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Do Not Adjust Your Set (1967-69)

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Main image of Do Not Adjust Your Set (1967-69)
Rediffusion for ITV, 26/12/1967-14/5/1959
27x25 min episodes in 2 series, plus 2 specials, black & white
DirectorDaphne Shadwell
ProducerHumphrey Barclay
ScriptEric Idle
 Terry Jones
 Michael Palin

Cast: Denise Coffey; Eric Idle; David Jason; Terry Jones; Michael Palin; Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band; Terry Gilliam

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Children's comedy and sketches, with music from the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.

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Mention a naked man linking sketches in a comedy show and most people will probably think of Terry Jones grinning over his shoulder in Monty Python's Flying Circus (BBC 1969-74). However, the idea had previously featured in a children's programme, Do Not Adjust Your Set (ITV, 1967-69), a series devised and written by future Python writers Eric Idle, Michael Palin and Terry Jones, who also appeared on screen alongside David Jason and Denise Coffey.

Do Not Adjust Your Set, named after the caption broadcasters used to screen during faulty transmissions, included a number of elements that today seem out of place in children's TV. Aside from a naked, but carefully posed, Eric Idle, the series also parodied adult programmes, such as the antiques quiz show Going for a Song (BBC, 1965-77), another idea that would become a mainstay of Monty Python.

Overall, the programme's sketch content was, as befitted its audience, fairly childish, but the overall tone of silliness was punctuated with moments of a more surreal nature, such as a shop sketch in which Palin repeatedly gives Jason a tin of shoe polish instead of his groceries.

There were two regular features. The first was the adventures of Captain Fantastic, played by Jason, a super-hero parody about a man in a bowler hat and buttoned up raincoat whose nemesis Mrs Black, played by Coffey, is "the most evil woman in the world". The segment, with a voice-over explaining the action, consisted largely of speeded up film and slapstick pratfalls. The second regular spot was a musical performance from the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, a distinctly odd group that had a top five hit in 1968 with 'I'm the Urban Spaceman'. Band member Neil Innes, a longtime Python collaborator, later provided the music for The Rutles (tx. BBC, 22/3/1978), a Beatles parody written by Idle.

Later episodes of Do Not Adjust Your Set featured short animated sequences from Terry Gilliam, who went on to supply similar inserts for Monty Python. There was also a Christmas special, Do Not Adjust Your Stocking (tx. 25/12/1968).

Anthony Clark

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Video Clips
1. Annoying Travelling Companion (2:18)
2. Captain Fantastic (3:28)
3. The Urban Spaceman (2:31)
4. World Pantomime Speed Record (2:33)
5. The stool pigeon (3:35)
At Last The 1948 Show (1967-68)
Rutland Weekend Television (1975-76)
Barclay, Humphrey (1941-)
Idle, Eric (1943-)
Jason, Sir David (1940-)
Jones, Terry (1942-)
Palin, Michael (1943-)
Associated Rediffusion / Rediffusion Television
Children's Entertainment and Comedy
Children's TV in the 1960s
Children's Television
The Roots of Monty Python