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/May)

Diff'rent Strokes - The Complete Fifth Season Father Knows Best - Season Five The Wayans Bros. - The Complete Second Season ALF - The Complete DVD Collection The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air - The Complete Series

04/04 - Diff'rent Strokes - The Complete Fifth Season
04/11 - Father Knows Best - Season Five
04/11 - Schitt's Creek - The Complete Third Season
04/11 - Silicon Valley - The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)
04/11 - Veep - The Complete Fifth Season
05/02 - Red, White and Blue Collar Sitcoms - Make TV Great Again
05/09 - ALF - The Complete DVD Collection
05/09 - Divorce - The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
05/09 - The Wayans Bros. - The Complete Second Season
05/16 - The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air - The Complete Series
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Monday, May 22

Angie Tribeca - "License to Drill" (TBS, 10:30PM ET/PT)
Geils lands in trouble when he helps a woman investigate whether her husband is having an affair.

Young & Hungry - "Young & Amnesia" (Freeform, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Gabi attempts to cure Josh's amnesia by re-creating the first time they met.

Baby Daddy - "Daddy's Girl" (Freeform, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Riley is confined to the couch; Ben struggles to answer Emma's questions about her mother.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of May 22)

Monday, May 22

  • Chelsea Handler (Are You There, Chelsea?) - Watch Chelsea on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC. She chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Kyle Chandler (What About Joan?) - Kyle appears on Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC. He also talks about Bloodline on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am.
  • Michaela Watkins (Casual/Trophy Wife) - Michaela is a guest on Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Seaton Smith (Mulaney) - Seaton stops by Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Nicole Richie (Great News) - Nicole visits Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
  • Nico Tortorella (Younger) - Nico appears on Harry, so check your local listings.
  • Kym Whitley (Young & Hungry/Animal Practice/The Parkers) - Kym guest co-hosts The Real, so check your local listings.
  • Tichina Arnold (Survivor's Remorse/Happily Divorced/Everybody Hates Chris/Martin) - Tichina appears on Harry, so check your local listings.
  • Brenda Strong (The Help/Scorch) - Brenda talks about Supergirl on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • Tituss Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) - Tituss joins Clinton Kelly to whip up a delicious delight on ABC's The Chew at 1pm ET/12pm PT/CT.
  • Patti LaBelle (Out All Night) - Patti performs a jazz song from her new album on Steve Harvey, so check your local listings.
  • Loretta Devine and Lil Rel Howery (The Carmichael Show) - Loretta and Lil are guests on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 11:30am ET.
  • Zoe Lister-Jones (Life in Pieces/Friends with Better Lives/Whitney) - Zoe talks about her new comedy Band Aid on the AOL Build Show 1pm.
  • Ellie Reed (Girlboss) - Ellie talks about Girlboss on the AOL Build Show at 5pm.