Lady Goosepelt

Fuzz Junket

Ramblings of an Ornamental Hermit

“Do Not Adjust Your Set” Missing Episode Found!

Not many people have seen Do Not Adjust Your Set — hell, not many people have even heard of it. It tends to get sidelined as “that thing before Monty Python”, because you’d better believe it featured three whole Pythons — Eric Idle, Michael Palin, and Terry Jones — before they teamed up with John Cleese, Graham Chapman, and Terry Gilliam. DNAYS also has a very special place in my heart because every episode featured a song by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, who sound like cats fighting in a wet alley and who might be the greatest thing to happen to music since Hitler decided to give up on his singing career. DNAYS is a rare delight — a clever, weird, clearly half-arsed, vaudevillian romp. It ran for two series between 1967 and 1969, and despite nine episodes being released on DVD in 2005, the majority of the show is missing.

It was unfortunately not uncommon for television studios to ditch the masters of old broadcasts from the 60s, especially when those masters were on expensive-to-store videotape which could be taped over and reused for other programs. It was the 70s and no-one saw home video coming until they’d already flushed their past down the toilet. The most high-profile missing broadcasts are the lost episodes of Doctor Who because of the show’s enduring popularity, but a lot of other well-loved shows also have holes in their archives. DNAYS totaled 29 episodes, nine of which from the first series were released on DVD, and two more of which are floating around the Internet as low-quality bootlegs1.

My heart skipped a beat when I read that my friend VinceNzo (@RhinoRepellant), an archival researcher and general Bonzos whiz, had uncovered a lost episode of DNAYS. Vince and I first got acquainted when I posted a Bonzos bootleg on this blog, and we’ve been trading notes since then. I wrote to Vince and asked him about his find. It turns out that he did some digging and was able to uncover the missing episode from the Prix Jeunesse Foundation. Prix Jeunesse is an international foundation which promotes quality children’s television, and evidently they know their onions because in 1968 they picked season one episode four of DNAYS2 for the “Prix de Jeunesse International TV Festival” award in the “Youth Programmes: 12-15 years old” category.

Last year Prix Jeunesse celebrated their 50-year anniversary, and as part of their celebrations they did a “best of the best” retrospective. Vince suspected this meant they had their own archive of past winners and wrote to the head of the foundation, who replied that she was watching DNAYS at that very moment. Scandalous! She very generously hooked Vince up with a copy of the episode, which he was then able to hand over to Kaleidoscope (an organization specializing in vintage TV) and the BFI.

After tracking Vince to his evil lair built into the side of an active volcano, he was generous enough to offer to answer some questions about his find.

I suspected series two was languishing in a television archive somewhere, but I didn’t think more episodes of series one would turn up.

What rather shocked me is that series two is as much a black hole to the BFI and Kaleidoscope as it is for me. Besides the dates of broadcast, tapes of the Christmas special, and one regular episode, there is NOTHING. What the hell happened to all those shows is a riddle wrapped in an enigma, packed in a mystery.

Do you suspect there are any more missing DNAYS waiting to be found?

Not immediately. It’s a bit of a pity that only one episode of the show won the award. It was this information that lead me directly to the foundation and the discovery of the copy that was sent off in 1968 by Rediffusion or ITV to enter the competition. What is made obvious is that with a little creative thinking and some detective work it is possible for everyone to trace lost shows.

I understand the Prix Jeunesse Foundation sent you a digital copy of the missing episode. Is that the highest quality copy, or do they have a master on tape somewhere?

No they have sent me a regular digital SD-quality copy. I don’t know what kind of tape is in their vaults but it will be a copy of the pre-broadcast tape in a format that was regular in 1968. If the digital copy that I’ve received was made from the original tape it might need some restoration. During the segment for Captain Fantastic there is some damage to the picture but this is very little.

Will the BFI be in contact with the Prix Jeunesse Foundation about this or other missing episodes?

I don’t work for Kaleidoscope or the BFI so I don’t know but I would certainly recommend they do. There is good chance there might be more “lost” shows in their archives. The Prix Jeunesse Foundation recognizes the importance of television programmes being preserved for future generations and I am convinced they will render any assistance possible when this is needed by Kaleidoscope or the BFI.

The BBC had some success releasing the recently discovered Doctor Who episodes3 online. Is there any word on if or how the recovered DNAYS episode will be released?

Not yet, but I think it’s important that people see it. It’s not only a part of English heritage, it also won a major international prize. I have watched the episode myself several times and besides that it’s obviously filmed in monochrome, in the programme itself there’s nothing outdated. It’s still a very funny show and not just for kids.

I understand you’re still hunting for missing broadcasts — what do you think you’ll look for next?

My quest is mainly the television performances by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. Currently I have my eye on one show which I cannot imagine didn’t survive. To prevent other people getting in the way, at this moment I can’t tell too much about it.

If someone reading this has any information about missing TV shows, who should they contact?

