Monty Python holds a very special place in my heart - it was the first show that I watched in defiance of my mother's orders. At nine years old, I was already becoming slightly rebellious, and the Mr. Neutron episode introduced me to a whole new way of silly comedy. Having been brought up on the Marx Brothers, Get Smart, and The Dick Van Dyke Show, it was a great way to begin growing into more sophisticated tastes.
When I read Kim "Howard" Johnson's book on pre- and post-Python, my immediate thoughts went to wanting to see the legendary pre-Python series At Last the 1948 Show and Do Not Adjust Your Set. These were the video equivalent of the Beatles Anthology series, looking at another early "take" on Python.
After seeing At Last, the 1948 Show, I have mixed feelings.
Most of them are due to the condition of episodes - these are kinescopes of "live" videotaped shows. Unfortunately, the company (most likely) did not have any restoration money - watch any black and white Doctor Who DVD and you'll see what I mean. Plus, these five "episodes" were edited from existing film clips, meaning that some of the intended flow was lost.
However, content and comedically - almost flawless. A pastor begging his congregation for a hymn. Two sketches ("Four Yorkshiremen" and "Top of the Form") which were part of the Python live show after the series ended. A chartered accountant doing a silly dance. It's easy to see seeds of Python in these sketches, especially with the lovely Aimi McDonald performing the "links". (Graham Chapman, as the major, would perform a similar role in Python. I personally would have preferred Aimi McDonald). It's also easy to see the formation of Cleese's persona (of the Establishment character with turmoil boiling under), Marty Feldman's unique charisma, and the more logical/verbal humor of Python prevalent. In fact, the only "complaint" is that it lacks the kind of visual, surreal humor noted in Python.
And they would get that by teaming with the members of Do Not Adjust Your Set...but that's a blog for another time.
(Side note to Psychbloke & Dr. Sordid - are The Goodies available on DVD? I haven't seen them since I was ten years old. Could use a lot more British humor).