Reviews

THE NAKED CITY (1958)

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Semi documentary style police procedural series. Click Here for review

NANCY ASTOR (1982)

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Biography of Britain's first female MP. Click Here for review

THE NATION'S HEALTH (1983)

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A series of 4 plays lifting the lid on an ailing health service in the 1980s. Click Here for review

NCIS (2003)

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Show Image This dramatic series about criminal investigations within the U.S. Navy has become the most-popular scripted drama on American television (and around the world), leading to an equally-successful sister series. NCIS, which stands for Naval Criminal Investigative Service, is a spin-off of the military legal drama JAG, which first aired on NBC in 1995. It featuring David James Elliott and Catherine Bell as a pair of staffers in the Judge Advocate General's office with a long-running attraction for each other. But NBC let JAG go after one season; CBS then picked up the show-which became popular with its older audience--and ran through 2005. In early 2003, a two-part episode of JAG aired as the NCIS pilot; it did well in the ratings and led to the series that fall. Originally titled Navy NCIS when the new show premiered in the fall of 2003, it quickly became a top-20 hit, surpassing the now-fading JAG, and the title was shortened to just NCIS in 2004.

The investigators of NCIS look into crimes involving members of the Navy and the Marines, led by Supervisory Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, played by Mark Harmon. His staff includes Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly), Special Agent Timothy McGee (Sean Murray) and Catlin Todd (Sasha Alexander, who was killed at the end of the first season and replaced by Cote de Pablo as Probationary Special Agent Ziva Davis). Others in the cast include David McCallum as chief medical examiner Donald "Ducky" Mallard; medical assistant Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzeri) and Pauley Perrette as forensic specialist Abigail Sciuto. Because of its format, many critics see NCIS as a military version of CBS' very popular CSI and its spin-offs. It's likely the familiar premise helped NCIS achieve high ratings, along with star Harmon-a familiar and well-liked face on television through various series, starting with St. Elsewhere in the 1980's. In fact, unlike many series, NCIS has increased its audience over the years, and has more than held its own in head-to-head competition against Fox's wildly popular American Idol. Like JAG, NCIS was created by Donald Bellisario, the man who also created and Quantum Leap. He was also the executive producer and show runner. But reports of what has been described as Bellisario's "chaotic management style" caused friction between him and Harmon. (The actor reportedly didn't like Bellisario's habit of last-minute script changes, requiring long days of shooting.) In 2007, Bellisario left NCIS to develop new series for CBS. As it turned out, the first of those new shows was a spin-off of NCIS. Dubbed NCIS: Los Angeles, it features Chris O'Donnell and rapper/actor LL Cool J as agents who investigate cases out of the West Coast. Also in the cast are Peter Cambor, Eric Crhistian Olsen, Daniela Ruah and Academy Award-winning actress Linda Hunt ("The Year of Living Dangerously") as Hennetta "Hetty" Lange, the special projects manager for the Office of Special Projects. Slotted after its parent on Tuesday nights, it has also become a top ten hit. Some critics have faulted NCIS:LA for its familiar feel. But then, familiarity usually breeds popularity, as the success of both NCIS shows have proven.

NEAREST AND DEAREST (1968)

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Show ImageShortly before taking his false teeth out and placing them in a glass of water on the bedside cabinet for one last time before shuffling of this mortal coil, Joshua Pledge called together his middle-aged son and daughter and revealed that he was bequeathing them an equal share in the inheritance of his north country based pickle factory empire, and his total liquid assets of £9 17s 6d. With no other prospects on the horizon, Nellie and Ellie Pledge set about trying to keep afloat the decrepit Pledge's Pickles business hampered by the facts that they were suffering from severe lack of funds, had no business acumen whatsoever and inherited a workforce that was about ten years beyond retirement age (The youngest of whom was the myopic Stan, played by actor Joe Gladwin). As if that wasn't enough there was also the small fact that Nellie and Eli hated each other.

