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After graduating from Oxford University, Mel Smith worked as a theatre director for some years before concentrating on performing. In 1978 he became one of the stars of Not the Nine O'Clock News, along with Rowan Atkinsom, Pamela Stephenson and Chris Langham.
Griff Rhys Jones, who had appeared in the Footlights Review at Cambridge University, was working as a BBC radio producer when Not the Nine O'Clock News first aired. After making occasional appearances in the first series, he replaced Chris Langham as part of the main cast for the second series.
After Not the Nine O'Clock News ended, Smith and Jones decided to continue their partnership and were offered a series by the BBC. The result, Alas Smith and Jones, began its first series early in 1984 and continued until 1988.
Alas Smith And Jones is probably best remembered for the 'head to head' sequences, where a pompous "know it all" (Mel Smith) pontificates about a topical subject while his rather dim friend (Griff Rhys Jones) tries, usually unsuccessfully, to make sense of what's being said.
The programme ended with a Christmas special in 1988. The following year, a similar proramme called simply Smith And Jones began transmission on BBC1.