Sunday, 15 September 2019

The Mystery Squad and the Mysteries of the Mystery Squad

The Mystery Squad is an interesting little series of semi-adventure gamebooks, published between 1984 and 1986. I say "semi-adventure gamebooks" because the only form of interactivity is trying to solve puzzles based on illustrations; they're halfway between a Choose Your Own Adventure book, and, I suppose, an Usborne Puzzle Adventure such as Murder on the Midnight Plane.

Sunday, 8 September 2019


When casting the first series of Red Dwarf in the late eighties, Rob Grant and Doug Naylor hoped to get four "proper" actors to play the four regular roles. They ended up with an impressionist, a poet, a stand-up comedian and a dancer. When David Ross filmed his guest spot as the original Kryten in the eponymous second series episode, he was horrified to discover that none of the main cast were 'legit' actors. The original intention for "The End" was for all the ship's crew to be played by big-name comedy stars... and then for them to all be killed off, leaving viewers with "Craig who?" as the lead. These are all stories any Red Dwarf fan will likely recognise.

Sunday, 1 September 2019

The Long and Short of It

That picture there is the blackboard gag used in the opening sequence for the second season Simpsons episode "One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish".

It's a perfectly good joke by itself, of course, but I think there's another layer to it. That episode's particular opening sequence was the first time the show did not use the full-length intro (barring two episodes in Season 1 which faded into the start of the episode during the initial pan to Springfield Elementary School; with the re-animation of the opening titles in Season 2, the opportunity to make several different intros of varying length was taken). "One Fish..." debuts a cut-down version of the intro that only features the first appearance of each family member before we get to the driveway.

With that in mind... doesn't it seem quite likely that Bart's blackboard punishment is a metatextual reference to the shortened intro?

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Shadap Your Face

19 November 1979: The cast and crew of Doctor Who are working on the concluding serial of the show's seventeenth season, the six-part Shada by Douglas Adams. The location shoot has been completed, albeit with difficulties arising from a labour dispute. On the first of three studio sessions, the cast return from lunch to find the dispute has escalated into industrial action, and all recordings at Television Centre have been postponed. The future of Shada - scheduled to begin airing on BBC One in exactly two months' time - is instantly thrown into doubt.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Some Hints for Don't Escape 4

I think Don't Escape 4, released on Steam earlier this year, is an absolutely terrific point-and-click survival horror game, and you should all buy it immediately. (The three preceding games, previously released online, are also available to buy for Steam, and are worth picking up given the imminent demise of Flash.)

However, when I played the game on its release, there were a few puzzles I got stuck on, and after a few hours of much pointing and clicking and failing to work them out, I was forced to consult the Internet... and the only help available to me was in the form of full, complete walkthroughs, which did end up telling me rather more than I wanted to know when all I needed was a slight nudge in the right direction. So I thought I'd come up with my own list of suitably vague hints for the game.

Right, these are ordered roughly chronologically (although there may be some variance, what with free will and all), although the game has several story branches so some of them may not apply to your playthrough.

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Edit Wars #12

Oh good lord, they're still going. Ahem. Actually, this one's a bit interesting - examples of possible censorship in the show for reasons of copyright or similar.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

From Cabin A to Cabin Z

Ah, Cabin Pressure. Whilst unquestionably a very funny show in its own right - certainly the funniest heard on Radio 4 in quite a good few years - halfway through its original run it was unexpectedly catapulted to international fame quite unheard of for a Radio 4 sitcom when one of its main cast, a certain Benedict Cumberbatch, began starring in a new crime drama on BBC One, instantly creating a massive fanbase which was eager to seek out some of his other work. By happy coincidence, a repeat run of the second series of Cabin Pressure began in the same week as that first series of Sherlock, and the rest is history.

Cabin Pressure ran for a total of four six-episode series plus two specials, totalling 26 episodes. That is the same number as there are letters in the alphabet. This is not a coincidence, as each episode is named after the location the crew of MJN Air are flying to that week, and the series works its way through the alphabet from A to Z: starting with the first episode, "Abu Dhabi", and all the way up to the grand finale, "Zurich". At least, that was the intention, and how the episodes were written and recorded: the actual broadcasts hit one or two snags.

Sunday, 28 July 2019

Walton Earth?

Here is a Simpsons story you may be familiar with. In a speech on 27 January 1992, then-President of the United States George H.W. Bush mentions The Simpsons unflatteringly, stating American families should try to be "a lot more like the Waltons and a lot less like the Simpsons". These remarks - or something very similar to them - are repeated during his speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention in August of that year. (Some sources claim that Bush's second use of the Waltons/Simpsons comparison was during his State of the Union address on 28 January, but that does not seem to be the case.)

The producers of The Simpsons quickly rush out a response, using redubbed animation (taken from the start of "Simpson and Delilah") and live-action footage of the speech, aired as a pre-titles sequence before a repeat of "Stark Raving Dad" on the 30th January, which you can see here. (Apologies for linking to a DVD extra someone's stuck on YouTube, but it is absolutely necessary to illustrate this article.)