Hylda Baker starred as Joshua's spinster daughter, Nellie, bringing to the role a set of mannerisms that she had developed down the years as a successful music hall star. The 4ft 10-inch actress peppered her part with double entendres and malapropisms as she traded insults (reportedly off screen as well as on), with Jimmy Jewel as womanising drunk Eli. He would refer to her as a "knock-kneed knackered old nose bag", whilst she referred to him as a "big girls blouse." However, and apart from cliched catchphrases, there were plenty of gems to be found as scripts by the likes of experienced sitcom writers such as Vince Powell, Harry Driver, and Jonathan Lynn, had a habit of sparkling in a way that kept Nearest and Dearest consistently good.
Nellie: You remind me of that beautiful song from 'The Sound of Music.'
Eli: Which one. My Favourite Things?
Nellie: No...Idleswine!

Veteran comic Jimmy Jewel, who was born in Sheffield on 4th December 1912, had left school at 14 to work as a comic feed for his father (although his first stage appearance was at the age of 10 in Huddersfield). In order to supplement their income both father (also Jimmy Jewel) and son worked as scenery and prop builders. Jewel junior came to London when he was sixteen and worked as a solo act until 1934 when he teamed up with his cousin, Ben Warriss. A successful radio and TV career followed for the new partnership (their first TV appearance was in 1948) but Jewel broke it up in 1967 in order to go solo once more. The following year he landed the role of Eli Pledge. Although Eli always seemed to have the pleasure of female company, Nellie's only socialising was with her cousin Lily (Madge Hindle) and Lily's husband Walter, an elderly man of questionable bladder control, a predicament which always prompted Nellie to pose the question, "has he been?" The question was nearly always put to Lily because during the seven seasons that Nearest and Dearest ran, from 1968 to 1973, actor Eddie Malin as Walter, never uttered a single word. Such was the popularity of Nearest and Dearest that in 1970 it spent the summer at the Grand Theatre, Blackpool, as a stage show -and two years later it transferred to the large screen. A US version, which ran for a mere 13 episodes on ABC in 1973, was called Thicker Than Water, but bore no relation to a British sitcom of that name which starred...coincidentally, Jimmy Jewel.

NEVER A CROSS WORD (1968)

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Show ImageOne of the first sitcoms to appear on the newly formed London Weekend Television network in 1968, Never A Cross Word starred Nyree Dawn Porter (The Forsyte Saga) and Paul Daneman (Not In Front Of The Children) as Ronald and Deirdre Baldock a cosily-off middle class married couple. Although the series didn't make much of a lasting impression it does have the distinction of being the programme that landed John Alderton the lead role in the hugely successful Please Sir! as well as being something of a failed experiment in as much as LWT decided to try a sitcom lasting 45 minutes. The first series was due to debut on 27 September 1968 as part of the new season for LWT, but an ITV dispute on the 10 August meant that a programme filler was needed. The first episode of Never A Cross Word was hurriedly put out by the company only to disappear from the screens for six weeks before reappearing in its originally scheduled spot. In that first episode Alderton made an appearance as an asthmatic schoolteacher. There were many other guest appearances during the two series run (the second series reverting to the tried and tested 30 minute format) including Sam Kydd, Roy Kinnear, Bill Fraser, Hattie Jacques, Kate O'Mara, Jack Watling and June Whitfield, although Nyree Dawn Porter didn't stay the course, she opted out and was replaced for the second series by Barbara Murray (The Power Game). The two series were broadcast either side of LWT's change from black and white to colour transmissions. The first series was written by Donald Churchill and the second by Michael Pertwee (brother of Jon), and the situations were built round a pretty average format of domestic harmony/disharmony. The first episode was released on DVD by Network in 2006 as part of their release of 'Please Sir! - The Complete Second Series'

NEVER MIND THE QUALITY, FEEL THE WIDTH (1968)

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Show ImageOriginating from a 1967 Armchair Theatre production which starred John Bluthal and Frank Finlay as a pair of tailors, one Jewish -the other Irish, Never Mind The Quality, Feel The Width was once held up by the World Council of Churches as an example of inter-religious unity. Set in a back street workroom in London's famous Whitechapel area, the series (with Joe Lynch replacing Frank Finlay for the series) told of trousermaker Patrick Michael Kelly and jacketmaker Emmanuel (Manny) Cohen, who joined forces and became the suitmaking company of Cohen and Kelly. However, their relationship was a rocky one and often required the interventions of Father Ryan (Eamon Kelly) and Rabbi Levy (Cyril Shaps) as the central characters tried to come to terms with each-others philosophies and beliefs. Writers Vince Powell and Harry Driver wrote well-observed and humorous scripts drawing on their own backgrounds. Powell was a churchgoing Catholic -who had heard the term used for the series title said by an Irishman, when he worked briefly as a tailor himself, and Driver was brought up in the Jewish area of Manchester -and had previously worked in Marks and Spencer.

