BFI Film (studio)
361 min (length)
16 September 2019 (released)
06 October 2019
This 3-Disc set would appear to be the most comprehensive release hitherto of this totally ‘off the wall comedy’ series. Not a great many of the episodes, originally screened between late 1967 and early 1969 still exist (as can be said for countless other series from this period) which makes this release all the more precious.
Of the 29 episodes we have about 13 here, plus the usual plethora of never less than interesting Bonus Features that BFI are so generous with. The picture quality could be better but hey ho, you can’t have it all. It should be borne in mind that this was originally screened in the early evening and was in fact a children’s series. It has none or very little of the edge of the recently released AT LAST THE 1948 SHOW. It is, in fact, incredibly silly and many of the sketches are quite frankly a bit on the daft side (not to mention rather predictable) - but to re-iterate it WAS a kids program!
Nevertheless it succeeded in bringing together a number of major talents. Terry Jones, Michael Palin and Eric Idle (who wrote most of the sketches) later on joined John Cleese and Graham Chapman (who'd been in the 1948 SHOW) shortly after this series finished to form the legendary 'Monty Python'. Obviously similar motifs were being explored, albeit in a much more light hearted fashion. Indeed the talent on offer can hardly be gainsaid.
In DO NOT ADJUST YOUR SET we also have (apart from Michael Palin, Eric Idle and Terry Jones) TV's busiest actor ‘Delboy’ himself… or should we say Inspector Frost. Yes, the legendary Sir David Jason, then a near dark-haired fledgling, can be seen doing impressions of a then popular TV Talent Show host, the odious Hughie Greene. Jason is pretty good with accents and here you see him at the start of his illustrious career. It was nice to see a woman involved in this 'madness' – the diminutive Denise Coffey puts every bit as much manic energy in as the men.
As regards to the sketches let’s pick out a few at random: five well dressed businessman go into a strip club and come out seconds later in their underpants (quite funny if you are about ten or eleven). Coffey, as an announcer using the royal 'orf' tells us that a very good way to avoid sunburn is cover your body in bread and butter pudding. She then voraciously stuffs the pudding in her mouth.
Eric Idle interviewing an invisible man: “Has anybody seen the invisible man?” But we do get a slightly unexpected coda after the intermission. Jones wearing an ill fitting jacket and non-matching trousers (so we know the outcome): “You can spill ink on this suit, you can put mud on it, you can pour oil over it, you can rip it.” Punchline: “But it'll ruin it!” You get the idea. In another sketch we see Jason as a culinary chef advising how to use chicken leftovers including bones: “Put them in the dustbin!”
Personally though this reviewer prefers the 'Captain Fantastic' sketches - complete with a Dick Barton like theme (which featured Jason doing his 'old duffer' voice) hot on the trail of the world's most evil woman the dastardly Mrs. Black (Coffey). This amusing surreal hokum was very much their work written in collaboration with writer Ian Davison. What is particularly interesting is looking at the early genus of what was to become. Even in Michael Palin's 'Lifeguard' we can see the beginning of the world's greatest bore Eric Olthwaite to be featured in RIPPING YARNS.
For this, the box set is worth it alone. Palin also explains how they were at that time getting more into the 'silly' humor of 'The Goons' and moving away from the satire of 'Beyond the Fringe'. But satire was, in truth, always round the corner, how could it not be? If this isn't tempting enough, the music is provided by the one and very much only Bonzo Dog Do Dah Band (themselves a collective of ex-Art students...nevahh!), headed by the late and invariably 'plummy' voiced eccentric Vivian Stanshall who could also go into Elvis at the drop of a Fedora. If you don't know who they are you must be some kind of Urban Spaceman… or just under 50. Time for you to find out then!