Sunday, August 31, 2008

TV Rebels: Monty Python's Flying Circus

Since it is Labor Day weekend, our ratings report is off this week. Stay tuned next week for the return of that...as today we will give you a TV Rebels column!

It's time for another edition of TV Rebels. We originally had special permission to publish the first 6 essays on TV shows and actors that will be featured in the upcoming book TV Rebels: 100 People and Programs That Shaped the Medium by authors Lou Orfanella and Oscar De Los Santos...and as we mentioned in April, we have now gotten rights to 6 additional essays (for a total of 12!), so we will be bringing you one each month until at least November! Upcoming TV Rebel columns coming soon are about Rod Serling and Desi Arnaz. The book is in the works and will be released in 2009.

So without further adieu, we bring you the ninth essay of TV Rebels:

Monty Python's Flying Circus: "-and now for something completely different!"
by contributing author Kelly L. Goodridge

It was 39 years ago when Monty Python's Flying Circus and the satirical comedy of six men known as the "Pythons" altered the face of television comedy. John Cleese, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, and Graham Chapman, all Pythons and graduates of Oxford and Cambridge, created a kind of side-show television circus sketch comedy that commented on, questioned and poked fun at life. Monty Python's Flying Circus is known for its ingenuous brand of "Pythonesque" humor and for subverting the standard formats that other sitcoms deemed necessary in the late 1960s. The show includes satire, farce, sarcasm and parody, and is difficult to categorize, especially with sketches such as "The Funniest Joke in the World," the "Dead Parrot" sketch, "The One-Man Wrestling Match," and "The Ministry of Silly Walks." Michael Mills, BBC's Head of Comedy, initially gave the Python team thirteen 30-minute shows, the first of which aired on BBC-1 on October 5, 1969. However, 44 more episodes followed and aired over four seasons. The show was produced by John Howard Davies and the first 39 episodes were titled Monty Python's Flying Circus, but the final six episodes, which aired without Cleese, were called Monty Python (The Museum of Broadcast Communications). Although the final episode aired on Dec. 5, 1974, the television series and five Monty Python films have a cult following today (The Pythons Autobiography By The Pythons).
Originally, the comedy series was to be called "Baron Von Took's Flying Circus," after a comment made by Mills. However, Barry Took, the comedian that is credited as "London's Longest Laugh," and who Mills coined "Baron Von Took" brought the Pythons to the BBC and suggested the show unite two teams of young writers -- Michael Palin and Terry Jones alongside John Cleese and Graham Chapman (BBC News "Took: Comedy with a Twist"). "The content of Monty Python's Flying Circus was designed to be disconcerting to viewers who expected to see typical television fare" (The Museum of Broadcast Communications). The show's humor is evidenced in each of the comedic actors' ability to play diverse roles and characters, including women. In addition, each Python also refined character traits such as "Captain Fantastic," off the wall language accents and trademark lines such as Cleese's "You bastard!" The show's sketches are loaded with innuendo and risqué humor, sight gags, disrespect for authority and animation merged with live action. Gilliam's arrangement of cut-out art and skewed scale set against surrealist landscapes offered something new. Gilliam asserts, "Nobody had ever seen anything like it and I was animator. Just like that" (The Pythons Autobiography By The Pythons 119).
Rather than following traditional sketch format, the Pythons were innovators and rebels of sorts with their jokes and sketches, which have had a lasting effect on the medium (Saturday Night Live and SCTV). In fact, The BBC credits Monty Python's Flying Circus as "one of the most popular comedy series ever" (BBC News "Took: Comedy with a Twist"). At any rate, the television series was a precursor to their films and if the official Monty Python website, Pythonline.com is any indication -- the show impacted and continues to impact culture. Pythonline offers "The Daily Python" news, books, audio recordings, clothing, toys, a 16 DVD boxed set of "The Complete Monty Python's Flying Circus" with all 45 television episodes, as well as DVD's of their films -- And Now For Something Completely Different (1971), Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1974), Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979), Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl (1982), and Monty Python's The Meaning of Life (1983). The website also includes the "Latest Global Python Sightings" and appearances of the Pythons (with the exception of Graham Chapman, who died of cancer in October 1989), polls for visitors to take where one can select their favorite movie or "Vote for the Top Ten Monty Python Skits of all time!!", as well as a link to buy tickets for their current musical hit comedy Spamalot on Broadway or in Las Vegas, London, or Melbourne.

Works Cited
Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and
Michael Palin with Bob McCabe. The Pythons Autobiography By The
Pythons
. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, First St. Martins Griffin ed.,
November 2005.
Pythonline.com, the official Monty Python website. <http://pythonline.com/>.
BBC News. "Took: Comedy with a Twist." <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/1903971.stm>. Sunday, March 31, 2002.
Hammill, Geoff. "Monty Python's Flying Circus: British Sketch Comedy/Farce/Parody/Satire Series." The Museum of Broadcast Communication (mbc). <http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/M/htmlM/montypythobn/montypython.htm>.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (September)

New Girl - The Complete Season Three The Goldbergs - The Complete First Season The Big Bang Theory - The Complete Seventh Season Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season One How I Met Your Mother - The Ninth and Legendary Final Season

Modern Family - The Complete Fifth Season Mom - The Complete First Season Mike & Molly - The Complete Fourth Season

