davidn: (skull)
If you know me, you'll know how obsessive a fan I am of the 80s and early 90s programme Knightmare. And if you know how much of a fan of that I am, you'll be extremely surprised to learn that I haven't ever actually seen the whole thing. It used to be pretty much unobtainable for people who didn't have recordings from the time - in the first year of university I remember compiling my own videos of the later series by running two VCRs simultaneously and copying individual episodes from my parents' video archive - but it's only relatively recently that the entire collection has been uploaded to Youtube.

Knightmare was a Dungeons and Dragons computer game come to life - a blindfolded player known as a "dungeoneer" was put into a virtual dungeon with the aid of a bluescreen, and was guided through by three friends as they dodged superimposed creatures and obstacles and interacted with the strange inhabitants. As cheesy as it might look today, it's hard to remember that this technology was revolutionary at the time - it had unusually high production values for a children's programme, and was incredible to watch.

I went through the entire first series of eight episodes this week, with six quests of very little success. Looking at it as an adult, I can now appreciate that a lot of the feeling is due to the performance of Hugo Myatt, who had had only one television appearance before despite his sheer brilliance at playing the role of the dungeon master Treguard - he was working as a news producer in the mid-eighties, and creator Tim Child thought he looked and sounded sufficiently mediaeval to be perfect for the role. It's impossible not to smile as he gets so into it, really selling the flowery fantasy speech, rolling his Rs as well as any Bishop Brennan (who needs to be in Rrrrrrrrome tomorrow) and ad libbing perfectly along with the seasoned actors around him.

In these early episodes, the dungeon backgrounds were constructed out of really very beautiful painted backgrounds by artist David Rowe, which gives them even more of an eighties charm today - they really evoke the feeling of early gamebox or rulebook artwork. Some of the animations and superimposed monsters - all orchestrated by Tim Child upstairs on an Amiga as the games progressed - looks a bit less authentic, but overall I honestly think the scenery has aged pretty well.

The other thing I noticed is that - even though I'll have to wait until I get to the 90s episodes I know to confirm this - it seems a lot faster than later series were, with the player going from avoiding a snake to facing a wall monster to running from a bomb very rapidly. Later episodes tried to expand beyond the scope of the dungeon and had longer periods of walking around forests and talking to other characters, so it's interesting having none of that and going back to much tighter quests.

Despite being only eight episodes long (which, yes, is very long for a British series, but game shows typically had 13 to 16), the first series suffers a bit from repetition. It might not have been as bad when watching it with a gap of a week between episodes, but the majority of the quests went through the same few rooms with a couple of them appearing every single time. Again, I might have misremembered the variety of rooms in later series - I'll have to see when I get there.

In the meantime, I took down some notes on the order of rooms that each teams went through, and completely overdid things as usual - here is a map of every team's route through the game in the first series. To be fair, 23 full-screen paintings isn't a bad collection, but quests were short as players didn't really know what they were doing at this stage, so the early rooms are seen a lot and only half the teams made it beyond the first level. The brown room with the four square doors leading from it is also interesting, with the same artwork appearing at least four times in different contexts to make new obstacles. I'll have to see if artwork gets further reuse as the series go on!
davidn: (rant)
I'm really disappointed that TheBox, the site that I used for getting hold of British shows, has gone down for good! Being able to get British television reliably was truly one of my lifelines for living here, because despite having a million channels, there are only five shows on American television:

- The docusoap, usually about a repulsive family notable only for having far too many children, or a bald pawn shop owner trapped in a sort of Groundhog Day scenario reliving exactly the same script every single week, or the thinly scripted adventures of three foot tall people in a modern-day gawking midget circus

- The vote-off-by-week competition about singing or baking or fashion designing or bloody hairdressing, where tensions rise as twelve Americans have to attempt to play a game for twelve weeks without shooting each other

- The small claims courtroom sham spectacle, which is like visiting a sort of zoo of stupidity where ethnic minorities are prodded to air their pettiness for the contemptuous entertainment of the nation

- The crime drama disguised as multiple programmes by slightly rearranging the letters in its acronym (CSI, CSI-NY, NCIS, NCIS-LA), all competing to show someone using a computer in the way that most insults the intelligence of the viewers

- Mythbusters

And I'm not saying Britain is free from having bad, bad programmes. But the difference is that it also has some good ones as well. I don't want to seem entitled - the BBC have no responsibility to make its content available to the rest of the world (apart from perhaps on humanitarian grounds) - but I would gladly pay some sort of overseas licence fee each year to receive what I want to watch without doing something slightly illegal. I can't believe people complain about £110 a year (is that still the price?) to receive things like QI, Have I Got News For You, Would I Lie To You, 8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown and all those other unwieldily-titled shows - not to mention the gems of Radio 4 - while in America you have to pay that amount per month to pay for a cable to continuously vomit stupidity into your living room.

