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 (March)

Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. - The Complete Series Bewitched - Seasons 5 & 6 (Mill Creek) Maude - The Complete Series WKRP in Cincinnati - The Complete First Season (Shout! Factory) The Donna Reed Show - Season 2 (MPI Home Video)

03/03 - CHiPs - The Complete Third Season
03/10 - Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. - The Complete Series
03/10 - Hey Dude - The Complete Series (Walmart Exclusive)
03/10 - Petticoat Junction - Family Favorite Episodes
03/17 - Bewitched - Season 5 (Mill Creek)
03/17 - Bewitched - Season 6 (Mill Creek)
03/17 - Bewitched - Seasons 5 & 6 (Mill Creek)
03/17 - Maude - The Complete Series (Shout! Factory)
03/17 - WKRP in Cincinnati - The Complete First Season (Shout! Factory)
03/17 - WKRP in Cincinnati - The Complete Second Season (Shout! Factory)
03/24 - The Donna Reed Show - Season 2 (MPI Home Video)
03/31 - Silicon Valley - Season 1 (Blu-ray)
03/31 - Veep - The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Tuesday, March 3

Fresh Off the Boat - "Showdown at the Golden Saddle" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Things are looking up for the Huangs when Louis gets the restaurant a billboard in a prime spot in Orlando. They even get an invite to the country club. But when someone repeatedly vandalizes the billboard, they’re left wondering why. Eddie works hard to get the attention of the girl he’s crushing on (Luna Blaise as Nicole), but it doesn’t help matters when his mom hires her to babysit him.

New Girl - "Walk of Shame" (Fox, 9:00PM ET/PT)
After a night of partying at Bearclaw’s (guest star Josh Gad), Jess and Cece make their way back to the loft and run into a familiar face. Meanwhile, Coach worries about bringing Nick and Winston around his sophisticated new girlfriend, May (guest star Meaghan Rath).

The Mindy Project - "Fertility Bites" (Fox, 9:30PM ET/PT)
Mindy’s fertility clinic opens. But with zero track record in the fertility field, attracting new patients is tougher than she imagined. Meanwhile, at Shulman & Associates, the nurses try to raise money for obese nurses while trying to get to know Dr. Bergdahl.

Cougar Town - "Two Men Talking" TBS, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Fearing that her dad, Chick, is lonely, Jules tries to set him up with Grayson as a best friend. Laurie helps Andy fit in with a cool mom group and Travis and Ellie open up to each other in the Winebulance.

Sirens - "Let Pytons Be Pythons" (USA Network, 10:00PM ET/PT)
A car crash at a firehouse releases an unusual passenger; Billy accompanies Theresa and Maeve to a sample sale.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of March 2) (All times ET unless noted)

Tuesday, March 3

  • Tom Hanks (Bosom Buddies) - Catch Tom on a repeat of The Late Show with David Letterman at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Bridgit Mendler (Undateable/Good Luck Charlie/Wizards of Waverly Place) - Bridgit is a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Drew Carey (The Drew Carey Show/The Good Life) - Drew guest co-hosts The Late Late Show at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Angela Kinsey (The Hotwives of Orlando/The Office) - Angela appears on The Late Late Show at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Anne Heche (Save Me/The Michael J. Fox Show) - Anne visits Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • J.B. Smoove (The Millers/'Til Death/Curb Your Enthusiasm) - J.B. talks about the new season of Four Courses with J.B. Smoove and MSG's Garden of Laughs comedy show on a repeat of The Wendy Williams Show at 12am on BET or on your local stations.
  • Kendra C. Johnson (Tyler Perry's Love Thy Neighbor) - Kendra stops by The Real, so check your local listings.
  • Cristela Alonzo (Cristela) - Cristela guest co-hosts The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Anthony Anderson (black-ish/Guys with Kids/All About the Andersons) - Anthony is a guest on Rachael Ray, so check your local listings.
  • Robbie Amell (1600 Penn/True Jackson, VP/Life with Derek) - Robbie talks about The Flash and The Duff on The Better Show, so check your local listings.
  • Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm) - Larry talks about Fish in the Dark on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am.
  • Jeremy Sisto (Suburgatory) - Jeremy talks about A&E's The Returned on NBC's Today in the 10am hour. He will also be on HuffPost Live at 4:30pm.
  • Forrest Wheeler and Ian Chen (Fresh Off the Boat) - Forrest and Ian talk about their new comedy series on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • Ming-Na Wen (The Single Guy) - Ming-Na Wen will be on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am.
  • Juliette Lewis (I Married Dora) - Juliette joins the Chew Crew on ABC's The Chew at 1pm ET/12pm PT/CT.
  • Molly Ringwald (Townies/The Facts of Life) - Molly talks about The Breakfast Club's 30th Anniversary on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am and in the 9am hour.
  • Mo'Nique (The Parkers) - Mo'Nique is a guest on Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.
  • Alyssa Milano (Who's the Boss?/Romantically Challenged) - Alyssa guest co-hosts The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.