Friday, July 06, 2007


To this point I have not paid much attention to YouTube. Principally this has been a matter of access: I only have a dial up connection at home, and even when I’ve been at work, I’ve curtailed my viewing of the clips I’ve seen embedded in the blogs I read because of the very limited download quota I’ve been afforded as a student.

Before now, I would have launched into a rant about the ridiculousness of being part of a school with ‘media studies’ in the title, whose powers-that-be don’t provide the proper tools for research and teaching in the fields of media and cultural studies. (I might still reserve the right to vent in that vein should things not have vastly improved in the tutorial room facilities the next time I teach here). At this very moment, however, with the new, unlimited quotas for postgraduate students in effect, I am very pleased with the resources at my disposal, one of which is YouTube. I am a convert.

During the course of my PhD research I have become aware of two Scottish produced six-part television series that promise to be pertinent to my thesis: Psychos and Takin’ Over the Asylum. Both are set in mental health asylums and both explore the plight of these institutions in the immediate post-Thatcher era, especially the extent to which Thatcher’s social policies negatively affected the care of some of the most vulnerable members of British society. Neither of the series have been released to DVD, or even video, before that.

In the case of Psychos, I’ve contacted the production company, Kudos (since responsible for the most excellent Spooks), and at their suggestion offered to pay for a Region 4 compatible DVD copy. I haven’t heard back from them—perhaps it was Region 4 request that stumped them, or maybe the request to pay by credit card rather than cheque? Either way, I remain unsuccessful in my efforts to acquire a copy of Psychos.

Watch David Tennant as Campbell Bain

Just the other day, however, in a half-hearted search for Takin’ Over the Asylum, I came across the efforts of a David Tennant fan who has posted the entire six episodes onto YouTube. (David Tennant plays Campbell Bain, a self-admitted inmate diagnosed as Manic). The fan in question uploaded them only five months ago, so the searches I undertook earlier in my research didn’t reveal anything so useful.

As I’ve been happily watching Takin’ Over the Asylum, it’s occurred to me that midcirclenine has made an aspect of my research possible. Yes, perhaps I could have found another, more readily available program. Although, I’m not so certain, since Takin’ Over the Asylum won some BAFTAs, which is why I really want to look at Psychos too; both programs were judged by their producers’ peers in the television industry to be significant productions.

I’m sure that my experience, as a researcher who is benefiting from the acquisitive activities of fans, isn’t all that isolated, especially in the fields of media and cultural studies. To this extent, I’m grateful to those fans who collect cultural artefacts, who recognise, for example, the value of a given program, even if it’s a different value to that which I’m looking for in the same program. Not only do fans preserve aspects of our everyday culture that might not necessarily be recognised as worthwhile by those in the business of documenting our culture, but now with technology of the kind that enables sites like YouTube, the same fans can distribute their collected artefacts, making them widely available for secondary commentary, an enterprise that clearly hasn’t been deemed viable by the copyright holders of the material.

So, thank you fans and collectors.

(And if anyone has a copy of Psychos on their shelves, you know what to do!)


Anonymous said...

I stumbled across your blog on a random googling mission and, as a massive 'Takin' Over the Asylum' fan, felt compelled to comment.

The show's popularity isn't what's holding the release of the series on DVD back; it's the problem of dodgy copyright regulations regarding the Beatles' music. Half the episodes are named for Beatles songs, and every episode includes the song that the episode is named for. Beatles music isn't public domain, so the BBC would have to reimburse the holder of the rights to each Beatles song used in the show.

It's not clear what the problem was, but my guess is that either the BBC wasn't prepared to pay the asking price, or the rights-holder/s wasn't/weren't prepared to allow the use of the songs. It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the BBC's judgement of the cultural value of the show. Beatles copyright holders, on the other hand, might appear to be stingy fucking bastards, though.

Kirsty said...

Heh. Should've known it was something far more prosaic. Thanks for the info, anon.

Osiris said...

A random googling session brought me here too, and even though the original topic was brought up last year, I thought I'd let you know that the copyright issue appears to have been solved... Asylum will be released in the UK on DVD this June!