The writers also had a long and distinguished career and during the term of their partnership (Driver died in 1973) created some of Britain's best known sitcoms, including; Bless This House, Nearest and Dearest, Love Thy Neighbour and For The Love Of Ada, as well as supplying scripts for Coronation Street and Adam Adamant Lives! Interestingly enough ABC, who produced the show, had six unscreened episodes at the time they lost their broadcasting franchise to Thames Television, who then took over the series. The first three episodes were shown soon after the new company took over but the next two did not see the light of day for almost two years and were only broadcast after the final series had been shown (they were billed as repeats-which they were not). The final episode ('And A Yarmulka To Match') has never been seen. The tailors were reunited for a 1972 full-length feature film.

THE NEW ADVENTURES OF CHARLIE CHAN (1957)

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Show Image Earl Derr Bigger's character, Charlie Chan, was allegedly based on true-life detective Chang Apana, and had, for many years appeared in numerous cinema versions. In this series J. Carrol Naish starred as the Chinese proverb-quoting detective, father to many children, although aided here by 'Number-One Son', Barry Chan (James Hong). Charlie had now moved to London and was helped further by two British detectives, Inspector Marlowe (Hugh Williams) and Inspector Duff (Rupert Davies, who would later star in the title role of another famous fictional detective series, Maigret.

NIGHTMARE MAN (1981)

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Show ImageBased on David Wiltshires 1978 novel, Child of Vodyanoi, The Nightmare Man was a gripping four-part horror/sci-fi drama set on the lonely Scottish island of Inverdee, where a series of brutal murders left in their wake the gruesome discoveries of dismembered corpses, a strange craft of indefinable origin and a flickery film that seemed to show a terrifying, shadowy monster. The Nightmare Man was commissioned by BBC producer Ron Craddock who couldn't make up his mind which of the two novels he had just read he wanted to turn into a TV series. Instead, he gave both novels to his secretary -and after a long weekend of reading she returned to work and recommended Wiltshire's story, which had originally been inspired by Howard Hawk's version of The Thing From Another World.

Craddock approached Wiltshire and bought the TV rights for £3,000 and then bought in veteran Doctor Who writer Robert Holmes to write the screenplay and Douglas Camfield to direct. Filming commenced in January 1981 with Cornwall doubling for the Scottish Isle of Inverdee. Most of the filming took place round Port Isaac, Tintagel and Padstow. Holmes' screenplay was quite faithful to Wiltshire's original plot with only a few changes. However, Wiltshire (who was never approached to write the screenplay) was not too happy with the televised ending although he was very pleased with the standard of the overall production. The change of title to The Nightmare Man was taken from Wiltshire's original manuscript, as it was his own alternative title. Episode one begins with the gruesome golf course discovery by local dentist Michael Gaffikin (James Warwick), of a mutilated female body. A post-mortem reveals that the body was literally torn apart by brute strength and that no weapon was used. Unable to locate islander Sheila Anderson, the police drive to her cottage where they discover a wrecked interior and Sheila's severed head. There follows the savage mutilation of a sheep and the discovery of the brutal murder of visiting bird-watcher, Doctor Symmonds (Tony Sibbald) from the Canadian Institute of Ornithology. Nearby is his camera, which is given to Fiona Petterson (Celia Imrie) who develops Symmonds' film. Although the film is overexposed, when put together with a tape recording found at the site of the murder it shows something attacking the doctor whilst a manic gurgling laughter is heard. The discovery of a strange craft, blood-stained equipment, readings of high radiation and the appearance of a mysterious soldier only add to the tension and intrigue as the islanders prepare to defend themselves from an unknown menace. But everything is not all it seems and Gaffikin begins to suspect that the killer may not be human after all. The Nightmare Man was one of the best received shows of 1981, gaining plaudits from viewers and critics alike who described it as one of the most frightening television drama series they had seen for years.

