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

Tuesday, December 11

The Conners - "O Sister, Where Art Thou?" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
When Becky helps Harris keep a secret from Darlene, it opens up a can of worms that causes a rift between the two sisters. Jackie supports Peter with his Nordic history project, and Dan reunites with an old friend.

The Kids Are Alright - "Christmas 1972" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
When Peggy’s successful brother, Tom, drops in for Christmas, Mike immediately oozes with jealousy. Thus begins Mike’s one-sided competition with Tom, using his kids as pawns to help. After Tom gives the Clearys an extravagant Christmas gift, pride prevents Mike from taking it – putting him at odds with the rest of the family. Meanwhile, Timmy mistakenly receives $100 from his great-aunt for Christmas and contemplates whether he should do “the right thing” or keep it. Elsewhere, Eddie forgets to get Wendi a Christmas present and panic sets in.

black-ish - "Christmas in Theater Eight" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
The Johnsons have a tradition of going to the movies on Christmas and they can never agree on what to see. Dre wants to see an important film about Rosa Parks, but they all want to see the latest action-packed superhero blockbuster. Meanwhile, Junior becomes embarrassed about taking a gap year after he runs into his ex-girlfriend Megan at the theater.

Splitting Up Together - "Messy" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
After Lena and Vlad’s unexpected kiss, things get more complicated as they begin their new work partnership while working with a new client. Elsewhere, Martin goes to Paige’s house for more privacy and gets a glimpse into what a more typical divorced home life is, causing him to become uneasy. Back at home, Mason and Mae go head-to-head after Mae finds out that Mason has a crush on a pretentious girl at school.

The Guest Book - "Everybody Loves Clark" (TBS, 10:30PM ET/PT)
Tommy surprises Nikki with a spontaneous wedding ceremony; both are blithely oblivious to the fact that Vivian is kidnapping their child; some familiar faces from Mt. Trace return to sort things out.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of December 10)

Tuesday, December 11

  • Ron Livingston (Loudermilk/Search Party) - Catch Ron on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Whoopi Goldberg (Whoopi/Bagdad Cafe) - Whoopi visits The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Adam Pally (Making History/The Mindy Project/Happy Endings) - Adam is a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Ken Jeong (Dr. Ken/Community) - Ken appears on Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC. He also chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Vanessa Hudgens (Powerless) - Vanessa stops by Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Nicole Byer (Loosely Exactly Nicole) - Nicole is a guest on Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Ellen DeGeneres (Ellen/The Ellen Show) - Ellen drops by The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Jenny McCarthy (Two and a Half Men/Jenny) - Jenny appears on Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
  • Maura Tierney (NewsRadio) - Maura is a guest on E!'s Busy Tonight at 10pm.
  • Kathy Bates (Disjointed) - Kathy chats on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Ashton Kutcher (The Ranch/Two and a Half Men/That 70s Show) - Ashton guest co-hosts The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Eugene Levy (Schitt's Creek/Greg the Bunny/Hiller and Diller) and Catherine O'Hara (Schitt's Creek) - Eugene and Catherine are guests on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Alfonso Ribeiro (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air/In the House/Silver Spoons) - Alfonso and his wife Angela discuss holiday hacks on Access Live, so check your local listings.
  • Leah Remini (Kevin Can Wait/The Exes/Family Tools/The King of Queens/Fired Up) - Leah talks about Second Act on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am.
  • Jameela Jamil (The Good Place) - Jameela talks about The Good Place on NBC's Today in the 9am hour.
  • Dan Bucatinsky (Marry Me/Web Therapy/The Comeback) - Dan talks about Second Act on People Now at 12pm.
  • Marlo Thomas (That Girl) - Marlo discusses the season of giving thanks and the amazing efforts of St. Jude on the BUILD Series at 2pm.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (October/November)

The Beverly Hillbillies - The Official Fifth Season The Love Boat - Season Four - Volume One Saved by the Bell - The Complete Collection Alice - The Complete Eighth Season Step by Step - The Complete Third Season

10/02 - The Beverly Hillbillies - The Official Fifth Season
10/02 - Bob's Burgers - The Complete 6th Season
10/02 - Bob's Burgers - The Complete 7th Season
10/02 - Bob's Burgers - The Complete 8th Season
10/02 - Ghosted - The Complete First Season
10/02 - The Love Boat - Season Four - Volume One / Volume Two
10/02 - Police Squad! - TV and Movie Collection
10/02 - Saved by the Bell - The Complete Collection
10/16 - Community - The Complete Series (Mill Creek)
10/23 - Alice - The Complete Eighth Season
10/24 - The Odd Couple (2015) - Season Two
10/24 - The Odd Couple (2015) - Season Three
10/31 - The Bad News Bears - The Complete Series - All 26 Episodes
11/01 - Episodes - Season 5
11/05 - Robin Williams - Comic Genius (includes Mork & Mindy)
11/06 - American Dad! - Volume 13
11/16 - Man with a Plan - Season One
11/20 - Step by Step - The Complete Third Season
11/27 - What I Like About You - The Complete Third Season
12/04 - Family Guy - Season Sixteen
12/04 - Perfect Strangers - The Complete Sixth Season
12/18 - Our Cartoon President - Season One
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest