Monday, June 29, 2009

At Last the 1948 Show

"And now for something completely different."

No, it is not Monty Python, it's At Last the 1948 Show, a television sketch series from ITV London that was a parent of Monty Python. Marry At Last the 1948 Show to Do Not Adjust Your Set, and you get the baby Monty Python's Flying Circus.

Crazy, silly, zany, weird, uproariously funny. Viewing a five-episode DVD set of the show, Bonnie and I laughed Saturday evening away. We also saw a lot of what Python was going to be. John Cleese was already a fully mature John Cleese. Right off the bat in episode one he plays a psychiatrist who will not allow the client to recline on the couch fearing that the latter might be a bed-wetter. Tim Brooke-Taylor, the client, can hardly get a word in as Cleese talks and talks and talks. Graham Chapman is already a talented Graham Chapman-like player. He plays a policeman several times. He even plays a policeman in drag. There is also Marty Feldman in his first acting role. He goes completely bonkers in some scenes! In other scenes with Cleese, he seems to foreshadow the coming of Michael Palin. Finally, there is Aimi MacDonald, whose "moments" link sketches and remind me of the female comedians in the 1968 American series Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. At Last the 1948 Show came first in 1967.

Eric Idle is an extra. In "Thief in the Library," he gets to play a librarian. Shhhh!

"The Four Yorkshiremen" is touted as the most famous sketch. I think my favorites are "The Chartered Accountant Dance," "A Train Carriage, and "Life Insurance for the Accident Prone Man."

Viewers may be surprised to find At Last the 1948 Show is in black and white. Color came to ITV the next year. According to an interview with Tim Brooke-Taylor on the DVD, the show was somewhat regional and broadcast to only parts of Great Britain. The two DVD set includes five episodes, and its box gives the impression that it is the complete series. Aimi MacDonald in her links, however, refers to scenes you don't see, as does Brooke-Taylor in his interview. BFI Screenonline and IMDB indicates that there were thirteen episodes. Wikipedia explains that the DVD is a compilation that was shown on Swedish television. The BBC destroyed most of the original videotapes. That's so sad, as I'd like to see more.

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