At Last the 1948 Show is a satirical TV show made by David Frost's company, Paradine Productions (although it was not credited on the programmes), in association with Rediffusion London. Transmitted on Britain's ITV network in 1967, it brought Cambridge Footlights humour to a broader audience.
The show starred Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Marty Feldman and Aimi MacDonald. Cleese and Brooke-Taylor were also the programme editors. The director was Ian Fordyce.
While only two episodes of the show initially survived, efforts to locate missing episodes have been fruitful, with seven episodes being accounted for by 2013. On 23 October 2014, two episodes were recovered by the British Film Institute from the David Frost collection, and a further two episodes were recovered the following year, making the number of complete episodes eleven out of thirteen.
Frost approached Cleese, Chapman and Brooke-Taylor to star in a sketch series. They suggested Marty Feldman, until then a comedy writer. The series bridged the radio series I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again and television's Monty Python's Flying Circus and The Goodies. It also led to Feldman's television series Marty (which also featured Tim Brooke-Taylor). The convention of comedy scenes interspersed by songs was abandoned. It still used punchlines, which would be abandoned by Monty Python.
Several sketches came from the 1963 Cambridge Footlights Revue entitled Cambridge Circus (the revue was previously entitled A Clump of Plinths). Sketches were again reused in How to Irritate People and Monty Python's Flying Circus plus Python's two German TV specials (Monty Python's Fliegender Zirkus) and for stage shows. These include the "Four Yorkshiremen sketch" (which was later performed by Monty Python on Live at Drury Lane and Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl). The sketches "Top of the Form" and "Beekeeper" were performed in Secret Policeman's Ball stage shows. Another, "The Bookshop Sketch", was recorded in modified form for Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album. "Psychiatrist", "Tea Boy on a Mission", and "Grubnlian Holidays" were also performed again by The Two Ronnies.
Monty Python's catchphrase, "And now for something completely different," originated in At Last the 1948 Show, and was originally spoken by Aimi MacDonald.
The shows had no relationship to the year 1948; the title referred to television executives' tendency to dither extensively over commissioning decisions. The cast also recorded an LP of sketches from the show's first season, and released a book of some of the sketches. The series was video-taped at what is now Fountain Studios, Wembley Park, Wembley.
Two series totalling thirteen 25-minute episodes were made during the series ten-month run, six in the first series and seven in the second.
Thames Television wiped the material once they had acquired the Rediffusion London archive, and all but two episodes were destroyed. John Cleese became aware of tapes from two surviving episodes after Feldman's wife left them to him in her will. Five compilation episodes for Swedish television also survived. Much missing material has been recovered in video, and surviving video has been restored by the British Film Institute.
The majority of a previously missing episode (season 2, episode 6 tx 31.10.67) was returned to the BFI in May 2010. On 23 October 2014, the BFI announced film copies of two previously missing episodes - the first and final episodes of the series (tx 15.02.1967 and 07.11.1967) - had been recovered from the private collection of the show's executive producer David Frost. A year later, the BFI announced the recovery of another two episodes, with one of the new recoveries - the third episode of the first series (tx 01.03.1967) - to be screened at the Radio Times Festival at Hampton Court on 25 September 2015.
Out of an original total of 13 episodes, eleven now exist in complete or near-complete form, while two remain incomplete. While most surviving episodes are from original tapes or kinescopes, two of the complete episodes have been reconstructed from footage recovered from five compilation tapes returned from Sweden. The two incomplete episodes' surviving footage also comes from these compilations. The complete audio of all 13 episodes exist, recorded off air by several fans. An LP compilation was produced using audio from the original videotapes. This has since been reissued on CD.
None of the complete, aired episodes have been officially released as of September 2015, while the five Swedish compilation episodes were released on DVD in 2007. This includes the Four Yorkshiremen sketch, written and performed by Cleese, Chapman, Brooke-Taylor and Feldman. The DVDs were issued by Pinnacle Vision in the UK (Region 2) and by Tango Entertainment in the US (Region 1). The DVD incorrectly states these as "recently recovered episodes", titles them as "episodes [1-5]", and also presents them in the wrong series order, with no mention on the DVD that the content is in fact a compilation. Interestingly, Eric Idle appears in three of the episodes (2, 4, and 5). The episodes on all DVD releases are soft, grainy, and generally low picture quality, even considering the material's age. In recent years, several of the surviving, original episodes have been illegally uploaded on YouTube and other video-sharing websites; often in a much sharper quality than the compilation material.Barry Cryer - as director in Chartered Accountants and Gorilla / first person to sit in Thief in Library / Nigerian guide & Eskimo guide in Studio Tour / Feldman in Scottish Opera / deerstalker hat detective in Detective Sketch
Bill Oddie - as depressed patient/Kowalski in Detective Sketch
Christine Rodgers - as Mrs. Lotterby / waving co-host / Susan / opera-host / introduces self in I'm The Loveliest show intro
Eric Idle - Librarian in Thief in Library / Beethoven patient / waiter / elevator operator in Detective Sketch / end of row opera patron in Scottish Opera
Jo Kendall - as Sara Mellish in Studio Tour
Mary Maude - as Lady in bath / introduces self in I'm The Loveliest show intro
Dick Vosburgh as director in Studio Tour / bearded front row patron in Scottish Opera
Antony Jay - stage manager in Studio Tour
Frank Muir - Saudi entourage in Studio Tour
Denis Norden - Saudi entourage in Studio Tour
Ronnie Corbett - wrestling stage hand in Studio Tour
Frances Dean - accented opera-host / introduces self in I'm The Loveliest show intro
Karin Feddersen - Long haired brunette patron in Scottish Opera
Jacqueline Rochelle - as magic amulet opera-host
Penny Brahms - introduces self in I'm The Loveliest show intro
Joan Crane - as receptionist in Spiv Doctor / introduces self in I'm The Loveliest show intro
Note: only ten episodes are listed as complete or reconstructed, while an eleventh so-far unnamed episode has also been recovered.