Alas Smith And Jones (BBC2, 1984-1988)/Smith And Jones (BBC1, 1989-1998)
Not The Nine O’Clock News was one of the most successful British comedy shows of its era, and among the cast of this groundbreaking show were Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones. After that show ended in 1982, they decided to continue working together and form a comedy double-act, and in 1984 the first series of their sketch show launched on BBC2, when it was known as Alas Smith And Jones.
They were a double-act that didn’t consist of the usual funnyman/straightman roles, they were able to play a wide range of characters, and they would begin most shows by coming on stage to introduce themselves. Most of the sketches were about contemporary life, and there were many parodies of various TV shows and films. Lots of guest stars turned up to help out with the sketches, Mel and Griff were also among the writers, and their production company TalkBack made the show.
But what the show is best remembered for is the head-to-head discussions, where they would offer their views on life, but they never really seemed to be sure what the other one was on about. Because of this, Smith and Jones had become rather popular, and around this time they appeared in the films Morons From Outer Space and Wilt, and Smith also directed a few films including the first Mr Bean film.
Also in the 80s Smith and Jones worked on a few other projects including the BBC2 Smith sitcom Colin’s Sandwich, and ITV’s The World According To Smith And Jones, plus lots of adverts. So after four series, in 1989 the show was promoted to BBC1, this time simply called Smith And Jones, although it really carried on in the same style. There were six more series, with the tenth and final one being in 1998. Some critics felt that the show was a little past-it by then, but there had been plenty of highlights over the years.
Bonus points also go to the show’s rather bizarre opening sequences which in the 80s included a parody of BBC1’s ident, and in the 90s and parody of BBC2’s ident. In 2006 they reunited for a BBC1 series called The Smith And Jones Sketchbook where they took one last look back at the funniest moments. You would expect that there would be some demand for these shows to be released on DVD, yet the situation is rather curious.
There were plans to bring some series out, but then this seemed to be abandoned. However, a DVD was released featuring the first four series, but these had been condensed into two half-hour compilations, meaning that about four or five editions’ worth of sketches from every series aren’t available on the DVD. What are included though as extras are the 1987 Christmas special The Home-Made Xmas Video, the 1988 Christmas special Alas Sage And Onion, and the 1989 BBC2 series Smith And Jones In Small Doses, consisting of four 20-minute comedy-drama films. A decade on we still await the second volume containing anything from the 90s shows (although some were released on VHS), they definitely deserve a release.