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A fruitful branch of British comedy's family tree

  • Jun 12, 2010
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In Britain in the late 60s, television was still at the relatively primitive stage where it was necessary to flash up a message from time to time that there was a technical problem in the transmission and that you should not try to adjust your set. There must have been a similar thing in the US, to judge by the "There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture" in the Outer Limits opening. The phrase made a great title for the brand of zany comedy that Do Not Adjust Your Set brought to children's programming in Britain.

I was older than the target audience, but I was soon hurrying home from work to catch as much of it as I could. It's good now to be able to watch the whole thing at leisure, on DVD. I think today's kids may still get something from it, but it's more of interest to an adult audience, wanting to see the early efforts of Idle, Palin and Jones, future Pythons. Yes, it is essentially a children's show, so make allowances for that.

The musical guests were the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and if you haven't seen them, you should. They are unique.

David Jason was a member of the cast, he and Denise Coffey being the 'real' actors among them. He's surprisingly awkward in some sketches, and very physical, with little indication of the great comedy actor he was to become.

Tim Brooke-Taylor makes a guest appearance. He went on to become one of The Goodies, in my opinion the greatest TV comedy series of all. (Why are they so poorly represented on DVD?)

Inevitably, some of the references will be lost on a modern or non-British audience. For instance, the parody of the White Heather Club, a long-running Scottish song and dance show, is excruciatingly funny, for those who saw the original. Still, I'm sure anyone can enjoy it.

I was looking forward to seeing the insert, a 'Comedy Tree Poster Booklet'. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a totally incomprehensible tangle of arrows and labels which tells you nothing about how the British genre of zany, surreal radio and television comedy evolved from The Goon Show through to the present. The chart even includes shows like Cheers, simply because John Cleese made a guest appearance, and it totally ignores radio shows. This is a pity, because a tree with The Goons, Twice a Fortnight, At Last the 1948 Show, Do Not Adjust Your Set, I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again, The Goodies, Monty Python, etc, showing how the whole thing evolved, would be really interesting.

This DVD is recommended for all comedy lovers who are in the mood for some childish fun.

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About this tv show


Monty Python completists will especially appreciateDo Not Adjust Your Set, a precursor toMonty Python's Flying Circusstarring Terry Jones, Michael Palin, and Eric Idle, along with fellow writer-performers David Jason and Denise Coffey. Ostensibly a children's show,Do Not Adjust Your Setalso includes the then-future Python Terry Gilliam lurking off-camera as an occasional animator, and the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band with Neil Innes, an important collaborator on several Idle projects that lay ahead. A freewheeling sketch show from the late 1960s, originally broadcast on the Rediffusion network before switching to Thames Television, it's impossible not to seeDo Not Adjust Your Setas a blueprint forFlying Circus. The two hours' worth of material in this DVD set includes early versions of Palin's familiar role as an incompetent shopkeeper, in one instance selling shoe polish to a man who asks for bananas. The entire cast stars in a vignette about a classical music quartet whose instruments produce the sounds of an auto accident and an air raid. Terry Jones plays an insurance agent who wrecks Palin's house, and Idle essays his soon-to-be signature performance as a pleasant-sounding, BBC news reader spouting surreal headlines. This is a gold mine of Pythonesque comedy in an embryonic state, plus the Bonzo Dog Band performing "Death Cab for Cutie."--Tom Keogh
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Studio: Tango Entertainment
DVD Release Date: July 26, 2005

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