Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Speaking of Finding Missing Material.....Oswald the Lucky Rabbit!

Just last week I wrote my article about the missing episodes of Doctor Who. Missing material of all kind intriques me because you never know when something is going to show up. Even something that is over 80 years old!
I just read today about the discovery of the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit animated short, Hungry Hobo. Produced in 1928, this was the last Oswald short produced by Walt Disney before he lost control of the character. As the legend goes, it was when Walt was returning to LA after losing Oswald that he created Mickey Mouse. A few years ago after being a property of Universal for years, Oswald returned home to Disney after a shrewd trade sending Al Michaels to NBC from ABC and Disney getting Oswald back. Only a handful of Disney era Oswald shorts exist and were released on DVD. Here is the story from the  Daily Mail:

"A long-lost Disney cartoon that features a character who was the prototype for Mickey Mouse has been discovered in a British film archive. The cartoon, called Hungry Hobos, was made in 1928 but has been missing since before the Second World War.

The black and white footage features Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and was drawn shortly before the character was abandoned and turned into Mickey Mouse that same year. Incredibly, the five-minute silent cartoon has turned up in a vault at the Huntley Film Archives in Herefordshire, where it has sat for decades. Amanda Huntley, who runs the company, said a colleague stumbled upon it on a shelf and out of curiosity searched its name on Google and discovered it was a 'lost' classic. She said: "There are a lot of lost films out there. This was made in 1928 and has been in our collection for decades. We specialise in social history films and not animation. But my colleague took the film from the shelf and Googled it - I don't really know why. We quickly realised it was one of the great lost films. We posted the news on specialist web forums and everybody was very excited!"

Hungry Hobos follows a starving Oswald and his friend Peg Leg Pete on a train. They rob a chicken of her egg by squeezing the animal and cook it by using the train's wheels. Oswald's facial features and behaviour are clearly those of Mickey Mouse - the legendary character that has endured ever since. The whereabouts of the film has for decades baffled animation experts, who believed it would never be seen again.

It is now expected to fetch at least £25,000 ($39,000) when it goes under the hammer at Bonhams' Entertainment Memorabilia auction in Los Angeles next month. Hungry Hobos was released for general screening on May 14, 1928, just one day before Mickey Mouse's feature debut, 'Plane Crazy', had its first preview screening. The film marked a significant turning point for Walt Disney as it was the last time he had to work alongside another studio. Walt Disney made 26 films with Oswald as the central character for Universal Pictures before taking the character to his own studio and turning it into a rodent. Mrs Huntley said: "It is significant because it is Disney but also because the character was the prototype of Mickey Mouse. Disney developed many characters and they changed over time and Oswald has the characteristics of Mickey Mouse - he looks similar even though he's a rabbit. Disney made a series with this character and then turned him into a mouse. Mickey Mouse has lasted over 80 years and many generations have grown up to love him. How we ended up with the film I don't know. It was probably collected by my father who started the company and it has been sitting on our shelves for decades. We have decided to sell it because it is not really what we specialise in and we can use the money to preserve other films we have".

Stephanie Connell, from Bonhams, said: "Hungry Hobos is an incredible find, a lost masterpiece and a cartoon with a unique and vital place in animation history".

The film comprises of a 16mm double perforated celluloid acetate positive print. It is being auctioned on December 14."

There is reason to be concerned though. Animation preservationalist Tom Stathes says on the Disney forum Ultimate Disney, "I will say on behalf of myself and other animation preservationists that yesterday's discovery of the auction made for a very sad and worrisome day in the archival community. As someone who works in the field of locating and preserving silent cartoons day in and day out, it is fair for me to say that Bonhams has blown the film's value extremely out of proportion, whether or not it is a "lost" Disney film. The results of this auction, whether it is successful or not, could spell problems for the future of our preservation efforts when new "lost" films come to light."

