Blue Peter – The Merry Widow – The Man in the Iron Mask – Return of the Goodies – Room 101 – Insomnia – 30 Dec 2005

Christmas week has been a bit packed, and today’s no exception.

The first recording starts with some CBBC continuity, as Simon talks to a boy who reads a poem he had published in a book. But when asked if he’d like to be a poet when he grows up, the boy says he’d rather be a professional footballer for Liverpool.

Then, it’s Blue Peter, with their review of the year. Starting with Zoe Salmon’s first appearance the previous Christmas.

Simon Thomas left the show, and got a bit emotional.

Gethin also joined the show, and is unveiled while dressed as Batman in this superhero bit.

Meg has puppies.

Matt gets a bit upset with Zoe when they train for a ballroom dancing competition, and she keeps leading him.

There’s a montage of Gethin puking during flights.

I hope he didn’t also puke whilst inside a Dalek.

Zoe does a sort of Faking It bit where she has to teach a class of kids. It was everything I hate about classrooms.

Ewan McGregor tells the story of how he got a Blue Peter badge when he was young.

Dawn French sings with McFly (and I honestly thought that was Mel Smith at first).

A very brief glimpse of Christopher Eccleston.

Hayden Christensen helps Konnie make a cake.

Gethin plays violin in the Blue Peter Prom, and duets with Nicola Benedetti.

Matt eats a fried tarantula.

Zoe dances the can-can. At one point, the men pull the big pants off the women. This is Gethin’s reaction.

David Tennant is in the studio to announce the winner of the Create a Monster competition – the winner was The Absorbaloff, which will appear in an episode next year.

Matt performs on the Trapeze.

Media Centre Description: The team look back over an action-packed year which included the 4,000th edition, the departure of Simon Thomas, the arrival of Zoe Salmon and Gethin Jones, Meg’s puppies and the death of Smudge the cat. There are magic moments from the summer expedition to Japan, a selection of the top presenter challenges and a look ahead to some of the treats in store for 2006.

BBC Genome: BBC One London – Friday 30th December 2005 – 10:10

After this, there’s a trailer for The Story of Tracy Beaker. Then the recording stops after a few minutes of Spirit – Stallion of the Cimarron.

The next recording starts with the end of Broadway: The American Musical with Danny Kaye doing one of his patter songs.

There’s trailers for a repeat of The Lost Prince, and Judge John Deed.

Then, Lesley Garrett introduces a performance of Franz Lehar’s The Merry Widow.

I did enjoy this, especially since I’ve performed in an amateur production of this – in fact it was the first musical production I ever did, shortly after I met my (then future) wife. I was only in the chorus, but it was a lot of fun.

Media Centre Description: Lesley Garrett stars in the Welsh National Opera’s production of Franz Lehar’s operetta.

BBC Genome: BBC Two England – Friday 30th December 2005 – 12:20

After this, there’s trailers for Return of the GoodiesThe Queen By Rolf, and an ad for BBC Red Button. Then the recording stops after a few minutes of an episode of Flog It from Brighton (in a change from the billed programme).

The next recording was edited, and it’s the film The Man in the Iron Mask. In my head, I always mix this up with The Count of Monte Cristo despite not having read either. At least they’re by the same author.

It shows how little I knew about this story that the fact it’s a story about the Musketeers was a surprise to me. Gabriel Byrne plays D’Artagnan, now captain of the Musketeers.

Gerard Depardieu is Porthos, spending his time partying with women.

Jeremy Irons plays Aramis, now a priest.

John Malkovich plays Athos, now retired from the Musketeers

He has a son, Raoul, played by Peter Saarsgard. He’s going to join the Musketeers, and he in love.

His fiancee is Christine, played by Judith Godreche.

Unfortunately, Christine catches the eye of the young King Louis XIV, played by Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s definitely a bad king. When told the people in Paris are starving, and rioting, he orders rotting food to be sent to them. He also orders Aramis to find out who the secret general of the Jesuits is, because the Jesuits have been condemning the King. And even when D’Artagnan gives him advice on helping the people, he ignores it. It’s all “Let them eat cake” with him.

Nice to see Hugh Laurie among the king’s advisers.

Because the king wants Christine, he sends Raoul to fight in the Dutch War, where he’s killed in the fighting. Athos holds the King responsible, and comes to kill him, but D’Artagnan stops him.

Aramis summons the other musketeers to a meeting and drops a bombshell. He is the secret general of the Jesuits who the King wants killed. He tells the others he has a plan, to replace King Louis. Only D’Artagnan refuses, as he’s sworn an oath to the King.

Aramis’ plan involves the eponymous man in the iron mask, an unknown man who has been held in prison for years, always wearing the iron mask.

The musketeers plan to spring him involves Aramis pretending to be a fat italian. And when he gets into the cell with the unknown man, he reveals that his huge girth was actually a dead body, dressed up to look like the unknown man, complete with mask. Sadly, we don’t get to see how he manages to then strap the prisoner to himself to escape, but that probably took ten minutes or more. It’s a neat plan, as he tells the prison guards that the dead man died of the plague, and so they burn the body.

They bring the man back to a farm, take off the mask, and when he’s cleaned up, he looks familiar.

Aramis explains that the man with them, Phillippe, is actually the identical twin of King Louis. His father, knowing that feuding brothers can often destroy a monarchy, ordered that the younger twin, Phillippe, be taken away and hidden, and nobody was to know who he was. His mother, Queen Anne, was told he had died. Aramis was the one who was ordered to hide him.



On his deathbed, the old King told Louis and Queen Anne of Phillippe’s existence. She wished to restore Phillippe’s birthright. (She’s played by Anne Parillaud).

But Louis is now King, and fears a rival. He can’t kill him, because of the sanctity of royal blood, so he orders Phillippe imprisoned in the iron mask, and it’s Aramis who has to carry this out.


Meanwhile at the palace, it looks like D’Artagnan and Queen Anne are in love, and have been for a while.

Christine, Raoul’s fiancee, is now with the King, but she receives a letter sent by Raoul before he died. She’s having doubts about the King, but he tells her he ordered Raoul to be kept away from the front, and can’t explain how his generals disobeyed his order.

The Musketeers plan to switch Phillippe for Louis at a costume party. It seems to be going smoothly, the switch happens, and Phillippe takes Louis’s place. Queen Anne attends the party. Aramis has already told her about Phillippe, so she knows she’s meeting her lost son for the first time.

Christine disrupts the party. She’s got proof that Louis ordered Raoul directly to the front lines so he would be killed. Phillippe tells her “However I have wronged you, I will make amends.” D’Artagnan watches this, and grows suspicious – the King is never this nice to people.

He asks Phillippe to come with him for his safety. Meanwhile the musketeers are swashbuckling away beneath the castle, trying to take King Louis away. They almost make it, but the corps of musketeers stop them leaving, and D’Artagnan brings Phillippe there. There’s a standoff, ending with the musketeers getting away, but the King remaining. So at last we get a scene where Louis and Phillippe meet each other, as is the law in all double films. It’s done well here, with one of them passing behind the other, with decent shadows and a camera move.

The King orders D’Artagnan to hunt down the other musketeers, and orders Phillippe back to the prison and the mask. There’s a scream from Christine’s quarters, and D’Artagnan discovers she’s killed herself.

The musketeers find a note from D’Artagnan giving them information about where Phillippe is being held, and saying he will delay the changing of the guard to give them time to rescue him. They think it’s a trap, but go anyway.

They free Phillippe from his cell, but getting out of the prison is going to be tricky, as all the exits are blocked, and the King himself has brought troops to stop them. D’Artagnan hasn’t betrayed them, but the king knew he would lead him to them. They’re trapped with no hope of escape. Phillippe tells them to bargain his life for theirs. But D’Artagnan says “I cannot do it. Even if I could give up my king, I could never give up my son.” Yes, D’Artagnan is actually the father of Louis and Phillippe. It’s like Darth Vader in reverse. “I never knew you existed” he tells Phillippe, “and I never felt pride as a father, until this moment.”

“If we must die, let it be like this. One for all, and all for one.” God, this is stirring stuff.

They face off against a lot of guns. The young musketeers are reluctant to fire against these legendary men, and their own captain, but the King forces them. It looks like they’re not aiming, but there’s a lot of shot being fired here.

The corridor is filled with smoke, and there’s a long pause before it clears enough to see that they are all still walking, albeit rather slowly.

D’Artagnan’s lieutenant raises his sword, then holds his hand to his heart, indicating he won’t attack, and his men do the same.

The King isn’t having any of it, and attacks with a knife. D’Artagnan knocks him away, but he recovers, and attacks again. D’Artagnan gets between him and Phillippe and gets stabbed.

He dies. Phillippe says “You were the one in the mask.”

