Pop Culture Gadabout
Sunday, September 24, 2006
      ( 9/24/2006 10:33:00 AM ) Bill S.  

NUTHIN' WRONG WITH YOUR TELEVISION SET – Picked up a great DVD bargain for $2.99 at Jerry Van Dyke's fave shopping emporium, Big Lots, this weekend: a two-disc set of nine episodes from the 1968 black-&-white British kids teevee sketch comedy, Do Not Adjust Your Set. The series is best known as a precursor to Monty Python's Flying Circus – featuring Eric Idle, Terry Jones & Michael Palin as its head writers and as three of the show's five core performers (the other two members of the troupe being Denise Coffey & David Jason) – which debuted less than a year after Set's second season ended. Though the show's humor is primarily aimed at younger viewers, you can definitely see the roots of the Python style in it, especially in bits like a grocery story routine (Palin playing a grocer who answers customer Jason's lengthy order with just a tin of shoe polish) and a comic silent superhero serial that anticipates, among other things, the Bicycle Repairman sketch. S'all fairly stodgy in comparison to Python at its most brilliant, but still more than just historically interesting.

Even more enjoyable, to my eyes and ears, is the fact that Adjust had the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band as its house band. Each episode contains at least one performance of this great crew of Dadaist popsters lip-synching tracks that in most cases sound considerably different from the versions fans know from their albums – and some of their best early ditties are included: "Hunting Tigers Out in 'Indiah,'" "Hello Mabel," "Tubas in the Moonlight," and "Death Cab for Cutie" among 'em. Only other performance of this great sixties group that I'd seen before now was their rendition of "Cutie" in the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour – and there the focus was divided between the band and the Fab Four's not-particularly amusing hi-jinks – so it's a definite treat to see Neil Innes, Viv Stanshall & the rest cavort before the camera in a variety of outlandish costumes. (In a move that probably wouldn't get past children's programmers today, the band performs their calypso-ish "Look Out There's A Monster Coming" in minstrel brown face.) Stanshall, who later wound up beating Brian Wilson in the let's-have-a-psychiatric-meltdown chapter of Rock History, is a particular joy in these segments, flamboyantly holding onto the camera in a way that eludes his ultimately more successful bandmate Innes.

Definitely worth seeking out by fans of British comedy and/or rock-&-roll. Per the flyer accompanyhing the disc set, the American company responsible for this set, Tango, also has a collection of a second series featuring fledgling Pythonites Graham Chapman & John Cleese: At Last The 1948 Show. Wonder if any of the other area Big Lots have a copy of this puppy . . .

UPDATE: As posted on YouTube, here's the Bonzos' Adjust performance of "Indiah":

# |

Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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