I've thought more than once about cheekily sending the licence fee in cash to the BBC in an envelope, with a note saying that this is doing my part to fund the continued existence of intelligent television, and hopefully raise some awareness that there's demand for it to be distributed overseas. In the age of the Internet, I don't really see how it wouldn't be feasible.
davidn: (rabbit)
What an exhausting week. One relaxing holiday, followed by instantly undoing it all with a 50-hour work week, both of us catching a nasty cold, the tumble-dryer breaking down and the right indicator on the car becoming twitchy so I have re-plan my commute around a route that involves exclusively turning left.

I found a collection of old clips from my iPod, though - purely because it made me laugh more than anything this week, here is Jonathan Ross desperately trying to illustrate the word "Sonic" to ex-cricketer David Gower and Lord Jeffrey the Archer.

davidn: (rant)
Chock-a-sad news from the [livejournal.com profile] choc_a_block community today - the BBC's analogue Ceefax service suffered a major turning-off this week and will be phased out entirely by October. I don't think that many people I know in America will really understand this, because the people I've talked to say they just never had anything like it at all and are confused by the entire concept.

But I have really fond memories of all the Teletext services, crude as they look by today's standards - they were text pages broadcast over the television by an aging BBC Micro somewhere in Broadcasting House's attic. It was what we had before the Internet, and somehow it's easy to get nostalgic about these primitive things with their blocky textmode 8-colour graphics despite their inconvenience compared to what we have today. Quite a lot of my memory is in having to enter a number and then wait while the page counter rolled around until it broadcast the page you had requested (and on the subject of speed, if the person in that BBC article is finding that their updates to Internet pages are happening at anything less than the speed of light I would probably ask them to take a serious second look at their infrastructure).

Alongside the weather (presented in a glorious 4-colour map of dots), cricket results and recipes from the latest episode of Ready Steady Cook, there was some really strange stuff on it. There was a page called "Mega-zine" that I used to read a lot but never participated in myself, full of thoughts from people with manufacturedly stupid pseudonyms like The Twelfth Lemon, and some lunatic who always talked about polo and whisky who called himself The Brigadier. In that way, it was much like a very slow Internet forum as we know them today - with Backchat over on Ceefax being a prototype of Youtube in being exclusively populated by complete dipsticks.

My favourite place, though, was Digitiser, the one-man sort of combined computer magazine and mental asylum where news was distributed by text-art characters such as Fat Sow and Zombie Dave (along with the beatboxing snakes and Inspector Morse) - just trying to explain it or its surreal sense of humour is a futile task, but its Wikipedia page makes a straight-faced attempt at it:

A further element of Digitiser's other-worldly charm was its unusual take on the English language. Often this amounted to little more than [...] adding curious suffixes to existing words (including, but not limited to -uss, -O, -ston, -Oh! and -me-do), but occasionally invented whole new sounds using words that never been used in that context, such as "huss" becoming an exclamation of some joy rather than, as is more common, a variety of dogfish.

Typical jokes would tell you to press reveal to see what a certain character thought of your letter, or a news item, and you would be presented with a surreal non-sequitur, such as a man shouting "Swayze!"

Biffo continued to write the bulk of the magazine solo, apart for occasional, part-time contributors, who helped him out with the letters, tips, and charts pages. These temporary assistants went by the names Mr Cheese, Mr Udders and Mr Toast.

I was actually on this at one point, after answering a request for help on the tips page (which was then hosted by a character called Mr. Nude). Unfortunately, my already quite short letter had to be trimmed down to fit on the page and it came out mostly as gibberish. Much later on, the original Crystal Towers got mentioned on its successor, 4-Players.

