note, this documentary was produced by humourist Victor Lewis-Smith, who died a couple of days ago as I write this. My twitter timeline had a lot of people talking about him, and indeed my YouTube channel had a lot of people commenting on videos featuring him, but someone on twitter mentioned that he’d produced a documentary about the Radiophonic workshop. I remembered it, but at the time (just a couple of days ago) I hadn’t checked this disc fully. So I was surprised (and slightly sad, given the blog’s curse) to see this documentary as an unmarked third programme. I’m so very, very sorry.
It must be a Christmas Miracle. I was just about to start the previous blog entry, featuring most of the 2004 Oscars, when I did a bit more rooting around in the spare bedroom, mostly for undiscovered hard drives for future blogs, but I did unearth a small handful of DVDs, and one of them happens to be the remainder of the 2004 Oscars ceremony. And as a special Christmas treat, because you’ve all been so good this year, you get an extra blog entry today.
You’d think, having got to Best Director and Best Actress, that the show would practically be over, but there’s about 35 minutes on this recording, although it does start with the last award we saw previously, for Best Actress.
So the next award, for Best Actor, is presented by Nicole Kidman.
The winner is Sean Penn for Mystic River. It’s a popular win, and he gets a standing ovation. He manages to get a dig in at the Iraq War. “Thank you. If there’s one thing that actors know, other than that, there weren’t any WMD’s, It’s that there is no such thing as best in acting,”
It’s the big one now, and to present the Best Picture award, it’s Steven Spielberg.
“It’s a clean sweep” announces Spielberg as the inevitable winner, notching up 11 wins from 11 nominations, is The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Frankly, it’s well deserved, as that trilogy was a magnificent achievement, and these awards are as much for the whole thing as for the final film. I do love that Jackson makes a mention of his earliest films, Bad Taste and Meet the Feebles, “wisely overlooked by the Academy.”
Incidentally, there’s a load more videos of the ceremony in the playlist for that video.
Here’s all of the BBC links, which are a lot of fun, and there’s a good running gag featuring a Rob Brydon impression.
As if that’s not enough extra treats for Christmas afternoon, this disc also has the first part of the 2004 Bafta awards.
It’s hosted by Stephen Fry, who’s on top form tonight. He even manages to get three minutes of material out of the use of the colon in film titles. You’ve got to admire the commitment to punctuation.
The first award of the night is presented by Patrick Stewart and Naomi Watts.
It’s the Alexander Korda award for Outstanding British Film of the year. The winner is Touching the Void.
The director, Kevin Macdonald, had bet his agent £50 that he wouldn’t win.
Scarlett Johansson presents the award for Best Supporting Actor.
Rather delightfully (and appropriately for Christmas) it’s won by Bill Nighy for Love Actually.
Renee Zellweger presents the award for Best Foreign Language Film
It’s won by a British film, which seems rather parochially, although it is in a foreign language. In This World.
LL Cool J presents the award for Best Film Music.
It’s won by Gabriel Yared and T-Bone Burnett for Cold Mountain and accepted by the film’s director Anthony Minghella.
Emma Thompson presents the Michael Balcon award for Outstanding Contribution to British Cinema.
It’s awarded to Working Title.
Jason Isaacs and Joely Richardson present the award for Conematography.
First win of the night for The Return of the King and for Andrew Lesnie, who wasn’t even nominated at the Oscars. And who should really be called Andrew Lensie, am I right?
Andy Serkis presents the Carl Foreman award for a first-time filmmaker.
It’s won by Emily Young for Kiss of Life.
Holly Hunter presents the award for Production Design
It’s won by William Sandell for Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, but since he’s not there to accept it, a producer does so on his behalf, and then proceeds to forget the name of the film’s art director for an agonisingly long moment.
The Chairman of Orange introduces the Orange Film of the Year award.
It’s presented by Alicia Silverstone (the ‘delectable’ Alicia Silverstone as he puts it).
And it’s won, somewhat inevitably, by The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
And that’s the last award in this half of the show. This time I really do have no idea if I have the rest of in anywhere, so the rest of the show will remain a mystery, but it was lovely to find this as an extra treat.
