TV Cream

TV: N is for...

Not the Nine O’clock News

STEAMROLLER OF a sketch’n’satire brew which drove a 1980s-sized coach and horses through the conventions and clientele of small screen comedy. It did it pretty inexpertly at times, and with not a few casualties (CHRIS LANGHAM for starters) but the sketches still stand up today even if the Thatcher-baiting, British Leyland-name dropping, National Front-lampooning, trade union-bashing is hopelessly dated. ROWAN “CANNED LAUGHTER” ATKINSON, MEL “COLIN’S SANDWICH” SMITH, GRIFF RHYS-JONES and PAMELA STEPHENSON were your main concerns, armed with a legion of material penned by a whole undergraduate collegiate of new-to-TV writers, from DOUGLAS ADAMS to CLIVE ANDERSON. Pissed off virtually everyone in the country by the end, which was kind of the point. Even POINTS OF VIEW went mental at “Only good Pole is a deed poll”. Aircrash canniballism, “We like trucking”, Proud To Be Stout, Life Of Christ, Gerald the gorilla – here was the best British satire since, well, the entry before this one.



  1. Glenn Aylett

    June 18, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    Actually outperformed the real Nine O Clock News in the ratings during its last series and attracted a huge audience of 10 million for BBC2. Should the Nine O Clock News have been on BBC2 and not on BBC1, then the show would have doubled its audience figures in the slot such was the quality of the material. My favourites have to be the American Express sketch, the send up of youth programmes- Hey Wow- and Rowan Atkinson playing a vicar on Songs of Praise saying most of the congregation had turned up because they were on television. Mary Whitehouse and evangelical Christians hated it, always a good thing.

  2. Matt Patton

    October 30, 2009 at 12:27 am

    “My mother got along perfectly well with David Attenborough!”

  3. Angryhead

    October 30, 2009 at 5:05 am

    A sort of British baton reciever from Monty Python…..
    It’s easily difficult to appreciate how big this show was back in it’s day. I was a huge fan who clearly remembers the fuss and publicity that was caused by the ‘…Nine O’clock News’ cast’s decision to call it a day. The last ever episode was publicized weeks before it’s broadcast and created much anticipation from the show’s fans. I can still clearly remember much of the day that preceded that episode. I was playing football with my mate outside a park near his parent’s house (summer holidays maybe?). As the day began to turn to night, I told my mate I was going to bike back home to watch the last ever episode of ‘Not the Nine O’Clock News’.
    OK… not much of a memory, but it’s burnt into my mind forever.

    Favourite sketches ???? Well…. ‘Gerald the talking gorilla’ has got to be one, The Two Ninnie is another, Constable Savage is yet another… then there’s the two-minute skit of a fat bloke (Mel Smith, obviously) who visits his doctor to be told he has a fatally high level of cholestoral.
    The doctor then asks the patient if he can have his body when he dies. The patient agrees and then asks the doctor if he wants his body for medical research.
    The doctor replies: “Oh no. I want to put you in my garden so the blue tits can peck at you.”

    What a classic.

    “He does eat daisies you know.”

    “The production on that album is amazing!”

  4. David Pascoe

    October 30, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    “Is Harry all right? He appears to be talking to the wall.”

    “Roughage K: The bag of nature.”

    “I think Points of View is a load of old crap!”

  5. Arthur Nibble

    October 30, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    “Kinda lingers”!

  6. Andy Elms

    October 30, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    Who could forget the proto-Bean: “In case of blockage… To kill two birds with one stone” ?

  7. Angryhead

    October 30, 2009 at 7:22 pm

    Winston Cadogo

  8. Glenn A

    October 30, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    Nice video, shame about the song, I bet that went down well with New Romantic groups.

  9. Lee James Turnock

    May 1, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    What a lot of WILLIES!
    It is the Post Office PRICK!
    St Paul’s Cathedral? PAH! It is St Paul’s TITTY!

  10. Richard Davies

    October 5, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    I was too young to see this first time, but I’ve seen the Best Of repeats a few times.

    My faves include My aunt’s parrot, Breakfast with the McEnroe’s, Life of Christ, Digital watch / crossing beeper & The boozy darts match.

    A few years ago I got the LP 2nd hand, which has a few items mentioned above.

  11. johnnyboy

    January 10, 2011 at 1:33 am

    (from memory, so not exact).
    also the ASLEF (or whatever) Trade Union negotiators making surreal demands from their employers eg:

    “..and Reg here would like to go out with your daughter on at least 3 separate occasions”.

    “But she’s only 13!!”

    “Ok then, your daughter to be ‘phased in’ by 1987”.


  12. Richard Davies

    January 10, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    I remember that being featured on one of the repeats shows, other demands being the use of an easy to use corkscew at meetings & a comfortable swivel chair.

  13. Rex the Strange

    January 12, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    “Is Harry all right? He appears to be talking to the wall.”

    Does anyone know if this sketch is on YouTube? I can’t seem to find it (I think it’s one of the funniest I’ve seen).


  14. Lee James Turnock

    April 26, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    I’ve recently been watching some old episodes as they were aired first time around.

    The pilot, which was never actually broadcast (but time-coded copies have cropped up everywhere), is pretty terrible. No Smith, Jones or Stephenson – Atkinson does one sketch and one monologue, and both John Gorman and the bloke who played Mr Beale in the film version of ‘Porridge’ look distinctly uncomfortable. The first series is an improvement, but Chris Langham just didn’t fit in and the parts where Atkinson stands up in the audience and rants on about “bloody bleeding Esther Rantzen” are embarrassing.

    Series two and three have the highest concentration of good sketches and most people’s fondest moments, but they still contain a lot of material that – shorn of its topical context – seems either extremely weird, terribly unfunny, or in some cases both.

    Series four has a similar “out of steam” feeling to Python’s series four, with the final episode being the worst offender – I love the Two Ninnies and Hey Wow!, but aside from that it’s just childish and banal. I know this is sacrilege to some people, but this series really is best served by the compilations.

  15. Richard16378

    May 29, 2016 at 10:50 pm

    The (sadly late) Victoria Wood was considered for this show but turned down the offer.

    IIRC she wasn’t keen on writing topical sketches to a tight deadline, & the style of humour was very different to hers

  16. Richardpd

    July 21, 2022 at 10:43 am

    Since my above postings I’ve bought the box set of albums, which has CD reissues of the 3 LPs, along with a live show.

    Many of the better sketches that worth without visuals are included along with most of the well known songs. Gob On You, Bouncing, The Ayatollah song, & Oh, Bosanquet are very funny. The live album features extracts from a Freddie Laker musical, done to sound like a Lloyd-Webber – Rice musical.

    Some of the humour suffers from relying on was was in the public eye at the time, so some less clued up about turn of the 80s pop culture & current affairs might struggle to get some of the jokes.

    The amount of Church of England bashing is surprising as this is well out of fashion these days. The many bits of casual homophobia are cringeworthy at times. Even by the 1990s the latter wouldn’t have been acceptable.

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