Survivors – Chef! – Morecambe And Wise Christmas Special – The Wrong Trousers – tape 1629

This tape opens with some vintage Eastenders on UK Gold. It’s Christmas, so obviously something bad is going to happen. It’s the one where Mary the Punk’s father takes her baby and then has a car crash.

Then, it’s an episode of Survivors described as ‘those suffering from Post-Nuclear Tension’ by the announcer. It’s not nuclear, it was a plague. Grr.

This episode is Lights of London part 1. It opens with a surgeon in an operating room – with electricity – talking about needing another doctor. “Supposing she won’t come?” “She must be made to come.” It’s a bit foreboding.

Two strangers come to Greg and Jenny’s settlement, asking for Ruth, the Doctor. They say they’re from another settlement, some way away, and need a doctor, as there’s some kind of illness there. They tell them that Abby Grant is there, and has found her son. Reluctantly she agrees. Nadim Sawhala is one of the pair.

When she gets to their settlement, it’s only David Troughton. The couple are actually from London and are taking her there to help with their sickness.

There’s a rat problem in London.

And a creepy Roger Lloyd Pack problem.

She meets the apparent leader of the Londoners, Manny, played by Sydney Tafler.

It’s all a bit creepily polite. The episode ends with Greg and Charles arriving and being attacked by rats.

After this, recording continues for a bit with the start of an episode of For The Love of Ada.

Then, recording switches to a trailer for Christmas Day on BBC1.

There’s also a trailer for Lovejoy on Boxing Day.

Then we have an episode of Chef! Always nice to see my old school friend Claire Skinner.

“I hate seeing ingredients walking around.”

BBC Genome: BBC One – 24th December 1993 – 22:10

After this, there’s a trailer for Only Fools and Horses. Also a short trail for White Palace.

Then, the start of a news bulletin, leading with the story of three young children who were found alone in their house. “There was no sign of Christmas”.

After a bit of this bulletin, recording switches to the very end of Ghost.

There’s a trailer for A Fish Called Wanda and one for New Year’s Day.

Then, a vintage Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show.

There’s a running gag, where Elton John arrives to be a guest, and he’s sent all around the houses.

A guest appearance from Kenneth Kendal.

Guest Angharad Rees from Poldark.

There’s an appearance by Angela Rippon on a chorus line.

A cameo from James Hunt

Another Elton gag, this time featuring Dad’s Army. Wonderful.

A huge song and dance number, with a chorus of famous people doing There Is Nothing Like a Dame from South Pacific. There’s newsreaders Richard Whitmore and Richard Baker

Frank Bough and Eddie Waring

Film Critics Philip Jenkinson and Barry Norman

Michael Aspel

Peter Woods

Another guest is Francis Matthews

Penelope Keith’s meeting Eric and Ernie is a brilliant piece of writing, perfectly delivered.

The play what Ern wrote is Cyrano de Bergerac

Richard Briers and Paul Eddington make a nice cameo appearance.

I love the behind the scenes stuff in TVC.

Elton does his song in the end, but the audience has left.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 25th December 1993 – 23:10

After this, there’s a trailer for Boxing Day on BBC1

Then, a short programme, Watching Flocks, and contemplation of the meaning of Christmas.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 26th December 1993 – 00:20

Recording switches to BBC2 and we just catch the closing credits of Peter and the Wolf, co-directed by Spitting Image’s Roger Law.

There’s a trailer for Porgy and Bess.

Then, a festive ident

And the first showing on TV for the Wallace and Gromit film The Wrong Trousers.

I went to see the premiere of The Wrong Trousers by accident. It was shown at the London Film Festival before a showing of Kate Bush’s film The Line The Cross and the Curve. It brought the house down, and when Kate Bush arrived to introduce her film, she said, a little crestfallen, “I’m not sure I can follow that.”

It really is a brilliant film. Small and perfectly formed, with so much going on. So many good sight gags, like the piggy bank inside a safe behind a picture of a piggy bank.

I had this poster on a T-Shirt once.

Gromit’s hiding place

“Good Grief! It’s you!” as Feathers McGraw pulls off his disguise.

When Toy Story came out, director John Lasseter cited the train chase at the end of this as the inspiration for the end of Toy Story. They wanted a sequence that was as good as this one.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 26th December 1993 – 17:20

After this there’s a trailer for At Home with Vic and Bob. There’s also a trailer for The Seven Deadly Sins.

Then there’s the start of a production of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, and the tape ends after a few minutes of this.

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The Abyss – tape 1495

On today’s tape, The Abyss, James Cameron’s next film after Aliens. This is a presentation of the original cinema release on Channel 4, remarkable at the time because it was uncut, including one scene that was cut for UK cinema release.

