The BFI is delighted to announce the discovery of two episodes of the hugely influential and much-loved, British television comedy series At Last the 1948 Show (1967) starring John Cleese, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Marty Feldman, Graham Chapman and “the lovely” Aimi Macdonald.
These two episodes are the first and last ever broadcast: episode one, series one and episode seven, series two, seen on ITV in 1967. This is a major find for fans of the extraordinary early flowering of surreal, British television comedy, which led to the creation of the Monty Python programmes two years later. John Cleese will present the two programmes at London’s BFI Southbank on Sunday 7 December as part of the BFI’s annual celebration of newly recovered television programmes, Missing Believed Wiped.
The find was made by Missing Believed Wiped coordinator Dick Fiddy when he was invited by family members to explore the collections of the late David Frost, who was executive producer on At Last the 1948 Show. The programmes were contained on two reels of 16mm film and had been filmed directly from a television screen. They have been specially loaned to the BFI by the Frost family. They have not been seen since their original broadcast in 1967.
Twenty-five years ago only two episodes of the series were known to survive but happily rediscoveries from various sources mean that today, of the 13 episodes which were produced a total of more than nine episodes worth of material is now safely contained in the BFI National Collection of Film and Television.
Dick Fiddy, BFI Television Consultant said:
This latest recovery is a crucial find. It represents a key moment in the history of British television comedy featuring the combined talents of some of its greatest exponents. These gifted comedians, all in their 20s and 30s, were let off the leash and allowed to experiment with style and content, resulting in shows which have had an enduring influence on comedy worldwide.
Even very recently the famous ‘Four Yorkshiremen’ sketch – which originated on At Last the 1948 Show – was used as the opener for the Python’s stage shows at the 02 and had been performed previously by the team in galas such as the Secret Policeman’s Ball. Cleese, Feldman, Brooke-Taylor and Chapman, created, scripted and starred in the 1948 Show and the fact that the show remains very, very funny 47 years later is a tribute to their extraordinary abilities.
At Last the 1948 Show is a comedy sketch show offering a range of spoofs of different broadcasting formats and occasional long-running gags, such as the recurring appearance of “the lovely” Aimi Macdonald as a presenter between sketches, under the impression that she is the star of the show. In one linking item she utters the words “And now for something completely different…”, the continuity announcement cliché which would resurface as a recurring motif in Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
Some of the sketches contained in these new discoveries were released on a commercially produced comedy record, but this is the first time in nearly half a century that the visuals have been available to go with them.