The British really do it differently. While American television comedy seems to aim at the lowest common denominator (Funniest Home Videos for example) or keeps shows on way past their time (Saturday Night Comatose), the Brits go for a more intelligent, biting, satirical kind of comedy show and that show, like Not The Nine O'clock News, does not linger. This 2 sketch comedy DVD set features the very best bits from that show and is a must for any fan of British humour or sketch comedy.
There are so many different funny sketches and bits on The Best Of Not The Nine O'clock News that it is difficult to describe what the show actually is aside from a sketch comedy show. There is, however, much more to it than that. There is definite political and social satire, commercial spoofs, and quite a few nasty jabs at the royal family using a montage of stock footage of, for example, the Queen, and silly voice-over commentary. or stock footage of prince Charles at a ski resort and footage of a skier falling down a mountain.
What I really like about The Best Of Not The Nine O'clock News is that this really seems to be a 2 DVD best of compilation and not just a few complete episodes put together with a best of label stuck on them. This makes navigating the DVDs a tad wee bit difficult as the menu lists a sketch title but that particular selection may contain 3 or 7 other different comedy sketches. Then again, it would have been impossible to list every single skit on each sketch comedy DVD as you get about 70 or so different skits per disc. Not being previously familiar with this show, I also do not quite know what to think about the Not 1, Not 2, Not 3 headings that begin some of these particular episodes but not others.
The cast of Not The Nine Of Clock News is stellar although, as is often the case in sketch comedy, the female comic, in this case Pamela Stephenson, is there more as an accessory than as a full-fledged cast member and all the good bits seem to go to the guys (who usually wrote them too). Rowan Atkinson, of Mr. Bean and Blackadder (amongst others) fame is joined by Griff Rhys Jones (rumored to be Britain's richest comic), Mel Smith (of National Lampoon's European Vacation fame but he's been in much better fare than that), and Pamela Stephenson (who was part of the SNL cast in 84-85).
One of the most controversial comedy sketches from the Not The Nine O'clock News had, interestingly enough, nothing to do with political satire or jabs at the royal family. Instead, the controversy came following a skit titled The Two Ninnies which was an obvious attack on perennial British humor duo The Two Ronnies (this particularly funny bit -especially for those who never quite got of on that comic duo--) is on DVD 1, selection 10 The Necessary Precautions. From selection 11, Monty Python fans will enjoy the panel discussion on the British synod's controversial movie which is a thinly disguised Life of Python (at the time Python's Life Of Brian was causing an uproar). The whole concept of comedy genius John Cleese being the messiah, the various, witty allusions to Monty Python sketches will delight all Python fans.
The strength of British television comedy, obvious on this 2 DVD set, is that they rarely let the sketch go long (in other words they do not use the Saturday Night Live approach of milking every last ounce out of the joke and then continuing with the skit after that). Most of the funny bits here run a minute or two, sometimes not even a minute. The only possible exceptions to that British comedy rule is a weird country western comedy song titled I Believe the union negotiations bit in the Holiday Habits on DVD 2 of The Best Of Not The Nine O'clock News, and the McEnroe Home At Breakfast in selection 3 on the same DVD.
Granted, some of the material here is dated (anyone remember Sheena Easton?). Then again, the show did air in the very early eighties. Some of the material is also probably only comprehensible to a British audience because of local and British political references. Overall though this does not detract from enjoying this really good and funny 2 DVD set.