1 9 6 8 – 1 9 6 9 (UK)
12 x 30 minute episodes
So long the back-room scribbler and third banana, bug-eyed Marty Feldman finally got a show of his own with this BBC2 late-evening slot.
There was plenty of off-the-wall visual gagging (most of the future Monty Python team contributed material to the scripts) and studio tomfoolery, but with typical Beeb caution, this was tempered by such middle-England guests as The Black and White Minstrels.
Feldman’s flights of fancy took his stock company (including Tim Brooke-Taylor and John Junkin) into a variety of absurd and surreal sketches: a man takes his monster to the vet; taxi drivers are recast as RAF fighter pilots, with pedestrians as their targets; a theatregoer insists on a play featuring an elephant.
Recurring subjects were history (the death of Nelson with Oliver Hardy), football (a controversial sketch in which a player makes sexual advances to the Queen) and religion (a Jewish bus worker is offered the job of Pope).
Musical interludes included the lament Is it wrong to love an Elephant? and French Song for Sauce Lovers, a torch-song pastiche in which Feldman recites the label of an H.P. sauce bottle.
Sketches were filmed on location with a minimum of dialogue, such as ‘A Day in the Life of a Stuntman’ (following a death-defying journey to work), ‘The Loneliness of the Long Distance Golfer’ (with each shot taking him further from the green) and ‘The Lightning Coach Tour,’ which used speeded up footage to compress a day trip to the seaside into less than three minutes.
The BBC2 show earned a quick repeat screening on BBC1 where it reached #4 in the ratings.
The title of the show changed to It’s Marty for the second series.
The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine (ATV, 1971-72) and Marty Back Together Again (BBC, 1974) followed before Feldman decamped to Hollywood to make the Mel Brooks movies Young Frankenstein (1974) and Silent Movie (1976), which would bring him international renown.
Feldman, the brother of actress Fenella Fielding, died in Mexico City in 1982.