After they have made sure the show is indeed in the database of missing shows, found on www.lostshows.com or the website of the British Film Institute, the best way is to post a message on the Missing Episodes forum.

I haven’t seen the recovered episode myself, but Vince has posted some edited highlights on YouTube. They are tantalizing to say the least. The Bonzos are always at their best when you can see them pulling faces, cavorting around, and generally doing everything except playing their instruments. I’m also a huge fan of Denise Coffey as Mrs. Black in the “Captain Fantastic” segments, a silent-film-style adventure serial where Coffey flings herself around London with gay abandon, cackling madly.

According to Vince’s notes and some surviving scripts, the recovered episode features the following segments:

  • Moustache Opener
  • Hello! Sorry!
  • Bonzos interlude
  • Chicken Bones
  • Rabbits Part 1
  • Captain Fantastic
  • Rabbits Part 2
  • James Watt
  • Ali Baba’s Camel” by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band
  • Dancing Class (feat. Neil Innes)
  • Lunch
  • Horse Doctor
  • Bonzos interlude
  • Burble Drama

Because there’s already a DVD set of DNAYS, it doesn’t seem likely they’ll do another one to accommodate the extra episode. Our best hope for seeing it is probably if they do an online release, which would cost them very little but still give us a legal, paid way to watch it. We live in hope (and that strange sticky mist that follows you around). BFI, be amazing! Please release this if you can — we would love to see it.

Thanks to Vince for his diligence in tracking down this missing episode, and for being nice enough to put up with me while I asked him stupid questions.

Notes

  1. The 1968 Christmas special and series two episode two. 

  2. First broadcast on January 25, 1968. 

  3. THE ENEMY OF THE WORLD & THE WEB OF FEARFOUND!!


Millennials: Are They Really People?

The latest data from behavioral studies show that Millennials do not consume food the same way as ordinary human beings. I decided to camp out at the local combination kaffeeklatsch, artisanal sushi bar, and USB charging station to see if these findings really were substantiated. Sure enough, everyone there between the ages of 20 and 30 first looked at their food in disgust, then took a photo of it.

Curious to find out more about this phenomenon, I introduced myself to one such diner. “Hi, I’m a journalist and…”

A journalist?” she interrupted. “Like for a newspaper?” In an instant she had turned her phone on me and snapped a picture. “Oh my god, this is going straight onto Tumblr.”

Actually it’s for a blog.”

She raised an eyebrow at me. “Is there a podcast that goes with it?”

Yeah,” I said. There is no podcast, but I did my best not to let her smell my fear.

With original music from a local band?” she pressed.

Sure.”

Go ahead,” she said, turning back to her phone. “But make it quick. There’s drama on Twitter and I need to stay on top of this.”

I asked, “Why did you take a photo of your food before you could eat it?”

What, you mean I should eat it without taking a photo? Like, raw?”

Millennials are the generation after Generation X, born sometime in the 1980s or 90s. They are the Internet’s native denizens, children born into a world of booming technology that has revolutionized the way we live. Millennials are now reaching working age, and their cultural detachment from previous generations is notorious for causing friction in the modern workplace.

The latest research, however, shows that Millennials are more than just culturally different. On average they are taller, their eyes are larger, they can achieve higher speeds over short distances, and like animals they seem to be able to smell fear and sense when the old or terminally ill are about to die. There is even evidence that they are capable of short-range telepathy. When blindfolded, nine out of ten Millennials could identify which meals had been photographed and which had not, and four out of ten could even tell which social medium the photo had been posted to. In similar tests Millennials were blindfolded and asked to identify the age of a stranger standing in the room. 88% could distinguish members of their own generation from the Gen Xers and the Baby Boomers. When a Baby Boomer stepped into the room, one Millennial was even heard to utter, “Urgh. This one smells like Bob Dylan sounds.”

So how can we get along with these children of the future? Many management guides advocate simply not hiring Millennials because of the common perception that they are lazy and selfish workers. The 2014 Harvard Business School Management Handbook actually argues we should take up pitchforks and flaming torches and chase Millennials off the edge of cliffs for transgressing against the laws of nature. This kind of reactionary nonsense, however, is typical of the Baby Boomers. We need to learn to embrace Millennials and accept their strange and enlightened vision of the future. If you manage an office, consider allowing Millennials to take afternoon naps or personal days off work. Reserve a conference room as a meditation center where Millennials can plug into social media and enter their otherworldly Delphic trances. Be sure to remove all furniture from the room to allow the Millennials to float freely three or four inches above the floor. Laugh at their jokes even if you do not understand them, and under no circumstances should you be tempted to actually read Reddit. You will only be horrified because, like the future, it’s simply not for you. The world belongs to the Millennials now. The most we can do is accept that fact and do our best not to anger our future overlords.


