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Not the Nine O'Clock News

Not the Nine O'Clock News was a ground-breaking comedy sketch show shown on the BBC in the 1980s. The main stars are Rowan Atkinson, Pamela Stephenson, Mel Smith, Griff Rhys Jones, and the first series also starred Chris Langham. Atkinson, Smith and Rhys Jones all went on to further illustrious careers in comedy, Stephenson married Billy Connolly (who also made a guest appearance on the show) and became a psychiatrist, while Langham has recently been involved with People Like Us and Kiss Me Kate. The producer was John Lloyd, a mainstay in much of British Comedy, while the writers included Nigel Planer and Richard Curtis. Howard Goodall, writer of the Red Dwarf, Blackadder and Vicar of Dibley theme tunes (amongst others) was also involved musically.

The show's name derived from its broadcast schedule -- it was transmitted on BBC Two at the same time as the main Nine O'Clock News went out on BBC One, leading to the opportunity for some amusing continuity announcements. However, this soon worked against the schedulers, who found that the audience they were hoping to attract were often drawn to both the Nine O'Clock News and Not the Nine O'Clock News! NTNON was then swiftly moved to 9.30, to rectify this.

Memorable sketches include a darts parody featuring the "sportsmen" being scored on units of alcohol instead of the darts, a hi-fi shop with disdainful staff, the 'General Synod's Life of Jesus Christ' (a parody of the controversy surrouding the film Monty Python's Life of Brian), Gerald the Intelligent Gorilla ("Gerald was wild when he was captured" "Wild? I was absolutely livid!") and 'Come Home to a Real Fire (Buy a Cottage in Wales)' (a reference to a spate of arson attacks by Welsh people against English people's second homes, and a parody of the contemporary coal marketing campaign). The first episode was supposed to have been one of the first cross-over created episodes in television history. Originally scheduled to air after Fawlty Towers, John Cleese was to have introduced the first episode! Sadly, a (General Election?) was scheduled instead, and when Not the Nine O'Clock News was rescheduled, Fawlty Towers had finished, and the episode has yet to see the light of day...

The show usually ended with a parody of a chart hit (courtesy of musical director and satirist Philip Pope, who also created spoof band The Hee Bee Gee Bees, which featured none other than Angus Deayton, host of Have I Got News For You (1990-2002)). Titles included 'I Like Truckin', 'Nice Video (Shame About the Song)' and '(The Memory) Kinda Lingers'.

Only two (highly edited) videos have been released so far of this High Point of British Comedy:

  • Nice Video, Shame about the Hedgehog
The Gorilla Kinda Lingers
(It is these that are variously repeated by the BBC, who seem to feel that the 1980s comedy has aged, and shouldn't be repeated or commercially released in its entirety)

However, In 2003, the BBC finally released the first season, unedited, on DVD

There were only three records released:

  • Not the Nine O'Clock News
Hedgehog Sandwich
(The Memory) Kinda Lingers (2 LPs)

Several singles were also released, including: 'I Like Truckin'', 'The Ayatollah Song'/'Gob on You' and 'Oh Bosanquet!'/'Gob on You'

The Books released to tie in with the series were:

  • Not! the Nine O'Clock News (Its cover being a spoof of the since-folded "Now!" magazine)
Not the Royal Wedding (To tie in with Charles and Diana's wedding)
Not the General Election (To tie in with the 1983 General Election)
Not 1982
Not 1983 (both 'page-a-day' tear-off Calendars)

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