One feature that I'll really miss from it will be the old-style subtitles, which lived on page 888 of all the major services - double-height text on a black background, coloured to indicate who was speaking (which I used a lot, because I tended to watch Friday night television at low volume in my room after everyone else had gone to bed). One of the all-time hidden classics on British television could be found in putting them on for Never Mind the Buzzcocks during the intros round and watching how the subtitlers had handled the unearthly noises produced in the panel's attempts to impersonate pop songs, with #Do do do do nyoot nyoot weeka weeka bow being a typical example.

This wasn't the only treat to be found - the subtitler for ITV's showing of Back to the Future made the questionable decision to subtitle the soundtrack, inserting notices like SCARY MUSIC in the middle of the dialogue. And during a programme I can't remember* which had a feature on the European Vegetable Orchestra, the person responsible for the captions made the best of his chance to let people know exactly what he thought of their performance, subtitling it first as VARIOUS ABSURD SQUAWKING NOISES and then concluding with CACOPHONY.

The text services that are possible over digital television must technically outclass all of this in every way possible... but to all of us, it just won't be the same!

* All right, Eurotrash

Lesson Zero

Apr. 1st, 2012 04:34 pm
davidn: (skull)
Over the past year or so, I've looked on as my male (if admittedly slightly gay) friends succumbed one by one to a baffling craze that was sweeping the Internet - the My Little Pony cartoon. Respectable, talented FA artists fell to drawing and writing about complex mythologies set in places with names like Ponyville, and some haven't emerged since. Thinking that I actually had some things I wouldn't stoop to, I resisted for a long time, but this weekend curiosity got the better of me.

I watched an episode of My Little Pony. )

Ram Ray

Mar. 30th, 2012 11:37 pm
davidn: (Jam)
Conversation during the last hour before leaving work this Friday led us to the subject of television, and things like Inspector Morse versus David Caruso (who plays a sort of ginger-haired crime-busting Richard Whiteley on CSI).

I chose to show them a typical segment of UK Saturday morning television - this was a studio game which was actually a number of years past my own era, in which callers get a dwarf (who this week is dressed up as a cake for some reason) to run at a set of five doors, except four of them are nailed shut.

They said the same thing that everyone here always says when I talk about British children's programmes - that it's like something that they would have expected to see on Japanese television, or after taking a large quantity of drugs.
davidn: (Jam)
I'm beginning to think that Hatoful Boyfriend's power extends to Ring-like effects on the people who dare to watch it, because ever since witnessing the true madness of the full game I'm sure I've been transported into a new dimension where life works ever so slightly more strangely.

This weekend, the collection of Agatha Christie mystery dramas that Whitney watches somehow led Netflix through the leap of logic necessary to suggest the old Sonic cartoon as one of her top ten list. We put an episode of it on anyway, and... well, er, this happened. If fanfiction.net had existed at the time, it would have probably have blown up instantly. I have absolutely no memory of this episode from when I used to watch this, but taking that along with the rest of what seems to happen in it, now I fully understand why my mum didn't like me watching that blue... prick and his cross-dressing cake fetishism.

We were out at a well-known local furniture store called Jordan's yesterday, but I'd been there before and I'm pretty sure that it was always like this even before I unknowingly everted down a level - most stores are laid out in some organized fashion to direct you to the general area you're looking for, but this one goes against the trend by being apparently modelled after the Labyrinth of Crete. Walking through its collection of small rooms each with a different decoration style and furniture set, it's as if a set of portals have opened up across space and time and rendered you trapped in an endless sequence of other people's living rooms until you're eventually rescued by Doctor Who. It's got an IMAX cinema at the back - you have to wander through the entire dining-and-kitchen space-time continuum to get to it, and when you're let out on the other side you're instantly among a sea of sofas again.

When we got back from that, we discovered that our fridge had mutated. When we were putting the shopping away, there was a scream from Whitney and I thought she'd seen a mouse or something - but she was pointing down to an empty shelf at the very lowest point of the door. The new shelf is a lot thinner than the others and only holds small bottles of condiments, so you can't see it from eye level as the third shelf overlaps it by a mile - but it's still rather difficult to believe that we wouldn't have noticed an entire shelf on something we've opened and closed daily for nearly two years.

