April 25, 2006

Do Not Adjust Your Set

Four score and several paychecks ago, I posted about At Last the 1948 Show, one of the televised precursors to Monty Python. Fortunately, given my new regular income, I decided to watch the "other half", or Do Not Adjust Your Set. Given its emphasis on the Jones/Palin/Idle (and some Gilliam) writing style (which I happen to prefer), I thought that I would give the two DVD a watch.

Even though it suffers (like the 1948 discs) at being kinescopes of broadcast tapes, I am glad to say that it holds up much better than the Cleese/Chapman show, and quite frankly, shows a visual inventiveness that was cemented by Python. Better than that, DNAYS has a few things that make it stand apart from Python, and make it rather enjoyable.

First, the fact that DNAYS was intended as a "children's show" - but without the slightly over-the-top attitude - helps cement some of the humor. This is one of those shows that's "fun for the whole family", especially in its visually inventive approach. (However, these are all first season episodes, and since Gilliam's animations weren't used until season two of DNAYS....makes you wish, doesn't it?). Sketches range from two men building the HMS Concorde (rather than the plane), to a "live" countdown of the last episode of DNAYS, the overall silliness of Python - as well as the more visual wackiness - begins to sprout.

What also cements DNAYS is the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, which serves in (almost) the same capacity as Gilliam's animations on Python. Very pre-MTV rock videos, they help give the shows a flow (plus, it provides even more cast members to play with). Just their performance of the Elvis-meets-Chandler "Death Cab for Cutie" is worth the price of the disc. (And later on, Innes and Idle would give us the story of the Rutles...but that's a post for another time).

Finally, there's also Captain Fantastic - one of the few overt attempts to create a Pythonesque recurring character. Basically, it's a little guy in a mustache, overcoat, and hat, going on some strange, unusual adventures. There's a disconnection between episodes on the disc (but at the same time, there are common elements - do any Python experts know if this was an extended narrative, or a catch-as-catch-can assortment?). However, these segments give a hint of what might have been...(Plus, at the end of episode seven, there's a tribute to the good Captain, worth it just to see Michael Palin dressed as Batman)

But, if Python was, as Terry Jones states in an interview, "the 1948 Show meets Do Not Adjust Your Set", then these DVD releases provide an excellent snapshot into how one strand works without the other.

If you like Python, comedy, or laughing, these are necessary rentals. If you are a Python fanatic, plan to purchase both. You won't regret it.

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