Sunday, 30 December 2018

Long Reads #4

We've reached the end of another year, so now seems a good a time as any to round up the best of the blog since the last time I did one of these. See you in 2019!

Monday, 24 December 2018

Copyright Roasting on an Open Fire

Longtime readers of the blog might remember my dissection of The Simpsons Xmas Book, a novelisation of the first ever full-length Simpsons episode, "Simpsons Roasting On an Open Fire", at the end of which I postulated the additional material in the book might be from some alternate version of the episode. Well, here's something to add fuel to the fire.

Why does the episode bear the copyright date of 1990, when it was produced and obviously intended for broadcast in 1989?

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Probabilities of Terror

The final boss of Crypt of the Sorcerer, the twenty-sixth book in the original Fighting Fantasy series and published in 1987, is the titular Sorcerer, Razaak. His combat statistics are SKILL 12 and STAMINA 20 - more or less the highest possible scores the player character can have. This is compounded by the fact that if Razaak wins two combat rounds in a row, you die automatically. Somebody actually did the maths on this thing and, provided you have the same or slightly higher statistics as Razaak when you fight him (i.e. you rolled the highest possible SKILL score, and near enough the highest possible STAMINA score, and are still at full health) then your chances of winning are 5.5%... which would obviously diminish the lower your scores are. This is an impossibly one-sided encounter.

Sunday, 16 December 2018


Immediately before their coverage of the 1997 General Election, BBC One ran something rather interesting - a repeat of the election-themed Blackadder the Third episode Dish and Dishonesty. It is a rare example of the BBC's mainstream channel tying into an election on the day - the only time they've attempted to do so since is 2010, when Have I Got News for You was moved out of the Friday night slot it had occupied for 19 years by scheduling genius Jay Hunt and plonked on Thursdays, with the stated reason that it would allow them to do an election special on the day Britain went to the polls. However, on the actual day of recording itself, they realised that if they went ahead with this plan the episode would be broadcast before the polls had closed, meaning the panellists would be forbidden from expressing any opinionated comments about the election. Realising this was less than ideal, the episode's recording date was hurriedly shifted to Friday morning, for broadcast later that evening. (This tight turnaround is also used by whichever Radio 4 is running at 6.30pm on Fridays at the time of the election - indeed, The News Quiz has often recorded on Friday morning for episodes during the campaign, rather than just the episode immediately after the results.)

Sunday, 9 December 2018

The Alternative Dr Who Christmas Special Guide

For the first time since its triumphant return to our screens in 2005, there is no new episode of Doctor Who on Christmas Day this year, with the new production team plumping for a New Year's Day special instead. But if you're desperate for a fix of festive Who before the year is out (and want to do something slightly more interesting than rewatch some of the previous years' specials), why not look to parts of the show's spin-off media instead?

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Edit Wars #9

Whilst getting the links for the old Robot Wars Club membership pack videos off of YouTube, I have made several remarkable discoveries readers of the blog might like.

Robot Wars Revealed, the Series 2 spin-off show that has languished in obscurity since its original broadcast due to airing on a newly launched channel, previously only had one known surviving episode. But now a second one's only gone and bloody turned up!

The next discovery is even better, though. Seven whole minutes of footage from the pits, shot via hand-held camcorder by one of the 13 Black team (for the curious, this footage can be dated to exactly 26 August 2001 by the team's own website). The same account also gives us five minutes of test footage from when the robot was first built, and footage of their Series 2 entry Limpet dating from August 1998.

And, for good measure, an appearance from Mike Lambert of the Dantomkia team on Harry Hill's TV Burp.

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Thrave Review

It's the late eighties and early-to-mid nineties, and adventure gamebooks are huge in the United Kingdom, with the popularity of Fighting Fantasy having prompted every other publisher going to jump on the bandwagon. One of the more prolific gamebook authors who never wrote for FF is one Stephen Thraves, and I am truly grateful for his name providing the pun in the title of this article. But what about his gamebooks?