And I had a dream last night about being kidnapped by Noel Edmonds. He stole people away in the night using a fire engine that played classical music and we had to act like we were guests at his mansion - when we were caught during an escape attempt, I used the excuse that we were thinking of leaving earlier than we said we would because we needed to drive back before it got dark.
davidn: (skull)
A while after the culture of Britain stopped being just how the world worked for me and I began learning how other people saw it, someone (from Nepal rather than America) explained to me that British humour was characterized by presenting absolutely absurd things and acting as if they're normal - a tone of voice that he said had been mastered by the likes of Douglas Adams.

America doesn't seem to have a grasp of this, and so I constantly worry about whether people understand my sense of humour - I remember that at the wedding in Maine last year I was ranting to someone or other about a topic I've forgotten about (possibly the uniquely unhelpful road signs that we'd seen during our journey) and during a pause, one of the group turned around and said to her friend right in front of me, "The best part is how he's so indignant about it". That's the point! You don't need to explain it out loud to subtitle it. (For that, I am sentencing you to two hours in TV Tropes.)

Still. Yesterday I remembered a clip I'd seen years ago that showed an unintentional example of this wonderful straight-faced absurdity, and I was delighted that someone had uploaded it on Youtube. It was on one of Denis Norden's programmes - the story behind it, I think I recall, was about this man (identified here only as Mr. Goodman) who went to the same village once every few years to plant a new tree - and they were trying to make a documentary about it, but they ran into a problem that they hadn't anticipated...

davidn: (Default)

I'm not sure how much longer I can cope with these constant reminders that I live in a country where it's generally accepted that people need to be told things at this sort of level.
davidn: (skull)
Some of the comments gathered on my three-years-old upload of Chockablock, an oddly charming if slightly psychedelic 1980s pre-school programme.

Chockagirl can sit on my Chockacock - 1355steveo

I'd put it in her "block slot". - shapla1979

first time I have seen a woman reverse without crashing - Cancerape

She reminds me of a mentally retarded woman I once almost had sex with. - thechapaqua

hahaha maybe she thought it was a c...k - 2TEG

she can sit on somthing else too hehehe mmmmm - 2TEG

She can suck my chock-a-cock!!! - Jermyn78


i want her now please very much,thanks please very much if you can do this for me please - scootmahoney

I'd like to put my block in Chockagirl's blockslot. - ming64

(and I'd block her slot too) - markypearson01

Choc a girl ? Choc a truck ? CHOCAFUCK! - tomtomstuff

By the almighty power of Fred Harris - was I the only watcher of this programme who was raised with a shred of basic decency?
davidn: (rant)
I've been trying to get back into writing music recently, but I've found myself with an increased vulnerability to wandering aimlessly around Youtube instead. For better or worse, this has allowed me to dredge up more programmes that I only half-remember from watching CBBC and CITV in the 90s - one of which was called Virtually Impossible.

I remembered it as one of a spate of computery programmes that sprang up at about the time Reboot was popular - this one was an ambitious game show that attempted to combine live action with a virtual 3D world, which just sounds like a faintly dangerous idea until you're informed that it was meant to be the replacement for Knightmare, at which point it becomes all the more rage-inducing. Anyway, I started the video to see how my memories lined up, and the AAAAGH THAT FISH HAS A HUMAN NOSE

How the hell did I not notice this when I was twelve? The presenter, then, is Codsby, who I can now only describe as a sort of fish thing from hell who lives within a Lawnmower Man nightmarescape. Quite apart from the unsightly foreign appendage plonked on to the front of his piscean face, the contorted expressions generated by the crude 3D model doing its best to translate the mouth movements of a facial waldo make it seem like he's in constant agony, and combined with the voice like an autotuned Muppet, I'm surprised that I slept the night after first encountering him (or any night for the next ten years or so).

Anyway, once the cyberpod or whatever they're playing it up as arrives, the programme opens with some rather strained introductions which the nightmare-fish smiles through as naturally as Gordon Brown, and - because this is a 90s computer programme - spouts the legally mandated quantity of gobbledegook about interfacing oneself with the mainframe and surfing through digispace and other such twatterdom. The players - rather inadvisably referred to as "joystick jockeys" - strap one of their number into a device that wouldn't look out of place as the hub of a tortured bio-computer from Doctor Who, and (though with the amount of pain I've just described it feels like the programme should be just about over by now) the first game begins.

