Started during the heyday of Saturday Night Live in 1979, Not
the Nine O'Clock News (NtNON) was the British answer to a fast paced
and edgy sketch comedy show. Staring a quartet of talented comedians
and boasting sketches written by nearly everyone working in British comedy
TV at the time, NtNON was satirical, controversial, and most of all very
funny. Now A&E has released a two DVD set of some of the most
humorous sketches from the show's four season history in The Best of
Not the Nine O'Clock News.
The show stars Rowan Atkinson (Balck Adder, Mr. Bean),
Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones (later of Alas Smith & Jones)
and Pamela Stephenson (who appeared on SNL before retiring from show business)
who all play various roles. The entire cast is very funny and play
their parts well, but Rowan Atkinson really steals the show. Whether
he's playing a gorilla that a scientist has captured and trained or a stuffy
English politician, he makes the skit outrageous.
One of the shows strengths is that the skits vary widely in length.
Some are last for several minutes, while others only a few seconds long.
In one brief bit Rowan Atkinson walks past his wife sitting in their living
room, opens the window, and yells at the top of his voice "Why don't you
grow up, you little bastards!!!" "What's the matter, dear?" his wife
asks. "Nothing, I'm just talking to the plants." End of skit.
In rather edgy and very funny Atkinson monolog, the actor plays a conservative
politician addressing his party about immigration. "A lot of immigrants
are from Pakistan and India... and I like curry. But now that we've got
the recipe, is there any reason for them to stay?" Later on, he talks about
solutions to juvenile violence:
This party feels we've been just a little too soft on these
bastards. Mr. Whitehill has spoken of the 'short, sharp, shock treatment'
and his introduction of the 24,000 volt electric chair to two home office
detention centers begins next week...on a purely experimental basis, of
course. If it doesn't work, then we will be more than prepared to
revert to the old liberal, wishy-washy, socialist, nigger-loving, Red,
left-wing, homosexual, commie ways of the recent past.
The politicians aren't the only ones who are skewered for racial intolerance
either, the police get their share of abuse too. In another sketch Constable
Savage (Griff Rhys Jones) has arrested black people for "loitering with
intent to use a pedestrian crossing", "smelling of foreign food", and "possession
of curly black hair and thick lips", among other offenses.
In addition to the verbal comedy, every episode has a musical number
where they skewer a different genre of music. I Like Trucking
is an Abba inspired song with a catchy tune and inane lyrics.
"I like trucking. I like trucking. I like trucking and I like
to truck! If you don't like trucking tough luck."
Overall, this is a funny show but it's not without its faults.
Unfortunately the producers felt compelled to place an obnoxious laugh
track over at least part of the show. This is really grating, especially when a bit
that falls flat gets a huge laugh from the non-existent audience.
There is also a lot of bathroom humor that is thrown in for a cheap laugh:
film of horses, gerbils and other animals having sex, and ending skits
with someone passing gas are some of the things that seem beneath the show,
given the general quality of the writing.
One problem the show does struggle with is the length of the skits.
Some of them go on for too long, a problem that most show of this type
suffer from. In the opening skit of disc one, two men are competing
in what is implied as a dart tournament, but it turns out they are really
in a drinking contest. This is a one gag sketch, but it goes on and
on. Then there's the lawyer who can't pronounce legal terms correctly.
It was funny at first but continues well past the point of everyone getting
the joke. Happily these are in the minority.
This collection comes on two DVDs that are housed in a single width
double keepcase with an extra page for the second disc.
The biggest problem I have with this set is that these are not complete
episodes, they are compilations of some of the best skits from the show's
run. I would have greatly preferred season sets (there were only
6-8 episodes per season) or barring that some of the better entire episodes.
The show has a stereo audio track that fits it well. The dialog
is clear, though there is a very light hum in the background, it isn't
distracting at regular listening levels. There isn't a very large
range but the show really doesn't need it. A standard sounding disc.
There are not any subtitles.
The full frame video image looks good for a show that is 25 years old.
There is a good amount of detail and the colors are solid. There
is a bit of grain in a few scenes, and there is a tad of edge enhancement,
but aside from that there are no major defects.
Unfortunatly there are no extras included with this set. The original
pilot, that was never aired since the BBC thought it was too political,
would have been a great bonus item, but alas it isn't anywhere in this
Not the Nine O'Clock News is a funny show, and though a couple
of the skits are dated and some of them go on for too long, it stands up
very well today. Rowan Atkinson manages to steal the show, but the
other actor are very talented too and some of the skits are outrageously
funny. I only wish that A&E and the BBC would have released this
show as it was originally show. While these compilations of skits
are fun to watch I can't help wishing that I could see the real show.
Even so, this sets is recommended for fans of sketch or British