09/02 - Benson - Season 1 (Mill Creek) / Season 2 / Seasons 1 & 2
09/02 - The Dick Van Dyke Show - Halloween Episodes Collection
09/02 - It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - The Complete Season Nine
09/02 - The League - The Complete Season Five
09/02 - New Girl - The Complete Season Three
09/02 - Soap - Season 1 (Mill Creek) / Season 2 / Seasons 1 & 2
09/02 - What's Happening!! - Season 1 (Mill Creek) / Season 2 / Seasons 1 & 2
09/09 - The Goldbergs - The Complete First Season
09/16 - About a Boy - Season One
09/16 - Awkward - Season 3
09/16 - The Big Bang Theory - The Complete Seventh Season (Blu-ray/DVD)
09/16 - South Park - Season 17 (Blu-ray)
09/23 - Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season One
09/23 - How I Met Your Mother - The Ninth and Legendary Final Season / The Complete Series
09/23 - Mama's Family - The Complete Fifth Season / The Complete Collection
09/23 - Modern Family - The Complete Fifth Season
09/23 - Mom - The Complete First Season
09/30 - The Donna Reed Show - Season 1 (MPI)
09/30 - Mike & Molly - The Complete Fourth Season
Other TV Series:
09/02 - Grey's Anatomy - The Complete Tenth Season
09/09 - Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
09/16 - CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - The Fourteenth Season
09/16 - Castle - The Complete Sixth Season
09/23 - Nashville - The Complete Second Season
09/23 - Scandal - The Complete Third Season
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Sunday, September 14

Bob's Burgers - "Seaplane!" (Fox, 7:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Linda is bored by Bob’s tired attempts at Date Night and decides to sign up for flying lessons. When Bob won’t join her, she becomes the target of “Upskirt Kurt” (guest voice Will Forte), the most charming pilot in the air.

Bob's Burgers - "Purple Rain-Union" (Fox, 7:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
In an attempt to redeem a failed talent show performance from her past, Linda reunites with her former band mates from, the Ta-Ta’s, to perform at their high school reunion. At the event, a former female classmate attempts to impress Bob, her high school crush, who, in turn, becomes very self-conscious about the unwanted attention.

The Simpsons - "Luca$" (Fox, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Marge is concerned that Lisa is dating below her station when she brings home competitive eater-in-training Lucas Bortner (guest voice Zach Galifianakis), and she enlists Homer to help Lisa explore other options. Meanwhile, Bart is thrilled to receive free gifts from Snake Jailbird after he helps the convict escape from a jam, but when a betrayal from Milhouse puts Snake back in jail, Bart must forge a plan to set him free.

The Simpsons - "Days of Future Future" (Fox, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Set in the future, Homer has a new clone for every time he dies. Lisa is married to a zombie version of Milhouse, while Bart deals with custody issues with his ex-wife, Jenda. Each defines what love means to them.

American Dad - "Roger Passes the Bar" / "A Boy Named Michael" (Fox, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Roger (Seth MacFarlane) is forced to sell his beloved attic bar to a restaurant chain after suffering a heart attack, and a sexy new next-door neighbor (guest voice Jane Krakowski, “30 Rock”) promises to take Steve and his friends’ virginity in return for housework. Then, Roger movies in with Greg (Seth MacFarlane) and Terry (guest voice Mike Barker).

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of September 15) (All times ET unless noted)

Monday, September 15

  • Ike Barinholtz (The Mindy Project) - Watch Ike on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project/The Office) - Mindy is a guest on The Colbert Report at 11:30pm on Comedy Central. She will also be on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.
  • Nasim Pedrad (Mulaney) - Nasim appears on Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Connie Britton (Spin City/The Fighting Fitzgeralds) - Connie visits Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
  • Justin Long (Mom/Ed) - Justin stops by Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
  • Queen Latifah (Living Single) - Queen Latifah chats on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Michael Strahan (Brothers) - Michael is a guest on Rachael Ray, so check your local listings.
  • Judith Light (Who's the Boss?/Phenom) - Judith drops by the Better Show, so check your local listings. She will also be on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 12:30pm ET.
  • Steve Harvey (The Steve Harvey Show) - Steve dishes on taking Meredith's Ice Bucket Challenge and reveals secrets from his new book (Act Like a Success, Think Like a Success) on The Meredith Vieira Show, so check your local listings.
  • Nathan Gamble (Hank) - Nathan talks about working with his animal co-stars in Dolphin Tale 2 on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • Holly Robinson Peete (Hangin' with Mr. Cooper/For Your Love) - Holly and her husband Rodney Peete are guests on SportsNation at 3pm on ESPN2.
  • James Van Der Beek (Friends with Better Lives/Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23) - James will be on HuffPost Live at 1:30pm. He is also a guest on PIX11 Morning News on WPIX in New York at 7:45am.
  • Keke Palmer (True Jackson, VP) - Keke will be on PIX11 Morning News on WPIX in New York at 8:35am.
  • Bebe Neuwirth (Cheers/Frasier) - Bebe is a guest on HuffPost Live at 5:30pm.
  • Kathy Griffin (Suddenly Susan) - Kathy appears on Larry King Now at 2/5pm PT/ET on Ora.tv and Hulu.
  • Jada Pinkett-Smith (A Different World) - Jada talks about her new series Gotham on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am and in the 10am hour.
  • Haley Joel Osment (Thunder Alley/The Jeff Foxworthy Show) - Haley Joel is a guest on Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.