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Not The 9 O’clock News

4.4 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Attention, comedy fans: NOT THE NINE O'CLOCK NEWS is the real thing. This is scathing, no-holds-barred Brit humor at its best. Rapid-fire skits starring Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean) are as politically incorrect as they are side-bustingly funny, sparing no one as they take on the British Royal Family, Margaret Thatcher, Scotland Yard, country music, Christianity, devil worship, punk rock and bathroom etiquette. NOT THE NINE O'CLOCK NEWS is so irreverent that when the pilot was due to air in April 1979, the BBC cancelled it due to its incendiary political content. When at last it aired, the greatest comedy group to hit England since Monty Python's Flying Circus stormed the airwaves and revolutionized British and American television alike. Discover the show that set the standard for the anarchic cynicism that defined the alternative comedy of the 80's.

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This two-disc set doesn't collect the best of Not the 9 O'Clock News per se, but, more accurately, eight extremely funny episodes of this 1979 British sketch comedy series that launched the careers of Rowan Atkinson (Blackadder, Mr. Bean), Pamela Stevenson (later wasted on Saturday Night Live), and Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones (Alas Smith & Jones). Between a squashed hedgehog and a dead parrot, comparisons with Monty Python's Flying Circus are inevitable. Not the 9 O'Clock News is more aggressively paced, with a riot of sketches, fun-with-real-video segments, non-sequitur bits, visual gags, and musical spoofs. It was also more topical, so it has perhaps not aged as well as Python. But one doesn't have to be familiar with the British politicians and personalities being pilloried (sorry, Britt Eckland) or the television game and talk shows being spoofed to enjoy the commitment of the performances and the savvy and sometimes savage writing. In the first episode, talk show panelists respond to news that Russian bombs are 4 ½ minutes from England, prompting a leftist to decry "the appalling record of this conservative government... that three million people will die unemployed." The silly bits are the most lasting, including footage of a golf tournament repurposed as the "Pro Am Silly Pants Tournament" and Atkinson and Smith as an urbane gorilla and his trainer ("He was completely wild." "Wild? I was absolutely livid"). This marks 9 O'Clock's DVD debut, and that's good news for British comedy fans. --Donald Liebenson

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Rowan Atkinson, Pamela Stephenson, Mel Smith, Griff Rhys Jones, Chris Langham
  • Directors: Bill Wilson, Bob Spiers
  • Writers: Mel Smith, Griff Rhys Jones, Andrew Marshall, Andy Hamilton, Clive Anderson
  • Format: Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: A&E Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: February 28, 2006
  • Run Time: 197 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000CRR37Y
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #111,078 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Not The 9 O’clock News" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert I. Hedges HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on November 12, 2006
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"Not The 9 O'clock News" took the baton from "Monty Python's Flying Circus" in the world of British comedy in the early 1980s. Like "Python," the show features fast paced sketch comedy intermixed with real footage and musical numbers, and blends them into an amalgam that is sometimes very original, yet occasionally noticeably derivative of earlier work (notably of "Python" and Peter Cook.) Of the four principals involved here, Rowan Atkinson, of course, became the standout, and in fact already was even at this early stage. Atkinson excels at quirky roles, and is a wonderfully visual performer. His portrayal of the performance artist mime "Alternative Car Park" is the funniest single sketch of the series by far.

I find the quality of the segments to vary dramatically. I recall watching this many years ago and thinking it was hilarious: while I still think most of it is funny, it has not aged as well as "Python," largely because so much of the humor revolves around then-current governmental affairs in England. I generally found most of the musical numbers to be repetitive, with the only true standout being the song "Nice Video, Shame About The Song" by "Lufthansa Terminal," in a hilarious satire of early 1980s art-videos. The trucking sketch, while not especially creative musically, opened up Pandora's box of complaints with the squished hedgehog gag (giving rise to the hilarious "Hedgehogs: An Apology," and "We Want to Know Who Stuffs Hedgehogs.")

Students of Atkinson can find traces of the future Mr. Bean in some of the sketches, particularly where he orders a bathroom from an architect with a rather excessive number of toilets. Stock footage is liberally used (generally with added sound effects) in what is an equivalent linking device as Terry Gilliam's animation in "Python.
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It's really thrilling to see this out on DVD stateside, even though if you don't recall much of the late 1970s/early 1980s and aren't up on government history in the UK during the time (and if not, a few hours with the Young Ones will help), you might be at a bit of a loss on certain parts. If you are still moping over Princess Di being in the past tense namewise, you might be squeamish over parts of this as she still had that new Windsor smell at the time these were made.

Okay, caveats aside, the rapid fire satire sketch comedy of the Pythons is prominent here, probably due in large part to Rowan Atkinson's work with the Pythons on the Amnesty International concerts during this time period (this is before Mr. Bean/Black Adder/Thin Blue Line), but Stephenson, Rhys-Jones and Smith (second only to John Tuturro on the humor scale in the blatant Marx Bros. ripoff (albeit still funny as H---) _Brain Donors_) are just as great in this double-disc set.

Highlights? Mel Smith and Rowan Atkinson's parody of the debates over the brouhaha surrounding Life of Brian at the time ("Jesus Christ is John Cleese right down to the same initials!"), the Oi! band parody song about Moseley with Mel Smith singing, Atkinson's ska parody "I Like Bouncing," the cast take on ABBA, footage of the Pope edited to where it looks like he's singing "Jungle Rock," the Royals entering a room to "In the Mood" as fanfare music, and the list goes on and on.

Best line: "Nurse, I can't feel my legs." "Yes, sorry we had to amputate your arms."

This DVD set also has cameo appearances by Amnesty alum Chris Langham of the "How to Speak Japanese in Three Steps" fame, so that's always nice to see.
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Not the 9 O'Clock News aired on the BBC between 1979 and 1982, producing 27 episodes. Poking fun at, well, pretty much everything - politics, music, art, the royal family, Belgium, you name it, the actors seemed to be having as much fun as the audience. Indeed the leads were a collection of young comic geniuses who went on to greatness - Mel Smith, Griff Rhys Jones, a very skinny Rowan Atkinson, and Pamela Stephenson. Although some of the sketches featured on this collection are dated, okay, it was making fun of the news, many are dated (there are quite a few Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan jokes), but still many are not. The scene where the fancy cappuccino machine hides the proprietor adding instant coffee to hot water from a kettle, mixing in the milk, and then blowing into the cup with a straw to froth the drink had me laughing hysterically. The songs are sheer genius (including Headbanger which makes fun of Heavy Metal music, and the Abba spoofing Supa Dupa which is completely on the mark).

Although the humor is very British, and the number of UK politicians named and mocked will be alien to American audiences, this is still a brilliant show that can be appreciated across the pond. Watching on my iPad, I can't count the number of times I laughed out loud when I was exercising on the orbital trainer. I was just glad the gym was fairly empty at the time, or people would think me insane.

I suppose if you did not live through the 80's, you would miss much of the humor (for example the song "Nice Video, Shame about the Song" would probably only get quizzical looks). But if you are of a certain age and like your humor edgy, you will love these sketches.
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