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Classic British Satire: Not the Nine O'Clock News

To be perfectly honest, Not the Nine O'Clock News is not for everyone. Why? It's not politically correct; rather, the creators of the show enthrall in being topical. Innuendos and play on words, often in the form of dirty jokes, are rampant. Some of your favorite songs from the time period will be ripped to pieces. Do heed the warning; if Mock of the Week is bit on the harsh side, this might not be the one for you.

However, if you are familiar with Simon Amstell's biting comments and are admittedly fans of his comedy panel show, then listen away. But question is, will you like Not the Nine O'Clock News? Well, if you love satire, especially the rather blunt British style comedies, this is worth adding to your collection. It's testimony to the creative talents of the creators of the show that 30 years down the line its social and political commentary is still refreshing to watch. And of course, in this show you get to catch famous names of comedy during that early, raw stages of their career.

What's Not the Nine all about?

Not the Nine O'Clock News is a famous sketch show that ran on BBC 2 from 1979 - 1982. It featured a number of excellent comedians, namely Rowan Atkinson, Pamela Stephenson, Mel Smith, Griff Rhys Jones and Chris Langham. Writers for the show included Richard Curtis, Clive Andersen and Andy Hamilton.

The show consisted of sketches, most of which were parodies of pop-culture, news or political figures. This was of course during the time of that well-known Lady with the Iron Fist, Margaret Thatcher, and thus, a number of sketches revolved around her. Other frequently used figures included members the Royal Family and local and international politicians (Ronald Regan, Brezhnev, etc.).

Noteworthy sketches

While almost all the sketches were memorable, some do stand out. The sketch involving a gorilla that had been brought in from the wild was a classic. Rowan Atkinson dressed as the animal in question spoofed the mannerisms and speech of what is deemed as 'civilized' behavior. There was also that completely arbitrary footage of a gentlemen calmly using his snuff box while Margaret Thatcher was earnestly giving a speech. What made it even more bizarre was the fact that it was a televised event and he was sitting right next to her.

Some of the best sketches are the ones that still apply to modern day society. The one involving Constable Savage and his blatant refusal to admit his racism is disturbing and yet, an apt description of a number of people we know today. The piece that spoofs Monty Python's Life of Brian is another brilliant one. It was an interesting take on the validity of real life protesters whereby, in the sketch itself, the writers group up protesters to the Python film with somewhat religious followers of the comedic group.

Not the Nine... also spoofed a number of pop songs of the day. Their take on Abba and the style of music videos that was commonplace to the band made interesting viewing. At some point in the song, the viewer is bound to go “Hang on, Abba did like a lot of extreme closeups of the face, didn't they?”. And while Sheena Easton's Morning Train was quite a catchy song, after watching Not the Nine... you will inevitably end up wondering about that strange shoulder tilt dance move. Not to mention the excellent speech by Rowan Atkinson where he jokes about the somewhat airy lyrics of the song itself.

Not the Nine O'Clock News is a true classic. It paved way for many other news sketch shows and of course, it launched the careers of a talented group of actors.