It opens with the sound of sonar pings over the 20th Century Fox logo, and we’re immediately underwater on a nuclear submarine. It’s a scene that starts very similarly to an early scene in Close Encounters of the Third Kind as the sub’s sonar officer is tracking a target on sonar that doesn’t sound like anything they’ve seen before.

Pretty soon, whatever it is passes very close to the sub, and in its wake, the sub loses power,and generally starts having severe problems until it sinks with all hands aboard.

Cut to helicopters landing on a floating ocean platform, Lots of soldiery types getting off with equipment, and the crew of the platform don’t seem happy.

There’s a nice shot of loads of army boots stepping off the helicopters and walking away, followed by a pair of feet in high heels. This is Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio whose introduction in the movie is mostly from other people’s reactions to her. One of the crew says “Oh no, look who’s with them. Queen bitch of the universe.”

I’d question now why she would be wearing shoes like this. As we’ll learn, she doesn’t seem like the type who would wear shoes that are not the most convenient for the environment she’s going to. Perhaps she was brought at short notice from her office job where they have a dress code. Anyway, it’s a choice made for a visual shot, and the logic behind it is a little secondary.

Two kilometres beneath the floating platform is a submersible undersea oil drilling platform. The rig is run by Ed Harris, and the crew learn what’s afoot from a briefing by an army guy up top.

He tells them about the stricken US sub that was disabled near their rig, and they are the only team able to get to the sub in a reasonable time, because there’s a hurricane bearing down on them. They’re sending a team of marines down, led by Lt Coffey, played by Cameron regular Michael Biehn, and the drill crew have to help them get to the sub and find out what happened.

From the surface, Lindsey (Mastrantonio) calls Brigman (Harris) and berates him for letting the army take over her rig. When she rings off, he says “God I hate that bitch.” His colleage Hippy says “Probably shouldn’t have married her then.” It’s not a bad line, a vaguely funny way to establish their past,but Cameron really does love the word ‘bitch’ doesn’t he? See also Aliens and later in this movie.

There’s some expositional dialogue as Lindsey and the marines descend in their submersible, as she explains how long it’s going to take for them to equalise the pressure going down (8 hours) and returning to the surface (3 weeks!) They also talk about signs of hypoxia, mental instability caused by the pressure change. Trembling hands, muscle tremors. “One person in twenty goes buggo.” Biehn poo-poo’s her warnings saying they’ve all dived to depths like this. But as he’s unpacking, there’s definitely a shaky hand there.

Lindsey and Bud’s first encounter isn’t a happy one, as they both wind each other up. Bud is so angry that he takes off his chunky wedding ring and throws it into a chemical toilet. He instantly regrets this, and has to fish around in the thick blue goop to retrieve the ring. And if you watch the rest of the film closely, you’ll see that his hand is stained blue throughout the rest of the movie. It’s a lovely touch.

The crew and the army guys get ready to dive to the submarine to see what happened. As they’re setting up, we’re shown an experimental diving suit that uses an oxygenated flourocarbon liquid that allows you to breath with lungs full of fluid, letting you dive to much greater depths. They demonstrate this by taking Hippy’s pet rat (a recurring character) and putting it into the fluid, allowing it to breath. This is a scene that was cut from the UK cinema and DVD version of the movie, due to concerns by the BBFC that the rat was being treated cruelly.

While exploring the sub, there’s a couple of strange encounters. One of the drillers, Jammer, sees something glowy, and panics, messing up his breathing apparatus.

During the same excursion, Lindsey, in a submersible, also sees a strange glowing thing.

After the mission, everyone is a bit freaked out, and Coffey and his team are ordered to go to phase 2, so they take the main submersible back to the submarine, something which jeopardises the platform. They need the submersible to undock the umbilical cable that comes down from the surface ship, and a hurricane is coming in. I have to say, the exteriors up on the surface at this point are only a few steps away from a Crackerjack sketch with someone out of shot throwing buckets of water over the actors.

This is where the main jeopardy in the film starts, and I think it’s where the film really works well. The stakes are high to start with, and they just keep getting higher. The marines get back from their secret mission, the crew set about detatching the umbilical, but the hurricane has already set in on the surface and the umbilical is thrashing around, until the crane holding it can’t cope, and collapses. The tension here is brilliant, as the crew can only watch as the umbilical cable starts falling around them, and they know the huge crane is following, but they don’t know where it’s going to hit, until it comes crashing down a short distance away from them.

But then, just as that tension has released, the crane starts tipping forward, and falls over the edge of the eponymous abyss, and they realise it’s going to drag the platform over. The platform takes a real beating here, and there’s a ton of flooding, rushing to get to hatches, and Hippy has to take care of his rat.

