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 (February)

The Andy Griffith Show - The Complete Series The Brady Kids - The Complete Animated Series Girls - The Complete Fourth Season Sabrina, the Teenage Witch - The Complete Series Togetherness - The Complete First Season

02/16 - The Andy Griffith Show - The Complete Series
02/16 - The Brady Kids - The Complete Animated Series
02/16 - Girls - The Complete Fourth Season (Blu-ray)
02/16 - Sabrina, the Teenage Witch - The Complete Series
02/16 - Togetherness - The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Sunday, February 14

The Simpsons - "Friend with Benefit" (Fox, 7:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Lisa befriends Harper, a new kid at school who happens to be super-rich. Then, Homer befriends Harper’s dad and is able to enjoy the perks of Lisa having a rich friend, as well. But Lisa decides that Harper is a bully and moves to end the friendship, which prompts Homer to try and smooth things over so he can continue to enjoy the good life.

Bob's Burgers - "The Gene and Courtney Show" (Fox, 7:30PM ET/PT)
Gene and Courtney get their big break when they are asked to be the new hosts of the morning announcements, but their romantic history threatens to get in the way. Meanwhile, Tina’s attempt to play Cupid goes tragically awry when she volunteers to spear-head the Valentine’s Day carnation fundraiser.

The Simpsons - " Love Is in the N2-O2-Ar-CO2-Ne-He-CH4" (Fox, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Lonely Professor Fink uses science to turn himself into a man whom women find attractive. Then, overwhelmed by the attention, he invents an algorithm to perfectly pair the lonely men and women of Springfield, realizing that scientific exploration is his true love. Meanwhile, Marge, Bart, and Lisa visit Grampa for Valentine’s Day and try to rescue the old folks from a drug-induced hallucination that allows them to relive their happiest memories.

Cooper Barrett's Guide to Surviving Life - "How to Survive Losing Your Phone" (Fox, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Cooper faces the ultimate, life-halting devastation when he loses his phone, and the guys stop at nothing to help him get it back. Meanwhile, Leslie and Kelly’s karaoke duet turns into an all-out bar brawl.

Family Guy - "An App a Day" (Fox, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Peter learns about phone apps and overloads his phone with them. He buys a new phone with more memory and gives his old phone to Chris, which causes a series of horrible events. Meanwhile, Stewie joins a tennis club and invites Brian to be his tennis partner.

Bordertown - "High School Football" (Fox, 9:30PM ET/PT)
Bud becomes the high school football coach after the previous coach is forced out of the job by the local redneck fans. Bud, desperate to win, discovers a secret weapon – an illegal immigrant whom he sees gracefully and skillfully run across the border. Of course, this kid also happens to be the No. 1 drug mule in Mexico.

Stuck in the Middle - "Stuck in the Middle" (Disney Channel, 8:45PM ET/PT)
Inventor Harley is ready to accept a community award after she figures out how to get her family out of the house on time.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of February 15)

Monday, February 15

  • David Spade (Rules of Engagement/8 Simple Rules/Just Shoot Me!) - Watch David on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Craig Ferguson (The Drew Carey Show) - Craig drops by The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Jason Sudeikis (The Last Man on Earth/The Cleveland Show) - Jason appears on Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Chelsea Handler (Are You There, Chelsea?) - Chelsea visits The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Jerry Seinfeld (Seinfeld) - Jerry is a guest on a repeat of Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Trevor Noah at 11pm.
  • Jim Jefferies (Legit) - Jim appears on a repeat of @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
  • Kevin Nealon (Weeds/Hiller and Diller/Champs) - Kevin is a guest on a repeat of @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
  • Allison Williams (Girls) - Allison stops by LIVE! with Kelly and Michael, so check your listings.
  • Demi Lovato (Sonny with a Chance) - Demi appears on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Brandy Norwood (Zoe Ever After/The Game/Moesha) - Brandy chats about Zoe Ever After on Rachael Ray, so check your local listings.
  • Fran Drescher (The Nanny/Happily Divorced) - Fran plays accomplice to co-host Clinton Kelly during a mystery ingredient party on ABC's The Chew at 1pm ET/12pm PT/CT.
  • Fred Savage (The Grinder/Working/The Wonder Years) - Fred chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • William Shatner ($h*! My Dad Says) - William discusses his new book Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am and in the 10am hour and on HuffPost Live at 1:30pm.
  • Giacomo Gianniotti (Selfie) - Giacomo is a guest on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 12:30pm ET.
  • Alison Brie (Community) - Alison visits ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am.
  • The Cast of The Facts of Life - It's a special Facts of Life Reunion with cast members including Charlotte Rae, Lisa Whelchel, Kim Fields and Geri Jewell on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT. Lisa Whelchel cooks a Mexican corn bread; DIY blinged roller skates; how to achieve Blair's fabulous hair from The Facts of Life; a prep school inspired fashion show; singer Gloria Loring performs The Facts of Life theme song; how to make a personalized DIY diary.