Rowan Atkinson, English actor, comedian, and screenwriter turned 63 on Saturday. While best known to audiences for his work on the sitcoms Blackadder and Mr. Bean, I first stumbled upon Atkinson’s brilliant talent in the BBC2 sketch comedy series, Not the Nine O’Clock News. Airing from 1979-1982, the series featured satirical sketches on current news stories and popular culture and, alongside Atkinson, featured Pamela Stephenson, Mel Smith and Griff Rhys-Jones.
Created by BAFTA award-winning producer, John Lloyd (Spitting Image, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Blackadder), the show’s name was derived from its schedule, as it originally aired on BBC2 at the same time serving as the comedic alternative to the Nine O’Clock News on BBC1. The show was originally scheduled to air in Fawlty Towers’ timeslot, perhaps the most difficult series to have to take its’ place.
John Cleese was to have introduced the first episode in a sketch referring to a technicians’ strike then in progress that hindered the production of the show, explaining (in character as Basil Fawlty) that there was no show that week so a “tatty revue” would be broadcast instead. However the 1979 general election intervened, and the show was pulled as too political, being replaced with repeats of American sitcom Rhoda.
Not the Nine O’Clock News featured a number of other future notables behind the camera including writer Richard Curtis (Blackadder, Mr. Bean, Vicar of Dibley) and musical director/composer Howard Goodall, who also composed the theme songs to Red Dwarf, Blackadder, Vicar of Dibley.
Happy 63rd, Rowan Atkinson!!