Sunday, 13 October 2019

Masks of Mediocrity

We've talked about great ways to die in adventure gamebooks before. But successful endings can often be just as interesting, for a great many reasons. Sometimes they might be a short 3-line paragraph that makes you feel it wasn't really worth the time and effort. Or there might be a surprising twist. Or they might be so strange and inconclusive that you have no idea what the author was aiming for.

Masks of Mayhem, the twenty-third title in the Fighting Fantasy series, was published in 1986, and at first glance it seems that the ending falls squarely in the first such category. Here is the successful ending to the book, in its entirety:

Victory is yours! The Masks of Mayhem will not be released upon the land - at any rate, not in your lifetime...

Ask for an example of the A Winner Is You trope in any adventure gamebook, and that example is bound to come up time and again. But that sentence and a half by itself is not the whole story. We need to go back a little further in the book to understand why the ending of Masks of Mayhem is what it is.

Monday, 7 October 2019


So. Did you know that Garfield didn't really start in 1978? For over two years before that, it existed in Jim Davis' local newspaper as Jon, which, as we can see from the surviving strips, was basically the exact same premise, only Mr Arbuckle was the lead character, not his cat, and indeed many Jon strips were subsequently redone for Garfield.

The fact that Jon even ever existed at all is a very recent discovery - in fact, it dates to July of this year. (The video linked to in that article chronicles how the strips were discovered, and is well worth checking out.) Prior to that, it seems Jon had been completely expunged from the record, not being mentioned in any known history of Garfield. This isn't just obscure, it was completely unknown about until a few months back. Given it is a fairly important part of the strip's history, one wonders why - a deliberate decision from Jim Davis? Gnorm Gnat strips are obscure, sure, but we at least knew they existed...

Sunday, 6 October 2019

27 on 4

The end of the year approaches. Christmas decorations start appearing in the shops. Fireworks go off with increasing frequency. Channel 4 gets the rights to a new-to-terrestrial season of The Simpsons, as first shown on Sky One four years ago.

On past form, that last one - this time being the debut of Season 27 - should start roughly about mid-November, in the tried-and-tested slot of weekdays at 6pm, so keep an eye on The Simpsons Archive's UK scheduling page for exact details. (Thanks to Wesley Mead, maintainer of that page, for helping out with a few details in this article.) If you do happen to watch Channel 4's debut of the 2015-16 season, here are a few things to watch out for - principally possible censorship cuts, but also other geeky notes of interest.

Monday, 30 September 2019

My Scintillating Theory on the Recording Order of the Second Series of Red Dwarf

The first series of Red Dwarf was recorded in the same order it was intended to be broadcast. However, the originally intended fourth episode, "Future Echoes", turned out so well that it was decided to bump it up to second in the broadcast order to try and keep viewers' attention.

I think that the second series was also recorded in the order it was meant to be shown, with one exception born out of necessity. Let me explain.

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Questioning Marmalade

Would you like some questions about the 1982 CITV sitcom Educating Marmalade (and its 1984 follow-up, Danger: Marmalade at Work), sorted by episode? No? Tough, that's what we're doing this week anyway.

Sunday, 22 September 2019

A Twice-Weekly Serial Set In The Exciting World of League Football

Between October 1965 and March 1967, the BBC produced and broadcast 147 episodes of the football-based soap opera United! At the end of its second season, the BBC cancelled the show due to low viewing figures, and, as was common practice at the time, they wiped all the master tapes for reuse. Whilst many "missing" episodes of TV shows that have been lost in this manner have been recovered over the years, allowing us to at least get a glimpse of how they looked, United! has not been so fortunate, and not a single episode is known to survive, not even on audio. The most common context for the series to come up in these days is somebody pointing out the large crossover the show's production crew had with Doctor Who, but nobody has ever made an exhaustive list of who worked on both shows, and when.

Until now.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Re-Editing the Guilty

Here's a thing. BBC Two's new sitcom, Defending the Guilty, started life as a one-off pilot last year, off the back of which a full series was commissioned. That full series began airing this week, with the pilot repeated on Tuesday, followed by five new episodes.

That pilot, now identified as Series 1 Episode 1, is up on iPlayer here, and is identified as having been originally broadcast on 19 September 2018. The part of Nessa is played by Claudia Jessie, and Pia is played by Hanako Footman, both of whom go on to play those roles in the following five "series proper" episodes. However, according to IMDb, when the pilot was originally broadcast in 2018, those role were played by Jessica Ransom and Emily Berrington.

So all the scenes with those characters in the "repeat" of the pilot, which is also the version on the iPlayer, are reshoots (the British Comedy Guide concurs with this), necessitated when Ransom and Berrington turned out not to be available for the full series... and yet the iPlayer makes no difference between the two versions, with the original pilot no longer available to view, and the revised version listed as being the one that was first broadcast in 2018. This is probably an error rather than anything else, but you may not be totally surprised to learn that it annoys me.

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.