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 (April)

The Odd Couplete (2015) - Season One Family Matters - The Complete Sixth Season Veep - The Complete Fourth Season The Beverly Hillbillies - The Official First Season Hot in Cleveland - Season Six

04/05 - 10 Items or Less - The Complete Series
04/05 - Episodes - The Fourth Season
04/05 - The Odd Couple (2015) - Season One
04/12 - Family Matters - The Complete Sixth Season
04/12 - Grace and Frankie - Season One
04/12 - Welcome to Sweden - The Complete Second Season
04/19 - Silicon Valley - The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray)
04/19 - Veep - The Complete Fourth Season (Blu-ray)
04/26 - The Beverly Hillbillies - The Official First Season
04/26 - Hot in Cleveland - Season Six
04/26 - Hot in Cleveland - The Complete Series
04/26 - Schitt's Creek - The Complete Second Season
04/29 - The Monkees - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Tuesday, May 3

Fresh Off the Boat - "Rent Day" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
The flip house is finally finished, and Jessica convinces Honey and Grandma that they would make more money if they rent it out instead. Honey and Grandma are reluctant to get into the landlord business, but Jessica assures them that she will take care of everything. However, when the perfect renters become more of a nuisance, Jessica fears that she might be in over her head. Meanwhile, amateur detectives Emery and Evan, better known as “The Huang Boys,” take on the mystery of Louis’ missing watch.

The Real O'Neals - "The Real Retreat" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
When Jimmy is unexpectedly named Faith Leader for the weekend at the Catholic Youth Retreat, a jealous Kenny decides to take on his older brother’s role as ring leader of the bad kids. Home alone without the kids, Pat invites a new lady friend over, and Eileen can’t help but enlist Jodi to spy on them, with surprising results.

New Girl - "Dress" (Fox, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Jess races to make alterations to Cece’s bridal dress, while Schmidt tries to keep his “wedding workshop” a secret at work, and Nick struggles to ask Reagan to be his date to the nuptials. Meanwhile, Winston and Aly (guest star Nasim Pedrad) try to keep their relationship on the down-low at work.

Grandfathered - "The Memorial" (Fox, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Jimmy plans an emotional memorial service while processing a painful loss. Meanwhile, Sara is faced with a difficult decision after Craig asks her to take the next step in their relationship.

New Girl - "Return to Sender" (Fox, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Jess meets Sam’s (guest star David Walton) female best friend, Diane (guest star Caitlin Fitzgerald). Meanwhile, Nick is worried Gavin (guest star Peter Gallagher) will disappoint Schmidt (Max Greenfield) again and Winston is offended by a reaction to a birthday gift.

The Grinder - "Divergence" (Fox, 9:30PM ET/PT)
After finding out Dean Sr. is guilty, Stew thinks they should settle the case. Dean, of course, believes they should try to win, and wants to use one of his old “Grinder” tricks, by throwing himself into an unrelated sub plot that will lead him to what he needs to solve the case. Meanwhile, Stew is concerned that he is now “infected”.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of May 2)

Tuesday, May 3

  • Marc Maron (Maron) - Catch Marc on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC.
  • Dakota Johnson (Ben and Kate) - Dakota drops by The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Josh Hopkins (Cougar Town) - Josh appears on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Matt Walsh (Veep/Brooklyn Nine-Nine) - Matt is a guest on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Zoey Deutch (The Suite Lofe on Deck) - Zoey appears on Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Kate Micucci (Raising Hope/Scrubs) - Kate visits Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Morris Chestnut (Out All Night) - Morris talks about Rosewood on LIVE! with Kelly and Michael, so check your listings.
  • Jane Fonda (Grace and Frankie) - Jane stops by The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Fran Drescher (The Nanny/Happily Divorced) - Fran appears on The Meredith Vieira Show, so check your local listings.
  • Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family/The Class) - Jesse is a guest on People Now.