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 (June)

Ballers - The Complete First Season The League - Season 7 - The Final Fantasy Maude - The Complete Fifth Season Workaholics - Season Six Two Guys and a Girl - The Complete Series

06/14 - Ballers - The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
06/14 - The League - Season 7 - The Final Fantasy
06/14 - The League - The Complete Series
06/14 - Maude - The Complete Fifth Season
06/14 - Survivor's Remorse - The Complete Second Season
06/21 - Workaholics - Season Six
06/24 - The Monkees - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
06/28 - Two Guys and a Girl - The Complete Series
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Monday, June 27

Mom - "Snickerdoodle and a Nip Slip" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
When Christy catches the eye of Candace’s wealthy, charming father, Fred, Candace and Baxter are outraged, while Bonnie pushes Christy to give him a chance. Harry Hamlin guest stars as Candace’s wealthy father, Fred. Sara Rue returns as Candace.

2 Broke Girls - "And the Basketball Jones" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Oleg’s pro-basketball playing cousin comes to town to play a game against Max’s favorite team and gifts her with two free tickets, but chaos ensues when the girls interfere with the game and risk ruining their cupcake business’ reputation in the process.

American Dad - "Standard Deviation" (TBS, 8:30PM ET/PT)
To avoid a suicide mission, Stan must beat Bullock in a DJ battle; Jeff starts drinking psychedelic teas and builds an imaginary musical instrument with Roger's help.

Angie Tribeca - "A Coldie but a Goodie" (TBS, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Tribeca believes that a 102-year-old's death isn't as natural as everyone thinks, but her concerns aren't heard because of her probation.

Odd Mom Out - "Fasting and Furious" (Bravo, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Jill's parents come to town to celebrate Yom Kippur and to take care of a matter of life and death; Vanessa flirts with the idea of a breakup; Brooke continues to punish Lex for betraying her.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of June 27)

Monday, June 27

  • Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family) - Watch Eric on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Nia Long (Uncle Buck/The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) - Nia is a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Marc Maron (Maron) - Marc appears on a repeat of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC.
  • Jenny Slate (Married/Bob's Burgers) - Jenny stops by The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Connie Britton (Spin City/The Fighting Fitzgeralds/Lost at Home) - Connie is a guest on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Natasha Leggero (Another Period/Free Agents) - Natasha appears on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Zach Woods (Silicon Valley/Playing House/The Office) - Zach appears on a repeat of The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Greg Proops (True Jackson, VP) - Greg is a guest on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
  • Jill Kargman (Odd Mom Out) - Jill visits Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
  • Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation) - Aubrey appears on Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • D.L. Hughley (The Hughleys) - D.L. guest co-hosts LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
  • Demi Lovato (Sonny with a Chance) - Demi appears on a repeat of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Kellita Smith (The First Family/The Bernie Mac Show) - Kellita stops by The Real, so check your local listings.
  • Jamie Lynn Spears (Zoey 101) - Jamie reveals that her husband and daughter are hounding her for more children on People Now at 8:30am.
  • Craig Bierko (Unhitched/Madman of the People/Sydney) - Craig is a guest on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 12:30pm ET.
  • Michaela Watkins (Casual/Trophy Wife) - Michaela talks about Hulu's Casual on the AOL Build ShoW at 11am.
  • Louis C.K. (Louie) and Kevin Hart (The Big House/Undeclared) - Louis and Kevin talk about The Secret Life of Pets on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am.
  • Tony Shalhoub (We Are Men/Wings)- Tony will be on CBS This Morning sometime between 7-9am.
  • Arsenio Hall (Arsenio) - Arsenio guest co-hosts Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.