To this day, I’ve no idea who Fiddler was, who dies when the compartment he’s in is flooded. Actually I find his name is Finler, and he’s played by Captain Kidd Brewer, who died shortly after the film, and to whom the film is dedicated, and who looks very similar to Leo Burmester as Catfish, who definitely doesn’t die here.

Bud himself almost gets trapped in a flooding passage, but manages to stop the door closing thanks to his wedding ring stopping the hydraulic door closing. It’s a brilliant callback to the earlier scene.

Once the immediate danger is past, the crew start making repairs, and while outside, Lindsey has another close encounter.

She’s convinced that whatever the creatures she’s seen are, they aren’t hostile. “Coffey looks and he sees Russians. He sees hate and fear. You have to look with better eyes than that.” I like that line.

Coffey, meanwhile, is busy. He’s brought back a warhead from the submarine, and is rewiring it. But Hippy uses his remote operated vehicle to see what they’re doing.

When Bud and Lindsey confront Coffey with the nuke, things get very heated, and Coffey is a hairsbreadth away from going full psycho on them. As the scene ends, and Bud and co leave the quarters, the camera pans down to show Coffey had his sidearm behind his back through the whole thing. I’m not sure his sidearm safety is top notch, though, as he has his finger on the trigger, but I’ll put that down to hypoxia. Biehn is really good here, as he is throughout. This really is his best performance, and it’s a shame he hasn’t had more opportunities to do this kind of work. And it’s interesting to consider that this movie could have swapped its lead actors, and it still would have totally worked. Harris and Biehn are that great type of actor where you don’t necessarily know ahead of time if they’re going to be a villain. They can play either.

Just after this scene, Biehn is watching the surveillance cameras, and listening to Hippy call him a “Grade A Squared Away Jarhead Robot”. You can see him thinking, and it’s not something simple like hatred or revenge, it’s a highly trained soldier thinking about his mission, and how to execute it in this newly hostile environment.

Next we come to a scene which literally changed the face of cinema. In the history of special visual effects, there are plenty of landmark scenes, and this one is pivotal in the use of computers to generate special effects imagery. A ‘water tentacle’ rises from the moon pool of the base, and starts looking round the base, when it finds Lindsey, Bud and others. Cameron very smartly begins the scene with a point of view of the tentacle as it’s roving the base, until it finds them, and there’s a lot of Spielbergian reaction shots before we get to see what they’re looking at.

Even today, this effect looks fine. It pretty much looks like you’d expect a water tentacle to look, and it’s very cleanly composited into the scene. All the lighting matches, and it moves fairly fluidly. Even when it mimics their faces, it still looks good. For such an old scene (this was 1989 remember) it holds up very well.

Cameron has said that he wanted to use CGI here partly because there wasn’t really any other way of doing it, and partly to assess the state of the art of CGI. He’s always been a technical filmmaker, and he started in effects himself, so he understands all the techniques available, so it’s no surprise that he wanted to push the limits of the technology of the time. And he’s said in interviews that this was a self-contained scene, which they could have dropped if it hadn’t worked. But it did, and it’s this work that gave Cameron the confidence to make his next film, Terminator 2, with its liquid metal Terminator, which he could hardly cut out if the effects couldn’t handle it.

Incidentally, historically, the team who worked on the effects for The Abyss described it as the last big optical show. Despite this showcase CGI scene at its heart, most of the effects in the film were achieved through the traditional means of optical printing and compositing. Digital compositing would become the norm very soon, and this film might mark the end of optical compositing.

“It went straight for the nuke and they think it’s cute” says Coffey to his men, and he decides to act. He rounds up Bud’s crew at gunpoint, and he’s particularly creepy about Lindsey. “This is something I’ve wanted to do since we first met” he says, and below the shot we hear him tearing something – it’s a piece of duct tape to put over her mouth. We’re relieved it’s not worse, but it’s still a notably misogynistic act, literally silencing the woman.

Coffey’s plan is to tie the nuke to big geek, Hippy’s remote camera vehicel, which has already been programmed to descend into the trench to try to get a glimpse of Lindsey’s aliens. Bud and co are locked up, unable to stop him, but rescue comes from an unexpected source. Jammer, the diver who was in a coma since his breathing apparatus was messed up when he panicked on the submarine, had woken up and overpowered the marine guarding their door. “I just figured I was dead back there when I saw that angel coming for me.”

Bud and Catfish can’t get to the moon poll through the base because Coffey has tied off the doors between them, so they have to swim between areas of the base underwater, without breathing apparatus.

They get halfway, and Catfish can’t go any further, so Bud goes alone to the moon pool, and there’s another great action sequence as Bud and Coffey fight, with Coffey having the upper hand as he also has a knife. Things are looking bad for Bud when we hear “HEY!” and Catfish is there to deliver a huge punch. Coffey thinks for a second about his chances against him, then cuts his losses and jumps into the submersible carrying Big Geek and the Nuke.