I have great respect for Tom Stathes and the work he is doing for animation preservation. I too am worried what the outcome of this auction will be. There has been no word if Disney was offered a chance to buy it or even get a copy. If you have a chance to see any Oswald animation shorts, please do so. They are very funny and make great use visual gags. I prefer them to the early Mickey Mouse shorts. I am worried we will not be able to see this newly discovered short!

If you want to read more about Tom's position on this Oswald find, please go to: http://cartoonsonfilm.blogspot.com/2011/11/sorry-oswald-youre-unlucky-exploited.html

My article I promised about the episode of Beasts During Barty's Party will be up by Saturday!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Missing You! My Experience with the Missing Episodes of Doctor Who

Let me start out by saying that this is an editorial. This is not a factual article on missing episodes of Doctor Who. It has been about a year since the fantastic book Wiped! Doctor Who’s Missing Episodes (R.Molesworth, Telos Publishing 2010) came out. In terms of factual information on this subject, I don’t believe this can be beat. It would be nice if it came out as an e-book, what do you say Telos? Anyway, my article below is my musings, fascination, and my own research I have conducted over the last 20 years.
Over the last 6 years, I have been going episode by episode through the entire run of Doctor Who. Now that I have completed this, I started all over again. I am about to get to the first missing story, Marco Polo, and I thought it would be an interesting anniversary article if I wrote a little something on my personal thoughts about missing episodes. Like so many fans of this amazing series, the revelation that so much of the 1960s episodes of Doctor Who were gone came as a big shock.
Part of the original disclaimer KTCA channel 2 would show before each William Hartnell story back in 1986.
Let me set the stage. I apologize in advance if this is a long boring stage. In my younger years my local PBS station KTCA was showing the Hartnell and Troughton stories for the first time; I really had no clue what existed and what was missing. I did have the Jean Marc Lofficier The Doctor Who Program Guide (W. H. Allen Ltd 1981) so I knew the titles of the stories I would be seeing over the coming weeks but it gave no indication what still existed. I never thought our PBS station would get the Hartnell episodes so I was shocked that in January of 1986 when I was able to watch the very first Doctor Who story, An Unearthly Child. Finally, I would be able to see the stories that shaped the series and I could see the iconic moment of Doctor Who. I couldn’t wait to see some of these stories! Every week I would check our local TV guide to see the description of that week’s story. When we got to Marco Polo, it was skipped over. No Marco Polo. It was at that point I remembered hearing on a KTCA pledge drive, in a throw away comment, that some early episodes were missing. Ok, I didn’t worry too much about it as I highly doubted that so many episodes would be gone. Sure enough, apart from The Reign of Terror from season 1, season 2 hardly had anything missing with the exception of The Crusades. At the time I preferred the futuristic stories anyway, so it was no loss to me. But things would change considerably when we got to season 3 when most notably, there was no The Daleks’ Masterplan not to mention just about every other story from that season. The final kick in the teeth came when we got to The War Machines. I knew we were at the end of the Hartnell era. I couldn’t wait to see stories such as The Tenth Planet, The Power of the Daleks, The Tomb of The Cybermen, The Wheel in Space, etc. I couldn’t wait till the local TV Guide came in the Sunday paper so I could see the listings for the story after The War Machines. I got the TV guide for the week after The War Machines to not see listed for the next week The Smugglers or even The Tenth Planet but……The Dominators. This in essence was skipping all the stories I really wanted to see. As one could imagine, I instantly blamed KTCA….for no reason. I was young.
As the years rolled on, I learned that things weren’t as dreadful as I had feared. Some of these stories were not completely gone; some stories existed with partial episodes.  I eventually got horrible camera copies of these partial episodes and even started to get audio recordings of the missing episodes. I officially got into fandom in 1988. I learned almost immediately that one of the best past times for fans were talking about rumours about missing episodes. Ok, maybe not everyone was talking about rumours of missing episodes and OK maybe it was only me asking everyone about missing episodes but hey, I was only 14 and wanted to know more about this mysterious world.
