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 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, 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
. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, First St. Martins Griffin ed.,
November 2005., the official Monty Python website. <>.
BBC News. "Took: Comedy with a Twist." <>. Sunday, March 31, 2002.
Hammill, Geoff. "Monty Python's Flying Circus: British Sketch Comedy/Farce/Parody/Satire Series." The Museum of Broadcast Communication (mbc). <>.

New on DVD/Blu-ray (November)

The Dick Van Dyke Show - The Complete Remastered Series (DVD) Maude - The Complete Third Season WKRP in Cincinnati - The Complete Final (Fourth) Season McHale's Navy - The Complete Series Sgt. Bilko (The Phil Silvers Show) - The Fourth Season

11/03 - Californication - The Complete Series
11/03 - Getting On - The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray)
11/03 - Hank (1965-66) - The Complete Series
11/03 - I Love Lucy - The Complete Series
11/03 - Men at Work - The Complete Second Season
11/03 - That '70s Show - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
11/03 - 'Til Death - The Complete Third Season
11/10 - The Dick Van Dyke Show - The Complete Remastered Series (DVD)
11/10 - Maude - The Complete Third Season
11/10 - WKRP in Cincinnati - The Complete Final (Fourth) Season
11/17 - The Comedians - The Complete Series
11/17 - Cristela - The Complete First Season
11/17 - McHale's Navy - The Complete Series
11/17 - Sgt. Bilko (The Phil Silvers Show) - The Fourth Season
11/17 - Weird Loners - The Complete Series
11/24 - George Lopez - The Complete Sixth Seaon
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest

Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Monday, November 30

Superstore - "Pilot" (NBC, 10:00PM ET/PT)
onah (Ben Feldman) begins his first day on the job at big-box store Cloud 9 and immediately starts a rocky relationship with floor supervisor Amy (America Ferrera) when he comes off as elitist and mistakenly marks appliances for only a quarter. He is also the romantic target of aggressive assistant manager Dina (Lauren Ash), whose bible is the employee code of conduct. Pregnant Cheyenne (Nichole Bloom) shares a memorable moment with her boyfriend, Bo (guest star Johnny Pemberton).

Superstore - "Magazine Profile" (NBC, 10:30PM ET/PT)
Store manager Glenn (Mark McKinney) gets overly excited when the Cloud 9 corporate magazine, Stratus, is interested in a story. The reporter, Cynthia (guest star Eliza Coupe), is more focused on Jonah (Ben Feldman), however, and the two develop a more-than-business relationship, which Amy (America Ferrera) had suspected. Garrett (Colton Dunn) does his best to avoid be photographed for the magazine's cover. Cheyenne (Nichole Bloom) asks her boyfriend, Bo (guest star Johnny Pemberton), to come up with a corporate jingle to help earn money to pay expenses for their upcoming baby.

Talia in the Kitchen - "Storm and Grubb" (Nickelodeon, 7:00PM ET/PT)
Talia hides from the hurricane, until a mysterious boy discovers her. Aunt Tilly returns to take Talia and Julie back to Boston.

Complete TV Listings

Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of November 30)

Monday, November 30

  • Terry Crews (Brooklyn Nine-Nine/Are We There Yet?) - Watch Terry on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Rob Schneider (Rob) - Rob appears on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Aziz Ansari (Parks and Recreation) - Aziz visits The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Richard Kind (Spin City/Mad About You) - Richard is a guest on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Alan Tudyk (Suburgatory) - Alan appears on Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Brent Morin and Rick Glassman (Undateable) - Brent and Rick are guests on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
  • David Spade (Rules of Engagement/8 Simple Rules/Just Shoot Me!) - David stops by Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Michael Chiklis (Daddio) - Michael visits LIVE! with Kelly and Michael, so check your listings.
  • Kim Fields (The Facts of Life/Living Single) - Kim dishes on the new season of The Real Housewives of Atlanta and talks about why she decided to join the show on a repeat of The Wendy Williams Show at 12am on BET or on your local stations.
  • Scott Foley (The Goodwin Games/A.U.S.A./Scrubs) - Scott drops by The Meredith Vieira Show, so check your local listings.
  • Loretta Devine (The Carmichael Show) - Loretta is a guest on The Real, so check your local listings.
  • America Ferrera (Superstore) - America talks about her new series Superstore on Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.
  • Bob Saget (Fuller House/How I Met Your Mother/Full House) - Bob is a guest on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am.
  • Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm/Suburgatory) - Cheryl talks about her movie Christmas Eve on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.