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Alfresco

1 9 8 3 – 1 9 8 4 (UK)

If asked to name Britain’s biggest comedy and drama names at the end of the 20th century, many viewers would have included most of the stars of this show.

Back in 1983 however, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, Ben Elton, Siobhan Redmond and Robbie Coltrane were virtual unknowns, fledgling talents given their wings by Granada Television, which plucked them from training schools like the Cambridge Footlights and the Edinburgh Fringe in the hope of providing a response to the BBC’s Not The Nine o’Clock News.

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Here they fooled around in a late-night melange of skits, mostly written by Ben Elton and some, experimentally, shot outdoors with handheld video cameras.

Everything was fair game and a target for their humour – chat shows, effeminacy, British WWII films, Shakespeare and private health care, to name a few.

Alfresco was the same quickfire combination of anarchic sketches and musical items that made Not The Nine o’Clock News, The Two Ronnies and Monty Python’s Flying Circus so successful.

Two series were produced.

“It just isn’t on – these documents will never pass. Look at this: “Please let this man through, signed Hitler”. I mean, really!”

Stephen Fry
Hugh Laurie
Emma Thompson
Ben Elton
Siobhan Redmond
Paul Shearer
Robbie Coltrane