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Brittassing In Action

The Brittas Empire ran for seven series on BBC One between 1991 and 1997, all of which were later released on DVD, alongside a limited amount of bonus content. And what they chose, and didn't choose, to include as special features is a bit odd.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

The BBC Does Not Have Adverts But Some Programmes It Airs Originally Did: A Case Study

The BBC occasionally buys programming from other countries. And those programmes were probably originally made for channels with commercial breaks... which the BBC, as established in the rather eccentric title of this post, don't have. The solution was generally to edit out the fades or cuts to black where the adverts would originally go. But sometimes things would be a bit more complicated than that. What if the programme had something designed to lead in to an advert break - such as a cliffhanger, or a bit of leaning on the fourth wall acknowledging the gap? The Simpsons, which the BBC aired the first 11 seasons of between 1996 and 2004, is a good test subject for this, so let's take a look at what got cut.

Sunday, 11 November 2018


A few months ago, in Edit Wars #5, I postulated that the original series of Robot Wars would be an excellent show to release on DVD because of all the lovely potential bonus content. So why not imagine what such content could look like with a series of fantasy DVD listings?

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Broken Gamebooks #11: Midnight Rogue

Midnight Rogue, the twenty-ninth entry in the Fighting Fantasy series, is an entertaining change from the norm: you play an apprentice in the Thieves' Guild of Port Blacksand, and to be granted full membership of the guild, you must locate and steal a priceless gem known as the Eye of the Basilisk. It's a fun, punchy adventure with a unique plot, and also tries a few gameplay innovations not often seen in FF books; nothing groundbreaking, but I'm certainly glad it exists.

Right, that's that out of the way, let's errata the hell out of this thing. MASSIVE SPOILERS below the jump break, for the wary.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

One Foot in the Genome

You know the drill by now, it's an article culled entirely from old Radio Times listings back in the day where producers got the chance to write their own, as found on the BBC Genome. The show under discussion is One Foot in the Grave.

Sunday, 21 October 2018


In 2007, Futurama returned four years after being cancelled by Fox, in the form of four direct-to-DVD movies. As part of a deal struck with Comedy Central, these movies would then be chopped up into four episodes each, creating a 16-episode season. There were a couple of differences between the movies and the individual episodes (which have never been released commercially), the biggest of which were the creation of twelve cliffhangers obviously not seen on DVD. Let's find out what they were, along with some assorted other trivia...

Monday, 15 October 2018

Cahiers Classiques d'Horreur

Image recycled from previous article owing to obscurity of subject matter
Way, way back in the first ever post I wrote for the blog, nearly two years ago, I reviewed the short-lived Horror Classic Gamebooks series by J.H. Brennan.

I have recently discovered several references on the Internet (primarily on TV Tropes) to an unofficial third book in this series. It appears that the two books in the original series were hugely popular in France, to the point that a fan wrote their own entry in the series and managed to get it officially printed. (One wonders if J.H. Brennan was ever aware of the existence of this; I suspect not.)

The book was entitled La Mal├ędiction des Baskerville, which translates as "Curse of the Baskerville", and allows you to play as either Sherlock Holmes or... the Hound of the Baskervilles. (One presumes the author felt the 'villain' character should be a monster of some kind, following the lead of the two 'official' books, hence why it isn't Moriarty.)

If you happen to have any more information on this (especially if you know any way I could get an English translation of it), I would welcome it.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

The Tell-Tale Edit

BART: And if you still want to tear apart this young Sunday School student as he stands on the brink of salvation, I await your wrath.
[The mob sounds moved.]
KRUSTY: Somehow, I don't feel like killing any more.

If you happen to watch the Complete First Season DVD's copy of the Simpsons episode "The Telltale Head", you will find those lines in the final scene. However, that is not how the episode was originally broadcast. But just what was aired, and when, and why were the changes made? We can reasonably confidently answer two of those three questions.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

The Author of This Blog is a Common Thief

I have posted this elsewhere on the internet today, but thought I'd stick it here for anyone interested - a promotional stand I stole from an A Series of Unfortunate Events promotional event circa 2006, around the time the final book in the series, The End, was released.

