One of the goals of this blog is to review not just the blockbuster and indie movies of today and tomorrow, but what I’m actually watching, and this short 44 second clip is one that’s never off my playlist. It’s a blooper, yes, but one that is more than just a fumbled line or a weather-forecast mishap; this is an ITV continuity announcement promising a screening of women’s prison drama Within These Walls. Even though it’s less than a minute long, it’s packed with accidental pathos and insight into the tv nightmares of yesteryear.
Let’s deconstruct; we have an image of the prison, and the warder, played by Katie Boyle. The announcer cues up the clip, promising ‘the inmates start a campaign of violence’, but for some reason the wrong clip is used, and the illustration that unspools is not one that suggests a campaign of violence in a woman’s prison. Instead we see a collection of five singing dancing felt-animal puppets called The Yogs, and the embarrassed silence as the ad quickly fades out is truly deafening. The announcer’s efforts to fill in the gap while the right clip is located is priceless ‘There’s not only women’s lib, but there’s a lot of danger and a lot of bother…’ he flannels helplessly….’the story is quite exciting.’
Live tv rarely uses such continuity men and women, and these days, such mistakes are few and far between. But in times of trouble, this clip has snapped more than a few despairing souls back into a shared reality of laughter. This clip encapsulates what’s good and bad about the British, Basil Fawlty persona, dealing with adverse situations with smothering authoritarian calm, yet clearly paddling like crazy to get back to safer water. Coincidence creates magic, and a thousand comic geniuses couldn’t capture the energy of this monumental tv moment. Enjoy!