Monday, March 05, 2018

Do Not Adjust Your Set

Broadcast between 1967 and 1969, Do Not Adjust Your Set was an ITV comedy series for children.

It starred three-fifths of the Monty Python team in the shape of Michael Palin, Terry Jones and Eric Idle. The show also used animations by an American called Terry Gilliam, which was how they came to meet.

Two more actors on the show were Denise Coffey and David Jason. It is their contributions that I remember most clearly.

The latter rather expected to be asked to join the others in their new project, which became Monty Python, but he wasn't.

But then this wasn't David Jason's only early disappointment. He rather specialised in playing elderly characters and was put up for the part of Corporal Jones in Dad's Army, but that went to Clive Dunn.

The show also featured the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. In his commentary of the DVD of the Rutles film All You Need is Cash, Eric Idle says the sense of humour of the Bonzos' lead singer Viv Stanshall was a strong influence on the Python team.

All in all, this was a casket of riches to set before children.

BFI Screenonline says of it:
Do Not Adjust Your Set, named after the caption broadcasters used to screen during faulty transmissions, included a number of elements that today seem out of place in children's TV. Aside from a naked, but carefully posed, Eric Idle, the series also parodied adult programmes, such as the antiques quiz show Going for a Song (BBC, 1965-77), another idea that would become a mainstay of Monty Python. 
Overall, the programme's sketch content was, as befitted its audience, fairly childish, but the overall tone of silliness was punctuated with moments of a more surreal nature, such as a shop sketch in which Palin repeatedly gives Jason a tin of shoe polish instead of his groceries. 
There were two regular features. The first was the adventures of Captain Fantastic, played by Jason, a super-hero parody about a man in a bowler hat and buttoned up raincoat whose nemesis Mrs Black, played by Coffey, is "the most evil woman in the world". The segment, with a voice-over explaining the action, consisted largely of speeded up film and slapstick pratfalls. 
The second regular spot was a musical performance from the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, a distinctly odd group that had a top five hit in 1968 with 'I'm the Urban Spaceman'. Band member Neil Innes, a longtime Python collaborator, later provided the music for The Rutles ... a Beatles parody written by Idle.
Anyway, after a glimpse of the Bonzos, the video above shows a sketch from the series.

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