After this, there’s trailers for Sea of Souls and Bella and the Boys.
Then the TiVo recording stops, and when the menu times out, there’s a bit of programming from Paramount Comedy. There’s the end of an episode of Roseanne. A trailer for Sex and the City.
Then a weird short cartoon, The Cloth, whose premise seems to be ‘what if priests, but they were like New York cops’. The credits say it was ‘Performed by The Hollow Men’ but that leaves me none the wiser.
Then the recording stops shortly into an episode of Rhoda, a show I wouldn’t have minded seeing again.
Merry Christmas. As a special Christmas present, here’s one of my recently discovered stash of recordable DVDs, and I have to say, when I saw what it was, I might have gasped.
It’s the 76th Academy Awards, Oscar Night 2004.
On BBC One this time, with live coverage of the ceremony, once again presented by Jonathan Ross.
In the studio, it’s a very Light Ent set of guests, with Rob Brydon
On the red carpet is Tom Brook, no longer relegated to the top of the Roosevelt Hotel like last year. He talks to Pierce Brosnan, and even asks him “who are you wearing?” which seems like the least Tom Brook question to ask.
Then the ‘Countdown to Oscars’ starts, always my least favourite part of the show. It starts with Billy Bush giving a limo ride to the youngest ever Best Actress nominee, Keisha Castle-Hughes. She’s 13 years old, and in the limo she doesn’t look 13 at all, but as soon as they get out of the limo she absolutely does, as she’s a foot and a half shorter than he is. By the way, wasn’t Billy Bush the guy who was on the infamous ‘Access Hollywood’ tape with Donald Trump? It’s a good thing Keisha’s mother was sitting right next to her in the limo. He asks Keisha who she’s excited to see, and she says Johnny Depp, “because he’s a stud.” Those were the days.
Uh-Oh, it’s Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins. I bet they’re pissed about something.
Scarlett Johansson is nominated for Lost in Translation.
Uh-Oh, it’s Will Smith. I hope he’s not pissed about anything.
Naomi Watts is nominated for 21 Grams (not a film you hear much about these days). Her Plus One is Heath Ledger.
Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson do a bit if comedy to help promote their movie Starsky and Hutch. It’s fairly amusing, but ends on a slightly sour note, as Wilson looks at the interviewer’s cleavage and asks “are they real?”
Jude Law was nominated for Cold Mountain.
Winner last year Catherine Zeta Jones, and her Plus One.
Bill Murray is nominated for Lost in Translation
Sofia Coppola is the first American woman nominated for Best Directory, for Lost In Translation. (The two previous nominees where Lina Wertmuller from Germany and Jane Campion from Australia).
Johnny Depp was nominated for his role in Pirates of the Caribbean, which a lot of people found surprising.
In the auditorium, Alec Baldwin is asked about his character in The Cooler, and he says he copied his performance from Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast – to the amusement of Sir Ben sat just in front.
Tom Hanks is always great. He’s asked about nominee Charlize Theron, who he cast in That Thing You Do. “In your directorial debut, that thing you do, you cast Charlize Theron as the drummer’s girlfriend. Would it be safe to say that you pretty much taught her everything she knows about acting?” Hanks responds “Charlize Theron was the first person to walk into the casting session and the first person cast in the movie. I think she can do it all herself and she did that day.” which is a perfect answer to a silly question. He’s also asked what the secret is to having a fun time at the Oscars. “It is understanding that it is very possible you could at any moment stand up and say something so stupid it will haunt you for the rest of your career. So as long as you have that in the back of your head, you’ll be fine.”
Billy Bush is being just a little creepy when he sits next to Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger. Especially after he’s ejected Renee Zellweger’s father from his seat.
There’s Elijah Wood and Peter Jackson. They’re not sure whether it’s going to be a good night for them “Favourites have a habit of not coming through” says Jackson. Let’s see how it goes when the ceremony proper kicks off.
Billy Bush does redeem himself for me at the end of the pre-show when he goes and finds Keisha Castle-Hughes, and brings her to meet Johnny Depp, who’s charming and polite. This was lovely.
Then the ceremony proper starts, with an introduction from Sean Connery.