The King’s troops break through the door, and see the King, with the musketeers, and a man in the iron mask. “You’ll put this madman where no-one can hear his insanity. Let him be fed by a deaf mute. But feed him well.”

I guess they took Phillippe’s words to D’Artagnan literally, for the design of his gravestone.

“The prisoner in the iron mask was never found. It was whispered among his jailers that he received the royal pardon and was taken to the country where he lived quietly, visited often by the Queen. The King known as Louis the 14th brought his people food, prosperity, and peace, and is remembered as the greatest ruler in the history of his nation.”

Well, I had a great deal of fun with that film. I suspect it diverged from the source text by quite a lot, but it was very entertaining, and even quite emotional at times. I did think Christine didn’t have much of a character, and wasn’t given much to do, but apart from that, I really enjoyed it.

Media Centre Description: Alexandre Dumas’s swashbuckling tale about the plan of the retired Three Musketeers to oust the cruel French ruler, King Louis XIV, from the throne and replace him with an imprisoned man whose true identity is unknown. D’Artagnan, still serving the king as Captain of the Musketeers, is forced to turn against his friends.

BBC Genome: BBC One London – Friday 30th December 2005 – 15:05

The next recording starts with the end of The Gardener’s Year: Winter. There’s trailers for Balderdash & Piffle and Who Do You Think You Are? and an ad for the FA Cup coverage featuring Lennie James.

There’s also a trailer for Three Men in a Boat and another for Balderdash & Piffle.

Then, we have Return of the Goodies. It’s a look back at the Goodies, and opens with a newsflash from Huw Edwards – continuing a tradition of the show having real newsreaders joining in the comedy.

He says the Millennium Dome had disappeared, and underneath, a landfill of old BBC properties has been discovered, so the show opens with a lovely recreation of the original show’s main set.

Graeme has some unconvincing sideburns when he enters.

There’s lots of clips, reminiscences from the three of them, plus lots of other talking heads. John Cleese’s contribution looks like it came from the earlier Comedy Connections which I looked at on one of my DVDs.

Here’s TV’s Emma Kennedy

Martin Freeman: “It was a real early experience for me of thinking I was going to die of a heart attack.”

Ronni Ancona was a huge fan as a child.

Jon Culshaw: “The Goodies were completely indestructible, weren’t they? A live action cartoon mixed in with these incredible, surreal flights of fantasy.”

Tony Blackburn talks about being the butt of the joke many times on the show.

Rolf Harris talks about being told by members of the public that they enjoyed his appearance in the show, despite it not being him in the episode that was all about him.

Phill Jupitus: “The Goodies were so of their time just capturing that perfect little bubble, and so belonged to that decade.”

David Quantick: “The Goodies were the first people to really understand that newsreaders were celebrities in themselves, but they used them as comedy characters.”

Steve Punt: “The public love seeing celebrity guests out of context and in other people’s shows.”

Mark Gatiss: “There’s a brilliant sense of the old BBC there, of people from different disciplines and serious disciplines wanting to join in the fun. And as a kid, again, you get that. You get it sort of transmitted to you, osmotically, but that the whole of TV centre was in on the joke.”

Sanjeev Kohli: “Novelty records are mostly shit, but Funky Gibbon was funky. It was, actually, funky.”

Bruce Dessau talks about the comedy revolution in the 60s.

David Gooderson was a Footlights member during that time. He also played Davros on Doctor Who, during the season when Douglas Adams was script editor. I wonder if that was coincidence?

David Hatch talks about the Footlights tour of America.

Comedy God Barry Cryer talks about the pre-Python, pre-Goodies show At Last the 1948 Show.

Producer John Howard Davies: “There was more money than we knew what to do with. We’d just colorized and it was a period of huge expansion with the BBC at the time.”

There’s a brief glimpse behind the scenes of one shot. A train shooting past was actually a facade on a removals truck. Today you’d just matte one in. This is lovely.

Director Jim Franklin talks about having to take precautions to protect the Goodies against “some of the things that they inevitably had to do.”

Guest Star Stanley Baxter was a little sceptical about playing a very sterotypical English view of a scotsman.

Some of the team blame their moving from BBC to ITV on the BBC’s production of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. They say they were told that that production had taken up all the budget.

Veteran director Bob Spiers: “It was slightly more difficult for an organization like LWT to make The Goodies. They may, I think, have slightly underestimated the complexity of the show. It is a hugely complex show and I think maybe they kind of didn’t quite get that.”

