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>.


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Thursday, August 28

Two and a Half Men - "Tazed in the Lady Nuts" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Walden joins his beautiful former employee on a brilliant new project. Meanwhile, Alan advises Jenny to open up to her girlfriend or risk losing her. Odette Annable guest stars as Walden’s former employee, Nicole and Aly Michalka returns as Jenny’s girlfriend, Brooke.

The Millers - "Cancellation Fee" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Nathan tries to date his mother’s dentist in secret after Carol adds her to the Miller Family Blacklist for charging her a $75 cancellation fee for being late to her appointment. Meanwhile, Carol goes to great lengths to get her money back, and Tom can’t figure out why he keeps waking up with gum stuck in his hair.

Welcome to Sweden - "Separate Lives/Saknad" (NBC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Bruce (Greg Poehler) returns to the United States to help out his former client, Amy Poehler (guest starring as herself), who is in desperate need of his aid in resolving her financial issues. Back in Sweden, Emma (Josephine Bornebusch) remains unsure of where her relationship with Bruce stands, and has difficulties dealing with her ex-boyfriend Marcus (guest star Gustav Roth) who has resurfaced after being away. Meanwhile, Viveka (Lena Olin) yearns to recapture her youth and spends a girls night out on the town with Emma, but things don’t go quite as planned.

Welcome to Sweden - "Home/Återförening" (NBC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
After a night out, Bruce (Greg Poehler) finds himself in a compromising position with Aubrey Plaza (guest starring as herself). Emma (Josephine Bornebusch) and Gustav (Christopher Wagelin) do their best to reunite their parents Viveka (Lena Olin) and Birger (Claes Månsson). Meanwhile, Bruce runs into obstacles, including Amy (guest star Amy Poehler), who has her own agenda, in his quest to return to Sweden.

Married - "Waffles and Pizza" (FX, 10:00PM ET/PT)
AJ and Lina encourage Russ to consider a shady real estate deal. Jess's boss puts her in an uncompromising position.

You're the Worst - "Equally Dead Inside" (FX, 10:30PM ET/PT)
Jimmy opens up emotionally, which completely freaks Gretchen out.

Love That Girl - "The Kid Is Not My Son" (TV One, 9:30PM ET/PT)
Jasmine lands a broadcasting gig in Alaska so Delroy is forced to hire a temp. The temp, however, accuses Delroy of sexual harassment and it's up to Imunique to clear his name. And back in Alaska, Jasmine slowly finds out that she's been catfished by the Naked Bunny Channel.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of August 25) (All times ET unless noted)

Thursday, August 28

  • David Duchovny (Californication) - Catch David on a repeat of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Drew Carey (The Drew Carey Show/The Good Life) - Drew is a guest on a repeat of @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
  • Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother) - Jason appears on a repeat of Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Bill Cosby (The Cosby Show/Cosby/The Bill Cosby Show) - Bill chats on a repeat of The Arsenio Hall Show, so check your local listings.
  • Jason Biggs (Mad Love/Drexell's Class) - Jason guest co-hosts a repeat of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Jamie Foxx (The Jamie Foxx Show) - Jamie is a guest on a repeat of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Julie Bowen (Modern Family) - Julie appears on a repeat of The Queen Latifah Show on your local station or at 3am on BET.
  • Niecy Nash (The Soul Man/Getting On/Reno 911!) - Niecy discusses women's issues on a repeat of The Queen Latifah Show on your local station or at 3am on BET.
  • Molly Ephraim (Last Man Standing) - Molly shares behind-the-scenes stories from Last Man Standing on a repeat of Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • Timothy Simon (Veep) - Timothy is a guest on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.
  • The Cast of The Love Boat - Gavin MacLeod, Bernie Kopell, Ted Lange, Fred Grandy, Lauren Tewes, Jill Whelan and theme song singer Jack Jones are guests on a repeat of The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.