|Index||5 reviews in total|
After Not the Nine O'Clock News ceased production, Rowan Atkinson got
bitten by the Black Adder, while Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones
continued with their own sketch show. Less declamatory about politics
and social issues (well at least there were no "let's drop the bomb on
the leaders" songs), Alas Smith & Jones became a solid sketch show that
could be clever and poignant, but was more often downright cheeky and
rude. At best, it could be both (how about an advertisement for rectal
cream directed in the style of Ingmar Bergman, or a documentary about a
life-swap between an unemployed Northerner and a prosperous Southern
cow?). Solid is the word: it broke little new ground in the way that
The Black Adder did, for example, but it held the already occupied
territories with gusto. Its decline during the final series was almost
symptomatic of the general stagnation creeping in on Britcom during the
As these kinds of shows do, Alas Smith & Jones depended on the talents of its performers even more than on its material, and the portly Southerner Smith and the thin Welshman Jones were a perfect match in this respect. While they had enough range to create a lot of memorable types, they were at best in doing their stage show-derived "talks" and banter. Here Smith would style himself a faux-bohemian man of the world against Jones' neurotically reserved, stiff-upper-lip stage persona. Their takes on various issues, whether advertising, transmigration or the perceived tallness of Danny DeVito, were frequently hilarious.
Some of their best running sketches came at the start of the 1990s, including "Olympus", a brilliant soap-opera parody which put all the clichés of the Dynasties and Dallases to work on ancient Greek mythology. At the time their regular guests included Chris Langham and Brenda Blethyn, both featured in the "After Dark" talk-show parody where they added a general dimwit and a radical feminist-lesbian-vegetarian to Smith's Sun-reading yobbo and Jones' so-middle-class-hasn't-farted-in-twenty-years snob to complete the set of deliciously employed stereotypes. Other rising comediennes to pass through their ranks included Sarah Alexander and Sally Phillips.
It worked splendidly on the small screen but never translated well into the big one, as shown by the limp Wilt and the messy Morons from Outer Space. Here in Finland they were popular enough to be commissioned to star in a promotional video by the Finnish Foreign Ministry called Finland for Adults. That was not their finest hour either...
Viewed today, some of the stuff is unavoidably dated (mostly those bits dealing with the issues of the day), but most of it is still highly enjoyable. Watch it if you get the chance.
This is one of the best sketch-based shows I've seen. I'm a big sucker for this kind of british humour and this show really made me laugh my pants off (quite literally actually). Both Smith and Jones are great comedians which give even greater performances. Highly recommended.
Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones are the stars of the sketch show "Alas Smith & Jones" (1984-1998).Here in Finland we're watching the older episodes, from the 80's.There you can see how the world has changed.The show can often be very funny, just hilarious.It's the skill of the comedians who make it all work.They both have huge amount of energy and chemistry, that raise the show from mediocrity to something really memorable.It's also a brilliantly written show.Smith and Jones have also been writing it, so they're versatile talents.If you want to laugh hard then this may be your show.Otherwise watch something else- something not funny.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Following the end of 'Not The Nine O'Clock News' in 1982, the team went
their separate ways. Pamela Stephenson pursued a ( short-lived ) movie
career, Rowan Atkinson moved into sitcoms with the sublime 'The Black
Adder', but what of Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones? 'Alas Smith &
Jones' kept them in the sketch show format, but unlike its predecessor
was not tied to topicality ( although some items referenced issues of
the day ). Each edition commenced with the pair cracking gags before a
studio audience, rather like the Morecambe and Wise Show intros. Then
the sketches would get under way, along with a funny song or two, and -
my favourite - the head-to-head routines.
Obviously inspired by 'Not Only But Also', these were often beautifully written ( sometimes by Clive Anderson ) and performed. Mel would be the idiot, Griff the even bigger idiot. For instance, when discussing clothes, Griff asked: "what sort of animal is a mo?". Flustered, Mel wanted to know what he meant. "I've got a mohair suit!", replied his friend, "So what's a mo then?". Then, there was another item in which Mel claimed to have won the pools, and indeed he had - 50p. "I think I'll put my 50p into something.", he bragged. "What?", responded Griff, sarcastically, "A cigarette machine?".
The best one of all was when Mel reminisced about the day he lost his virginity to the woman who ran the local sweet shop, Mrs.Wilberforce. "She took me round the back to search me for orange Jubblies, and that was when it happened. Wham bam thank you ma'am!". Griff said, "For me, it would have been 'wham bam NO thank you mam!". "Everybody remembers where they were when they lost their virginity.", said Mel, with a nostalgic sigh. "In my case...", said Griff, "It happened at the same time that President Kennedy was shot!".
Amongst the other sketches was a parody of the American T.V. movie 'Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy' entitled 'Margaret Roberts Thatcher', Mel as a recording artist who adds the word 'wank' every time he sings, a gangster send-up called 'The St.Davids Day Massacre', Mel as Meatloaf, belting out 'I'm A Loving Machine', two men in a restaurant eating their meals in the manner of babies, an Iranian version of 'Terry & June' entitled 'Achmed & June', Mel as a salesman attempting to extol the virtues of a new music system without having a clue as to how it actually works, and the adventures of an inept pair of detectives called 'Inspector Bribeasy' and 'Sergeant Porno'! It was outrageous, cheeky, and wicked, but it was hard to be offended as it was done so well. Smith and Jones sparked off each other wonderfully, becoming the alternative 'Laurel & Hardy'. They got into trouble with a couple of sketches, though; one had Mel tossing a wreath onto the Senotaph on Remembrance Sunday, another had both men kissing each other with rather more enthusiasm than was necessary.
'Alas' proved a worthy successor to 'Not The Nine O'Clock News' and ran ( losing the first word of the title along the way ) well into the '90's.
In case you are puzzling over that quote, it was a catchphrase used by Griff ( and other characters too ) in the first series. At the very end of the final episode, the real Joanna Lumley appeared, and announced that she intended to sue!
The plot summary said that S&J is sometimes tasteless... Whatta? I've seen a lot of that series but I've never seen a tasteless scetch! Well - you could say they are "tasteless" not tasteless. Have you seen their clothes: red shoes and green ties. And the scetch they were by the pool with their "swimming costumes" on... That's really something. The actors are just amazing. The series is one of my favourites. I just don't understand why they stopped doing it?
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