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The Late Show was a sketch comedy series that ran for three series’ in 1992-93, using a combination of live skits and pre-recorded segments to somehow fill an hour on the ABC on Saturday nights. For those not familiar with the cast members, the main players in this television series went on to get behind films such as The Castle and The Dish as well as television productions such as Frontline and The Panel. Most of them met while at university and performed on radio before pitching the series to Channel Nine and then the ABC.

The essence of the series was the haphazard and somewhat disastrous nature of the sketches, with most of the live attempts ending up as an hilarious mix of quick wit, scripted nonsense and just plain forgetfulness. Which is exactly why the show was funny. Characters such as Graham and the Colonel, The Oz Brothers, Jeff and Terry and The Muckrakers provided most of the unscripted mayhem which complimented the ongoing attempts at regular series’ such as Bargearse, Shitscared and Charlie The Wonderdog. If all that sounds intriguing I suggest you get your hands on this disc pretty quickly and you won’t be disappointed.

Put into context, the series was surprisingly successful. 10:30pm on a Saturday night wasn’t the most sought after timeslot, and with the shoestring budget (the cast shot most of their own skits with a home video camera) they cannot be blamed for many of the dodgy locations or shaky scripts. If anything, the series is an example of what can be done when you throw caution to the wind. The cast themselves admit the series was just a bunch of friends mucking around and making the semblance of a TV production in the process. If you watch the DVD, you’ll get the “Champagne Comedy” joke.

Graham & The Colonel go off
As mentioned earlier, most of the footage was shot using a home video camera and film was a luxury afforded only to the most elaborate sketches. Therefore, the video quality is not quite the standard of most modern DVD transfers, but that is largely due to the source material they had to work with. Judging by some of the remarks in the commentary, it seems Tony Martin (one of the cast members) was largely responsible for putting the discs together, so the fact that the DVD even made it out onto the market is quite remarkable. Either the transfer was lifted almost straight off the video tape releases or the producers of the disc saw no real need to spend the time and money on a sharper transfer, probably having neither of those factors at their disposal. If anything, the sketchy transfer adds to the amateur feel to many of the segments, increasing the laughs as we watch stuff up after stuff up. That said, the parts that were shot on film look markedly better and at least hit the average level of DVD quality.

Made for TV, the film is presented as such (a bonus for all you twisted Pan & Scan people out there)

The Clinton prophetic
Again, no real need for anything stunning, so we get the Dolby Digital 2.0 sound mix. Just your usual fare, cause I don’t think they were thinking about audio effects when they were making the show, and didn’t have the time, money or need to create anything special for the DVD. Enough said.

This is where the real value of the DVD comes to the fore. All the cast members got together at the Flagstaff Recording Studios in Melbourne, Australia to record a commentary track over the entire 6 hours of footage. While a couple of the cast members were a bit under the weather, there was nothing wrong with the entertainment value of the commentary track. Everyone joins in, chatting about the lack of ABC support for a few of their more outrageous skits, the shoestring budget they had to work with, including the dodgy locations, and some of the more in-jokes that were included in the series. There was also a fair amount of joking around about the fashion of the times, with all the cast becoming tragic victims of the bad taste of the early 90’s. We are even treated to special guests during the commentary including former Premier Joan Kirner, Pete Smith and a daring live phone interview with Australian acting legend Bud Tingwell. With their usual shakiness, the Late Show team somehow manage to pull it off.

Also included in addition to the footage shown on the VHS versions are 50 minutes of extra sketches, a behind the scenes stills gallery and a collectible booklet with photos of the commentary session on September 1, 2001. Obviously the extra footage isn’t as funny as most of the other stuff because it would have been included in the Best Of, but there are some enjoyable moments.

Jeff & Terry, the dodgy salesmen
Absolute DVD fanatics would probably baulk at an average transfer and Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. But when put into context, there is no need for either to make this DVD a worthwhile purchase. Fans of the series will love the unseen footage and the 6 hour commentary track. Those who haven’t seen the series will probably either love it or hate it, its just one of those shows. The Late Show meddled with unscripted live comedy and sketchy characters, but pulls through somehow, making most of this disc into an exhibition of…..Champagne Comedy.