Following the BFI’s rediscovery of two episodes of the much-loved and highly influential comedy series, At Last the 1948 Show last year a member of the public has come forward with a further two episodes starring John Cleese, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Marty Feldman, Graham Chapman, Bill Oddie, Eric Idle and “the lovely” Aimi Macdonald. One of the discoveries — Episode 3, of the first series of At Last the 1948 Show (tx. 1/3/1967) will be screened at the Radio Times Festival at Hampton Court on 25 September. The programme features a legendary sketch which John Cleese considers one of his best, The Bookshop; Cleese plays an exasperated shop owner dealing with the increasingly surreal requests for books by a very demanding Marty Feldman (Copperfield with one ‘p’).
At Last the 1948 Show is a landmark in British television comedy. The extraordinary early flowering of its surreal, British humour led to the creation by some of the same team of the Monty Python programmes two years later.
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 thirteen episodes which were produced, eleven episodes are now safely contained in the BFI National Archive. However, audio recordings do survive of the remaining missing shows.
Ben Preston, Radio Times Editor, says:
“I’m delighted that Radio Times Festival goers will be the first to be able to watch one of the most important TV comedies. The 1948 Show inspired Monty Python, The Goodies and a host of greats. Finding a comedy unseen for years starring John Cleese, Marty Feldman, Tim Brooke Taylor, Graham Chapman and Eric Idle is finding the missing link.”
Steve Bryant, Senior Curator, Television, BFI National Archive said:
“Once almost forgotten, the recovery and restoration of episodes of At Last the 1948 Show by the BFI over the past 25 years has led to it being acknowledged as one of the key milestones of British television comedy. Now we have another two missing episodes, and a third which was missing a brief segment, and the archive’s collection is almost complete – but the search still goes on. It is particularly gratifying to get back the Bookshop Sketch, one of the show’s great classics and recognised as such by John Cleese in his recent autobiography.”
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.