NO HIDING PLACE (1959)

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Show Image Detective Superindentent Lockhart of Scotland Yard had begun his television career in 1957 in the series Murder Bag before being promoted in 1959 to another ATV series Crime Sheet. Later that year actor Raymond Francis was given his own series which would outlive it's rivals by several years. No Hiding Place followed the exploits of Detective Chief Supt Lockhart as he worked his way through over 280 cases, many of which were transmitted live. By his side was Detective Sgt Baxter (Eric Lander), whose character proved so successful that he too was given his own series Echo Four Two, before returning to his chief's side when that series failed to take off. When Baxter moved on yet again, replacements Russell (Johnny Briggs -later to star in Coronation Street as Cockney wide-boy Mike Baldwin), and Perryman (Michael McStay) were introduced, with Det Sgt Gregg (Sean Caffrey) added at a later date. Due to its authenticity the show was immensely popular with the public and police alike, to such an extent that when it was taken off in 1965 public pressure forced the producers to extend DCI Lockhart's career by another two years. camera

NO - THAT'S ME OVER HERE! (1967)

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Show Image First starring vehicle for Ronnie Corbett who plays a little man (of course) with big ambitions. Each day he boards a train from suburbia into the city smartly dressed in three-piece suit, bowler hat, carrying briefcase and brolly and a copy of The Times tucked neatly under his arm. He's accompanied by his stuffy next door neighbour Henry (Henry McGee) who also happens to work for the same company. At work, to Ronnie's constant frustration, Henry always manages to play the office politics game to perfection leaving Ronnie to come out second best. Ronnie's long suffering wife, Laura, is played by Rosemary Leach. The first series was written by Barry Cryer, Graham Chapman and Eric Idle who had supplied material for the two Ronnies on David Frost's various shows. Following series two (written by Cryer and Chapman) Rediffusion lost its franchise and the show was dropped. LWT picked it up again two years later. Corbett and Leach also teamed up for two further series, Now Look Here and The Prince of Denmark.

NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS (1964)

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Show Image This weekly half-hour comedy series was derived from the smash hit Broadway success and Hollywood movie version, both of which had shot Andy Griffith to screen fame. It's star, Sammy Jackson, who played a simpleminded but resourceful hillbilly, Will Stockdale, who is enlisted into the US Airforce, was completely unknown when he was chosen for the coveted lead role. Like Stockdale, Sammy was a hillbilly born in a small cotton-textile and tobacco town in North Carolina. As a kid his dream was to be a movie star, so one day he simply quit his job in a cotton mill and packed his bags for California. "I landed a shipping clerk job to start with," recalled Sammy in a 1965 interview. "Not at all what I was looking for but I did a little acting on the side, playing bit parts in a series called Colt 45 and Maverick. I also landed a one-line part in the movie version of "No Time for Sergeants". I didn't know then I'd be playing the star part in a TV series a few years later."

But between those years things didn't go well for Sammy, so he returned home depressed and disillusioned. He formed a small band and worked as a radio disc-jockey and in a weekly TV show. "One day I read in a paper that Warner Bros. Were toying with the idea of doing a television series based on "No Time for Sergeants". I wrote a letter to the top man - the head of the studio. I begged Jack Warner to take a look at me in the Maverick programme in which I played the tiny part of a hillbilly. I added that if he saw me in this he need not look for another actor. I was pretty sure of myself. Well, sure enough, ten days later I received instructions from the studio to return to Hollywood to be tested for the part in "Sergeants. I couldn't believe it."

Unfortunately for Jackson TV fame was short lived: No Time for Sergeants only ran for one season (1964-1965) before being cancelled. However, the star went on to enjoy a successful broadcasting career on US radio. In 1980 he was voted the CMA Country personality of the year. An LA Times critic noted in 1981 that Sammy "has quietly and efficiently established a reputation as one of the finest radio personalities in the country." He went to Las Vegas in the late 1980s to work for KUDA. Sammy died of heart failure on April 24th, 1995. He was 58.