BBC Genome: BBC Two England – Friday 30th December 2005 – 21:00

After this there’s another trailer for Balderdash & Piffle.

The next recording starts with trailers for the Stephen Poliakoff drama Friends and CrocodilesWho Do You Think You Are? and The Thick of It.

Then, an episode of Room 101 presented by Paul Merton.

His guest is Phil Collins.

His contenders for Room 101 are TV evangelists, small swimming trunks, bad instruction manuals, TV List Shows, and the Gallagher Brothers. And, seemingly unrelated to any of his choices, they bring out a drum kit so that Phil can do the famous drum break from In The Air Tonight. I mean, I’ve no objection, since it’s great, but it definitely felt like it was just squeezed in with little context.

Media Centre Description: Paul Merton hosts the chat show in which guests are given the opportunity to rid the world of the things they hate. Phil Collins suggests TV evangelists and the Gallagher brothers.

BBC Genome: BBC Two England – Friday 30th December 2005 – 22:30

The next recording opens with the end of the local news, and the national weather. Then trailers for the FA Cup and Sweeney Todd.

Then, another movie. It’s Insomnia, one of Christopher Nolan’s early films, and one of the few he didn’t either write or co-write.

Al Pacino plays Will Dormer, a cop from Los Angeles who is sent up to a small town in Alaska, called Nightmute, to help investigate the murder of a girl, Kay Connell, who was beaten to death, then dumped, with no forensic evidence.

He’s there with his partner Hap, played by Martin Donald. We learn that Dormer is being investigated by Internal Affairs back in LA, and is thinking about giving evidence to them, which would bring a lot of Dormer’s cases under scrutiny, and it’s possible Dormer was less than scrupulous in his methods when putting his suspects away.

Hilary Swank plays Ellie Burr, a young officer who is assigned to help them.

They pull in the girl’s boyfriend, who seems shifty and doesn’t have an alibi. Dormer doesn’t think he’s the killer.

They get a lead when some kids find Kay’s schoolbag in a fishing cabin near the beach where Kay was found. There’s some books, a diary, and a pencil case. But to possibly draw the killer out, Dormer suggests broadcasting on all the local news that they are looking for the bag Kay left the party with. He tells them to fill the back back up with books, put it back where it was found, and see if the killer comes to recover it.

They put the cabin under surveillance, and spot someone heading there, but a noisy bullhorn alerts the killer, and he runs. They pursue him into thick fog, the suspect shoots at one of the policemen, wounding him in the leg, and Pacino chases him. It’s very disorienting, Pacino sees a figure in the distance, shoots, only to discover when he reaches him, that he’s shot his partner Hap. Hap is scared, thinking Dormer shot him deliberately because he was going to testify against him.

He tells the other officers that Hap was shot by the suspect. He’d already picked up the gun the suspect dropped when he shot the other officer. He uses that to shoot a bullet into a dead dog, which he can then substitute with the bullet that killed Hap.

His judgement is also impaired by the 24 hour sunlight – this far north, the sun never fully goes down, and he can’t sleep – although you’d think maybe a hotel in this town might have better blackout blinds, or at the very least supply those nice sleep-masks.

He’s telephoned by a man who tells him he saw Will shoot his partner. He’s clearly the suspect they were following, and probably the man who killed Kay.

He needs to find out who this man is – He believes Kay must have known him. He practically bullies Kay’s best friend into giving him information but she doesn’t really know anything, except that Kay called him Brody, and that wasn’t his real name.

Will takes another look at the evidence from Kay’s backpack, when he receives another call from the killer. He notices the name fo the detective on the novel Kay was reading – J Brody. On the back, it says that the author, Walter Finch, lives in Alaska.

Will goes to the town where Finch lives, and breaks into his apartment. He doesn’t find much that’s useful, but he does find an author photograph that looks strangely like Robin Williams.

Finch returns to his apartment but can hear his dogs making unusual noises. Will hears him run and chases him, which leads to try to chase him across logs being floated down the river. Will almost drowns when he falls in and can’t get out, but eventually reaches the side.

He can see Finch but he’s too far away to chase.

Will returns to Finch’s apartment. While he’s there, Finch calls. He tells him they should meet tomorrow on a ferry. Before he leaves, Will hides Finch’s gun, the one he’s set up as the murder weapon for Hap, in Finch’s apartment, behind a heating vent.