How to Suck at Scrabble

(But Have Fun Doing It)

I love me a good bit of Scrabble. It’s the best game for feeling smart without actually being smart. People think it’s about having a large vocabulary, which isn’t completely true — strategy plays a bigger part, I would say, and chance bigger still. I’ve seen brilliant players of decades derailed by unlucky tiles, and yet when you win you think, “Yes, Mattel, I am a genius, thank you for noticing.” If you really were a genius, you’d be playing something like chess, that a) wasn’t copyrighted in the ’50s by a children’s toy company, and b) has nothing to do with luck.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t fun, though, and the element of chance means you have to depend on your ingenuity even more when you need to dig yourself out of a deep bear-pit. I didn’t used to be all that interested in it, but I’ve since had several exes who fed my addiction and introduced me to some variations of the game. For reasons that will later become clear, let’s call the first ex the Scrabbleshark. Let’s call the second one Stropic Thunder.

But house rules are a dangerous game. There’s no better way to suck at real Scrabble than playing your own janky homebrew version because when you forget all your old strategies. I’ve been playing online Scrabble for so long now that I don’t think I’d be able to play the board game properly. The problem in that case is that you don’t get penalized for incorrect words, which means your strategy morphs from skilled gameplay into trying as many variations on “JZYXQ” as possible and hoping one of them sticks. There was a great article on Forbes about this a few years ago1, and if it weren’t for the fact that I need my Scrabble fix and there aren’t any popular alternatives, I’d have quit online Scrabble a long time ago.

Although house rules can screw you up, there are some variations that make it better as a party game. Your average game of Scrabble is a competitive thing — you’re pitting your strategy and knowledge against your opponents’ and you’re scoring points meticulously. There’s always that guy with the pencil and paper ready to tell you that no, you can’t play your tiles in that direction because YOUR FACE that’s why. A large number of Scrabble variants are already documented, but I was pleased to see none of these are on the list.

One-Tray Scrabble

I got introduced to this a few years ago by the Scrabbleshark and his family. In One-Tray Scrabble you only have one tray of letters, and with each turn you pass it onto the next player. This makes for a faster game, but it also means that if you get any good letters, you have to use them right away or else the next player will get them. In this game it doesn’t even matter who else sees your tiles, but then I don’t think that makes any strategic difference — it just means you don’t have to guard your tray like a Nazi with the German codes.

I played One-Tray Scrabble with the Scrabbleshark and his family, and his mother is by all accounts a diabolical player with no mercy or forgiveness. It made me very happy that I won, which also meant that I could never play them again in case I spoiled my perfect record.

Phonetic Scrabble

Phonetic Scrabble was described to me by Stropic Thunder. But first, I think, a little back-story. When I met Stropic Thunder I discovered that he’d been on an ill-starred date with the Scrabbleshark. It’s San Francisco — these things happen more often than I’d like to contemplate. Sometimes I think there’s a really gross game of “six degrees of separation” to be played.

Anyhow, Stropic Thunder had been on a date with the Scrabbleshark. The date nose-dived faster than a Malaysia Airlines flight, but at some point the Scrabbleshark had managed to trick Stropic Thunder into a game of Scrabble. The Scrabbleshark had passed himself off as only a casual player and then proceeded to trounce Stropic Thunder and earn his nickname in one afternoon.

Stropic Thunder was a bit leery of the game at this point, but he got some satisfaction out of bending the rules. He and his best friend had invented a variation called Phonetic Scrabble in which your words don’t have to be spelled correctly — they just have to sound like an actual word.

Challenge Scrabble

Challenge Scrabble is the only one of these games that I can lay any claim to. The others were invented without me, but I actually had a hand in this one. I forget how it started, though I’m like 99% sure I’d been drinking which would explain both how it happened and why I can’t remember it. It was invented on a date with Stropic Thunder (whose nickname, by the way, is not based on board games — this one’s all personality).

In Challenge Scrabble you have to complete a challenge set by the other players. Let’s say it’s your turn and your opponents decide your next move has to spell out the name of an American president. You could play “Bush” or “Truman”. You could play “Calvin” or “Ulysses”. You could even play “Dubya” if you wanted, because half the fun about the challenges is thinking up inventive ways around them. Now it’s the next player’s turn and you decide they must play a word that describes their boyfriend/girlfriend. Watch them squirm.

The reason I like Challenge Scrabble best isn’t just that I co-invented it, but also that it is such a good party game. You don’t need to keep score, and you don’t need to keep your tray private if you don’t want. The fun of the game is in the challenges and they can be as tricky or as personal as you like.

Disclaimer

In what scientists are calling “a good idea”, I’m now seeing a boy who does not play Scrabble.

In an effort not to talk out of my arse, I did search for people who might have invented these variations sooner. Phonetic Scrabble, I gather, is not a new invention, but as far as I can tell One-Tray Scrabble is unique. I’m pretty sure Challenge Scrabble is unique too because Stropic Thunder and I came up with it on the spur of the moment, but if it does already exist then it’s a happy case of multiple discovery. Or two sets of drunks eventually arriving at the same conclusion, whichever makes you happier.

Notes