When I got into fandom, the most recent find was The Faceless Ones Episode 3 and The Evil of the Daleks Episode 2. These were pretty big deals and there really was a kind of a covert, espionage sort of feeling that all the missing episodes were out there. Somewhere. We just had to find them. I heard this from so many people back in the day. It seemed perfectly logical that they were just waiting to be rescued by us fans. At this point, little did we know, there were only a few more hurrahs waiting for us as the golden age of finding episodes was winding down. When The Ice Warriors One, Four, Five & Six were found it was exciting but so many fans were thinking that this is just another set of episodes in a long line of future discoveries. In reality, we weren’t too far off. For me, the story that I never thought would be returned was announced as found in January of 1992, The Tomb of the Cybermen. For many of us, this was the holy grail of missing episodes. In some ways, it confirmed to some of us that all the episodes were out there. If this story exists, they must all exist!  It’s almost as if this was a global treasure hunt that was set up for us by the BBC. They put these episodes in different parts of the world and we go find them. The reality was that this was really the end of a stream of episode discoveries. Sure an episode was discovered in 1999 and 2003 but reality started to set in.
I enjoyed living in ignorance to some degree in the 1990s about missing episodes. I enjoyed living in a world where there was these secret stories of what happened to these episodes that are now gone but in some private collection. It gave hope that they might be returned. Probably the most enjoyable article of its time was Missing Without a Trace written by Dr. Paul Lee. In this article it lists what has happened to so many of the episodes that are missing and how they still existed in private hands. There are no facts to any of these stories but these are hearsay and a lot of other rumblings that are put together to create an article of what one man knows. The level of covert and intelligence from this article would have made John LeCarre proud! This is not meant to be a tirade against Dr, Lee.  I think he fully believed everything he was writing but now, twenty years later, we can see why some of these stories don’t hold up and all the article ever did was perpetrate stories of hoaxing and accusations of high up fans holding material they never held.  My favourite story is about a person named Lei whose father had a TV station in Canada and they had purchased every episode single episode of Doctor Who. Because his father loved the series so much, he did not have the heart to destroy the episodes when the contract ended. Often when the contract ended, episodes were to be sent back to the BBC or destroyed.  Luckily, Lei was able to transfer the episodes to laserdisc (you know, that easily recordable format) and was in talks with the BBC to hand over the episodes. Unfortunately for the human race, Lei had some heart problems and was in the hospital. What a coincidence as he was about to hand over all these episodes! Though, it was said that he showed some of these missing episodes at Visions in Chicago.  That seems to be a long way to travel to bring a laserdisc player. Maybe for travel purposes, he dubbed them down to VHS. I may be mocking it now, but rest assured when I read the article in the early 1990’s I was riveted and convinced that this Lei fellow was the key to us getting all the episodes back. I was really hoping he would get better. Selfishly, not for his own health but because I wanted to see stuff like The Tenth Planet Episode 4. Now, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t still episodes out there somewhere. When I was at Visions in November 1991, I met someone there named Louis. He was a very nice guy who I sadly lost touch with over the years. He grew up in other countries and claimed to have seen some of these missing episodes broadcast in African countries. I believe he cited Tomb of the Cybermen. He told me that night that it would be announced soon that The Tomb of the Cybermen was returned from Hong Kong. I didn’t believe him. I certainly believed him in January of 1992. I assume it would be another hoax.
Lei's back up laserdisc copy of all 4 episodes of The Tenth Planet
