In 1978, Radio 1 star Kenny Everett broke onto the small screen with an anarchic television series which would make the impish DJ a household name.
Now all four series of The Kenny Everett Video Show finally comes to DVD; featuring live music, comedy sketches and guest appearances from David Bowie, Rod Stewart, Freddie Mercury, Elton John, Thin Lizzy, The Moody Blues and many more.
Back in the Seventies, Everett’s eccentric radio shows were renowned for their grandiose production values and innovative jingles. He’d work tirelessly to engineer multitrack recordings for spoof adverts, vocal harmonies and comedy sketches. Much of his innovation became the basis for the forthcoming Video Show, which sought to push the limits of video effects and post-production trickery in the same vein.
The series was scripted by Barry Cryer and Ray Cameron, furnishing the show with a fringe/revue flavour and a charmingly under-rehearsed quality. Whilst its all ambitiously technical – with extensive effects allowing Kenny to converse with versions of himself – it’s also intentionally anarchic and unpredictable with a live broadcast feel.
Comedy influences stretch from Monty Python’s Flying Circus to the surprising loucheness of Benny Hill. It’s certainly a show which flies in the face of political correctness, promising risqué “naughty bits” courtesy of Arlene Phillips’ sensual dance troupe Hot Gossip. With flashes of nudity and endless saucy references, the series would have some trouble getting past censors or Guardian reviewers today. But that just makes it all the more edgy and alluring.
The format pushes meta humour to the limit, regularly tampering with the conventions of commercial breaks and TV editing. The infamous Thames ident of St Paul’s Cathedral is literally ripped apart by Kenny at the conclusion of each episode, in just one example of the series subverting the established structure of television presentation. It’s thrilling, rebellious and bold broadcasting – giving you the impression the production team has hijacked the network and that anything can happen in the next 30 minutes.
Bringing the viewer into the mechanisms of the show is also part of its genius. The crew’s spontaneous laughter is a regular feature and, like a mischievous child, Everett’s antics generally go off-script. Outtakes and fluffs are heavily featured throughout, whilst a liberating exposure of the forth wall – or brazen shooting off-the-set – gives a fascinating behind-the-scenes peek at how television was recorded at the time.
Cuddly Ken’s most celebrated characters appear from the outset, including slimy sophisticate Marcel Wave, giant-handed evangelist Brother Lee Love and iconic punk rocker Sid Snot in a wild encounter with Freddie Mercury. Captain Kremmen – a comic-strip character developed from radio – features extensively as part of a bonkers animated short from Cosgrove Hall.
Network Distributing have achieved the impossible to bring this set to market due to the complexity of rights associated with so many artists. All four series, including the three New Year specials, are presented together for the first time and whilst some inevitable edits have been made, this extensive collection has been mastered and presented with care.
Fearlessly saucy and endlessly inventive, The Kenny Everett Video Show is essential archive television for devotees of Seventies and Eighties pop culture. It’s refreshingly fearless and debauch, providing perfect late-night entertainment after a few drinks. Three years before the birth of MTV, this innovative show blazed a trail in bringing popular music to television with energy, wit and charm. This definitive DVD collection is a poignant reminder of how daring and provocative broadcast television once was, and some forty years on, demonstrates how Cuddly Ken still packs plenty of punch.
Released by: Network Distributing Certificate: 15 Running Time: 935mins Release date:19th November 2018 RRP: £59.99