Then there’s an intro movie, starring host Billy Crystal.
He finds a golden ring in his popcorn, and it transports him into the movies. There’s a Terminator reference right there, for no particular reason. Billy Crystal does seem to spend a lot of this intro naked, by the way.
He does Gollum. “I haven’t been to the Oscars since they were taken over by the evil wizards.” “You mean the Orcs?” “No, the Weinsteins.”
He’s naked again (with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton).
Oh dear – he does Sammy Davis Jr. This is 2004, people, surely someone should have said something,
Much funnier is Michael Moore’s appearance, calling for an end to the fictitious war in Middle Earth, until he’s stomped by an elephant.
There’s even an appearance from Jack Nicholson as Gandalf.
After this, Billy delivers his opening monologue, and it’s very good. Lots of fun. He even sits on Clint Eastwood’s lap.
The whole opening monologue, courtesy of the Oscars themselves.
The musical director for tonight’s ceremony is Marc Shaiman
The first award is for Best Supporting Actor, presented by Catherine Zeta Jones.
It’s won by Tim Robbins, for Mystic River.
Ian McKellen introduces the first Best Film nominee, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
Angelina Jolie presents the award for Art Direction.
It’s won by Grant Major, Dan Hennah and Alan Lee for Return of the King.
There’s a nice piece of comedy between Billy Crystal and Robin Williams before he presents the award for Best Animated Feature.
It’s won by Andrew Stanton for Finding Nemo.
Renee Zellweger presents the award for Best Costume Design.
It’s won by Ngila Dickson and Richard Taylor for Return of the King.
Nicholas Cage introduces the next Best Picture Nominee, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.
Chris Cooper presents the award for Best Supporting Actress.
The winner is Renee Zellweger for Cold Mountain.
Tom Hanks introduces a tribute to Bob Hope.
More Starsky and Hutch promotion from Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, during which they also present the award for Best Live Action Short.
It’s won by Aaron Schneider and Andrew J Sacks, and the speech names more people than every other speech of the night. He’s the first speech that actually gets played off. Usually that makes me cross, but this was so long that I was hoping for a trapdoor.
The winner of Best Animated Short is Adam Elliot for Harvie Krumpet.
Liv Tyler introduces the first nominated song of the night, from Cold Mountain, “You Will Be my Ain True Love”
Performed by Alison Krauss and Sting.
The next song follows, also from Cold Mountain, “The Scarlet Tide” is performed by Alison Krauss and Elvis Costello.
Next, a third nominated song, Annie Lennox performs “Into the West” from The Return of the King.
Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith present the award for Best Visual Effects
It’s won by Jim Rygiel, Joe Letteri, Randall William Cook and Alex Funke for The Return of the King.
Jennifer Garner presents a look at the Scientific and Technical awards.
Next, Jim Carrey comes on and tries to do an impression of Inspector Clouseau and , less advisedly, an impression of Kato.
He’s there to present an honorary Oscar to Blake Edwards, and it’s rather delightful. I can’t work out if the whole thing was performed live, or if a small part of it was pre-filmed, possibly with a stuntman, but it’s huge fun.
Next, Bill Murray introduces a clip from Lost in Translation.
Scarlett Johansson presents the Best Makeup award.
It’s won by Richard Taylor and Peter “Swords” King for The Return of the King.
The next presenters are John Travolta and Sandra Bullock.
They present the award for Sound Mixing to the team for The Return of the King.
The award for Best Sound Editing is next, and since Return of the King wasn’t nominated in that category, but it does go to a King – Richard King for Master And Commander: The Far Side of the World
Julia Roberts presents a special tribute to Katherine Hepburn.
Oprah Whinfrey presents a clip from Mystic River.
Diane Lane and John Cusack present the award for Documentary Short Subject.
It’s won by Maryann DeLeo for Chernobyl Heart.
Naomi Watts and Alec Baldwin present the Documentary Feature award.
It’s won by Errol Morris and Michael Williams for The Fog of War. He makes a slightly political comment, and afterwards, Billy Crystal quips “I can’t wait for his tax audit.”
There’s the traditional speech by the Academy president, Frank Pierson. He pays tribute to Gregory Peck, who died recently, which leads into the In Memoriam section.
