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Do Not Adjust Your Set

1 9 6 7 – 1 9 6 9 (UK)
30 x 30 minute episodes

At Last The 1948 Show led directly to Monty Python’s Flying Circus and so, in equal measure, did Do Not Adjust Your Set – a zany TV sketch show aimed at children.

The show was a combination of fast sketches and visual gags served up by Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, David Jason and Denise Coffey.

Subtitled ‘The Fairly Pointless Show’ and ‘The Show With Knobs On’, Do Not Adjust Your Set was strong in every department.

The show also featured a mini-series about Captain Fantastic (David Jason), in which the bowler-hatted, old-raincoated and moustachioed hero was pitted against Mrs Black (Denise Coffey), “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. Such was its popularity, ‘Captain Fantastic’ enjoyed a life of its own, with new episodes being incorporated into Thames’ children’s magazine show Magpie from its premiere on 30 July 1968.

Every edition featured a musical interlude by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, who had a hit with I’m The Urban Spaceman in November 1968, reaching #5 in the UK charts.

Likened by Denise Coffey to “Spike Jones and his City Slickers on speed”, the Bonzos were terrific value, their lead singer Viv Stanshall, one of the great British eccentrics, never failing to create an impression. The band also helped out in some of the sketches.

The final few editions treated viewers to the work of a young American artist new to British TV, Terry Gilliam, who provided drawings.

The content was rather adult for kids, primarily because the brief was to create a show that the writers found funny, rather than “writing down” for children.

Terry Jones claims that “we were just doing what we would have done anyway really, so the fact that it was a kids show was just an excuse”.

Adults would rush home from work on Friday nights to watch this ‘kids show’, so the second series was repeated at a later timeslot for the adult audience.

If truth be told, it was really a show for grown-ups, with lip service paid to it being for kids, by virtue of a silly child’s song at the end:

Oh the Elephant goes ‘miaow’
and the pussycat moos like a cow
And the tiny little dog goes ‘oink’ like a frog
And the lion goes ‘bow wow wow’

The title Do Not Adjust Your Set came from the standard fault card screened during TV breakdowns and faulty transmissions – still a common sight in the late 1960s.

Do Not Adjust Your Set won first prize in the 12-15 years category at the Prix Jeunesse International Television Festival in Munich in June 1968.

There was also a Christmas special, Do Not Adjust Your Stocking, shown on Christmas Day 1968.

Eric Idle
Michael Palin
Terry Jones
David Jason
Denise Coffey
The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band