Sunday, August 31, 2008
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.
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.,
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>.
The Middle - "The Christmas Tree" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
When Axl comes home from college for Christmas vacation but would rather spend time with his friends over family, he and Frankie must come up with a time management agreement that will satisfy both of them, Meanwhile, Sue's severe allergic reaction to the Christmas tree threatens to ruin her holiday, and after it’s discovered that Brick lied to the school about his Christmas wrapping paper sales, he finds himself running a mini Ponzi scheme in an attempt to pay back the debt.
Back in the Game - "I'll Slide Home for Christmas" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
When Terry tries to plan a special family Christmas, The Cannon opts to spend the holiday with his old war buddies, causing a major divide in the household. Meanwhile, Danny rallies the Angles to help him give his mom the best Christmas gift ever – The Angles first win. Elliot Gould (“MASH”) guest stars.
Modern Family - "The Old Man & the Tree" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Jay takes Manny out to cut down their own Christmas tree, and Gloria is on edge with mom in town, but changes her tune when she sees her bonding with Claire. Elsewhere, Mitchell is forced to do last minute shopping when they didn’t get Lily the right gift, and Cameron takes Lily to a charity event where they experience the true meaning of Christmas. Emmy Award Winner Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”) directs, and Elizabeth Peña (“La Bamba”) returns as a guest star.
Super Fun Night - "Merry Super Fun Christmas" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
Richard reluctantly drives Kimmie, Marika and Helen-Alice to a remote cut-your-own Xmas tree lot upstate, but the trip over the river and through the woods goes terribly wrong when Marika gets them lost and they run out of gas… on Christmas Eve. They think they’re saved when they find a beautiful cabin miraculously stocked with a holiday feast... until the cranky old man who lives there (guest star Paul Dooley) shows up. Meanwhile, Kendall goes it alone with her frosty parents (guest stars Alan Ruck and Mo Gaffney).
Melissa & Joey - "A New Kind of Christmas" (ABC Family, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Mel's sister Meredith gets a furlough from prison and drops by to spend Christmas with Mel and the children.
Baby Daddy - "Emma's First Christmas" (ABC Family, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Ben's quest to procure Emma the hottest toy of the Christmas season creates ill will; Tucker and Riley help Bonnie with holiday decorating.
Kirstie - "Arlo's Birthday" (TV Land, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Maddie is impressed with her son's karaoke abilities, and decides to make him a star.
The Exes - "True Lies" (TV Land, 10:30PM ET/PT)
Eden shares a secret about herself and Phil with Holly, who blabs to Stuart and Haskell, testing boundaries within the group.
Tyler Perry's For Better or Worse - "Sleep Talking" (OWN, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Angela believes Marcus is having an affair after she hears him talking about another woman in his sleep.
Tyler Perry's For Better or Worse - "Stalked" (OWN, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Joseph displays a bit of erratic behavior when he feels Leslie's life is in danger.
Wednesday, December 11
- Ken Jeong (Community) - Watch Ken on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno at 11:35pm on NBC.
- Bradley Whitford (Trophy Wife) - Bradley stops by Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
- Jim Gaffigan (My Boys/Welcome to New York) - Jim visits The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson at 12:37am on CBS.
- Candice Bergen (Murphy Brown) - Candice is a guest on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon at 12:37am on NBC.
- Kathy Griffin (Suddenly Susan) and Whitney Cummings (Whitney) - Kathy and Whitney are part of the guest panel on Chelsea Lately on E! at 11pm.
- Tom Hanks (Bosom Buddies) - Tom continues to make the rounds on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
- Kirstie Alley (Kirstie/Veronica's Closet/Cheers) - Kirstie talks about her return to television in Kirstie on The Wendy Williams Show at 12am on BET or on your local stations.
- Alyssa Milano (Who's the Boss?/Romantically Challenged) - Tune in to see Alyssa on The Queen Latifah Show, so check your local listings.
- J.B. Smoove (The Millers/Curb Your Enthusiasm) - J.B. is a guest on The Queen Latifah Show, so check your local listings.