Now there’s a big chase. Bud swimming in a diving suit, Lindsey in the submersible, trying to stop Coffey releasing the ROV carrying the nuke. Kudos to Cameron for managing to make this as kinetic as it is without it seeming unlikely.

Bud and Lindsey eventually defeat Coffey, whose submersible loses power and drops into the trench, eventually getting crushed by the extreme pressure.

But now they have their own problem. Their sub is also damaged, and they’re quite a distance from the base, and there’s only one diving suit. So Lindsey, always the pragmatic engineer, says the only way is for her to drown, and for Bud to swim back to the base with her, and try to revive her. “The water’s only a few degrees above freezing, I’d go into deep hypothermia, my blood will go like ice water, my body systems will slow down, they won’t stop.” So she does, and it’s one of the best scenes in the movie. Mastrantonio plays it with genuine panic and fear. My only quibble is that I wouldn’t have wanted to wait in the sub for her to stop moving, I’d have preferred if they were to both swim out so at least Bud would have a head start.

 

There’s a lovely cut from inside the sub, and Bud screaming “Nooooo” to darkness, as we see Bud swimming towards us. We didn’t need to see any of the getting out of the sub, or most of the swim, it’s a nice bit of time compression.

Then, there’s a resuscitation scene. There’s a brilliant documentary about the making of this film, called Under Pressure, and it was made for the DVD release, quite a while after the film was finished, so the actors are able to be a little more honest about the experience. This was, famously, one of the most gruelling shoots in film history, so many of the scenes involving water, diving and generally being stuck in small spaces, and Cameron is reputed to be not the friendliest person on set. This resuscitation scene was the moment when Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio yelled at him “We’re not animals, you know.” The scene had been shooting for hours, and during this one take the camera ran out of film, and she just had enough.

I don’t like the climax of this scene, though. Bud won’t give up trying to revive Lindsey, and keeps going with the chest compressions, mouth to mouth and defibrilator, but the very end if this, he starts shouting “Goddammit you bitch you’ve never backed away from anything in your life now fight” and slaps her across the face. There’s the B word again. I’d have preferred a less violent approach, one that wasn’t so redolent of domestic violence. But that’s just me, a dreadful woolly liberal.

So now, with Lindsey saved, it’s down to the final act, as Bud has to don the fluid breathing dive suit we saw all the way back at the start of the movie, and dive down into the abyss to find the nuke and disarm it. This is really where the movie, in this theatrical version at least, kind of takes a left turn into a bit of a non sequitur. As Bud is diving, Lindsey has to keep talking to him, and my reaction the first time I saw it was that it was a bit risible. “I know you feel all alone in that dark, inky blackness…” didn’t feel like helping. There’s a bit more of this scene in the extended version, and I feel it works better given the time. Here it was slightly embarrassing.

There’s a genius piece of writing during the bomb disarming scene. During his dive, bud has been carrying a bright white flare for light, but it goes out just as he reaches the nuke. His backup light is a yellow chemical glow stick. So when he takes out the bomb mechanism and sees the two wires there’s a problem. “It’s the blue wire with the white stripe, not, I repeat, not the black wire with the yellow stripe.” Just brilliant.

Then, crisis averted, Bud doesn’t have enough oxygen to make it back, so he just waits, but his friends the underwater aliens come and get him and take him to their undersea world where they sing a song about how much it’s better, down where it’s wetter. No, wait, I think I’m confusing it with the Little Mermaid. In fact, they don’t do much with him at all. They give him an air-filled space to breath, show him his last message to Lindsey, and then take him home.

In the extended version, this whole scene is much longer, and plays into a much larger subplot in the movie, that of growing tension between the US and the USSR (remember this was 1989) and Bud sees news reports from all over the world of huge tidal waves growing out of the oceans and waiting, stopped, at the edge of major cities in the world. The aliens are showing how easily they could destroy mankind, and when he asks why they didn’t do it, that’s when they show him his message, acknowledging his sacrifice for them. It’s a way better ending for the film, and I’m fairly sure if Cameron hadn’t been under pressure from the studio to deliver a film of a certain length, its original theatrical run would have been far more successful. But at least we did finally get to see it. In fact, the extended version was released around the same time as this was showing on TV.

Instead, the ending we first got was this slight non sequitur, followed by the alien city rising up out of the water in another (I think) slightly misjudged scene, shot in bright daylight, where the beautiful bio-luminescence of the alien technology is lost, and it just looks like weirdly painted props.

So that’s The Abyss. I think the extended version is one of Cameron’s best films. Perhaps not quite up to Aliens or Terminator 2 but close.

After the film, recording continues for a time with the start of a programme called Violent Lives. Then the tape ends.

