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At Last The 1948 Show (1967-68)

Courtesy of Archbuild

Main image of At Last The 1948 Show (1967-68)
Rediffusion for ITV
13x30min episodes in 2 series, black & white
DirectorIan Fordyce
Production CompanyRediffusion
Executive ProducerDavid Frost
Written byTim Brooke-Taylor
 Graham Chapman
 John Cleese
 Marty Feldman

Cast: John Cleese; Graham Chapman; Marty Feldman; Tim Brooke-Taylor; Barry Cryer; Aimi MacDonald

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Offbeat sketch comedy.

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There is a belief among many fans of Monty Python's Flying Circus (BBC, 1969-74) that the cult comedy series escaped fully formed from the minds of its writers untainted by convention or precedent. In fact the show that allegedly changed the face of TV comedy has a very clear lineage, in which At Last the 1948 Show (ITV, 1967-68) looms large.

Written and performed by future Pythons Graham Chapman and John Cleese, Tim Brooke-Taylor, who later found fame in The Goodies (BBC/ITV, 1970-80), and Marty Feldman, the sketch-based series was often Monty Python in all but name - it even featured an early version of the 'Four Yorkshiremen' sketch that later became a staple of the Python stage show.

At Last the 1948 Show's sketches were often interspersed by short, unrelated sequences featuring 'the lovely' Aimi Macdonald, an idea later recycled in Monty Python's "And now for something completely different" links. Both Cleese and Macdonald directly address the audience, seemingly oblivious of their surroundings, although the latter's links generally took the form of self-aggrandising commercials aimed at making her a film star or rich. Unlike Cleese, Macdonald did not appear in any other part of the programme.

Feldman's influence on British comedy is sadly under-recognised. As a writer of the hit radio show Round the Horne (BBC, 1965-68) with creative partner Barry Took, he helped pioneer a type of humour that mixed unrestrained parody, often of films and TV shows, with the simply bizarre, and which regularly featured characters with ridiculous names - Dame Celia Molestrangler, J Peasmould Gruntfuttock, Madam Osiris Gnomeclencher - ideas that resurfaced in At Last the 1948 Show and again in Monty Python. Cryer, it should be noted, had walk-on roles in several episodes, as did future Monty Python writer Eric Idle.

At Last the 1948 Show ran for two short series during 1967, totalling just 13 episodes, and failed to get a network slot. These combined factors probably account for why the programme has been largely overlooked, although its importance in the development of Monty Python's Flying Circus remains crucial.

The title of At Last the 1948 Show apparently came from a throwaway remark by John Cleese about the time it had taken to get the programme off the ground.

Anthony Clark

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Video Clips
1. Introduction - The News (3:46)
2. Doctor's Surgery (3:40)
3. Automatic Hospital Visitor (2:33)
4. To Be or Not To Be (0:54)
Production stills
Do Not Adjust Your Set (1967-69)
Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969-74)
Chapman, Graham (1941-1989)
Cleese, John (1939-)
Cryer, Barry (1935-)
Feldman, Marty (1934-1982)
Idle, Eric (1943-)
Associated Rediffusion / Rediffusion Television
The Roots of Monty Python