AT LAST THE 1948 SHOW / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: IAN FORDYCE / STARRING: JOHN CLEESE, TIM BROOKE-TAYLOR, GRAHAM CHAPMAN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
There’s an old saying in the entertainment industry that an overnight success can take decades of hard work to make happen. For example, many of us think that classic comedy shows such as Monty Python’s Flying Circus and The Goodies simply materialised on our screens, the talented comedians from both shows simply being so good that they could come from nowhere.
At Last The 1948 Show is a 1967 TV show featuring the likes of Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Marty Feldman and Aimi MacDonald. It’s the show that some of the UK’s greatest comic talents did before they got famous, and it’s filled with tiny signs of what’s to come.
The box set contains all ten surviving shows plus two reconstructed episodes. These are mostly audio over an image of the script, with the odd bit of actual footage added in where they can. This is a little jarring at times but the restoration is mostly superb. Great care has been made to find and bring back as much as they can.
The collection is also jammed with features, including a fascinating look into what it takes to restore old shows like this. There’s also a detailed booklet filled with information on the show. Extras also include pieces from both Cleese and Tim Brooke-Taylor, both of which provide context and insight.
As for the material itself, some of it is classic Python in all but name, other pieces are early Goodies sketches, though with less energy than you’d expect. Feldman is a treasure throughout and his comic skill makes the show stand out. Some of the sketches are very much of their time and simply don’t work; tastes have moved on, no matter how skilled the comedians are. Aimi MacDonald is mostly relegated to standing in the corner and looking pretty, which is as boring as it is old fashioned. Mostly though, it’s funny. Although you may have seen it all before, as it’s been imitated so many times.
Still there's plenty here that, had the BBC actually looked after the footage better, could have easily become part of the pantheon of famous sketches and jokes we associate with the likes of John Cleese and Tim Brooke-Taylor. Students of British comedy will consider this set to be a collection of rare treasures, whereas the rest of us will find a mixed bag of brilliant ideas let down slightly by the fact that they are decades old and the context has been lost.
A gem for some, a curiosity for the rest.