The event in question was part of the Cheltenham Festival of Literature, and featured an actor portraying Count Olaf, who then proceeded to run a quiz with a few children chosen from the audience. (I recall thinking he wasn't particularly familiar with the series, as he struggled to come up with a convincing answer when a few children informed him he was dead...)

Sunday, 7 October 2018

House of Hellish Difficulty

1984's House of Hell, then. An early entry in the Fighting Fantasy series, penned by the range's co-creator Steve Jackson, the only book in the series to feature a contemporary setting (a title it would hold until 2012, when Ian Livingstone's Blood of the Zombies was unleashed upon the world), and surely responsible for many a nightmare given to unsuspecting young children who read it. It was also easily the hardest book in the series up to that point, and remains well-known for its high difficulty level.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

The Rewrite Stuff

We already have one ongoing Diamond Brothers mystery on the blog, so let's add a second one. In 2007, a new entry in the series, the novella The Greek Who Stole Christmas was published...

So what's all this, then? A new four-part mystery read by Harry Enfield (according to the listing of part 2), aired as part of a Radio 4 childrens' show, of the same name... in 2002? Was it originally a Diamond Brothers story, or was it rewritten to include them? (I suspect the latter, as this would explain why its title isn't parodying a crime movie like all the other books in the series are.)

There is a precedent for this - Horowitz's Power of Five series was an updated rewrite of Pentagram, a series he originally wrote in the eighties. (Note that Pentagram only had four books written and for some reason the fifth was never published, meaning the finale of PoF had no counterpart in the original series.) Still, if anyone happened to hear the original broadcasts of these and could contribute more information, I'd be grateful...

There are plenty of other interesting things you can find out by searching for Horowitz's name on the Genome; a Radio 3 play in 1985 and a fully-dramatised adaptation of Groosham Grange for Radio 5 Live in 1992, for example.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Edit Wars #8

As mentioned previously in one of these articles, in 2001, not one but two series of Robot Wars were filmed: the regular series, and Extreme, a series featuring a variety of different mini-tournaments, as well as all the roboteers being told to act like jerks and a blatantly faked case of a roboteer pretending to sabotage his opponent's machine, in an apparent homage to the artifical nature of pro wrestling. But it's the filming dates we're interested in here.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Have I Got Major Political Upheaval for You

28 September 1990: The first ever episode of Have I Got News for You is broadcast on BBC Two.
28 November 1990: Margaret Thatcher leaves office, twelve days after the first series of HIGNFY has finished its run. The show's official board game later invites fans to "draw their own conclusions".

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Broken Gamebooks #10: Spellbreaker / Curse of the Mummy


Here're two curious ones, and no mistake. These two Fighting Fantasy books were both written by Jonathan Green, and both published by Puffin towards the end of the original series' life. They're also agreed to be two of the more challenging entries in the series, not least because of the large number of extremely difficult combats they both contain. Green is one of the few non-Jackson/Livingstone authors to have had his books reprinted by Wizard for the revived series, and these books were felt to be so difficult that a few changes were made to them in an attempt to make them easier, principally in reducing the stats for some of the enemies you face. However, in doing so, a few new errors are introduced!

Sunday, 2 September 2018

The Unusual Simp-spects

This is something we touched on in an article a few weeks ago, but I might as well expand on it. Back in the 90s, the producers of The Simpsons had to produce 25 episodes a year, and that was proving a difficult quota to meet. The solution was various 'extra' episodes that weren't worked on by the usual production team, and here's a list of them all.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

The Robot Wars Trial Guide

For the first two series of Robot Wars, the robots didn't just to go to war. In fact they didn't get to that point until halfway through the show. The first two rounds were always a trial of some kind. Round 1 was always the Gauntlet, an assault course with a selection of different routes, and then the second round would change every week. In Series 3, the main competition was changed to be all combat, but the more popular/interesting trials were retained as sideshows. There was a bit of a kerfuffle that led to filming on some of these being shortened or cancelled, but they stayed on for Series 4 more successfully... but then, Series 5 was filmed alongside the 'Extreme' series, and there wasn't time for any of the trials.

Here, then, is a listing of all the trials you might expect to encounter had you entered Robot Wars in the twentieth century, in order of appearance.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Another 20 of the Best Fighting Fantasy Deaths

Back in January 2017, one of the very first pieces I ever posted to the blog was a list of my favourite ways to get killed in a Fighting Fantasy gamebook. That's one of the more popular posts on the blog, and there were plenty of gruesome demises that sadly went unused (not to mention that since posting it I've managed to track down a copy of Knights of Doom). So, time for another 20 of the best, I reckon!

Sunday, 12 August 2018

The Last Clegg

One of the most dramatic moments of the UK's 2017 General Election was the unseating of former Deputy PM Nick Clegg in Sheffield Hallam. In an almost poetic moment, just minutes later his former deputy Vince Cable, defeated in 2015, regains his Twickenham seat.

The BBC's coverage of this moment is one of unintentional beauty: fading from Clegg's speech to the declaration at Cable's count, and accompanied by Dimbleby's sage commentary: "One goes down, and as one goes down, the other one comes up".

Sky News allow Clegg to get to the end of his speech without cutting away, but seemingly didn't get the memo about the Twickenham declaration, as Cable's return is reduced to a chyron whilst they're looking at some not terribly helpful live feeds from the Islington and Maidenhead counts. (I also find it amusing how Sky feel the need to highlight anyone you've ever heard of holding their seat, no matter how safe, but I guess they're going for a more niche audience than the BBC.)

ITV do something similar. The presenters seem to be talking about something completely different over the live feed of the Hallam declaration, and say there is a "rumour" Clegg has lost his seat and they're not sure if he's going to make it back whilst the Labour candidate is giving his victory speech, but this is ITV's own stream and the picture and sound hopelessly out of sync. They do then proceed to talk to David Davis, though, which is never a good idea, and don't mention Twickenham at all. A lovely bit of poetry, but only the BBC really manage to capture it. (It could have been even more poetic - in 2015 only about 15 minutes separated their two declarations, which were vice-versa on that occasion.)

Sunday, 5 August 2018

It's All Greek to Me

Time for another quick Simpsons mystery. So quick, in fact, there's not going to be a jump break in this article.

The Simpsons episode "Lisa the Greek" involves Lisa predicting the results of football matches Homer is gambling on, culminating in the Super Bowl. The episode originally aired in 1992, and the teams and stadiums involved in the episode were the same as that year's actual Super Bowl. The episode was repeated on Fox in 1993 and 1994, and on both occasions the episode was redubbed to match the Super Bowl for that year. See the Ambiguities Guide on The Simpsons Archive for full details, and also the DVD Companion for extra details on the 1994 airing.

According to showrunner Al Jean on the DVD commentary, the episode was also redubbed for the 1995 Super Bowl, with the San Francisco 49'ers and San Diego Chargers as the teams (and presumably the Joe Robbie Stadium, plus a change in reference to which state happy fans would be looting and turning over cars in). This would be very odd if so, as the episode was not repeated in 1995. Its final Fox broadcast was in September 1994.

This gives us two possibilities:
  1. Jean misremembered this eight years after the fact.
  2. The redubbing did occur, but was never used.
Jean claims in the commentary it was only a week or so before the episode went to air; so either he is mixing this up with the '93 or '94 redubbing, or the planned repeat was cancelled, or maybe even there was some error in communication between the network and the producers and the episode was redubbed even though it wasn't going to be rerun. If the redubbing did occur but was never used, it would be nice for it to be released along with the '94 version, but unfortunately Simpsons DVDs are historically quite bad with including alternate versions.

(A final note. Even on the original version, the lip sync is off on any occasion that names the teams, as when the episode was animated it wasn't known who would be in the 1992 Super Bowl. It seems that the original version may have had the Minnesota Vikings as one of the teams. If that version was recorded as well, there could be as many as five different versions of this episode...)