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It’s Garry Shandling’s Show – tape 1627

First on this tape, an episode of It’s Garry Shandling’s Show. There’s a new gardener, Lucas Death, who is literally Death.

Garry’s worried that he’s going to die, because this is the last episode ever, so he calls a friend, Bob Newhart.

But it’s too late, Garry’s dead.

Dabney Coleman reads Huck Finn at the funeral.

Tony Danza records his sitcom across the hall from Garry.

But then, the head of the network turns up and demands two more episodes. “I don’t care if you do a talent show, or a movie parody” he says.

Before the next episode, there’s the end of an episode of Night Court.

Then, more Garry Shandling. The cast (without Garry, who’s in a hot tub getting ready to do a show) are going to do a talent show. “A Talent Show. You’ve really hit bottom” says Mr Stravely the network executive.

Garry’s manager Brad Brillnick (played by Bruno Kirby) introduces the show.

The talent show might be disrupted by a Phantom who wants to make Garry’s wife Jessica Harper a star. She’s no newcomer to this, having starred in Brian de Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise.

Nobody wanted to see this – Leonard doing the Lambada.

So the Phantom gets Phoebe (Harper) to sing a song he’s written – actually YMCA, but done as a torch song. “They never understood my song. It was never a gay romp.”

The next episode is actually the last in the series (and the last ever) and as predicted two episodes ago, it’s a movie parody.

Leading to a guest appearance from Dan Aykroyd as Garry’s brother.

In place of Morgan Freeman, his driver Hoke is played by Paul Winfield.

I do love the meta driving through the set.

Hoke can’t read. “That’s OK. I’ve taught millions of kids to read through my opening titles. Really difficult words like ‘Zweibel'”

There’s a mention of ‘Art of the Deal’ by Donald J Trump now that Hoke can read. Just saying.

And that’s the end of Garry Shandling’s Show.

After this, there’s a very brief flash of World Chess Championships – Nigel Short v Garry Kasparov. That was clearly in the news at this time, since a previous tape had Nigel Short in a Heineken advert.

Then recording switches, to something I’d forgotten I’d ever recorded. It’s Maniac Mansion. A Lucasfilm TV production, co-created by Eugene Levy, and based on the Lucasarts Computer Game.

It’s a very meta show (like Garry Shandling). It opens with a 10th Anniversary Special, which then flashes back to explain, for instance, why one of the characters is a fly with a man’s head.

There’s quite a nice joke about some home movie taken on the grassy knoll during JFK’s assassination.

There’s another bit of Night Court before the next episode.

This episode is Flystruck, and features the fly/man hybrid (Uncle Harry) falling in love with another fly, and Aunt Idella (Harry’s husband) is upset about this.

The next episode, Trapped Like Rats, sees the family’s two ‘normal’ children, Ike and Tina, trapped in one of the experiments in the lab.

Next, in Love Thy Neighbour, the Edisons invite their rather stuck-up neighbours, the Pratts, to stay with them while their home is being remodelled.

The tape ends after this episode. I’m afraid I didn’t really bond with Maniac Mansion. I wonder if you’d like it more if you’d played the game, which I haven’t. Plus, the audience laughter has the slight smell of being fake. The look of the show tells me it wasn’t shot in front of an audience, and the sound of the laughter doesn’t sound as natural as when shows are shown to actual audiences.

In the adverts, there’s a lot of ads for those compilation albums. One of them, Hits from an American Diner, is filmed inside an Ed’s Diner, although not any of the ones I’m familiar with.

There’s also Young at Heart, which is one of those compilations that I actually bought. Tons of 80s classics, and I spent an enjoyable few hours driving to Dorset on holiday with my 14yo son, listening to these CDs because, for reasons I don’t quite understand, since it’s not like I’m playing them constantly in the house, he’s become quite a fan of 80s music. He confessed to me recently that A-ha’s Hunting High and Low is his favourite album. Which, given I think The Sun Always Shines on TV is one of the greatest pop songs ever written, was rather heartening to me. He was also surprised to hear the original versions of songs he’s only ever heard as covers, and has developed a taste for Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. Also Wham! and Gorillaz, who are definitely after my time, as I checked out of pop music around 1991 when I started listening exclusively to classical music and movie soundtracks., because those were the only CDs I was buying at the time. Young at Heart was probably what brought me back to listening to the pop music of my younger days.

 

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Doctor Who – tape 1498

Well here’s an interesting coincidence. It’s the William Hartnell story The Ark, which was only today being played on Twitch TV as part of their Doctor Who streaming marathon.

So now I’m a bit sad that I missed watching it with the chat stream, as it’s not one I’m very familiar with.

It opens with some animals in some kind of jungle setting – along with some funky looking creatures.

