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NTNON – Comedy Alternative to the Nine O’clock News
Not the Nine O’clock News was the first TV show that I felt was my own rather than that of my parents.
Screened on BBC2 as an alternative to the Nine O’clock News on BBC1, it slotted in nicely the little teenage rebellion I had going on that the time and it sat perfectly alongside my Punk Rock musical tastes as well, although they also lampooned punk as well as everything else.
If punk rock was the alternative music then Not the Nine O’clock News was the alternative TV show. Its’ very title suggested alternative and, being broadcast at the same time as every dads favourite, the Nine O’clock news, made it even more appealing.
Rebellious, irreverent and downright hilarious, the show lampooned everything that was holy at the time; Margret Thatcher, the police, religion and even the badge of achievement of every middle class man, American Express.
Despite the fact that the show contains some of the classic comedy sketched of all time, Not the Nine O’clock news has rarely been repeated on TV, primarily because much of its content was topical and wouldn’t mean a great deal to younger audiences today. The line about Constable Savage joining the SPG (Special Patrol Group) really wouldn’t mean much if you didn’t know about the accusations of racism made in respect to that arm of the police force at the time.
There are still some timeless classics in the back catalogue though and those are well worth re-visiting, whatever your age.
Not the Nine O’clock news – A Brief History
Not the Nine O’clock News was first broadcast in October 1979 and ran for 27 episodes until 1982.
Starring Rowan Atkinson, Mel Smith, Griff Rhys Jones, Pamela Stephenson and Chris Langham in the first series, NTNON was a mixture of sketches, humorous musical numbers, re-edited video clips of celebrities and politicians and spoofs of other TV shows.
Whilst the first series was slated for being "a poor mix of stand up, and a mild portion of sketches"., with a little re-formatting and the replacement of Chris Langham with Griff Rhys Jones, the show went on to win the Silver Rose at the Montreux Festival and a BAFTA award for Best Light Entertainment Programme in 1982.
As well as the TV show, three Vinyl LP’s were released; Not the Nine O’clock News, Hedgehog Sandwich, and The Memory Kinda Lingers which were very successful and the first two even reached the top ten of the UK album charts.
In 1995 two videos were released; Nice Video, Shame about the Hedgehog and The Gorilla Kinda Lingers. The videos were re-released in 2003/2004 on DVD with the titles of: The Best of Not the Nine O'Clock News: Volume One and The Best of Not the Nine O'Clock News: Volume Two.
Who can forget Gerald the Gorilla or Constable Savage? Here’s a few of the classic clips to remind you:
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Not the Nine o’clock News – Gorilla Sketch
“Wild? I was absolutely livid!”
Not the Nine o’clock News – Constable Savage
“I know he's a jailbird, Savage, he's down in the cells now! We're holding him on a charge of being caught in possession of curly black hair and thick lips!”
Not the Nine o’clock News – American Express
That’ll do nicely sir, and would you like to rub my tits too?
Not the Nine o’clock News – Darts
“Would you believe it? It’ went in but it’s come out again”
Not the Nine o’clock News – Does God Exist
“Why don’t they have a key like they do on tins of corned beef?”
Not the Nine o’clock News – Songs of Praise
“Last week there were only three of us; myself, the organist and a tin of spaghetti. Where were you bastards then!”
Following the success of Not the Nine O’clock News, Rowan Atkinson went on to become a household name in the Blackadder Series and Mr. Bean.
As well as TV appearances he has also appeared in a number of Hollywood movies including:
1983 Never Say Never Again
1989 The Tall Guy
1993 Hot Shots! Part Deux
1994 Four Weddings and a Funeral
2003 Johnny English
2007 Mr. Bean's Holiday
2011 Johnny English Reborn
2003 Love Actually
Griff Rhys Jones
Griff Rhys Jones went on from NTNON to form a long standing professional and business partnership with co-star Mel Smith.
Alas Smith and Jones, later to be re-named just Smith and Jones, ran from 1984 to 1998, followed in the footsteps of Not the Nine O’clock News as a comedy sketch and show. Some of the most memorable sketches from the series are the famous head to head scenes where Smith was an idiot who knew everything and Jones was the idiot who knew nothing.
Smith and Rhys Jones also founded TalkBack Productions together, a company that produced many of the most popular British comedy programmes of the last twenty years including: Da Ali G Show, Smack the Pony and I'm Alan Partridge.
More recently, Griff Rhys Jones has starred in the BBC’s Three Men in a Boat Series alongside Dara Ó Briain and Rory McGrath.
He has also continued in a straight acting career with appearances in Casualty and Miss Marple and starred in the drama series Mine All Mine on ITV as well as hosting a number of documentary programmes.
Sadly, Mel Smith died in July 2013. He will be best remembered for his parts in Not the Nine O’clock news and for his partnership with Griff Rhys Jones.
In other works, he co-wrote and played the lead role in the space comedy Morons from Outer Space, and he directed the film The Tall Guy in 1989 which starred Emma Thompson and Jeff Goldblum. His best known work in America is his role in Brain Donors in 1992.
On TV, he took the lead role in the drama, Muck and Brass in 1982, played a record producer in Minder and the title role in the sitcom Colin’s Sandwich which ran from 1987 to 1989.
Mel Smith died aged 60, on 19 July 2013 from a heart attack at his home in North London. He has suffered from an addiction to pain killers and admitted in 1999 to taking more than 50 Nurofen plus tablets a day after an admission to hospital.
Pamela Stephenson, Now Pamela Connelly, married the comedian Billy Connelly in 1989.
Following Not the Nine O’clock News she appeared in several films including Superman III, History of the World Part 1, and Stand Up, Virgin Soldiers.
She is better known now as an author and has written a number of books about her life with Billy Connolly, her travels as well as a number of Psychology books.
She has a PHD and is a USA licensed clinical psychologist with her own private practice in Beverly Hills.
On 2 August 2007 Langham was found guilty of downloading indecent images of children from the Internet. He was sentenced to ten months in prison on 14 September 2007.
That’s all I have to say about that.
Not the Nine O’clock News
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Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on August 28, 2013:
sounds like an interesting satirical show. It might bear some resmblence to the show "WKRP in Cincinnati" which was popular in the USA in the 1980s or "That was the week that was" back in the 1960s