Thursday, 10 January 2013
Happy Birling Day!
It took a while to decide whether or not to have a Birling Day episode this series. On the one hand, if there's a chance of having Geoffrey Whitehead in your sitcom again, why would you not? On the other hand, I didn't want it to feel like I'd run out of ideas - there'd have to be something different about the usual Talisker contest set-up. Also, there is an annoying lack of international rugby destinations beginning with letters from T to Y - except Twickenham, of course, but that wasn't terribly helpful, for reasons explained in the episode. For a while, this one was called Toulouse, and had to do with Carolyn setting Douglas a treasure hunt around the plane to keep him busy, but I never really believed in that. Then I came up with the idea of an impromptu Birling flight, with Douglas carrying the whisky, and Carolyn trying to steal it, and that's when I felt I had a fresh enough angle on it to justify completing the Birling Day trilogy- and gleefully rang the producer to tell him to book Geoffrey.
Even then, the plot was tricky. I experimented with having Carolyn actually succeed in her attempt, and even with Martin stealing it from both of them, but I never felt happy with any solution that didn't involve Douglas coming out on top. There are other points in the series where I examine the infallible image Douglas projects of himself - but I couldn't have him not win on Birling Day. It would be like stealing his very soul. But while I was still toying with the Carolyn stealing the Talisker from Douglas, I came up with the idea of a backwards Birling Day - flying away from the rugby, Birling getting soberer, etc; and from there the rest of the episode came together, mysterious invisible camels and all.
Notes and queries:
Yeah, I know it's unlikely Italy would get into the world cup final, let alone beat Wales in it. But it's not impossible…
I've been asked by a couple of people if Martin saying he's been at MJN for five years indicates a time jump. No, it doesn't. The show is happening in more or less real time, so if Martin joined MJN about nine months before Abu Dhabi in June 2008, that means he had his five year anniversary in late 2012.
No, I am not secretly on the pay-roll of the Talisker distillery! I picked it more or less arbitrarily, just because I liked the name, for Edinburgh; never thinking it would keep on coming back. If I'd known there would be three whole episodes in which the whole cast incessantly talk about how wonderful it is, I'd have made up a fake whisky. Similarly, I have no shares in Toblerone...
I think that's all, if I think of anything else I'll come back and edit this post.
Deleted scene: a little more of Douglas persuading Carolyn to adopt Martin's 'Fake Timbuktu' plan:
CAROLYN: No, I'm sorry, but it's quite impossible.
DOUGLAS: Well, alright. Go and tell him, then. Send him, and all his money, weaving back to Sussex. Or… you could indulge in a little harmless deception to help make an old man's dream come true.
CAROLYN: He's a horrible old man who wants to spend a huge amount of money making his wife feel silly.
DOUGLAS: I didn't say it was a nice dream.
Posted by John Finnemore at 6:40 p.m.