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 (April)

Barney Miller - The Complete Seventh Season Frasier - The Complete Series What's Happening!! - The Complete Series The Jeffersons - Season Seven Sgt. Bilko (The Phil Silvers Show) - The Second Season

04/07 - Barney Miller - The Complete Seventh Season
04/07 - The Brady Bunch - The Complete Series
04/07 - The Crazy Ones - The Complete First Season
04/07 - Frasier - The Complete Series
04/07 - King of the Hill - The Complete 9th Season
04/07 - King of the Hill - The Complete 10th Season
04/07 - 1600 Penn - The Complete Season 1
04/07 - Wanda at Large - The Complete First Season (WBShop.com)
04/07 - Wilfred - The Complete Season 4
04/14 - Growing Pains - The Complete Fourth Season (WBShop.com)
04/21 - What's Happening!! - The Complete Series (Mill Creek)
04/28 - I Love Lucy - I Love Mom Edition
04/28 - The Jeffersons - Season Seven
04/28 - Mama's Family - Mama's Favorites: Season 5
04/28 - Sgt. Bilko (The Phil Silvers Show) - The Second Season
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Saturday, April 18

Henry Danger - "The Bucket Trap" (Nickelodeon, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Henry and Charlotte want to tell Jasper that Henry is really Kid Danger. They decide to give Jasper a test secret to prove he's ready.

Bella and the Bulldogs - "Bulldog Buddies" (Nickelodeon, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Troy's feelings get hurt when his younger brother chooses Bella, instead of him, as his football mentor. Pepper worries about her future with Sawyer when her parents forbid her from having a boyfriend. Guest Star: Damarr Calhoun.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of April 20) (All times ET unless noted)

Sunday, April 19

  • Brandy Norwood (The Game/Moesha/Thea) - Catch Brandy on Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
Monday, April 20
  • John Travolta (Welcome Back, Kotter) - Watch John on The Late Show with David Letterman at 11:35pm on CBS. He will also be on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am.
  • John Stamos (Jake in Progress/Full House/You Again?) - John drops by Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Ron Funches (Undateable) - Ron is a guest on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
  • T.J. Miller (Silicon Valley/The Goodwin Games/Carpoolers) - T.J. appears on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
  • Dick Van Dyke (The Dick Van Dyke Show/The New Dick Van Dyke Show) - Dick is a guest on a repeat of Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Jenny Slate (Married/Parks and Recreation) - Jenny appears on a repeat of Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Josh Gad (The Comedians/1600 Penn/Back to You) - Josh chats on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Felicity Huffman (Sports Night) - Felicity stops by The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Alfonso Ribeiro (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air/Silver Spoons) - Alfonso appears on a repeat of The Queen Latifah Show on your local station or at 1am on BET.
  • Michael Rapaport (The War at Home) - Michael joins the Chew Crew on ABC's The Chew at 1pm ET/12pm PT/CT. He will also be on PIX11 Morning News on WPIX in New York at 8:15am.
  • Suzanne Cryer (Silicon Valley/Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place) - Suzanne talks about what to expect on the second season of Silicon Valley on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • Nick Kroll (The League/Cavemen) - Nick discusses his new film Adult Beginners and talks about saying goodbye to his sketch comedy series Kroll Show on HuffPost Live at 12pm.
  • Lily Tomlin (Malibu Country) - Lily discusses her new comedy Grandma and shares details on reuniting with Jane Fonda in the upcoming Netflix series Grace and Frankie (premiering May 8) on HuffPost Live at 12:30pm.
  • Kathryn Hahn (Happyish/Parks and Recreation/Free Agents) - Kathryn talks about Happyish on NBC's Today in the 9am hour.
  • Tamera Mowry (Sister, Sister/Roommates) - Tamera will be on People Now.
  • Wendy Raquel Robinson (The Game/The Steve Harvey Show/Minor Adjustments) - Wendy is a guest on The Real, so check your local listings.