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Unsolved Mysteries

A bit of a break this week so I can recap some outstanding mysteries the blog has covered in the past and hopefully bring some fresh attention to them:

Edit Wars: I am still looking for a copy of the original BBC Choice broadcast of this episode. (All I have ascertained since the post was originally written is that America and Challenge have the revised copy, which isn't a huge surprise.)
Edit Wars #4: There are a number of points in this article I'm unsure on that would probably need somebody involved in the production or in the audience of the original episode(s) to clarify, for example the Evil Weevil vs Triterobot one.
Just Ask For South By South EastJust Ask For South By South East... Again and Just Ask For South By South East... Yet Again: I am still looking for any footage from the television series I search for in these articles.

Sunday, 22 July 2018

A Humongous Quiz (But Not In That Sense)

Humongous Entertainment's point-and-click games of the nineties have been discussed on the blog before, in probably unnecessary detail. For something slightly different, here are some of the puzzles that would have faced a child between the ages of 4 and 10 back in the day; can you, someone who I'm presuming is a grown adult, work out the entirely intuitive and logical solutions? Answers at the bottom of the article.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Broken Gamebooks #9: The Crimson Tide

This is another famous Fighting Fantasy faux pas that no series called "Broken Gamebooks" would be complete without mentioning, and also an important lesson in proof-reading.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Last Exit to the Writers' Room

The Simpsons writing room, circa 1993
The year is 1993, production on the fourth season of The Simpsons is drawing to a close, and the show's original writing team is beginning to break up. Al Jean and Mike Reiss - a writing partnership who have been with the programme since the very beginning, and have been in charge of the show for the past two production seasons - are giving up the reins of the show to develop their own animated sitcom, The Critic, for ABC. Many others are on the way out: Jay Kogen and Wallace Wolodarsky, another duo around since the start, have already left before this production season has even finished. Also gone are Jeff Martin, David M. Stern, Jon Vitti and, most notable of all, series developer and creative supervisor Sam Simon (following pressures on his relationship with co-developers Matt Groening and James L. Brooks). George Meyer hangs around, but in a reduced capacity as 'creative consultant'. Two others stay on full-time, but extremely briefly: Conan O'Brien leaves after only a few episodes of the fifth season when he gets a gig elsewhere, and Frank Mula stays for around half of it. That just leaves John Swartzwelder as the only writer/producer from the original team sticking around full time (the following season he obtained special dispensation to work from home and his credit changed to 'consultant').

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Edit Wars #7

In the summer of 2001, two new series of Robot Wars were filmed: the fifth series of the 'regular' show, and Robot Wars Extreme, a special run of shows featuring a variety of different mini-tournaments. The Pussycat team, with driver David Gribble, participated in both of them.

On the 13th of October 2001, David - a familiar face to Robot Wars viewers for nearly three years - was involved in a motorcycle accident and passed away at the tragically young age of 17; his final television appearances were aired posthumously. Various sources say that this dedication was featured at the end of Extreme episode 1, taken from the Robot Wars Wiki:

At the time, Robot Wars was first run on BBC Choice, then got a terrestrial outing on BBC Two a few weeks later. I would presume that this was seen on the 26 October 2001 BBC Two broadcast of episode 1; the episode was originally broadcast on BBC Choice on 8 October 2001, five days before David died. Eight new episodes of Robot Wars were broadcast on BBC Choice between David's death and the first BBC Two screening of the series; it is possible that one of those also carried the dedication, and they also used it on the first episode's terrestrial outing to make sure it was seen. (For the record, David's final appearance on the show was the Series 5 semi-final, which was originally broadcast on BBC Choice on 23 May 2002 - but that episode would not be seen by terrestrial viewers until 25 October of that year, over a year after his death.)

Monday, 25 June 2018

Terror of the Zy-Gougers

Some time ago now, Big Finish Productions - purveyors of fine audio dramas, principally based on licensed 'cult' properties - decided to let the first fifty of their Doctor Who audio dramas go out of print (continuing to sell them as downloads). Obviously, despite how cheap the downloads are, a fair number of Who fans do like physical media, and this means second-hand CD copies of all 50 plays have been subjected to considerable amounts of price gouging online, but exactly how much chiefly seems to depend on the quality and content of the stories.

Nowhere is this more apparent than The Chimes of Midnight, widely hailed as one of the best Doctor Who stories in any medium, which will now set you back more than five times as much as its price when it was originally released in 2002! (All prices given are correct as time of writing...) Another highly regarded story, Spare Parts (the 'Genesis of the Cybermen' story, which went on to inspire their return in the TV series in 2006) will cost you nearly £50.

Stories which are less well thought of, or have less of a 'hook', fare a bit better - several of them, such as The Rapture, can be yours for a mere £10, slightly cheaper than it was when it was first released. You do get the occasional anomaly, though - Jubilee, a highly-acclaimed Dalek story by popular writer Robert Shearman which was loosely adapted for the TV series, is only slightly more expensive to buy now than it would have been when it was new. Nevertheless, it is interesting to see how fan opinion sways these prices in the vast majority of cases.

(Wouldn't it be nice if BF combated this with some limited-edition reissues of some of the most badly affected stories? Next year is the 20th anniversary of Doctor Who at Big Finish, so it'd be the perfect opportunity! The first few stories all used the Pertwee theme rather than era-specific ones due to rights issues, so it'd be a great chance to correct that, and even do some new behind-the-scenes features given BF didn't start doing those until 2007... Go on, you know you want to, BF.)

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Starlight Adventures

It's the mid-1980s, adventure gamebooks are at the height of their fame, and the place to go to get the original and the best is Puffin Books, the publishers of Fighting Fantasy.

Such was the concept's popularity that Puffin also published some rather curious offshoots: series that were not part of Fighting Fantasy, but looked a bit like them. They all had the 'ADVENTURE GAMEBOOKS' banner (sometimes referred to as the "sawtooth" design), the same basic cover design, and they all looked pretty similar internally... but they weren't actually part of the Fighting Fantasy banner. One of these was the Cretan Chronicles, which I have expressed my distaste for in an earlier article. Another was the Starlight Adventures - a series of gamebooks aimed at girls.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Long Reads #3

Time for the periodic roundup of the best of the blog over the last few months, I think, especially since over the summer there's a possibility I might not be able to post a new thing every week. Sorry about that.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Just Ask For South By South East... Yet Again

You know, it's really quite difficult to find pictures to illustrate an article about a television series from which no footage or still pictures are known to exist.
Way, way back in the mists of time of, erm, six months ago, I went on the trail of an incredibly obscure CITV series based on Anthony Horowitz's Diamond Brothers books, and was soon able to confirm that it did actually exist.

A few months later, on the Red Dwarf fansite Ganymede & Titan, I am one of the several people coming up with several thousand ridiculous ideas for episodes of Red Dwarf that are mostly puns on titles of existing episodes. The Diamond Brothers film and television series somehow come up in the course of that, and it turns out forum member bloodteller knows someone who saw it and has quite a lot of interesting information about it! Thanks to him for giving me permission to reproduce what he wrote here (here's a link to his original post).

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Lost in N-Space

The Summer of 1993: A brand new, fully dramatised Doctor Who radio drama, The Paradise of Death, is recorded and broadcast in five weekly parts on Radio 5 - the first new 'proper' Who made by the BBC since Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred went to find cities made of smoke and people made of song in December 1989. It stars Jon Pertwee, Elisabeth Sladen and Nicholas Courtney, and was written by the producer of Pertwee's television era, Barry Letts. Letts went on to novelise the story for Target Books the following year. (I'm going somewhere with all this, don't worry.)

Sunday, 27 May 2018

I'm Sorry I Haven't a Witty Article Title Referring to the Radio Times

Well, having just covered a history of The News Quiz and Just a Minute in Radio Times listings, it seems only natural that we wrap up Radio 4 Comedy Panel Show Listings Month with I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue. (It's a real shame The Unbelievable Truth only arrived on the scene long after the custom of specially-written listings had stopped.)

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Just a Minute: Deviation of a Listing

When Just a Minute began on 22 December 1967, its very first Radio Times listing described it as "a panel game controlled by Nicholas Parsons".

By the time of its very next billing, on 29 December, the RT had seen fit to add "(!)" after the word "controlled", perhaps indicating sarcasm or disbelief at the choice of words.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

"Put In A Questionable Way..."

