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LL
Larry the Loafer
The late 90s and early 00s were a brilliant period in British comedy, and BBC Two certainly felt like the natural home for real groundbreaking comedy. I'd argue Channel 4 took that mantle, though that's probably by default considering how much more comedy they seem to commission in comparison.
SO
Soupnzi
Not sure if I’m conflating several months together, but in late 2002 you had new eps of The Office, I’m Alan Partridge and The League of Gentlemen airing in the same week.
SW
Steve Williams
Not sure if I’m conflating several months together, but in late 2002 you had new eps of The Office, I’m Alan Partridge and The League of Gentlemen airing in the same week.


Almost, the second series of I'm Alan Partridge started a week after The Office had ended, probably to its detriment as it meant people endlessly compared them, and complained about Partridge having "canned laughter".*

*A familiar false memory, that, people complaining sitcoms have add laughter added for repeats, an obvious example being the first series of The League of Gentlemen, which was recorded in front of a live audience, like Partridge.
LL
London Lite Founding member
I find it hard to believe that I'm Alan Partridge S2 was scheduled around the same time as The Office. The Office seemed to be of it's time, but Partridge seemed to be stuck in the late 90s for me personally. But both were great comedies.
BH
BillyH Founding member
There’s also the rare example of that odd Peter Serafinowicz special which took old sketches from his show a year or two earlier (with no audience) and added recorded laughter over them, possibly as some kind of test pilot for a potential future series with an audience.

Wikipedia suggests that the special was a completely new episode, so either I’m misremembering or they added some new sketches to it as well to stop it just being a clip show.
JA
james-2001
If anyone remembers, when BBC1 showed Blackadder Back and Forth around the same time, they also added a laugh track. The only time that version's ever been seen IIRC, the DVD releases and all the GOLD screenings have been without it.

I am also one of those who gets annoyed about people who endlessly complain about "canned laughter" when something is actually made in front of an audience, it's almost become a meme though. I do remember arguing with people back then who insistently argued that the first series of Alan Partridge didn't have a laugh track.
SW
Steve Williams
There’s also the rare example of that odd Peter Serafinowicz special which took old sketches from his show a year or two earlier (with no audience) and added recorded laughter over them, possibly as some kind of test pilot for a potential future series with an audience.

Wikipedia suggests that the special was a completely new episode, so either I’m misremembering or they added some new sketches to it as well to stop it just being a clip show.


There were two Peter Serafinowicz specials at Christmas 2008 - a one-off with all-new sketches, plus also a best of the series, linked by new material with Peter as Wogan and, like the new special, with audience laughter.

The special was a bit interesting as while the series was entirely parodies, the special had some more conventional sketches, so it looked like a genuine attempt to make a slightly more accessible show for a recommission. Not that it got one. (Although I seem to recall they did have screenings to record audience laughter for the series, but decided not to use it in the end )

Series 2 of Partridge is a very strange series, there are loads of funny bits in it but it is absolutely all over the place tonally. It feels like a cartoon, I would love to know what went on behind the scenes, because there are some very strange edits.

I remember reading about the Dante Fireplaces scene in a preview of the series and thinking it sounded demented but presumably it wouldn't be that weird on screen. Turns out it was even stranger than I anticipated, it is very funny but absolutely bizarre.

But they were right to do it in front of an audience, it is a larger than life show that only intended to make people laugh. The material should be presented in the most effective way. In David Mitchell's book he talks about the sitcom pilot they did for C4 before Peep Show, they did it in front of an audience as part of C4's Sitcom Festival as a try-out and it went really well, but when they filmed it for the telly, they didn't. And he says that was the wrong decision, because it fell flat, and didn't get picked up for a series.
LL
Larry the Loafer
Looks like it was converted similarly to those 60s clips that have been around for a couple of decades - a video camera pointed at an old 405 TV playing the video recording. Wonder if this was done recently and whether there’s a way of converting the tapes directly to a modern format.


I might be making this up but I think it was mentioned on that amazing BBC Four documentary The Secret Life of Bob Monkhouse that the kinescope-style of recording was the only way to capture his reel footage. Either that or I heard it elsewhere and I'm getting my sources confused.

Would those recorders have connected to TVs via RF in those days, or was it something proprietary? If it was the former, would it be that much of an issue to capture the feed? Or is it because 405-line video is an issue?
JA
james-2001
It wouldn't have been the ONLY way to capture them, but to do it differently would have required a 405-625 converter which I imagine the people playing back the tapes didn't have (anyone who's seen the size of older standard conversion equipment can understand why many people providing the services wouldn't have had one), but I don't think it's particularly difficult to get a monitor to show a 405-line image. A shame they couldn't at least have set up the monitors better on these transfers if it was their only choice for doing it, even if it zoomed out with a black border rather than the excessive overscan on some of these transfers that I've seen.

The various Steptoe and Sons which were rescued from similar domestic formats back in the 90s were transferred electronically with a 405-625 converter, but then I think it was either the BBC or the BFI who did the transfers so presumably had access to one. Or maybe they were 625 to begin with seeing as they were episodes from 1970.

I wonder if there wasn't a way they could have made a 405 line copy, then at least there'd be a more modern tape that's less likely to have disintegated by the time standards conversion technology became easier and cheaper to do a proper transfer on these tapes? I imagine there wasn't otherwise that probably would have been done in at least some cases.
Last edited by james-2001 on 7 March 2021 7:11pm - 2 times in total
BH
BillyH Founding member
For anyone who remembers the annual RBS tests on the BBC when analogue transmitters would shut down once a year, I've uploaded BBC One and Two going into the January 2006 tests, plus BBC One into and out of the July 2001 test, the latter including the News 24 headlines with Martine Croxall. Interesting how different the two years are, in 2001 they opt out of the news completely and display a holding slide before/after the test card, while in 2006 we get an ident explaining what's about to happen, then a few seconds of the Learning Zone/News 24 before a sudden jolt into the card. The outros (not seen here) were just a brief black screen and then back into programming as if nothing happened.

(if you're using headphone, I'd be prepared for the high-pitched tone in the second two clips!)







I'm guessing these ended around the time of the full digital switchover, so early 2010s?
Last edited by BillyH on 9 March 2021 8:54pm
itvblocks, may_dupname and james-2001 gave kudos
JA
james-2001
I know on the 2001 RBS test they had TCW appear on digital (and indeed at the very beginning and end of the test on analogue as seen on your video), though in later years the test card was analogue only and digital continued showing News 24.
BE
benriggers


I was a Learning Zone "anorak" back in the day and also remember recording this on DVD, but bad indoor aerial/reception meant it ain't great, so nice to see a much higher-quality clip Smile

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