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

Wednesday, October 18

The Goldbergs - "Revenge o' the Nerds" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
With the children growing up, Beverly decides to reinvent herself and quits being a substitute teacher. She decides to focus her energy on going to night school so she can eventually own her own business. Murray doesn’t like change or things costing money, so he convinces her to get a perm instead. Meanwhile, Erica struggles to balance her academic and social life in college and needs Adam’s assistance.

Speechless - "T-R-- TRAINING D-A-- DAY" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Jimmy takes JJ camping to give him “the talk,” Maya trains a ragtag group of new aides, and sparks fly between Dylan and Ray’s bully.

Modern Family - "Sex, Lies & Kickball" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Jay’s best friend, Shorty, is back from Costa Rica and stays at the house so they can catch up and reconnect. However, Shorty is spending more time with Gloria and seems to be avoiding Jay. Meanwhile, Alex is ready to shed her good-girl image and is going to prove to Claire that her relationship with Ben is definitely a sexual relationship.

American Housewife - "The Lice Storm" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
When Anna-Kat brings home a lice infestation, Katie uses it to force bonding time with Taylor. Greg attempts to bond with Oliver (and avoid lice) by camping in the backyard, but Greg becomes concerned when Oliver keeps ditching their campout to be with their new sleazy neighbor named Spencer.

You're the Worst - "A Bunch of Hornballs" (FXX, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Jimmy goes out of town for a Romance/Erotica fiction convention while Gretchen throws a divorce party for Lindsay, leading to an unintended deepening of Gretchen's relationship with Boone. Meanwhile, Edgar's friend Max encourages him to overspend on party planning.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of October 16)

Wednesday, October 18

  • Paul Shaffer (A Year at the Top) - Paul sits in with Cleto and The Cletones on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Kaitlin Olson (The Mick/It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) - Kaitlin is a guest on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project/The Office) - Mindy appears on a repeat of The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Olivia Munn (Perfect Couples) - Olivia is a guest on a repeat of The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • James Van Der Beek (What Would Diplo Do?/Friends with Better Lives/Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23) - James appears on a repeat of Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Valerie Bertinelli (Hot in Cleveland/Café Americain/One Day at a Time) - Valerie visits Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
  • Woody Harrelson (Cheers) and Rob Reiner (All in the Family) - Woody and Rob chat with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT. They also talk about LBJ on the AOL Build Show at 2:30pm.
  • Jay Pharoah (White Famous) - Jay appears on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Laura Dern (F Is for Family/Enlightened) - Laura stops by The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Kim Fields (The Facts of Life/Living Single) - Kim talks about A Question of Faith on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am. She will also be on The Real, so check your local listings.
  • Pooch Hall (The Game/Accidentally on Purpose) - Pooch guest co-hosts The Real, so check your local listings.
  • Kimberly Williams-Paisley (According to Jim) - Kimberly talks about the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries original Darrow & Darrow on Steve, so check your local listings.
  • Liz Gillies (Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll/Victorious) - Liz opens up about the Dynasty reboot on the People Now at 8:30am.
  • Melissa Joan Hart (Melissa & Joey/Sabrina, the Teenage Witch/Clarissa Explains It All) - Melissa talks about her new Lifetime movie The Watcher in the Woods on NBC's Today in the 10am hour, on the AOL Build Show at 3:30pm and on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 11:30am ET.
  • David Arquette (In Case of Emergency/Parenthood) - David is a guest on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • Patrice Lovely (Love Thy Neighbor) - Patrice appears on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • Jeff Garlin (The Goldbergs/Curb Your Enthusiasm) - Jeff can be heard on The Morning Mash Up on SiriusXM at 10:50am.
  • Frankie Muniz (Malcolm in the Middle) - Frankie is a guest on Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.
  • Mark Feuerstein (9JKL/Good Morning, Miami/Conrad Bloom/Fired Up) - Mark appears on Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (June/July/August)

Father Knows Best - Season Six Diff'rent Strokes - The Complete Sixth Season Alice - The Complete Fifth Season Rhoda - Season Four Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season Four

06/13 - The Andy Griffith Show - Return to Mayberry
06/13 - That's My Mama - The Complete Series
06/20 - Workaholics - The Final (Seventh) Season
06/20 - Workaholics - The Complete Series
06/27 - The Jamie Foxx Show - The Complete Third Season
07/04 - Superstore - Season Two
07/18 - Father Knows Best - Season Six
07/25 - Diff'ernt Strokes - The Complete Sixth Season
07/25 - Girls - The Final (Sixth) Season (Blu-ray)
08/01 - Alice - The Complete Fifth Season (WBShop.com)
08/01 - Crashing - The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
08/15 - Rhoda - Season Four
08/22 - Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season Four
08/29 - Will & Grace - Season One (Universal)
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest