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

Monday, December 18

Kevin Can Wait - "The Might've Before Christmas" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT)
While Vanessa and the Gable family gather around the Christmas tree, Vanessa and Kevin reminisce about their first patrol together.

Man with a Plan - "Adam Gets Neighborly" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Adam and Andi try to get back in their neighbors’ good graces after no one shows up to their potluck. Sherri Shepherd and Tim Meadows guest star as Joy and Rudy Randall, the Burns’ new neighbors.

Superior Donuts - "Electile Dysfunction" (CBS, 9:00PM ET/PT)
When Arthur suddenly decides to run against Fawz in a local election, his campaign manager, Franco, tries to help his boss bring home a win. Also, Tush and Randy realize they crossed paths long before the donut shop, and the encounter was hardly sweet.

9JKL - "It Happened One Night" (CBS, 9:30PM ET/PT)
Josh and Nick coach their friend Luke (Tone Bell) on how to amicably break up with his girlfriend, Sydney (Ginger Gonzaga), so that it won’t jeopardize Josh’s spot in her coveted spin class. Also, Judy and Harry invite their rivals, Dick (Fred Willard) and Lenore (Christina Pickles) Stevenson, over to play bridge, and Andrew and Eve celebrate their anniversary with their own gift-giving tradition.

Tarantula - "Pajattery" (TBS, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Echo discovers Paja's secret and decides to share it with the rest of the Tarantula residents, with unforeseen consequences.

Tarantula - "Frog Flog" (TBS, 10:30PM ET/PT)
A rift develops in their friendship when Echo and Booty build their own hot springs.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of December 18)

Monday, December 18

  • Jim Gaffigan (The Jim Gaffigan Show/My Boys/Welcome to New York) - Watch Jim on a repeat of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Cristela Alonzo (Cristela) - Cristela is a guest on a repeat of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Anna Faris (Mom) - Anna appears on a repeat of The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Mark Hamill (The Texas Wheelers) - Mark is a guest on a repeat of The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Jenny Slate (Married/Parks and Recreation) - Jenny appears on a repeat of The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Bill Pullman (1600 Penn) - Bill stops by Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Anna Camp (The Mindy Project) - Anna visits Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
  • Laura Dern (F Is for Family/Enlightened) - Laura is a guest on a repeat of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Patti LaBelle (Out All Night) - Patti performs the holiday classic Don't Save It All For Christmas Day on Harry, so check your local listings.
  • Henry Winkler (Happy Days/Monty/Out of Practice) - Henry drops by Access Hollywood Live and Harry, so check your local listings.
  • Leslie Odom Jr. (Big Day) - Leslie is a guest on Steve, so check your local listings.
  • Jenifer Lewis (black-ish) - Jenifer chats with the ladies of The View on a repeat on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy/American Dad!/The Cleveland Show) - Seth appears on the BUILD Series at 5pm.


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

The Wayans Bros. - The Complete Third Season Living Single - The Complete Third Season Alice - The Complete Sixth Season One Day at a Time - The Complete Series Fuller House - The Complete Second Season

11/07 - American Dad! - Volume 12
11/07 - Family Guy - Season Fifteen
11/07 - The Wayans Bros. - The Complete Third Season
11/14 - D.C. Follies - The Complete Series
11/21 - Living Single - The Complete Third Season
11/24 - Grandfathered - Season 1
12/05 - Alice - The Complete Sixth Season
12/05 - One Day at a Time - The Complete Series
12/05 - The Simpsons - The Eighteenth Season
12/05 - South Park - The Complete First Season (Blu-ray) / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5
12/12 - Fuller House - The Complete Second Season
12/19 - South Park - The Complete Sixth Season (Blu-ray) / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest