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BEST OF NOT THE NINE O'CLOCK NEWS

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Rowan Atkinson, Mel Smith, Pamela Stephenson, Griff Rhys Jones
Directors:  Bill Wilson, Geoff Posner
Audio:  Dolby Stereo
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  A&E
Features:  Mr. Bean trailer
Length:  197 Minutes
Release Date:  March 28, 2006

“WHY DON’T YOU GROW UP, YOU LITTLE BASTARDS?!”

“What’s going on, darling?”

“Nothing…I’m just talking to the plants…”

Shows ****

Not the Nine O’Clock News has to be, apart from Monty Python’s Flying Circus, the funniest sketch comedy show ever to come out of Great Britain.  Fast and ferocious and always pushing the envelope, it ran roughshod over everything imaginable with a very incorrect attitude to political correctness.

In fact, the original pilot has supposedly never aired…the BBC thought it went way too far for them to broadcast in an election year.  But the show did get off the ground, and gave Britons plenty to howl about for four years…even if it showed and said the kinds of things that could never be done on American television at the time!

Not since Python had such a terrifically fun comedy troupe hit the airwaves.  Rowan Atkinson, Mel Smith, Pamela Stephenson and Griff Rhys Jones were absolutely brilliant performers, and their comedy tackled everything from political and social issues to pop culture.  The skits were rapid fire and rarely missing; this was truly comical overdose for those with short attention spans.

The show created indelible moments by juxtaposing bits of news footage with other clips to create comedy out of thin air.  Whether liberal or conservative, Whig or Tory, no figure was safe from the warped minds of Not the Nine O’Clock News.

Reviews of television compilations are always a bit tricky, because how do you do it without just running down a laundry list of your favorite bits?  I’m not sure…but while I think on that, let me just tell you that I really loved the musical numbers that spoofed Abba, heavy metal, punk and bad 80s synth pop.  I also dug the Porno Filth shop, the priest who was a little agitated by his congregation, the leave-a-message confessional, and the stirring hymn about businesses that “Failed in Wales”.

The foursome were like Python but with more energy…they never seemed to stop to take a breath.  In fact, one sketch was kind of a homage to the legendary comedy troupe, as a religious man who made a film about Jesus Christ is accused of actually having made a film about John Cleese.  Hey, they’re both “JC”, right?

The Best of Not the Nine O’Clock News is a solid three hours of hilarity, and frankly, it doesn’t matter that some of the political material is dated.  It was a treat to see the likes of Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and others in their prime again…even if their moments on this show weren’t exactly career highlights for them.  Well, maybe in Carter's case...

This is simply unbridled, unapologetic in-your-face comedy at its zany best.  You’ll get more laughs to the pound with this double disc set than any other.  And frankly, their take on world events isn’t much more ludicrous that what actually passes for news on TV these days, so why not indulge?

Video **1/2

“Nice video…

For an 80s TV show shot mostly on video, this presentation from A&E is more than serviceable.  A few aging artifacts and limitations of the source material aside, these shows come across with decent color and detail, and should please fans.

Audio **

“…shame about the song.”

The stereo mix is also adequate, with spoken and sung words coming through clean and clear.  Only one or two noticeable ‘hiccups’, but nothing to really worry about. 

Features (zero stars)

“Doctor…I can’t feel my legs.”

“Yes, I’m afraid we had to amputate your arms.”

Nothing but a video trailer for Mr. Bean: The Whole Bean.

Summary:

A&E continues to be the studio that brings the best in British comedy to fans in all corners of the world.  Now that we’ve gotten a look at The Best of Not the Nine O’Clock News, I say go back to the well and bring us a complete box set.  Now THAT would be newsworthy.

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