by Hans ten Cate
Monday, 30 May 2005

At Last the 1948 Show Do Not Adjust Your Set

The history of Monty Python's Flying Circus is often credited to the coming together of two popular British comedy series from the 1960s, At Last the 1948 Show and Do Not Adjust Your Set, both featuring the Pythons before they were, well, Pythons.

On July 26 Tango Entertainment will debut two DVD's featuring episodes of these two series. The announcement was somewhat 'under the radar' but certainly comes as a welcome one to Python fans. Python aficionados have largely been familiar with the series by name only as both have never been available on any commercial medium (save perhaps for a few bootleg videos).

While I'm hoping to have more information on these DVDs in the coming weeks, here is what I know: one DVD will apparently feature 5 episodes of the classic series At Last the 1948 Show, featuring John cleese and Graham Chapman. The other DVD includes 9 episodes of Do Not Adjust Your Set, staring Michael Palin, Terry Jones, and Eric Idle.

This is the first time these shows are being made available on DVD in the U.S., or anywhere for that matter. Both DVDs will be available for $29.98 each and also include brand-new interviews with original cast members and a Comedy Family Tree Poster Booklet.

At Last the 1948 Show (1967-68) featured John Cleese and Graham Chapman

At Last the 1948 Show aired on BBC television in 1967 and 1968, only ever showing thirteen 25-minute episodes. It was written and performed before a live audience by Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graham Chapman, John Cleese and Marty Feldman (who until this series had been known solely as a comedy writer). The show also included special appearances by Barry Cryer and Eric Idle. The entire vehicle was driven by David Frost, who had worked with a number of the Pythons on The Frost Report.

Many famous Monty Python skits were introduced for the first time on At Last the 1948 Show, including the "4 Yorkshiremen" and Graham Chapman's one-man wrestling sketch.

The show's name was allegedly suggested by John Cleese, commenting on how long it took the BBC to greenlight shows.

When the shows finally aired, black and white television was on its way out, so it was remarkable any of the episodes aired. David Frost ended up deleting many of the master tapes, but five "best-of" episodes had aired and were kept by Swedish television. Thank you Sweden!

Do Not Adjust Your Set () featured Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin

Do Not Adjust Your Set originally aired in 1968 and starred Eric Idle, David Jason, Terry Jones, Denise Coffey and Michael Palin. The show was intended to be a children's program, but its silliness and clever skits also appealed to adult audiences. Although it originally aired in the afternoons, at tea-time, for children, the network eventually re-aired the show at 7 pm because they found out that people were leaving work early to go home and catch the series on TV. The series aired over two seasons, for a total of 27 episodes and two specials.

Filmed in front of a live audience, the shows also featured musical interludes performed by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band (from which came Python colleague Neil Innes) and the running weekly saga of "superhero" Captain Fantastic and his arch enemy Mrs. Black, which lived even past the series as part of the children's magazine, Magpie.

Some episodes also featured original animations by Terry Gilliam; who with Idle, Jones and Palin joined forces with Cleese and Chapman to form Monty Python's Flying Circus a mere five months after the last episode of DNAYS.

Tango Entertainment, which is releasing the DVDs, was founded by British DVD/video veterans Paul Levinson and Warren Goldberg.

Looks Like a Brown Trouser Job, featuring Graham Chapman's college lectures was released April 26

Speaking of vintage Python material, be sure and check out Graham Chapman's DVD too. Yes, I said Graham Chapman! A new DVD, entitled Looks Like a Brown Trouser Job, was released April 26 from Rykodisc.

The DVD is largely a move to digitally preserve rare home videos of Graham's college lectures before the elements completely destroyed the footage. Sadly, years of bad storage has already degraded much of the quality, but the historic value of these clips is unmistakable.

A number of Graham's bits are recognizable from the 1997 and 2000 audio recordings A Six Pack of Lies and Spot the Loony, recorded in April 1988 at Georgia Tech and Brown University respectively.

The disc features some cool extras, such as additional clips during Graham's Q&A, outtakes, Graham's reverse bungie jump, British TV commercials starring Graham Chapman that were never shown in the United States, the Iron Maiden music video “Can I Play With Madness” from 1988 that featured Graham Chapman, as well as the Chapmanography that originated on The Daily Llama a number of years back.

Stay tuned later this year for more Graham Chapman news. Yes, even though the fella has been quietly dead since 1989, he's still responsible for new material!