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>.

Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Tuesday, July 22

Family Guy - "Herpe, the Love Sore" (Fox, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Brian gives Stewie an STD. Meanwhile, Peter and the guys fight back when another group claims their booth at The Drunken Clam.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine - "Operation: Broken Feather" (Fox, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Jake and Amy investigate a string of hotel robberies together, but Jake turns on her when he finds out she may leave the Nine-Nine to work in the Special Crimes unit with “The Vulture” (guest star Dean Winters). Meanwhile Captain Holt and Sergeant Jeffords strategize to make the precinct more efficient.

The Mindy Project - "You've Got Sext" (Fox, 9:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
When Mindy tells Danny she has a crush, he thinks she’s talking about him instead of Cliff, the lawyer (guest star Glenn Howerton). Meanwhile, Morgan and Peter find Mindy’s phone and respond to a text from Cliff, which starts off innocently, but escalates into something that may lead to unintended romantic consequences.

The Mindy Project - "French Me, You Idiot" (Fox, 9:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Mindy (Mindy Kaling) and Danny (Chris Messina) confront the consequences of their relationship after their kiss. Meanwhile, Jeremy (Ed Weeks) and Peter (Adam Pally) devise a plan to poach patients from a competing practice that has shut down.

Sullivan & Son - "Lyle & Son" (TBS, 10:00PM ET/PT)
When Steve's old rival, Lyle Winkler (Billy Gardell) opens a bar across the street, we find out he's out to take Steve down as payback for a childhood wrestling match. They settle their differences with a big bartending competition. Meanwhile, Carol's new boss at the DMV, Ralph (Frank Caliendo) drives her crazy with impressions.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of July 21) (All times ET unless noted)

Tuesday, July 22

  • John Stamos (Full House/Jake in Progress) - Catch John on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Nia Long (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) - Nia visits LIVE! with Kelly and Michael, so check your listings.
  • Tom Lennon (Sean Saves the World/Reno 911!) - Tom is a guest on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
  • Michael Rapaport (The War at Home) - Michael appears on a repeat of The Arsenio Hall Show, so check your local listings.
  • Jason Biggs (Mad Love/Drexell's Class) - Jason guest co-hosts The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Lori Loughlin (Full House) - Lori talks about her career and Hallmark Channel series When Calls the Heart on Katie, so check your local listings.
  • Steve Byrne (Sullivan & Son) - Steve stops by Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • Laura Prepon (That '70s Show/Are You There, Chelsea?) - Laura appears on The Queen Latifah Show on your local station or at 3am on BET.
  • Kevin Hart (The Big House/Undeclared) - Kevin is a guest on a repeat of The Steve Harvey Show, so check your local listings.
  • Gillian Jacobs (Community) - Gillian joins the Chew Crew on a repeat of ABC's The Chew at 1pm ET/12pm PT/CT.
  • Jennie Garth and Tori Spelling (Mystery Girls) - Jennie and Tori stop by to chat about Mystery Girls on Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.
  • Mark Feuerstein (Good Morning, Miami) - Mark will be on HuffPost Live.