The first game is called Tetris Towers, which I'm surprised they got away with - and it's a flat-shaded 3D environment that looks like one of the more coherent environments put together with 3D Construction Kit. A countdown starts, sirens blare, and the player leaps into the game at a rate of about one picometre per hour, stumbling around and getting caught by stairs that aren't really there. They then spend a while muddling around being unable to turn around on a platform and once it was announced that there were just eleven pieces left to collect, I felt compelled to skip ahead.

Next, the boredom continues with a driving game, mostly controlled through more conventional means with the cybernaut (or whatever she's called) reduced to being superimposed on a video background and having to wave her arms a bit. As part of the programme's penchant for unnecessarily overcomplicating things, the pit stop involves turning on the ability to shoot with a button placed conveniently at the other end of the space station, and then picking up some discarded rings while some polygonal insects mope about. They then go into a game that's remarkably like the first except it's too dark to see anything, and the last game is a free-flying shooter in which I never had any idea what was going on at all, so further commentary from me would be pointless. After flying around aimlessly for a while, they do quite well, but lose. Hooray.

Really, this wasn't exactly a bad effort with the technology of the time - the trouble was that the technology of the time was just inherently rubbish. The walking games in particular make for exceptionally boring television, the equivalent of watching someone trying to get through Doom with a blindfold on and one hand tied behind their back with the soundtrack replaced with a Jeffrey Archer audio book. It's eerily as if the entire concept behind the programme was "Like Knightmare, except a bit worse" - the guidance style of gameplay is very similar, except transplanted into an environment which tries to make you believe it's fast-paced but lends itself to the speed of an asthmatic snail. Even without the foreknowledge that the look of the games would age terribly, there's not a lot you can get excited about when a programme amounts to half an hour of watching other people play games badly. Yes, I know. But at least I don't have a human-nosed fish shouting over my shoulder.

The whole idea of "virtual reality" was rather sadly pushed on to us at least ten years too early for it to be executed in any way that could approach the outskirts of "any good". Instead, the idea of immersive 3D worlds is forever going to be associated with these efforts, and in more general terms, the image of someone in a 90s mullet with a bulky proto-Star Trek helmet across their eyes. And a Powerglove on each hand.
davidn: (rant)
This seems to be a fairly popular clip, but I was only pointed to it the other day - it's a stand-up section by Dara Ó Briain about games, rather similar to his appearance on Gameswipe, but with some extra pieces.


I actually saw it just after I'd said the same thing to some (very) extended family members at a dinner, when they were asking about my game-making - that even though games are now the biggest entertainment industry in the world (having eclipsed films some time ago), they still have this odd maligned hobbyist status. Everyone watches films, just about everyone listens to music - not everyone plays games. Except that might be changing a little - I was very pleased during that dinner to have a conversation in which everyone at the table did actually know what I was talking about, thanks to the iPhone and other smartphones bringing in people who don't normally play anything.

For that reason, though, it's really surprising and special to hear games being brought up on stage like this - it's unusual enough to hear them even mentioned in an intelligent way on television. This kind of level is what we're all more used to. The climax of it all is when he brings up Metal Gear Solid 4, as the crouch/stand/crawl control confusion led me to doing that exact eccentric waddle throughout most of the game.

And hearing him impersonating Roy Campbell (who he refers to as 'Mick') with the cry of "SNAAAKE" is something that I never realized my life had been missing until now.
davidn: (Jam)
Frankly, it was a stretch on my mind beyond what most people would reasonably be expected to cope with when America decided to produce its own uncanny alternative-dimension impression of Top Gear. And one of the other things that's been causing me some concern recently is the large number of my friends - most of whom are adult males - talking so enthusiastically about the new My Little Pony cartoon, which has an absolutely wild proliferation of fandom not just among anthropomorphically inclined people but seemingly around the rest of the Internet in general. But now, through some spark of inspiration far beyond the grasp of most humans, somebody has chosen to put them together, forming a mental crisis squared.

Friendship is Ambitious but Rubbish

A great amount of work has gone into the opening in particular, and you've got to admire anything with that title. The appropriateness of chosen scenes and the work on the lip synchronization are both pretty admirable. But I still can't understand why these two things have been combined, or comfortably convince my brain that I'm hearing Jeremy Clarkson's voice booming out of a blue-haired and very female toy miniature horse.

I was passed this video yesterday - so thanks, [livejournal.com profile] wolfekko. Though at this point I'm not entirely sure what for.


Jul. 9th, 2011 02:09 pm
davidn: (skull)
I swear that they just got [livejournal.com profile] quadralien as a stand-in to do this scene.
I honestly didn't think I would like Darkplace as much as I did, but I've been laughing at it for the whole week now - it was only brought to my attention because of the main character's astounding resemblance to [livejournal.com profile] quadralien. Sometimes, stranded out here in England's substandard "New" edition and relying on the Bittorrent sites for imports, things like this pass me by until years later - although I hear that it also passed most people by in Britain as well, when it was first shown.

The series was made in 2004, but is presented as a lost programme from the 80s being shown for the first time, with interviews from its cast - therefore three layers of acting are involved and it gets fairly confusing to describe. The central character is Matthew Holness as Garth Merenghi, a complete wally of an author who fancies himself as a sort of horror/action hero and who in turn plays an overly tough-acting loose cannon doctor called Rick Dagless. In the opening episode it's explained that he used to have an interest in the occult and managed to open a portal to hell in the canteen of Darkplace Hospital - a name that was asking for it if ever there was one - and it's been haunted by Twilight Zone-like strange goings-on going on ever since. He's joined by Lucien Sanchez (Todd Rivers (Matt Berry)) and the hospital's director Thornton Reed (Dean Learner (Richard Ayoade)), who were both also in The IT Crowd, and together they fight the otherworldly invasions with the various firearms that they carry for no adequately explained reason.

And it's about as good as it sounds from all that, which is to say it's terrible. Great attention has been paid to make it look like a low-budget series rescued from the 80s, such as the inclusion of the old Channel 4 logo, the slightly grainy quality of the film and tape used, the hair, the twitch in the soundtrack as scenes change as if it had been edited together by physically cutting and pasting tape, and the overwrought cheesy lines like "I wouldn't say I buy this occult stuff - I'm just window shopping, and right now there's a half-price sale on weird". People will lose their lip-sync and be overdubbed with the wrong voices regularly, gravestones will flap in the wind in a distinctly polystyrene-like fashion, and coffee cups in people's hands will suddenly become spades two seconds into a scene. The situation isn't helped by the little interview sections revealing such editing decisions as "We used a lot of slow-motion because we found that some episodes were running up to eight minutes short".

But even though it's so admirably dreadful, part of me really wants this to have been real - perhaps also because the whole idea of a hospital taking a break from routine colonoscopies and heroically battling the forces of darkness reminds me more than a bit of Trauma Center. It honestly makes me feel nostalgic for when I used to watch daft stuff like this and think it was as excellent as Garth Merenghi does. Just look at the introduction - in particular, the render of the hospital looks like the kind of thing that would have been seriously done then without realizing how badly it would age. The Simply3D look of it makes me miss Bad Influence (or make me feel like I'm about to watch a Helloween video, one of the two). The extent to which these people got the 80s action programme mood right is demonstrated about two seconds into the introduction after that, and I still can't stop smiling at how perfectly they did the classic unnecessary explosion-jump.

Oh, and Wheatley's in it too.
davidn: (savior)
I realize that I'm a couple of years late on this at best, but I just found out last night that there's a television series based on Terry Deary's Horrible Histories books - and that they do songs about the subjects they cover. While Hevisaurus was always going to be difficult to beat, I'm glad that Britain is making an attempt as well, with this power ballad courtesy of a band of Vikings.


That still frame actually could just be taken from a music video from most any power metal band (though mostly Rhapsody). The whole mood of it brings back fond memories of Maid Marian and its cheerfulness in being one long anachronism. At the other end of the musical spectrum, Charles II is done in a style that I believe is meant to be Eminem. Dig a little deeper and you'll find the Spartans done as High School Musical. This is amazing.

I also rediscovered the part from Shooting Stars with Vic and Bob 'singing' the Doctor Who music. Their uniquely demented interpretation is less pleasant on the ears, but still remarkable nonetheless.
davidn: (rant)
I said that I would talk about something else. Here's something else - it's Murray Walker commentating on snooker, from that programme that Jeremy Clarkson briefly did in between when he was on Top Gear and when he was on Top Gear.

