£3.49 each at Amazon
Not The Nine O'Clock News - The Best Of Not The Nine O'Clock News - Vol. 1
Not The Nine O'Clock News - The Best Of Not The Nine O'Clock News - Vol. 2
Volume 1 £3.49 at Play too - next best £4.75 at HMV
Volume One of Not the Nine O'Clock News comprises 98 minutes of early material from the sketch show that ran between 1979 and 1982. Starring Rowan Atkinson, Griff Rhys-Jones, Mel Smith and Pamela Stephenson and coscripted by Richard (Blackadder) Curtis among others, it wasn't especially ground-breaking by the standards of Monty Python or contemporary series such as The Young Ones, but it did provide some pretty blunt belly-laughs at the major social and political concerns of the era: Thatcher, Reagan, police brutality, the prospect of nuclear war. The latter makes for an excellent Question Time spoof, in which, with the four-minute warning having sounded, a panel of politicians continue bleating on their own agenda ("Three million people are going to die unemployed!").
Atkinson's stuff is among the best here, be it as a hideous young Tory, or as Gerald the Gorilla, now civilised to a fault by the captor who caught him in the wild. ("Wild? I was livid!") The much-repeated bit of him walking into a tree, however, doesn't work as he clearly anticipates the collision. While the musical elements look inevitably dated and a lengthy sketch on darts players boozing reaches the "Yeah, we get the point" mark long before it reaches its end, it's surprising how topical much of this material remains decades on--a sketch involving an agonising gay vicar springs to mind--while time hasn't eroded the quality of much of the writing.