In actuality, the Tenth Planet image by Simon Holub
Laserdics mock up by me.
I know about hoaxes. Obviously, there are the hoaxes that are perpetuated by people such as that guy in Blackpool. Unfortunately his last name is the same as my first name. I do believe there are some people who are not completely sure if he may have had anything at all. It is said he had a poor copy of The Tomb of the Cybermen before it was returned but quite frankly who cares. There are also innocent hoaxes such as friends of mine who thought they had a really, really poor colour copy of Invasion of the Dinosaurs Part One. In fact, even if black and white, the more generations the analogue signal is copied on VHS, the more weird stuff happens to the quality of the picture and can introduce a weird blue or green hue giving the impression of colour. I also know of a real hoax. One where I employed a “legitimate” video finder service to look for The Tenth Planet Episode 4 many years ago. The plan was that 2 other friends and I would pay the finder’s fee if it was found (yeah right) and then we would triumphantly return the episode to the BBC with trumpets heralding on high singing our exalted praise. Imagine my heart-stopping shock when I was told the episode was located by this company. I quizzed them like crazy, making sure it was not a recon and that it really said episode 4 on the title or film print. The episode should end with a man changing into a different man, etc. They verified everything. A price was set; I got my friends to agree to pay me when we got the episode and I would front the money just to get the episode here as quickly as we could. I had them send it Fed-Ex overnight to my home for Saturday delivery. It shows up, I have an out of body experience as I open the package, trembling. I pull out the VHS tape (first red flag), I put in the VHS and it starts with Episode One (second red flag, all four episodes on one tape!), I fast-forward the tape to the end to see…….a reconstruction. Not just a reconstruction but a reconstruction created by one of my best friend’s recon groups. My friend would be mortified to know this happened to one of his recons. Whoever gave this to the company I worked with knew what they were doing and that they were pulling a scam. I am not convinced this wasn’t done by the company itself. They became very difficult to work with and would not refund me any of the money I paid. I am sure at this point you are thinking that one or even both of my friends stepped up and offered me some money to help me out as we originally talked about splitting the cost. Not at all. Too bad guys, you should have offered, I would not have taken your money but would have appreciated the sentiment. Some of you at this point may be saying, “man this guy is stupid”, my only response is yes, yes I was. I thought there were some missing episodes in the US and I was going to turn one in. I was wrong.
Now, I don’t believe there are any missing episodes in the US. To clarify this statement, I mean that if there were any Hartnell or Troughton episodes in the US, it wouldn’t have been because they were broadcast over here. The only thing that was broadcast over here that would come close to be considered loss or could be found in the US would be the original Pertwee package of episodes from the early 1970’s that contain the stories Doctor Who and the Silurians through The Time Monster. These episodes were shown in US cities in colour in the 1970s while the PAL colour masters had been wiped in the UK. Because of this run of episodes, the BBC have been able to track down some of these NTSC masters and have been used in ground breaking restorations. Stories such as Inferno and The Claws of Axos had their NTSC masters used for Reverse Standard Conversions. Though,not all of these NTSC masters have been found and it gets complicated. Doctor Who and the Silurians, Terror of the Autons, and The Dæmons were found from either u-matic sources or domestic Beta recordings off-air by viewers. Tom Lundie is famous for recording some of these episodes which were used for restorations. He’s disappeared. I would love to get copies of his original tapes. The copies I have are about a gen or so down from his. The Ambassadors of Death exists as a domestic recording but can only partially be used for restoration because of horrible rainbow patterning in most of the episodes. There is also The Mind of Evil that up to a few years ago only had a 4 minute segment that existed from Episode Six in colour. Hopefully with the work being done on the Chroma Dot Recovery project, some of these episodes can be restored. We know there are chroma dots on all black & white Jon Pertwee prints barring The Mind of Evil Episode One but the process is so random that no two prints are alike and each will yield different inconsistent results.