The Tardis lands, and out rushes new companion Dodo (Jackie Lane) followed by a rather gruff Stephen (Blue Peter’s Peter Purves) who is cross she didn’t wait until they’d checked if it was safe.

But Dodo knows it’s safe because she’s been there before. She thinks it’s Whipsnade Zoo – a lovely reference for me, as Whipsnade is the nearest zoo to where we live, and we’ve spent a lot of time there with the children.

But of course, it’s not Whipsnade. It’s somewhere else, as we see some kind of courtroom. A man has been found guilty of endangering everyone there, and his sentence – the lightest he can be given for whatever this crime was – is to be miniaturised for hundreds of years.

The Tardis crew are brought to the courtroom, learning that this is some kind of Ark ship, transporting what’s left of life on Earth to another planet where they will repopulate the planet.

Unfortunately, Dodo has a cold, and this soon starts infecting the crew of the ship, and it’s possibly fatal for them.

As monoids in particular start dropping like flies, Dodo hears some mournful drumming. “What’s that? It sounds like savages.” Actually it sounds like Timpani to me.

The court decides that the Tardis crew are guilty of infecting the Ark crew, and sentenced to be ejected into space. Luckily for them, the old leader, who has also been stricken by the infection, countermands the sentence and orders that the Doctor should be allowed to find a cure.

He sends Dodo to fetch some things from the Tardis. She says “OK” and he tells her, rather patronisingly, that when she returns he’ll teach her to speak properly. Strange to think there was a time when OK was new fangled youth-speak.

I like the use of high angle cameras to get a sense of the scale of the main set.

The illness is cured, and a vaccine developed to help the population, so the Doctor and friends leave the group. Feels like a very short story, though.

Except they then land back on the Ark. And it looks like it’s 700 years in the future. And the Monoids are now in charge, with the humans as servants.

The Doctor and friends are taken to the security kitchen. Something that tickled the people on Twitch, especially when it was discovered that the phrase “security kitchen” was blocked by the twitch chatbot moderation system.

The Doctor and Dodo are taken to the new planet to see what the inhabitants are like. It looks deserted, but foliage and curtains keep twitching, so I’m presuming they’re invisible.

God, the Monoids are rather horrible now they’re in charge. They’re going to blow up the human guardians when they leave to live on the new planet.

Luckily, because they’re so aggressive, they soon start fighting amongst themselves.

The Doctor discovers where the Monoids have hidden the bomb – in the head of a giant statue – and they manage to eject it into space before it explodes.

After this, recording switches, and I’m afraid it’s another bit of German-accented ‘adult’ entertainment. After a bit of that, the recording stops, and underneath, from UK Gold, a bit of an old John Wayne film, A Man Betrayed. The tape ends during this.

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mr don and mr george – tape 1486

Is this the only Absolutely spin-off?

Jack Docherty and Moray Hunter play their Donald and George characters, in mr don and mr george.

In the first episode, You Can Run… But You Can;t Hide Your Legs, Donald and George learn that Britain is at war with Iraq, and they’re scared of conscription, so they travel to Cardboard Suburbia.

They’re not successful at avoiding service, though

Jack Hedley plays a Spymaster, wanting to recruit Donald and George to MI5.

It all ends with Hedley admitting he was the 38th Man and shooting himself, with Donald and George getting splattered with an unfeasible amount of blood and guts.

The next episode is There’s Been a Thing. Donald has a date, but he’s out of practice. So he tries to pratice with George.

The actual date doesn’t go well, thanks to George.

Are they going to do the Idea light in every episode?

There’s a shock ending.

Next it’s You’ve Eaten My Future. Donald spends all the company’s money on lots of breakfast.

Yes, I think they are going to do the idea thing every time.

Donald makes good use of the boxes.

Holy cow – there’s Ben Miller!

The next episode is No Wasps.

Lightbulb moment present and correct.

The next episode here is This is This… George pawns Donald.

The old couple that buy him have a secret.

That’s the last episode here. My tape is missing one of the episodes, but they’re all on Channel 4 if you’re really interested. I’m afraid they didn’t really work for me.

After this, recording continues for a bit, with the start of LA Law, then recording stops, and underneath there’s a bit of a documentary called Motorcity Music Years featuring a lot of bands that started in Brimingham. Not just the usual suspects, like Slade

But also Joan Armatrading. No revelations about Valerie Singleton here, though.

The tape ends just as this programme ends.

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City Slickers – Rising Sun – tape 1484

A couple of movies on this tape, starting with City Slickers. Billy Crystal is suffering a midlife crisis.

He’s been drifting at work, so boss Jeffrey Tambor takes away some of his authority, making him feel emasculated.

His friend is Bruno Kirby, who’s handling his by dating ever younger women.

Patricia Wettig plays the obligatory long-suffering wife.

