After Not the Nine O'Clock News
ended and Rowan Atkinson struck out on his own
, Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones made this Spiritual Successor Sketch Show
, which ran from 1984 to 1998
. Not to be confused with Alias Smith and Jones
, the American series which its Pun-Based Title
references; some series of the show dropped the 'alas' from the byline and went out simply as Smith and Jones
Like Not the Nine O'Clock News
before it, the humour was often quite taboo, and cheerfully employed Mood Whiplash
by going from elaborate sketches with complex humour to rapid-fire slapstick or one-shot gags and then back again. Probably the best known, and defining, recurring feature was the "Head to Head" sketch, in which Smith and Jones' characters face each other across a black void and have an inane Seinfeldian Conversation
. This is an example of what Harry Enfield
calls a "Thick Bloke and Thicker Bloke" routine: Jones' character is an idiot who gets everything wrong, while Smith corrects him, but is still thicker than the audience and often gets it wrong in a different way in his corrections. Some series also had a domestic recurring flat sketch (possibly inspired by Morecambe and Wise
), usually carrying a story thread throughout an entire episode, cutting back to it in between the other sketches. Episodes also sometimes started with Mel and Griff on stools facing the audience, supposedly As Themselves
introducing the show, but actually carrying on a surreal stand-up routine.
After the show ended, Griff Rhys Jones largely moved away from comedy in favour of presenting documentaries, while Mel Smith went on to do multiple projects, the best-known probably being Brain Donors
. The two reunited in 2006 to present The Smith and Jones Sketchbook
, a compilation inspired by The Two Ronnies
doing the same thing shortly before. Any hopes of further material were permanently destroyed after Smith passed away in 2013.
This show contains examples of:
- Acting Unnatural: Mel Smith tells his friends that Queen guitarist Brian May is going to visit. They all get overexcited at the prospect of meeting him and Mel insists they treat him as a normal guy and his visit is nothing special. However, they take this overboard and when Brian arrives, they're all doing strange activities like vacuuming the flat while totally ignoring him.
- Always a Bigger Fish: The end of the Brian May sketch sees Griff inviting Eric Clapton over, and Brian proceeds to fanboy over Clapton just as the others fanboyed over him earlier, and they instruct him in turn in Acting Unnatural with a vacuum cleaner.
- Alter Ego Acting: The flat sketches and intro routines.
- Ass Shove: One of the starting routines involves Griff walking awkwardly while telling a long, rambling, unconvincing speech about hanging pictures on a stepladder in front of a box of vegetables while naked, to explain why he went to the hospital to have a cucumber removed from his backside. This ends with the inversion punchline:
Mel: And that's what you told the nurse, is it?
Griff: Well of course not, she'd never believe that! I told her I'd shoved it up my jacksy to give myself a cheap thrill!
- Channel Hop: Not really, but The BBC turned into the network equivalent of a Crazy Jealous Guy when they made an (unrelated) show for ITV, which almost scuppered their chances of coming back to continue the show—in the end it was smoothed over, though.
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: When Mel refuses to sponsor Griff's child at a charity event, Griff slowly and mournfully sings Elvis' "Can't Help Falling In Love With You" to him until he gives in.
- Department of Redundancy Department: The Brian May sequence begins with Mel on the phone...
Mel: Yeah, sure, yeah yeah...yes sure Brian. Yeah, Brian. Mm-hm? OK Brian...Bri-an!...Brian. Ha, ha...that is a...you know, that's a very "Brian" thing to say. Ha ha, OK Brian, yeah, sure. Good, OK Brian, OK Brian, yep, good, see ya Brian, thanks Brian, bye Brian, bye-bye.
- Forbidden Fruit / Skewed Priorities: In the Naughty Birdwatching sketch, we eventually see that both Mel and Griff have beautiful girlfriends upstairs who want to have sex with them, but they instead obsess over seeing a brief flash of knickers from one of their neighhbours through the telescope.
- Ignore The Disability: Inverted in one flat sketch, where the others keep trying to bring up to one of their friends how unconvincing his wig is, but they can never quite pluck up the courage.
Mel: What I'm really asking is...is...where on earth did you get that fantastic T-shirt?
- Keep Circulating the Tapes: As with Not the Nine O'Clock News, there haven't been many VHS and DVD releases, and those tend to be compilations rather than full episodes—to the point that one DVD was called "At Last Smith and Jones".
- Namesake Gag: A sketch about László Bíró, the inventor of the ballpoint pen. This is true. The Namesake Gag comes in when he's worried that someone might steal his idea, and is assured there's no-one in the house except the servants: Bic the butler, Parker the chauffeur, Pentel the maid...
- Naughty Birdwatching: The subject of one of the flat sketches, starting with them just catching accidental glimpses and escalating as they acquire more and more telescopic equipment for the purpose.
- The Parody: Usually of adverts and songs or music videos (as with Not the Nine O'Clock News). Later series also had parodies of unusually-themed compilation albums, such as "Now That's What I Call The Best Psycho Album Ever 2" or "Stephen Hawking Sings The Blues".
- Shoot the Messenger: Parodied in one sketch where a bearer of bad news is stabbed by the roman noble he delivered it to, leading a second messenger to try to pretend he doesn't actually have a message to deliver at all. Finally...
Noble: Ah, splendid, yes this is wonderful news indeed!
Messenger: (relieved) it is?
- Special Guest: One episode had Brian May turning up to Mel and Griff's flat to play poker. He was treated as a Special Guest in-universe as well, with the humour coming from Mel telling everyone to act normally and that it wasn't a big deal, while the others were prone to Hero Worship.
- Spiritual Successor: To Not the Nine O'Clock News—besides having Mel and Griff and a similar format, it also shared many of the same writers.
- Wales: Some jokes about Griff being Welsh.