NOGGIN THE NOG (1959)

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Show Image The second offering from the Smallfilms team of Pete Firmin and Oliver Postgate (the first being Ivor The Engine), in which the brave Noggin, Prince of the Nogs struggles to overcome his wicked uncle Nogbad the Bad who devises evil plots to threaten the safety of the kingdom, in order to force Noggin to give up his crown, and his voyage to the Land of the Midnight Sun to fetch Eskimo princess Nooka, in order to make her his bride. A colour remake was made in 1982 Noggin and the Ice Dragon, along with a completely new episode, Noggin and the Pie.

NOT ON YOUR NELLIE (1974)

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Show Image Following on from her success in Nearest and Dearest, Hylda Baker was cast as reluctant landlady Nellie Pickersgill, the daughter of a London publican summoned down from Bolton to Fulham to run "The Brown Cow" on behalf of her father in his hour of need. The series was not a direct sequel to Nearest and Dearest, but it was not far removed, either...Born in Lancashire in 1908, Baker began her career in music hall and during the 1940's toured extensively as support to most of the big names around at that time. In the 1950's she branched out as a star in her own right playing most popularly alongside a silent and gormless character called Cynthia, a man in drag. An appearance in the popular BBCTV show The Good Old Days (on 11 March 1955) brought Baker to the attention of the British viewing public and that's when her career really took off. A number of TV series followed -the first of which was 1957's Be Soon (aka Hylda Baker Says Be Soon) in which she recreated her celebrated stage act with Guy Middleton as Cynthia. This series also made popular one of Baker's numerous catchphrases; "She knows, you know."

Be Soon concluded in 1959 and by 1961 Baker was back as a regular in another sitcom, the second series of Our House. In 1963 she teamed up with Charles Hawtrey for Best of Friends (the two had co-starred in Our House). But it was her teaming with Jimmy Jewel in 1968's Nearest and Dearest that fashioned her most celebrated role and enduring memory as the middle-aged spinster Nellie Pledge. As in Nearest and Dearest, Baker's character in Not On Your Nellie was based on the one that she had developed over the years, full of malapropisms, jerky double-takes, double entendre's and a smattering of catchphrases such as: "Look at the time...it's half past..." stops and pauses: "I must get a little hand put on this watch!" Not On Your Nelly ran for three series although the producers must have realised that they'd got their full mileage out of the comic situations as the last series was only comprised of four episodes. Like most comedy series of the time Not On Your Nelly was full to the brim with stereotype characters such as an Asian tube train driver, two gay men from the fashion world and a series of busty barmaids such as Beryl (Alexandra Dane), Doris (Wendy Richard) and Big Brenda (Sue Nicholls). Carry On stalwart Jack Douglas appeared in series three as Nellie's cousin Stanley Pickersgill and in the final episode found time to appear in the dual role of Stan and a nervously twitchy character called Alf Ippititimus.

NOT ONLY...BUT ALSO... (1965)

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Show Image Classic comedy series that began as a one-off show from jazz musician and comedian Dudley Moore and his 'Beyond The Fringe' partner Peter Cook, but one which was instantly commissioned as a series by the BBC and quickly rose to cult status.

Peter Cook was educated at Cambridge and began writing humorous material while he was an undergraduate. It was here that he wrote a revue called 'Pieces of Eight' for Kenneth Williams and also became involved with many of the "Footlights" revues. It was for one such revue that he created a character by the name of E. L. Wisty, a drably dressed gentleman with colourful ideas of world domination. He took the character into the hit revue 'Beyond the Fringe' when it played on both London and New York stages. It was here he met Moore. Dudley Moore was born in Dagenham, Essex, and began piano lessons at the age of eight. Following six years at the Guildhall School of Music he went to Magdalen College, Oxford, where he gained his Bachelor of Music degree. He played with a number of well-known bands and toured America for a while before returning home to write music for an Edinburgh Festival revue. It was here that he came to the attention of the "Fringe" team. Moore and Cook struck up an instant rapport and another facet of Dudley's talents came to the fore: His sense of humour. Around this time Peter Cook met already established TV star Bernard Braden who offered him a spot in his Saturday night BBC show On the Braden Beat. Braden said at the time that he considered Cook to be "...one of the most talented people I have met in years." Viewers and critics agreed and it was through these appearances on "Braden" that the BBC offered Cook his own one-off show.

