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    Not the Nine O'Clock News - Volume One

    BBC/Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 98 mins . M15+ . PAL


    The beauty of DVD is in its cheapness to produce, we get to see everything they never bothered to bring to video. This also works in reverse though, as we consumers get charged through the arse and there’s a whole lot of crap on the shelves that hasn’t been treated lovingly, but quickly. ‘Quickly’ translates roughly into ‘cheaply’.

    So is the case with Not the 9 O’clock News. A show well ahead of its time that introduced many new comic TV ideals that are still visible today in topical satire and sketch comedy shows. Fast Forward, Full Frontal, Skithouse, The D-Generation’s Late Show and even The Clive James Show all carry some element of this brilliant early sketch comedy show.

    Of course, there are some elements that have never turned up again and in some ways we should be thankful for that. However, for an early show to have its finger so readily on the pulse is no mean feat. New ideas were being trialed and because of these early attempts, today’s sketch comedy show, for example, has its formula firmly in place before it ever shoots its first gag. Witness four young comedians in Pamela Stephenson, Mel Smith, Griff Rhys-Jones and Rowan Atkinson playing the majority of roles in all sketches. Today there is an ensemble cast of up to 12 members in any sketch show and you would be hard pressed to find one surviving with but four cast members.

    "Failed in Wales..."

    Featuring the selected highlights of the original four year engagement from 1979-1982, what we are granted here is a collection of arguably the best gags, though there is certainly a fair share of flatter sketches. Plus more than a heaping spoonful of topical political satire that may leave some folk scratching their heads (who is Margaret Thatcher anyway?)
    Highlights from the 98 minutes of DVD screen time include:

    • Trout Hatchery
    • One-Legged Raid
    • Kinda Lingers
    • The Two Ninnies
    • World Chestnuts No. 8: Swedish Chemist Shop

    For fans of the show during its original run, you may be appalled to see just how severely the show has dated, but there are enough universal and timeless gags to keep us interested in-between. It would be hard to state that this is the definitive collection of Not the 9 O’Clock News as the original series ran for 27 episodes and there is a certain amount of dreck among the selections here. However, being entitled with a mysterious Volume One on the cover may indeed foreshadow more volumes of the Second Best Of and so on down the track.


    Gleaned from video stock of the time, the picture quality here is fairly shithouse. Presented in 4:3 naturally, the original video is showing its age a little. While not unwatchable by any means, the footage gets grainy occasionally, or light flares appear or there’s just good old-fashioned colour bleeding. However, as an indication of how far we’ve come, it would have looked just like this when it originally aired. My, how times change.

    Soft edges abound, though these only mildly detract from the footage. To put it another way; if ten was the picture quality of television today, this would rate around a six. And that’s okay, because it works alright for the show. However, far more off-putting are the dated gags and minor celebrities of the time being impersonated (newsreaders etc.) who we don’t have a clue as to who the hell they are. In instances of stock footage or footage taken from other sources, the grain magnifies significantly as does the decay of image and film artefacts. However, all over, this is still watchable and funny and does look as good as it possibly could on DVD (or indeed ever).


    Dolby Digital stereo is all we could possibly expect and of course, that’s what we get. Dialogue is mostly clear and understood though trickier accents and falsetto voices may test your mettle. Sound effects are naturally comical and sound fine, having been dubbed in a studio for the most part, though the ‘real’ sound effects are also fine. Music is of the moment, including their ‘closing gag songs’ and is a real step back in time. Most are barely recognisable today, including Supa Dupa, the ABBA tribute, though Kinda Lingers, while not exactly recognisable, does portray the film clip style of the time very nicely. Perfectly practical sound and adequate for its intent here anyway.


    Pfft! Not even a decent looking menu! It’s the same pic as on the DVD cover itself, but hasn’t been treated as nicely with darker contrasts all over it. Ahh, DVD 5. Your single layer betrays you.

    I think I hear that cash register ringing again...


    Strictly for the fans, this one. For anyone unfamiliar with the News team, I’m not sure they could be bothered to give it the time of day. However, who am I to say? While this does have its moments of laugh-out-loudism, for the most part it’s a bit of a hodge-podge of unrelated sequences and topical (to the late '70s/early '80s) political gags about England that couldn’t be further away from relevence to us here in Australia in 2003.

    Amusing, yes, but well worth the purchase? Not for my money.

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=3408
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      And I quote...
    "Amusing, yes. Showing its age? Oh yes."
    - Jules Faber
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