I’ve been a fan of Paul Rose for quite a while now, even when I didn’t know he existed, as he was one of the men responsible for Channel Four’s Teletext gaming magazine Digitiser under the pseudonym Mr Biffo. A lot of the teletext pages used to be fairly turgid stuff but Rose was given free licence to do whatever he liked and whilst it contained gaming news and reviews it was often packed with silly and surreal humour, including tales of various characters like The Man’s Daddy, a bizarre ant/elephant creature, The A-Team’s Mr T who was obsessed with telling kids to stay away from his bins, a send up of overly positive reviewers and fanboys called Insincere Dave, and Fat Sow, a pig who ran the news pages and started each column with a bizarre insult. So yeah, it wasn’t your average every day kind of fare.
I first became aware of Rose’s real identity in 2006 when the Biffovision pilot aired on BBC3. A spoof of Saturday morning kids tv magazine shows it was delightfully bizarre stuff and it’s a crime that it was never taken to series. I’ll be reviewing that soon for our One and Done series, but in the meantime if you’re intrigued it can be watched here, which I’d recommend doing asap. After that things went a little quiet, with most of his output restricted to CBBC, which as don’t have children I’ve not seen, but I’ve heard positive things about his shows Dani’s House, Dani’s Castle and 4 O’Clock Club. He’s also the writer of Pudsey The Dog: The Movie, but shhhh, we don’t talk about that. Fortunately it received negative reviews, forcing Rose back in to creating the kind of weird and wonderful oddness that I love.
Funded by a kickstarter campaign Mr Biffo’s Found Footage purports to be a selection of clips of videos which Mr Biffo’s found, but all are actually created by the man himself. The following is a review of the pilot, which is eleven minutes of glorious weirdness where we’re subjected to a range of unusual adverts. First up is Goujon John, an American whose goujon’s might be awful but that’s not going to stop him trying to force you to eat them. It has the feel of the odder moments from Wonder Showzen and Tim and Eric, especially in the way it’s shot with various effects making it slightly disorientating, but it’s very funny stuff and I’m fond of the character despite such a brief clip, which is handy as he pops up again at the end. Next up is an ad for Roaming Thomas (intercut with shots of dogs attempting to fuck people, just to make sure you’re always disturbed). Conceptually it should be a pleasing product, being a robot who keeps you company, but as this is from the mind of Paul Rose naturally it’s strange and bizarre.
Following on from this is an advert for the much loved 90’s computer the Commodore Amiga, which is cheesy and corny fun with lots of footage of games and a ridiculously happy young man playing them, but for some unknown reason there’s also shots of a bone being rubbed across the keyboard. (Edit: Or what I thought initially was a bone, but it’s just been brought to my attention what it actually is, which is even funnier). It might not sound that amusing, but the juxtaposition works well. Then there’s an ad for Totally Turts and Phants magazine, because who wouldn’t want a magazine dedicated to elephants and turtles, filled with fascinating facts like “Wow, Phants have four legs!”. It’s an enjoyable silly spoof, and a needed break from all the weirdness.
There’s a brief psychedelic segment featuring a young kid and comes complete with Russian titles, it’s the only one which didn’t work for me, not that it’s bad but there’s nothing funny about it. Thankfully carrying on with the sillier side of the series is Swan Paint, where an eccentric individual asks “Are you tired of the same old swan colours?…Have you ever dreamed of covering a live swan in wet colourful paint regardless of the consequences?”. It’s a strong segment, and the suggestion “Please do not use swan paint on the following birds: Owls” caught me off guard and made me laugh a lot.
After a brief return to Roaming Thomas who this time goes up in smoke there’s the final and best clip of the show, where Goujon John is back to tell us about his Celebrity Ghostel, explaining “Even the toast is a ghost and your daddy is in the toast”. Along with how there’s “Over 9,000 celebrity ghosts”, including Daddy Cool, Steve Jobs (looking nothing like him), Bach, The Lord of the Dance, Marvin Gaye (a skeleton), Einstein, Zweinstein, Timmy Mallet, Kurt Cobain, Spock, Rasputin, Sir Cliff Richard (a skeleton with a wig), Voltaire, Benji Coleslaw and Henry VIII. It’s a great way to end the show, and left me wanting more.
Paul Rose’s Biffovision pilot felt influenced by Adult Swim shows (PFFR’s series especially) and as mentioned earlier, the same applies here, but that’s no bad thing and it has it’s own unique feel and can’t be accused of being a rip off of their work. Especially as his brand of surreal humour existed in the pages of Teletext’s Digitiser long before Adult Swim came to be. What impressed me the most was how inventive the show is, how he’s managed to create something quite original and unusual yet still very funny.
Nine other episodes were released, with a framing device where Mr Biffo claims he found the videos at a car boot sale in October 2003 and which he soon begins to believe is “Evidence of a conspiracy which transcends the boundaries of reality as I know it”. The majority of the episodes are longer too, feeling more like a conventional tv series as they range between 18 to 30 minutes, and expand upon the concept by also including music and corporate videos. I’d recommend checking them all out, it’s a superb series, but also an indication of how risk averse the main tv channels are in the UK as this can only be watched via youtube. Back in the 90’s this would have been perfect for Channel Four, and perhaps even BBC2, but sadly times have changed. Still, at least it exists, and with the likes of Kickstarter Paul Rose can continue making unusual and eclectic comedy.