The Comedy Vault – There’s Nothing To Worry About.

There’s Nothing To Worry About (ITV, 1982)

A while ago, I reviewed the comedy sketch show Alfresco. The extra on the DVD release is the series that preceded this, which had almost the same cast. There’s Nothing To Worry About is rather significant as it features of some the earliest TV appearances of a group of people who would soon go on to bigger and better things in comedy and much more.

Among the cast was Ben Elton (who wrote the majority of the sketches), along with Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, and their amusing style of wordplay was well established even at this point, making this seem like a bonus series of their acclaimed sketch show that would launch later in the 80s. Some of the sketches that featured would be recycled for one of the editions of Alfresco.

Although of course plenty of ideas were tried out and some worked better than others, and there were no regular characters or catchphrases, there were still some highlights. These included a reference to “Strom”, the rather bizarre made-up language that featured often in Fry and Laurie’s later work, and this was sketch was also notable as it features just about the mouldiest film quality that I have seen on a TV show from this era.

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Being able to watch shows from the early-80s also means you end up looking more at the surroundings than taking notice of the sketch, like the one set in a supermarket, where everything seemed to cost 13p, what a fascinating time capsule. And there was a sketch where Fry and Laurie discussed how a video recorder worked, with was rather nice. And Laurie’s American accent was also given an early-run out in a sketch where a court trail was done in the style of a glossy TV show.

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Possibly the most notable moment for me though was a rather bizarre electropop song that seemed to have nothing to do with anything else by “Sister Resistor”, played by Emma Thompson as a silver robot-type thing. I never knew that Thompson had been an electropop pioneer (well it was 1982 when this was a big music genre), as well as going on to win an Academy Award many years later.

Emma is a robot now…

There were just three editions of There’s Nothing To Worry About that were only shown in the Granada region rather late at night, and this must’ve been watched by next to nobody at the time. Fry and Laurie were also among the cast that appeared in a TV comedy sketch show before even this, that invented alternative comedy there and then (well probably), and I’ll review that one soon too.

The Comedy Vault – Alfresco.

Alfresco (ITV, 1983-1984)

Having enjoyed such various comedy shows as A Bit Of Fry And Laurie, I was interested in seeing an earlier sketch show which featured Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie called Alfresco, so when it was released on DVD by Network I was very pleased. Alfresco was so-called because the majority of sketches were shot on location using the latest technology, and the cast also featured Ben Elton (who wrote the majority of the sketches), Robbie Coltrane, Siobhan Redmond and Emma Thompson, who all went on to bigger things, including winning an Oscar. vlcsnap-00678

Before Alfresco launched, a three-part series called There’s Nothing To Worry About! was shown only in the Granada region in 1982 which featured almost the same cast, and this features on the DVD too. Alfresco was another show which featured only a small amount of regular characters, and there were no catchphrases as such, but a lot of ideas were tried out, such as Fry and Laurie playing the characters Alan and Bernard who enjoyed fiddling around with their fancy new video recorder. vlcsnap-00684

Some sketches that I enjoyed in the first series included a parody of University Challenge which featured Fry as the host, not long after he had appeared on the show for real as a contestant, the rather bizarre Airplane!-style exchanges between Mr Butcher and Mr Baker, and a sketch where Elton played an aspiring footballer which featured a guest appearance from Elton Welsby as the host of Granadaland show Kick Off before he became ITV’s football presenter. vlcsnap-00688

There was a change of format to the second series, which was set in a pretend pub, with Coltrane playing the pretend landlord, Redmond playing a pretend barmaid, and the others also taking part as various regulars. Fry and Laurie also contributed some sketches which featured zingers like “I suppose you think it’s somehow amusing to go around saying things that are funny”. Also, most sketches were introduced as if they were an individual panel in a comic strip, now where have I seen that idea before? I did enjoy Fry and Laurie’s contributions to Alfresco, and in the decade or so that they performed comedy together, from Jeeves And Wooster to Alliance And Leicester, they were a class act. vlcsnap-00689

It turns out that Alfresco actually wasn’t a very successful show with viewers at the time, being shown rather late at night, and the only time it’s been seen on TV since was when a few editions were repeated on Granada Plus. I did enjoy watching it though because it was great seeing a lot of promising comedy talent blossoming as the shows went by, as if discovering a secret bonus series of A Bit Of Fry And Laurie.