Will meets Finch on the ferry. Finch wants help to deflect suspicion onto Kay’s ex boyfriend. He uses the Internal Affairs investigation as leverage. “Every one of those scumbags you put away will be back on the street before you even go on trial. With Hap gone you’re free and clear, why mess with that?” Will tells him they know Kay had all his books, and they’ll bring him in for questioning. He gives him advice on what to say. Finch wants to drive suspicion onto Kay’s abusive ex, Randy. Will tells him it’s better if the police find Randy on their own. When he leaves the ferry, he shows Will that he’s recorded the whole conversation, a “wildcard” he calls it.

Finch calls Will later and tells him what happened with Kay. And the reason he beat her to death? “I really wanted to comfort her, hold her. You know? I kissed her and got a little excited. She started laughing at me. She wouldn’t stop laughing. You ever had somebody laugh at you when you when you’re like that? Well, I mean when you really vulnerable, laughing their ass off at you. Someone you thought respected you. I just want to stop her laughing, that’s all. And then, you know. I hit her a couple of times, you know, just to, you know, just to stop her, let her know a little respect.” It’s literally that adage: “Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them.”

Finch comes in to be interviewed. Ignoring Will’s advice, he definitely wants to put the ex boyfriend Randy in the frame, saying that his abusive behaviour got worse, then he tells them that Kay was scared because Randy had shown her a gun. And he specifically looks at Will when he tells them that Randy hid the gun behind a heating vent, indicating he’d found the gun that Will planted there, and had moved it to Randy’s place.

There’s a tense scene where Will rushes over to Randy’s house to try to find the gun, but it’s not behind the heating vent, and the other officers arrive with the search warrant, and start searching the house while he’s hiding. But he’s able to appear as if he’s just arrived when they’re all distracted by the discovery of the gun hidden in some motor oil.

Ellie has been running the investigation into Hap’s shooting, and she visits the scene again, and discovers a bullet casing from the gun that Will fired at Hap. It’s a different calibre to the bullet that Will substituted into evidence, but it raises her suspicions.

She checks her own dissertation, about one of Will’s old cases, which reveals that he used a backup weapon, a 9mm gun, which matches the casing she found.

In what seems like his last night in the hotel, he’s making a lot of noise trying to block the window, so the manager comes to see him. He talks with her and confesses that once he fabricated evidence to ensure that a paedophile who had tortured a small child would get convicted.

Next day, Ellie goes to meet Finch at his lake house to collect the letters he said Kay sent him. Will goes to Finch’s apartment again, finds a book jacket that says where his lake house is, and then sees the letters from Kay are there. So Ellie is walking onto a trap.

Ellie arrives at the lake house. Finch makes small talk, and seems to look around for the letters. He pointedly opens a drawer, leaves it open so Ellie can see in, and moves on. It has a girl’s dress in a plastic bag in it – Kay’s missing dress. Ellie tries to casually ready her gun, but Finch bashes her on the head.

Will arrives a little later, confronts Finch who still tries to manipulate him, and then gets away. Instead of pursuing him, Ellie takes the time to question Will over whether he killed Hap. I know that’s the thing the film is most interested in, but I do think pursuing the murderer might have taken precedence. So Finch has time to get to a boat house, grab a shotgun, and start shooting up the house.

Will gets into the boat house from underneath (a nice reflection of the way Finch escaped the boat house near the start of the film) and they fight. Finch shoots Will with Ellie’s gun, but Will shoots Finch with his shotgun, and he doesn’t come back from that, falling into the water and slowly sinking.

Will is possibly dying from his wound when Ellie finds him. She tells him she can dump the bullet casing she found, nobody needs to know. He tells her not to. “Don’t lose your way.” Then “Let me sleep.”

Media Centre Description: Crime drama about a veteran LAPD detective who journeys to a small Alaskan town with his partner to investigate the murder of a 17-year-old girl. Evidence mounts up against a reclusive novelist, but the investigation is hampered by the region’s perpetual daylight which wreaks sleep-depriving havoc on the detective’s body clock and threatens his judgement.

BBC Genome: BBC One London – Friday 30th December 2005 – 23:10

After this, there’s trailers for Life on Mars, and Tittybangbang.

Then the recording just as Rome starts.


One comment

  1. I think I saw that Goodies tribute, but having seen the series now I suspect it shows up the old idea of “the memory cheats”.

    Insomnia I liked. The scene where Pacino goes to a restaurant and is told it’s Midnight or whatever and then runs down an empty street is my idea of a special effect.

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