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 (May)

Mad About You - The Complete Series The Jim Gaffigan Show Newhart - The Complete Fifth Season The Facts of Life - The Final (Ninth) Season The Wonder Years - Season Five

05/03 - Mad About You - The Complete Series
05/03 - The Jim Gaffigan Show - Season One
05/10 - Newhart - The Complete Fifth Season
05/17 - Angie Tribeca - The Complete First Season
05/17 - The Facts of Life - The Final (Ninth) Season
05/24 - The Wonder Years - Season Five
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Thursday, May 26

Modern Family - "Clean Out Your Junk Drawer" (ABC, 10:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Gloria won a bid at the school auction for a family seminar with famed doctor and author Debra Radcliffe, whose self-help book ‘Clean Out Your Junk Drawer’ encourages people get out all their emotional junk to become healthier people and in turn better partners and spouses. Jay is resistant to the whole experience and can’t get away fast enough; Mitch and Cam decide to keep it very surface level so they can come off as super stable; and Phil and Claire also make it competitive and strive to be the best and strongest couple of the group. Things quickly escalate, though, as junk starts flying. Elsewhere, Haley and Alex meet up and counsel each other on their boy problems.

black-ish - "Sink or Swim" (ABC, 10:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
After Dre notices that his neighbor Janine has never invited his family to any of her pool parties, he assumes she is racially stereotyping them as a family that doesn’t swim. The kids are shocked to find out that, in fact, Dre doesn’t know how to swim. At work, Dre shares the story with his colleagues, and Daphne Lido is not convinced it’s a race thing, so Dre confronts Janine directly. Meanwhile, Jack and Diane are a part of the Girls’ and Boys’ Rovers Organization, and they envy each other’s activities.

The Big Bang Theory - "The Empathy Optimization" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
After having to deal with a sick Sheldon, Leonard, Penny and the gang try to treat themselves to a Sheldon-free weekend.

Life in Pieces - "Sleepy Email Brunch Tree" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
When Matt invites Colleen to brunch with the family, he coaches her through the difficult task of connecting with them. Also, John, Matt and Greg try to prove their masculinity by cutting down a tree in Greg's backyard, Tim has an adverse reaction to espresso, and a sleep-deprived Greg has a run-in with the cops.

Mom - "Terrorists and Gingerbread" (CBS, 9:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Christy and Bonnie have different ideas about forgiveness when Bonnie's mother, Shirley, who abandoned her as a small child, suddenly wants to be a part of their lives. Academy Award winner Ellen Burstyn guest stars as Bonnie’s mother, Shirley. June Squibb guest stars as Dottie.

The Odd Couple - "All About Eavesdropping" (CBS, 9:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
After Oscar and Felix become obsessed with eavesdropping on their bickering neighbors, they try to subtly intervene and help them save their marriage. Also, Emily and Dani’s friendship is tested when they train together to race to the top of the Empire State Building.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of May 23)

Thursday, May 26

  • Lizzy Caplan (The Class/Party Down) - Catch Lizzy on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Mike Epps (Uncle Buck/Survivor's Remorse) - Mike is a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Sarah Silverman (The Sarah Silverman Program) - Sarah visits Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC. She also chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • David Alan Grier (The Carmichael Show/Life with Bonnie/DAG) - David stops by Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Rebel Wilson (Super Fun Night) - Rebel is a guest on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • David Schwimmer (Friends) - David drops by The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • David Spade (Rules of Engagement/8 Simple Rules/Just Shoot Me!) - David appears on Conan at 11pm on TBS. He also talks about Netflix's The Do-Over on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am.
  • Natasha Leggero (Dice/Another Period/Free Agents) - Natasha visits Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Andy Samberg (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) - Andy is a guest on Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
  • Megan Fox (Hope & Faith) - Megan previews the film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows on LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
  • Dave Coulier (Fuller House/Full House) - Dave appears on a repeat of The Meredith Vieira Show, so check your local listings.
  • Michael Urie (Partners) - Michael is a guest on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 12:30pm ET.
  • Brandy (Zoe Ever After/The Game/Moesha) - Brandy opens up about her private health battle and how she fought her way back on The Dr. Oz Show, so check your local listings.
  • Jennifer Lawrence (The Bill Engvall Show) - Jennifer and the cast of X-Men: Apocalypse will be interviewed on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am.
  • Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family/The Class) - Jesse is a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Kevin Nealon (Weeds/Hiller and Diller/Champs) - Kevin appears on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Jerrod Carmichael (The Carmichael Show) - Jerrod is a guest on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Janet Hubert (The Real) - Janet appears on a repeat of The Real, so check your local listings.