Daniel Stern is another friend, and the comedy here is that he’s dominated by his overbearing wife, who’s also the daughter of his boss.

Plus, one of his staff (played by Yeardley Smith, Lisa Simpson’s voice) is pregnant by him and confronts him at Crystal’s birthday party.

So the three of them go on a Cowboy adventure, where a group of regular people have to drive cattle across the prarie. Among the group is Helen Slater, although she doesn’t really get anything interesting to do except act as motivation for various men in the group.

The trail boss is Jack Palance, who won an Oscar for this performance.

I was fully expecting to be sniffing at the movie’s embracing of toxic masculinity, given the premise, but in the end it really takes you along. It’s not really about masculinity as much as it’s about friendships, and accepting responsibility for your life. Plus, the script, by comedy legends Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, is filled with snappy lines, keeping the comedy going at all times, but being able to deliver honest moments of emotion. They’re really good.

I should also mention the appearance of an astonishingly young Jake Gyllenhaal as Crystal’s son. I didn’t recognise him and only spotted his name in the credits.

Also in his class is Danielle Harris, seen recently in both Roseanne and Eerie Indiana.

Mark this one down in the ‘still works’ column.

After this, recording continues briefly for a few adverts, then switches to Entertainment Tonight. There’s a piece on the extended Laserdisc version of James Cameron’s The Abyss.

Next, from a film which happily hasn’t suffered too much with our changes in what’s acceptable, to a film which frankly was pretty awful to begin with. It’s Rising Sun, based on Michael Crichton’s novel about how terrifying Japanese corporations are to America.

Twin Peaks’ Ray Wise plays a Senator whose vote is vital to allow a Japanese company acquire an American technology company.

Wesley Snipes is the police officer called to a murder at a Japanese company.

Sean Connery is the sort-of-retired cop who knows the Japanese community.

Harvey Keitel is another cop

A woman has been strangled in the boardroom while a big party is happening downstairs, so the investigation is sensitive. At first the prime suspect is Japanese playboy Eddie Sakamura (Cary-Hiroyuka Tagawa) whose family Connery knows from Japan.

Most of the plot revolves around a disc containing the surveillance footage of the murder. It initially goes missing, but is then returned, and it appears to show Sakamura as the murderer. But Connery is suspicious, so he takes the disc to an expert in image analysis, played by Tia Carrere, and we get some not entirely nonsensical scenes of finding the places where the footage has been doctored.

Steve Buscemi turns up as a weaselly reporter who’s literally called ‘The Weasel’.

Now, this is a fairly efficient thriller, directed by Philip Kaufman, who directed The Right Stuff and was also once attached to direct Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s interesting to see how it’s been softened from the book (although it’s a long time since I read it). The ultimate perpetrator here is an American, rather than a Japanese character in the book, for example.

Snipes and Connery are on good form, though.

The tape ends after this movie.

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The South Bank Show – The British Comedy Awards 1993 – tape 1632

Here’s a nice tape for fans of comedy.

First, part one of a South Bank Show special as comedy producer John Lloyd, co-creator of Spitting Image, Not The Nine O’Clock News, QI, producer of Blackadder, co-writer of The Meaning of Liff and, as Douglas Adams would prefer us to forget, co-writer of a couple of episodes of the radio version of the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. He wrote the original version of the all-black ship which became the Disaster Area stunt-ship in all subsequent versions of the story, but in the original was a Hagunemnon warship with shape-changing crew who were disguised as the seats. “I’d prefer something with far longer arms” “But which is probably quite incapable of drinking the coffee” has always been one of my favourite lines in the show. Thanks, John.

Along the way there’s contributions from John Cleese, who wrote a sketch about boring accountants to warn others like him that there was another way.

Stephen Fry talks about Bottoms.

Hale and Pace talk about cruelty to animals.

Griff Rhys-Jones talks about the Oxbridge Mafia

As does Alexei Sayle. “I was twisted with hatred and rage towards those people.”

Rik Mayall discussing the ‘Footlights College Oxbridge’ University Challenge scene from The Young Ones: “Oxbridge people have this terrible burden of thinking that they’re illegitimate because they came from Oxbridge. All the Oxbridge people I know that are involved in comedy, that is their jugular. Which is why we went for it in that way.”

Harry Enfield thinks John Cleese is a git, and prefers Dick Emery. I don’t think he’s being entirely serious.

Lenny Henry talks about what it’s like being married to a comedian.

Julian Clary presents a piece about Innuendo.

Vic and Bob talk about funny vegetables.

For some reason, it amuses me that their word processor is an Amstrad word processor.

Ruby Wax talks about script writing.

 

Jim Davidson thinks Spitting Image is appalling. What a snowflake. Later (in part two) he actually says the words “There are some jokes I won’t do. I won’t do racist jokes.”