Not Only... But Also... was a mixture of music and sketches and a segment called 'Poets Cornered' which gave the opportunity for comic talents such as Spike Milligan and Barry Humphries to show off their spontaneous rhyming skills under the threat off being dropped into a "gunge" tank, years before this became a popular ploy on such shows as 'Tiswas' and 'Noel's House Party.' Other guest stars included Peter Sellers and John Lennon, the latter of whom appeared as a gent's lavatory attendant. But it was Pete and Dud who were the real stars of the show appearing as two cloth capped philosophers from Dagenham, who would debate the issues of the day over a sandwich and a pint. Though these sketches were mostly scripted they were prone to bouts of ad-libbing, especially from Cook who went out of his way to make his partner break down into fits of laughter. Many of the sketches were typically "Pythonesque" before the term (or indeed the show) had even been invented, including sketches about the Leaping Nun's of St Beryl and a 'Good vs. Evil' cricket match, and some were simply surreal: "I was lying in bed the other night when I heard tap, tap, tap at the bloody window pane. I looked out - you know who it was? Greta bloody Garbo!" If one wondered just what sort of act the two of them would come up with without the constraints of TV and censorship, then the 1976 album 'Derek and Clive' left no doubt whatsoever with its decidedly foul mouthed and wholly adult content.

The duo also made it to the big screen together alongside an all-star cast in the Larry Gelbart, Burt Shevelove scripted black comedy, 'The Wrong Box.' Not Only... But Also... closed with the song 'Goodbye-ee' which made its way into the top twenty chart in 1965, and although the series only lasted two all-too-short seasons it was constantly being revived in one form or another right up until Peter Cook's untimely death in the mid-1990's. A consummate double act, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's idiosyncratic, uniquely individual style of comedy served as a quintessential showcase for the development of an entirely new age of comedy, which went hand-in-hand with the more far-reaching social changes of the mid sixties.

They were special...and they knew it.

NOT THE NINE O'CLOCK NEWS (1979)

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Show Image In TV, we often hear the words 'a comedy classic' bandied about, which is warranted by some shows but not all. Not The Nine O'Clock News is one of those shows. After a shaky first series and a tweak with casting, the programme was a hit on both TV and stage until it ended at the height if it's success. Starring Rowen Atkinson, Mel Smith, Pamela Stephenson, Chris Langham and Griff Rhys Jones, NTNON was a student favourite across the country. Classic sketches, such as 'Gerald the Gorilla ' and 'I Like Trucking' still get hundreds of You Tube hits and the show is often featured in the Top 100 rundowns, that are forever on TV these days. The show was not all just cheap jokes though, it was satire at it's best. Often filmed just days before broadcast, the show made sure that it was cutting edge, something that is rare these days on TV due to the fast paced quips of social media. With spoofs of Question Time and cutting edge critiques of politics, celebrity and beyond, some of the sketches still strike a chord with audiences today. There are sketches that dated almost as soon as they were recorded but overall, whilst Richard Curtis' scripts were never groundbreaking, they did produce laughs.

Not The Nine O'Clock News was never afraid of controversy. Whilst the producers were concerned at the beginning, the creative forces of the young and eager cast and script writers did not allow niceties and they certainly would not tone down their comedy to cater to the masses. Sometimes surreal, often baffling but always challenging mainstream comedy. It may not have catered to all tastes but you definitely get the a sense of freedom from the performers. The sketches ranged from deadpan black comedy to laugh out loud jokes and the down right silly. As the chemistry between the cast started to wain and the jokes ended up trying too hard, the team decided to call it a day. It would have been sad if the show had gone on for a relentless number of series and for to have lost its lustre completely, as many drawn out shows do. Instead the team left when the show had run its course and they all went on to have long and successful careers in the comedy and TV industry. NTNON inspired many subsequent comedy shows, most notably female performers, who admired the strong performances of Stephenson. The strength of the show was always in the writing that paved the way for alternative comedy to reach a mainstream audience. Thanks to the NTNON team we have a wide array of comics that are not afraid to step outside the norm and go on to produce some great TV comedy.
(Article by Deborah Giannasi 2014)

NYPD BLUE (1993)

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Violent, frank and explicit drama series set within the New York Police Department. Click Here for review