For this week: anomalies and points of interest I have found whilst looking at old Radio Times listings for The News Quiz.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Broken Gamebooks #5 ½: Return to the Crown of Kings

Steve Jackson's Sorcery! has received a bit of an errata from the blog in the past. But here's something I missed out on the first time round, and I think is worthy of a post in its own right. (It would help to read the original article if you haven't already, naturally.)

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Adventure Games Live

In lieu of a proper blog post this week, I thought I'd point my regular readers in the direction of Adventure Games Live, given the popularity of the gamebook articles on here. AGL features a whole suite of old-school text adventure games, ranging from trivially easy to incredibly hard, is a fantastic way to kill time, and the website is still active but not updated so it's easy to miss.

I find websites of that kind quite fascinating for whatever reason - there's still a small trickle of viewers playing the games, and there's one or two people on the discussion forums, but the webmaster is no longer aware. AGL is part of a wider website, RinkWorks, and you can see from the main page that there's even a few automated features still regularly updating. Like a virtual ghost town. (NB: Interestingly, in the time between me queuing up this post and it going live, part of the website seems to have come back to life...)

So, yeah, do check it out. Good fun.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Bananaman Unpeeled

One of the most recognisable faces to appear in DC Thomson's range of childrens' comics, Bananaman started life in the Nutty in 1980, then when that comic folded in 1985 he moved over to the Dandy, and with that having gone out of print in 2012 these days he's found in the Beano. Such was the character's popularity he not only had his own annual between 1983 and 1986 (despite the Nutty not receiving that honour), he also appeared in a series of animated five-minute shorts aired on the BBC for three series in 1983, 1984 and 1986 (with all the voices done by the Goodies, who allegedly thought the show was complete rubbish, and some rather catchy music), and it's those we're interested in here.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Edit Wars #6: International Insurrection

The year is 2000, Robot Wars is really hitting its stride, and a new video-only release, The First World Championship, offers the chance to see the best of British roboteering fight against robots from around the world. Except, erm, not really.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Bjorn Again

You may know this story already. It's about the first-season Simpsons episode "Life on the Fast Lane", where Marge contemplates an affair with a French bowling instructor by the name of Jacques. In the original draft of the episode, he was called Bjorn, and was a tennis instructor, hence the episode's original title, "Bjorn to be Wild". Albert Brooks, providing the voice of the instructor, thought it would be funnier if he was French. Obviously this meant the original title no longer made sense, and it was briefly changed to "Jacques to be Wild" as a placeholder before taking on its final name.

Why, then, does the episode's UK VHS release prominently use the working title as an alternative title? (It also wrongly refers to it as "Life in the Fast Lane", but it's easier to see how that might have happened. This means the video gives the episode two titles, both of which are wrong, which is quite an impressive feat.)

Sunday, 1 April 2018

A David Agnew Production

Exactly who wrote a story can sometimes be a matter of debate. Or there could be some legal issue that stops the true author from being named. Or it could just be that they don't want their name involved with the project. In those cases, a pseudonym has to be used.

The Writers' Guild of America used to have an official pseudonym, 'Alan Smithee', that was to be used in the event of a film director wanting to take their name off of a film (generally because they were dissatisfied with the final production and did not have enough creative control over the project). The BBC had a similar name to be used in the event of a contested writing credit, 'David Agnew'. There are a couple of known uses of this name, and the last two are what makes the name particularly notable.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Fighting Fantasy: A Potted History

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, the inaugural Fighting Fantasy gamebook, was published on 27 August 1982; it was the product of previous discussions with the authors (the owners of Games Workshop) about writing a guide to Dungeons & Dragons, only for them to decide they'd rather make their own fantasy adventure that could be played solo, and it quickly proved a huge success.

The publishers, Penguin Books, wanted more. Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, the co-authors of the volume, decided to go solo for books #2 and #3. This splitting of labour would allow them to produce two books in the same time as the first one, and would also avoid the infamous problem that arose in Warlock: Livingstone wrote the first half and Jackson the second half, and there's an obvious disconnect in the writing styles that jars when you reach Jackson's part (the crossover occurs at the moment you cross the river).