Ian Hislop is also disliked by Davidson.

There’s an interesting moment in the discussion about comedians all being depressives, when Stephen Fry says that he was not melancholic. Which is interesting, given that he definitely is now. How strange that it was so hard to self-diagnose. Or he was in denial.

After this programme, there’s part two of this special, concentrating on modern stand-up comedy, and taking a look at the great new talent coming out of the comedy clubs, like Alan Davies.

Peter Rosengard founded the Comedy Store

Co-Founder Don Ward

There’s footage from a Nationwide report on the opening night of the Comedy Store – I spotted future Hat Trick supremo Jimmy Mulville in the audience, necking champagne from a bottle. (on the left)

Alexei Sayle hadn’t given up on the hair.

Arnold Brown recalls his own first night, which didn’t go well.

Jack Dee talks about his first gig, an open spot at the Comedy Store.

Paul Jackson, producer of Saturday Live.

Jo Brand talks about confidence on stage.

Brenda Gilhooley talks about her character Gayle Tuesday, the Page 3 Stunna.

Billy Connolly talks about fame.

Two very good shows.

But the comedy doesn’t stop there, as next, it’s the British Comedy Awards 1993.

Presented as always by Jonathan Ross

Jerry Hall presents Best Male Performance.

Rik Mayall wins.

Top TV Comedy Actress is presented by Hulk Hogan – also in town to promote his cover of Gary Glitter’s I’m The Leader of the Gang.

The winner is Joanna Lumley for Absolutely Fabulous

Presenting Best ITV Sitcom are Debbie Gibson and Craig Maclachlan.

The winner is Watching, which, ironically, I’ve never watched.

Top ITV Entertainment Personality is presented by Britt Ekland. Jonathan Ross thanks her for the Wicker Man, helping him through those difficult teenage years.

Michael Barrymore is the winner.

Serena Scott Thomas presents best Channel 4 Entertainment Presenter.

Inevitably won by Chris Evans. In the event, he calls Gaby Roslin on stage and gives the award to her, which, from anyone else would have seemed like a really humble gesture.

Best BBC Sitcom is presented by Richard Madeley and Judy Finnegan

Won by One Foot in the Grave.

Martin Clunes presents Best Radio Comedy.

Won by Knowing Me Knowing You with Alan Partridge, and accepted by Armando Iannucci, with Cornish Curmudgeon Patrick Marber and Steve Coogan lurking in the background.

Stephen Berkoff presents Best new BBC Comedy

Won by Absolutely Fabulous, accepted by Producer Jon Plowman and (despite the caption) creator Jennifer Saunders

Brush Strokes’ Karl Howman presents Best BBC TV Presenter

Won by Noel Edmonds for Noel’s House Party

Danny Baker presents Best Newcomer

The winner is Steve Coogan. Remember when he was a newcomer.

Marti Caine presents Top Male Comedy Performer

The winner is Dave Allen

Hannah Gordon presents the Best Comedy Drama award

The winner is The Snapper, accepted by Stephen Frears.

Ross himself presents the Best Comedy Film award, accepted by Harold Ramis for Groundhog Day.

Danny La Rue presents the award for Best Stand Up Comedy

Eddie Izzard is the winner.

Norman Lamont MP presents the award for Top Channel 4 Sitcom

It’s won by Drop The Dead Donkey, accepted by Guy Jenkin and Liddy Oldroyd. “The cast voted not to come up on stage.”

Jasper Carrott presents Best Female Comedy Performer

Winners are Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French for French and Saunders

The audience vote for Best TV Comedy Series goes to The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer. Vic and Bob actually get heckled, as a voice calls out “Say Something Funny”.

Alan Plater Introduces the Writer’s Guild award.

The award is presented by Lenny Henry

The winner is Richard Curtis

Ken Dodd wins Top Variety Performer, presented to him on stage in Dick Whittington by Tony Slattery

Now it’s time for Julian Clary to present the award for Top TV Comedy Personality, and we all know what that means. Commenting on the decor, he said “It’s very nice of you to recreate Hampstead Heath for me here. I’ve just been fisting Norman Lamont.”

There are some fantastic audience reactions – good work from the director. Here’s Mark Lamarr

Martin Clunes

and Richard and Judy

Back to the awards, and the winner is Joanna Lumley

Winner of the audience vote for Best Entertainment Programme is presented by Chris Eubank

The winner is Barrymore, accepted by Michael Barrymore himself, who helpfully translates Julian Clary’s remark for the hearing impaired.

Jonathan Ross actually finishes with his own rendition of ‘Have Yourselves a Merry Little Christmas’. It’s not pretty as it appears he can’t hear the orchestra so he’s woefully out of time.

The tape ends after the show.

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