This morning, like most other mornings, I went online via my phone to have a quick look at any new posts on Film Unlimited, the film section of The Guardian’s talkboards. Only to find it wasn’t there. Someone had killed it overnight.
Maybe I shouldn’t have been quite so surprised. There were rumours about it a few years ago, and I had noticed the ‘talk’ link had recently disappeared from the menu of the main Guardian film site; but that’s happened before and FU survived, so I just altered my bookmarks and thought nothing more of it. Little did I realise that the End Times were upon us.
I’ve been posting on FU for seven years (I remember my first post was on The Passion of the Christ, so it was easy to check the date). I had tried to start earlier; I first registered during the BBC2 run of 24 season 2, because the thread for that show was hilarious and I wanted to join in. Unfortunately the registration process took so baffling long that by the time Frank100 was up and running, the season had ended.
In that time, it’s been rare that I’ve gone more than 24 hours without checking in. I haven’t always posted, but I’ve always been reading. The number of regular posters in that time has always been fairly small, but that’s partly why I liked FU so much – it was relatively easy to get to know who was who (although people would sometimes switch usernames, causing temporary confusion) and to tune in to the various in jokes. Maybe that did make the place feel cliquey on occasion, but it was the right kind of cliquey, if you see what I mean (and newbies were hardly unwelcome, so long as they could get past being asked if they were Wolfie). Some of those people I’ve since met in real life; others I’ve only spoken with on the boards, but they feel like friends anyway.
Some of my personal highlights since have been TV threads for Harper’s Island and the Andrew Lloyd Webber talent shows, being a temporary dictator, and occasionally finding hundreds of new posts on a thread and realising there’d been an almighty row overnight. On the morning of the 7/7 attacks, FU was the best place to get updates on what was happening in central London. People were always ready with advice, and when I received a misaddressed threatening letter from an amusingly inept stalker a few years ago my first thought was, “Ooh, I must tell people on FU about this.” The releases threads were saved, going back years, and only last week I tracked down the thread for The Ruins after watching that film for the first time on TV. Good stuff was happening right up to the end, with the True Grit thread being busy yesterday. All of it gone, presumably forever. It’s hard to believe I’ll never be able to read that Lost in Translation thread again.
I’m sure the Graun had valid reasons for axing the Boards, and for doing so without any warning worthy of the term. There are other places on the web to gather; I’ve followed a further dozen or so FUers on Twitter so far today, and most followed me back in minutes. Nothing’s really changed, except that the Guardian has lost a little bit of my loyalty. But I’m feeling a tiny bit bereft all the same.