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Not the Nine O'Clock News
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Not the Nine O'Clock News

Not the Nine O'Clock News was a ground-breaking comedy show shown on the BBC in the 1980s.

Starring a new generation of young comedians, it helped bring alternative comedy to the mainstream. It presented a series of individual sketches which were often topical or generally satirical. Unlike other sketch shows up until then, which were based on simple stereotypes or idyllic views of Britain, Not The Nine O'Clock News was modern and aggressive - its sketches featured comedy from the likes of punk rockers, body functions, and kebabs, rather than men in tweed jackets and gentle country pubs.

Each sketch could last from a few seconds to a few minutes, creating a format which has lasted until the present (and gave its name to a more recent BBC comedy sketch show - The Fast Show). The show made heavy use of the revolution in video editing and recording which was taking place at the time, and the face pace of the show was enhanced by the use of jump cutting of archive news footage, usually of politicians, royalty or famous people. The cutting would make it appear that Margaret Thatcher was crashing a car, as one example (she would later complain about this unfair manipulation of actual events). The show was usually shot on film for outside broadcast and video for studio performances, and innovative video effects, provided by the then all-new Quantell Paintbox video effects unit, were often a key element of the musical numbers in the show.

The main stars of the show were Rowan Atkinson, Pamela Stephenson, Mel Smith, Griff Rhys Jones. The first series had Chris Langham as one of its named stars, in preference to Jones, who had a minor role. The producer was John Lloyd, a mainstay in much of British comedy as well as the BBC light entertainment department, who was responsible for the show together with Sean Hardie, who had worked previously in current affairs at the BBC. The writers included Nigel Planer, Richard Curtis, Douglas Adams (of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy fame), and Clive Anderson. Howard Goodall, writer of the Red Dwarf, Blackadder and The 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. For this reason, NtNOCN was swiftly moved to 9.30.

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 Christ (a parody of the controversy surrounding the film Monty Python's Life of Brian), Constable Savage (a barbed attack on alleged police treatment of ethnic minorities), 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 Welsh were frequent targets of attack, as was the UK political party, the Liberal Party.

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 in a sketch referring to the then-current technicians' strike. Sadly, a General Election was then announced, and the BBC pulled the show from the schedules. The sketch with Cleese was eventually broadcast later that year, when by a stroke of luck the final episode of Fawlty Towers went out during the run of NtNOCN's first series, though the original significance of the sketch was lost.

The show usually ended with a musical parody of a chart hit (courtesy of musical director and satirist Philip Pope. Titles included I Like Truckin' , Nice Video (Shame About the Song) and, for the final episode, Kinda Lingers (a verbal pun on the sexual act performed on a woman).

Table of contents
1 Schedule
2 Commercial Releases
3 External Links


The show ran for a total of 28 episodes, of 30 minutes each:

Commercial Releases

Two (highly edited) videos were released of this high point of British comedy:

  • Nice Video, Shame about the Hedgehog
The Gorilla Kinda Lingers

In August 2003 the BBC released the first DVD from the series:

  • The Best Of Not the Nine O'Clock News - Volume One

Three albums were released at the time NTNON was screening:

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

These albums were very successful, with the first two both reaching the top ten of the UK albums chart, a rare feat for a spoken-word LP.

The original version of The Memory Kinda Lingers was a double-LP. The second disc is titled Not in Front of the Audience and is a live recording of the cast's stage show. Hedgehog Sandwich and the first disc of The Memory Kinda Lingers are now combined on a BBC double-length cassette.

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

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, principally written/edited by John Lloyd and Douglas Adams)

External Links