Sting and Phil Collins present the award for Best Original Score
It’s won by Howard Shore for The Return of the King.
Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore present the award for Best Editing.
It’s yet another win for The Return of the King, for editor Jamie Selkirk.
Jamie Lee Curtis introduces another nominated song. From a film which happens to be directed by her husband Christopher Guest.
It’s “A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow” from A Mighty Wind, and it’s performed, in character, by Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara. It’s written by Michael McKean and Annette O’Toole.
Then the final nominated song is from Belleville Rendez-vous.
Jack Black and Will Ferrell present the award for Best Song. During which they reveal that the music the orchestra play to get winners off the stage has lyrics, and they proceed to sing “You’re Boring”.
The winners of the award are Fran Walsh, Annie Lennox and Howard Shore for Into the West from The Return of the King.
Even the usually reclusive Fran Walsh says a few thank-yous.
Charlize Theron presents the award for Best Foreign Language film.
It’s won by Canada for The Barbarian Invasions, who thank Return of the King for not being eligible.
Jude Law and Uma Thurman present the award for Best Cinematography.
In another Hobbit-free set of nominations, it’s won by Russell Boyd for Master and Commander.
Francis Ford Coppola and Sofia Coppola present the award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
In a surprising twist, it’s won by Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens for The Return of the King.
Tobey Maguire presents a clip from Seabiscuit.
Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins present the award for Best Original Screenplay.
The winner is Sofia Coppola for Lost In Translation.
Tom Cruise presents the award for Best Director.
It’s won by Peter Jackson for The Return of the King. I wonder if he was sitting there wondering if this was the one they don’t give to the film – he’s probably grown up like I did seeing Steven Spielberg get snubbed time after time.
Adrian Brody presents the award for Best Actress. In a reference to his kiss with Halle Berry, he takes a spurt of mouth freshener before he announces the winner.
Who is Charlize Theron for Monster.
And, tragically, that’s where this recording ends – a four hour limit on DVDs. Perhaps one day I’ll find the last couple of awards on a disc somewhere.
Next, slightly randomly, is the first episode of the second series of Chef! – A River Runs Thru It.
Things are getting fraught in the kitchen. Gareth Blackstock fires one of his chefs, when, as his sous chef tells him, he needs more cooks.
While leafing through CVs, he’s reminded of a great chef whose food he once sampled, and he finds out he’s got a small restaurant nearby, so they visit. Gustave Laroche turns out to be a man called Gary who had to pretend he was French in order to be taken seriously. He’s played by Ian McNeice. He’s a bit rough and ready, but his food is divine, so they hire him.
Gareth leaves the kitchen in Gustave’s hands and has a holiday, going fishing.
It’s not his natural habitat.
Back at the restaurant, it looks like Gustave is a drunk.
It looks like Janice is rather better at fishing than Gareth.
Some of the kitchen staff would prefer Gustave to be fired, until they taste his cooking, at which point they agree to help sober him up.
To make matters worse, there’s a health inspection.
The episode ends with Gareth and co going along to Gustave’s Alcoholics Anonymous to support him.
The Christmas treats continue, with another rediscovered DVD.
First, it’s Comic Relief University Challenge. It’s hosted by Angus Deayton.
It’s a competition between Gownies – former University students, versus Townies, who didn’t go to University.
On the Gownies side are David Baddiel
and Clive Anderson
On the Townies are Jeremy Beadle
and Johnny Vaughan
This is a lot of fun. There’s a question about who plays the Rhythm guitar on Ike and Tina Turner’s Nutbush City Limits. The Gownies give the answer Marc Bolan, which Angus says is correct, then Danny Baker objects and says it isn’t Marc Bolan. “Objection. It isn’t Marc Bolan. Marc Bolan used to say it was Marc Bolan, but it is not Marc Bolan.” “But how do you know it is?” “Ike Turner, Great rhythm guitarist. What did he say? You take this one, Marc. I don’t think he did. Turner was a rhythm guitarist. Marc Bolan loved it.”
In the end, the Townies win by a narrow margin, and they’re quite happy about it.