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 (July/August)

Family Matters - The Complete Seventh Season Hangin' with Mr. Cooper - The Complete First Season Maude - The Complete Final (Sixth) Season Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season Three Superstore - Season One

07/08 - The Monkees - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
07/12 - Grady - The Best of Grady
07/20 - Bob's Burgers - The Complete 5th Season
07/26 - Family Matters - The Complete Seventh Season (WBShop.com)
07/26 - Where's Huddles? - The Complete Series (WBShop.com)
08/02 - Hangin' with Mr. Cooper - The Complete First Season (WBShop.com)
08/09 - Maude - The Complete Final (Sixth) Season
08/23 - Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season Three
08/23 - Superstore - Season One
08/23 - The Wonder Years - Complete Series (New Slipcase Version)
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Sunday, August 28

The Simpsons - "The Burns Cage" (Fox, 7:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
When Smithers is devastated by Burns’ lack of affection towards him, Homer makes it his mission to find him a boyfriend. Meanwhile, after Bart orchestrates the removal of the lead in the school’s stage production of “Casablanca,” Milhouse serves as a terrible understudy, which frustrates his co-star, Lisa.

The Simpsons - "Teenage Mutant Milk-Caused Hurdles" (Fox, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
A new teacher arrives (guest voice Sofia Vergara) at Springfield Elementary, and a captivated Bart tries everything to win her over. Meanwhile, Homer decides to buy a new brand of “milk,” which causes early puberty, both for Bart (augmenting his wooing powers) and Lisa (whose small bout with acne opens her up to the world of makeup and popularity).

Brooklyn Nine-Nine - "The Oolong Slayer" (Fox, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
When investigating a serial killer, Jake enlists Holt’s help in an attempt to solve the case off the radar. At the precinct, Rosa and Amy are forced to deal with demands from an old adversary and Terry discovers a new obsession.

Family Guy - "The Heartbreak Dog" (Fox, 9:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Meg begins working at a retirement community and starts stealing from the residents. Then Chris finds out and wants in on the heist. When the residents catch them, they blackmail them and force the thieves to listen to all of their boring stories.

The Last Man on Earth - "Fourth Finger" (Fox, 9:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
With little else to do, Tandy starts a prank war within the group. Meanwhile Todd establishes his dominance.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of August 29)

Monday, August 29

  • Tika Sumpter (The Game) - Watch Tika on Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC. She also talks about Southside with You on NBC's Today in the 9am hour and on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 12:30pm ET.
  • Jerrod Carmichael (The Carmichael Show) - Jerrod is a guest on Tavis Smiley on PBS, so check your local listings.
  • Walton Goggins (Vice Principals) - Walton appears on Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Fred Savage (The Grinder/Working/The Wonder Years) - Fred guest co-hosts LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
  • Jerry O'Connell (We Are Men/Carpoolers/My Secret Identiy) - Jerry is a guest on a repeat of The Wendy Williams Show at 12:05am on BET or on your local stations.
  • Chris D'Elia, Ron Funches, Rick Glassman and Brent Morin - The cast of Undateable are guests on a repeat of The Real, so check your local listings.
  • Sally Field (Gidget/The Flying Nun) - Sally whips up a delicious Pea Pesto & Potatoes with Mario Batali on a repeat of ABC's The Chew at 1pm ET/12pm PT/CT.
  • Valerie Bertinelli (Hot in Cleveland/One Day at a Time) - Valerie bakes up her Sicilian Love Cake for dessert on a repeat of Rachael Ray, so check your local listings.
  • Tyler Labine (Deadbeat/Animal Practice/Mad Love/Sons of Tucson) - Tyler talks about Zoom on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • Emeril Lagasse (Emeril) - Emeril explains the surprising origins of his catchphrase “Bam!” on People Now at 8:30am.