Broadcast masters I hold of Doctor Who episodes.
1-3/4" tape, 3-Beta SP tapes, 1-1" tape, and 1-2" tape.
I figured if I were ever able to find any missing episodes, tracking down a recording of a colour Pertwee episode would be my best bet. I have spoken to a lot of TV enthusiasts over the years that were in the markets that had shown these colour Pertwee episodes in the late 1970’s. I found a gentleman who now lives in Alabama but lived in Chicago in the 1970s. He has a large collection of all types of television, mainly early US television. He was a fan of the series but knew nothing of fandom. He recorded Doctor Who in the 1970s. He claims he recorded the colour Pertwee episodes. In the 1980s they were on again and he recorded those versions as he thought he could get better quality from a newer recording. He knew nothing of the significance of this until I told him. He was horrified. This guy was a chronic recorder. He would record stuff over and over again and recycle his tapes. He rarely watched the stuff, he just wanted it. Now, I see the irony of this story, it seems the type of tale that would show up in something like Missing Without A Trace. I suppose you are expecting me to say that before he threw them out he recorded them to laserdisc or some obscure wire recording format. I am just telling you what I know and based on his video list, I believe him but I wasn’t done researching about these episodes yet.
I work in commercial production. One area I am always involved with through all of my incarnations in this field is tape, film and element storage. I know a lot of people in this field and a lot of them have been around for a very long time. Through my contacts, I got in contact with the guy who was in charge of sending out master tapes to stations while working at Time-Life in the 1970s. By the time I got a hold of him, he was VP of tape distribution for BBC Worldwide Americas in LA. I also got in touch with the guy who did the duplication of the episodes in the 1970s. All of Time-Life’s tape duplication was done by a place called Dubbs. My hope was to see what became of Dubbs. A lot of these companies were bought out and merged with other companies. Sometimes when companies merge, all sorts of stuff goes into storage and there are a lot of media storage facilities in LA. Some of these places go back 40 to 60 years. People always talk about looking for master tapes at these facilities. I wanted to see if there were any possibilities of viewing copies still existing. Maybe something on 3/4” tape. Of course all leads turn up with nothing. I didn’t expect it to work but I got some fascinating insight into how Dubbs worked with Time-Life to distribute BBC programming in the 1970s. I also felt like I was speaking with history when I spoke with those two gentlemen. I think if I was to contact these people even 10 years earlier, I think we could have gotten some results or at least some more leads. I am not convinced that there may not be more colour Pertwee episodes recorded at the time of broadcast but it is anyone’s guess if the tapes still exist or even play. Once again, if something like Craigslist existed 10 or 15 years ago, maybe there would be more results. I have gotten a lot of responses from people who recorded television in the 1970s, obviously not Doctor Who but there are enthusiasts out there. It never hurts to politely ask.
Do I think there are more missing episodes out there? Who knows, it’s like asking if I will ever win the lottery. I would like to think there are more episodes out there but it seems to me impossible that more exist that they would come from a TV station. I think now, it would be only from a private collector. What would I like to see returned? Well, obviously everything and obviously I would happily take anything we can get but if I were pressed I would be happy if the only things we ever recover again would be The Tenth Planet Episode 4 and all of The Power of the Daleks. I know, that’s not asking for much is it? The good news is, I think I know someone who has these recorded on laserdisc!
Happy Anniversary Doctor Who! What’s your favourite missing episode hoax or story?
Next Week: Sticking in the realm of the unknown, I will take a look at an episode from the Nigel Kneale classic series, Beasts and watch During Barty’s Party!

Friday, November 18, 2011

It's Your Move: Yes, Prime Minister: First Two Episodes

When I was a young boy just getting into British television, I had a serious misconception about both Yes Minister & Yes, Prime Minister. I had enjoyed such comedy classics as Benny Hill, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Fawlty Towers, etc. When Yes Minister started on the local PBS station, I figured since it had to do with British politics that this series would be stale and also have humour that was above my head. I had no interest in politics. It wasn’t until years later that when I actually sat down and watched Yes Minister and it’s follow up series Yes Minister that I realized that I had missed out on a treasure for many years. Little did I realize that I made the same mistake with Rumpole of the Bailey being put off that it was a program about a lawyer. I eventually found the errors of my ways.

Yes Minister started out on BBC2 back in 1980. It was an immediate success and a great satire on the inner workings of government. It ran for 3 series and returned in 1984 with the Christmas special Party Games. This was significant because at the end of the episode The Rt Hon Jim Hacker became Prime Minister. It seemed a fitting end to the series but there was more to come. I don’t know about you but I have always considered Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister to be two separate series. Certainly it is a continuation from one to the other but certainly two distinct series. I bring this up because the folks who did the entry into Wikipedia listed it as one show running five series. I never thought about it this way so I did some looking around and was happy to see I am not losing my sanity. The BBC Sales Company Program Catalog that sells programs to the likes of PBS stations lists this as two separate series. But they would, wouldn’t they? After all, they want to make as much money as possible from everyone. So, I looked at what I consider to be the gold standard for all British television and that would be Kaleidoscope. Amongst many other amazing research tools they have created, they have these wonderful program guides. They have one for BBC drama, ITV drama, and Comedy (which covers both BBC & ITV programs). They cover all series including cast, airdates, episodes, archive status and what tape or film format they exist in. These are expensive guides but if you are seriously into British television, these are must haves. Someday I will write a whole article about them. Anyway, they also list Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister as two separate series. What do you think?
Regardless, both series are basically a sitcom chess match. Hacker is on one side of the board and Sir Humphrey Appleby on the other. Each one tries to out maneuver the other one into getting what they want. Hacker is often more for the people and to stay popular to the vote and Appleby to uphold the tradition of the civil servants but more importantly to keep the business of running government within his department. Nothing could be worse, in his mind, than a PM making a decision on his own! In the middle is poor Bernard Woolley. He is the PM’s Principle Private Secretary and also works for Sir Humphrey Appleby. He seems to be able to choose his allegiance depending on the situation. I make him sound like some creepy-back stabbing person but he couldn’t be further from this. He is a very gentle character who is often bullied by either Hacker or Appleby and often needs to make the decision of what side to be on. Unfortunately for him, this decision isn’t always the right one.
I watched these episodes from the PAL DVD release. I am in the US but prefer to have all my British television DVDs in PAL and from the UK. I guess I am a PAL snob. Even the allure of more extras on the R1 NTSC set was not enough for me to get it. Plus unlike DVD in the US, PAL DVDs always go way down in price after a while. Of course when I just checked Amazon US & UK, the prices are comparable but when I originally got the DVDs, it was probably about 50% cheaper. I really cleaned up that way with Red Dwarf. The picture quality between Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister is noticeable as by the time Yes, Prime Minister was being made, the BBC switched over to mastering all the programs on 1” videotape. Yes Minister was made on 2” tape and is better quality. Yes, Prime Minister is certainly decent enough quality. Anyway, what about the actual episodes I watched?
The Grand Design TX: 09/01/86

The first episode of Yes, Prime Minister was broadcast over a year since Party Games, Hacker has been in office for just days and is getting accustomed to being the head of the United Kingdom. The episode starts off with him inspecting a military establishment and talking to a general about the latest nuclear deterrent the Trident at a cost to the people of the UK of £15 billion. This and the realization of the decision to press the button was his alone was very troubling for Hacker. What is even more devastating for Hacker is that he does not have a cook! So while Cabinet Secretaries are in the staff cafeteria for lunch having a 3 course meal, he has nothing unless he wants to make it himself!  Written by Anthony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, this series does an impeccable job of toting the line between comedy and what could be drama. Sometimes serious issues are raised such as Hacker’s realization as PM; he is responsible for pressing the button in a nuclear situation. But within the same episode, he is wants government to pay for his cook, he is more concerned about his first ministerial broadcast and his impending trip to the US to meet the President.
Hacker can sometimes look like an imbecile. When he is caught off-guard, he reacts with shock and sometimes horror. He is sometimes incredibly naïve. The real gem of this series though is that he is none of those qualities. I like to think he is like the rest of us, if we were in those situations. Many of us would be taken aback by certain situations but would rebound with intelligent solutions. Hacker does just this when speaking with the Chief Scientific Advisor. The Chief Scientific Advisor sets Hacker through his paces by quizzing him on different nuclear scenarios with each one getting a more horrific looking response from Hacker. Would hacker be OK starting a nuclear war if necessary? This is until Hacker gets it. We see Hacker get it and he comes up with a plan that would not only get rid of spending all that money on Trident but also reintroduce conscription (having young men and women join the army at 18 for certain amount of time) and take care of a lot of Britain’s unemployment problems. It’s going to be unpopular or as Bernard puts it “courageous” but Hacker doesn’t back down. Until Appleby learns about this.
Any scene between Appleby and Hacker are great. As I mentioned above, it’s a game of chess between these two with only Appleby really ever seeing it this way. The reaction to Hacker’s plan from Appleby is priceless and a great comedic discussion takes place. This is a great exchange between them:

Sir Humphrey: "With Trident we could obliterate the whole of Eastern Europe."
Jim Hacker: "I don't want to obliterate the whole of Eastern Europe."
Sir Humphrey: "It's a deterrent."
Jim Hacker: "It's a bluff. I probably wouldn't use it."
Sir Humphrey: "Yes, but they don't know that you probably wouldn't."
Jim Hacker: "They probably do."
Sir Humphrey: "Yes, they probably know that you probably wouldn't. But they can't certainly know."
Jim Hacker: "They probably certainly know that I probably wouldn't."
Sir Humphrey: "Yes, but even though they probably certainly know that you probably wouldn't, they don't certainly know that, although you probably wouldn't, there is no probability that you certainly would."
In the end Appleby is able to suspend Hacker from going too much further in his “Grand Design” until more research is done but Hacker is the first Prime Minister to ever get his own government funded cook. Appleby works his magic again to make Hacker look like he won the day where as he did exactly what Appleby wanted.

The troubling thing about this episode is that there were a lot of jokes about how the military runs in the UK and US. How lazy they were and how companies that manufacture the bombs for the governments provided ill-fitting bombs for the missiles. They did because these companies knew that they could get away with it as the governments wanted to avoid any bad press or scandals. It’s all very funny but as with all satire, it always starts with some truth…….

The Ministerial Broadcast TX: 16/01/86
This is a more straight forward episode revolving around a very jet-lagged PM returning after his trip to the US to meet the President. Now Hacker needs to focus on his “Grand Design” get ditch trident and re-introduce conscription and also his first ministerial broadcast.

A good portion of this episode deals with Hacker trying out different ways to look and act on in front of the camera as a practice run to his first broadcast. A great deal of time is devoted to this but not always funny. It drags a little bit for me and seems to me to be writing that is almost beneath Jay & Lynn’s ability. I’ve seen it in other series where we have an established character that we know reasonably well and are just trying to hash out what this character would look like if he said something in a silly voice, or an angry voice or with a funny smile on his face, etc. I think the worse and least funny example of this was in the Family Guy episode, Road to Multiverse. It’s just, let’s see what Brian and Stewie look like in 3D, now if they were Disney Characters, now if they were Claymation, etc. To me, it’s not funny for shows that are known for intelligent humour.

It gets good when Bernard tells Appleby that Hacker is still planning on introducing his “Grand Design” to the nation during the broadcast. At this point, Sir Appleby explains to Bernard how results in surveys can be skewed to get the results that they want. This is used against Hacker to show the public no longer wants conscription although in a previous study it was shown the public was very much for it. As Sir Appleby explains, it is all about how you ask the questions:

Sir Humphrey: "You know what happens: nice young lady comes up to you. Obviously you want to create a good impression, you don't want to look a fool, do you? So she starts asking you some questions: Mr. Woolley, are you worried about the number of young people without jobs?"
Bernard Woolley: "Yes"
Sir Humphrey: "Are you worried about the rise in crime among teenagers?"
Bernard Woolley: "Yes"
Sir Humphrey: "Do you think there is a lack of discipline in our Comprehensive schools?"
Bernard Woolley: "Yes"
Sir Humphrey: "Do you think young people welcome some authority and leadership in their lives?"
Bernard Woolley: "Yes"
Sir Humphrey: "Do you think they respond to a challenge?"
Bernard Woolley: "Yes"
Sir Humphrey: "Would you be in favour of reintroducing National Service?"
Bernard Woolley: "Oh...well, I suppose I might be."
Sir Humphrey: "Yes or no?"
Bernard Woolley: "Yes"
Sir Humphrey: "Of course you would, Bernard. After all you told you can't say no to that. So they don't mention the first five questions and they publish the last one."
Bernard Woolley: "Is that really what they do?"
Sir Humphrey: "Well, not the reputable ones no, but there aren't many of those. So alternatively the young lady can get the opposite result."
Bernard Woolley: "How?"
Sir Humphrey: "Mr. Woolley, are you worried about the danger of war?"
Bernard Woolley: "Yes"
Sir Humphrey: "Are you worried about the growth of armaments?"
Bernard Woolley: "Yes"
Sir Humphrey: "Do you think there is a danger in giving young people guns and teaching them how to kill?"
Bernard Woolley: "Yes"
Sir Humphrey: "Do you think it is wrong to force people to take up arms against their will?"

Bernard Woolley: "Yes"

Sir Humphrey: "Would you oppose the reintroduction of National Service?"

Bernard Woolley: "Yes"
Sir Humphrey: "There you are, you see Bernard. The perfect balanced sample."

The above is a prime example of why the series is so good. Sir Appleby in particular. It also does a tremendous job of letting us know (at least in the world of Yes, Prime Minister) that the public comes second after government. It is almost like the government is in a world of its own only to be interrupted occasionally by the public who only wants stuff and gets in the way. It’s like government could run so much smoother if it didn’t really need to take care of the public.  I don’t think this series is as strong as Yes Minister. To me, it was more interesting when Hacker was a cog in the machine and not running it. That being said, when given the choice with a lot of stuff that is on the air right now, I would always go for watching Yes, Prime Minister.

I collected the episode quotes for this article from: http://www.yes-minister.com/index.html

Next Week: In my own personal viewing of Doctor Who from the beginning of the series again, I am about to get to Marco Polo which is the first missing Doctor Who story. I wanted to write something about my feelings on this subject, include some of my theories and why, to me,  this is the most interesting aspect of Doctor Who.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Where has all the blogging gone?

I warned you, didn't I? I said that there would be times I would take a break from this blog. Of course, I never thought it would be over a year. I am ready to start posting again.
A big hurdle for me was this huge article I have wanted to write for some time. It is based on Ed Stradling's documentary Cheques, Lies and Videotapes found on the Revenge of the Cybermen. You see, when I was younger in the late 1980's I got heavily involved into collecting rare Doctor Who episodes on video. I started off by collecting locally from friends to eventually having friends all over the world I get stuff from. I wanted to write it as I felt I have a unique story and Ed's documentary focused only on people in the UK. This is fine but to me that is only part of the story.
At any rate, I had wanted to write this and everything else fell by the wayside. Then I was fortunate enough to work on some wonderful Doctor Who related projects that took up all my other time. Now over a year later, I see that some people have left me comments on some of my articles, that means so much to me. These are comments by people who enjoy the series I enjoy. I also re-read some of my articles. I am no writer but these aren't bad. Some interesting points were made and I remember things about those productions that I since forgot after doing the research. I want to do this again.
This week or next week: Even though I haven't been writing, it doesn't mean I haven't stopped watching. I will sneak into #10 Downing Street to see Jim Hacker's first few weeks in office as I look at the first 2 episodes of Yes, Prime Minister.
I hope you check back.