People always seem surprised when they learn I used to watch Formula 1, but it was mostly just to listen to him - for people who did not the advantage of his way of brightening up watching improbably fragile cars essentially go around in a circle, Youtube has various further collections of his uniquely frantic style, never for a moment being able to sound calm enough to suggest that his trousers aren't on fire.
davidn: (rabbit)
While Whitney was away I watched loads of Room 101 - this part with Johnny Vegas is like a warning from the past. One step before the days of Second Life, World of Warcraft, and everything else that allow people to build another life (as virtual humans and/or upright rabbits) while rapidly shrivelling in their real one, there were text-based fantasy MUDs - and his experience on one of them is dragged out of him slowly in escalating levels of detail and hilarity (and in Paul Merton's case, a sort of morbidly fascinated bafflement). The story starts at about two minutes in, and reaches a wonderful climax four minutes later.


The featured chatroom still exists, with a note proudly acknowledging their appearance here - although it looks rather like staring into a time-warp to the mid-90s. It's run by someone who Capitalizes words apparently at Random and peppers Their typing with miniature stage directions (falls over; disgusted look). It would be interesting to see if there are any logs around that feature his username...

As a postscript, there's also a very compelling reason to put Hollyoaks into Room 101 too, right at the end.
davidn: (rant)
I don't know what it is about Sean Lock - shown here interviewing the world's campest man (also known as Alan Carr) about Gordon Ramsay. I didn't think that he was one of the interconnected panel circle that I thought completely unmissable, but occasionally he comes out with these things that I just can't stop laughing hysterically at for hours while trying to go to sleep.

It's also very strange to see Gordon Ramsay unbleeped, after American television has nobly decided to protect me from it for the last four years.
davidn: (rant)
During the season when everyone's waiting for Have I Got News For You and QI to start up again, our British television imports have all been new entries this year. Charlie Brooker features quite strongly, with his new moanfest series How TV Ruined Your Life and his contributions to 10 O'Clock Live, which is a sort of British version of The Daily Show and is really bringing David Mitchell out well in the unexpected role of political interviewer.

The other thing we watch is Fast and Loose, which is Hugh Dennis awkwardly chairing an attempt to revive Whose Line Is It Anyway without the benefit of imaginative games or people (although Wayne Brady occasionally turns up and a couple of the others can be all right sometimes). It is, sadly to say, mostly rubbish. However, it manages to save itself by suddenly pulling out the best thing ever for a few minutes each week, namely a rubber-faced man called David Armand who proceeds to mime a song in a uniquely manic fashion.


Particularly in this one, the speed at which he's able to switch actions and faces is amazing.
davidn: (savior)
After yesterday, I felt I should restore balance by posting one of the best things ever instead. Maid Marian and her Merry Men was one of my favourite programmes growing up (as I'm sure it was to many people who read this, owing a lot to the legacy of Blackadder), and someone's posted a clip from it that I had never seen before, where as the Sheriff of Nottingham and the castle guards try to rescue King John's idiot nephew Guy, it suddenly turns into The Crystal Maze.

Nowadays, this is a perfect tribute to the 90s - even besides the wonderful Richard O'Brien impression (harmonica and all), the whole style suddenly changes to the trademark shaky two-camera viewpoint, and they have a great only-just-lawyer-deterrent substitute for the famous theme music. It seems to have something of a Fun House flavour to it as well with strawberry jam flying everywhere, which The Crystal Maze never had (almost uniquely, for a programme at that point in the 90s) - I can't help but notice that Tony Robinson scripted this happening to just about everyone except himself.

I've downloaded some more of it now, and even though I'm a bit out of its target audience these days, I kept on finding things that I never noticed at that age, such as the rest of the episode being a satire of the Channel Tunnel, and the residents' resistance to the snail-eating foreigners stealing their jobs if an underground passage were to be built to Scunthorpe. And I laughed so much at the two-minute mark in this clip - this was a point where you could really tell that one of his main motivations in writing this was to have a turn at being the Blackadder instead of the Baldrick.

It says something that even in a world where the Sheriff is meant to be surrounded by idiots, they don't really appear any more stupid than anybody who appeared on the real programme.

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