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/April)

The Jamie Foxx Show - The Complete Second Season What I Like About You - The Complete Second Season Newhart - The Final (Eighth) Season Diff'rent Strokes - The Complete Fifth Season Father Knows Best - Season Five

03/03 - The Dick Van Dyke Show - Now... In Living Color! (Blu-ray)
03/07 - The Jamie Foxx Show - The Complete Second Season
03/07 - Mama's Family - Mama's Favorites
03/07 - That '70s Show - The Complete Series - Flashback Edition (Blu-ray)
03/07 - What I Like About You - The Complete Second Season
03/07 - You Me Her - Season One
03/14 - Newhart - The Final (Eighth) Season
03/14 - Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - Season Two
03/21 - Master of None - Season One
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
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Monday, April 24

The Big Bang Theory - "The Property Division Collision" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Sheldon and Leonard try to divvy up their shared belongings, but can’t agree on anything. Also, Koothrappali and Stuart fight to be the most helpful during Bernadette’s final weeks of pregnancy. Christopher Lloyd guest stars as Theodore.

Superior Donuts - "Pilot" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Emmy Award winner Judd Hirsch and comedian Jermaine Fowler star in a new comedy about the relationship between Arthur, the gruff owner of a small donut shop, his enterprising new young employee, Franco, and their loyal patrons in a quickly gentrifying Chicago neighborhood.

Kevin Can Wait - "Kevin vs. the Dutch Elm" (CBS, 9:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
As Kevin tries to charm his neighbor into giving him permission to cut down one of her trees, he becomes intimidated by her imposing son, Rutger (retired MMA Fighter and UFC Heavyweight Champion Bas Rutten), and invites them over for a non-existent party.

2 Broke Girls - "And the '80s Movie" (CBS, 9:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
As Max and Caroline, now part owners of the diner, put the finishing touches on their newly converted Dessert Bar, Max deals with the aftermath of her recent breakup with Randy, and Sophie and Oleg prepare for the birth of their baby.

American Dad - "A Nice Night for a Drive" (TBS, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Klaus gets transferred into the navigation system of Stan's car when Stan refuses to pay for life-saving surgery; Steve and his friends prank Roger, who then terrorizes them for revenge.

Angie Tribeca - "Brockman Turner Overdrive" (TBS, 10:30PM ET/PT)
When a beloved badminton star is the suspect of a hit-and-run, everyone turns a blind eye except Tribeca and Geils.

Young & Hungry - "Young & Couchy" (Freeform, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Gabi creates a problem when she sells the ugly, used couch Sofia received from her boss.

Baby Daddy - "The Sonny-moon" (Freeform, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Ben becomes jealous when Bonnie sends Danny on a cruise to celebrate his impending fatherhood.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of April 24)

Monday, April 24

  • Lena Dunham (Girls) - Watch Lena on a repeat of Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family) - Eric appears on a repeat of Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Kathryn Hahn (Happyish/Transparent/Free Agents) - Kathryn drops by The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC. She also talks about the new series I Love Dick on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.
  • Allison Janney (Mom/Mr. Sunshine) - Allison appears on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS. She also chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Jim Gaffigan (The Jim Gaffigan Show/My Boys/Welcome to New York) - Jim visits Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Andrea Martin (Great News/Difficult People/Working the Engels) - Andrea stops by Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Briga Heelan (Great News/Ground Floor) - Briga is a guest on Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Matt Walsh (Veep), Mary Holland (Blunt Talk) and Timothy Simons (Veep) - Matt, Mary and Timothy are guests on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
  • Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley) - Kumail drops by Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • John Leguizamo (The Brothers Garcia) - John guest co-hosts LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
  • Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother) - Cobie talks about making her Broadway debut in Present Laughter on LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
  • Katie Gill (Baby Daddy) - Katie is a guest on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • Lisa Kudrow (Friends/The Comeback) - Lisa joins Clinton Kelly in the kitchen to make a delicious dessert with an ingredient she’s never had before—Rhubarb on ABC's The Chew at 1pm ET/12pm PT/CT.
  • Alfonso Ribeiro (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air/In the House/Silver Spoons) - Alfonso will be on NBC's Today in the 9am hour.
  • Kate Walsh (Bad Judge/The Drew Carey Show) - Kate talks about 13 Reasons Why on the AOL Build Show at 11am.
  • Ron Howard (Happy Days/The Andy Griffith Show) - Ron is a guest on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.