Sep 1, 2008

[TV] Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969-1974)

Monty Python's Flying CircusAs a kid, I learned to appreciate British Comedy given weird late night situations where I'd settle on the couch with my dad and he'd let me watch some of the comedies they're re-run that late in the evening. Don't ask me to explain why - I've no idea of the reason myself and I was far too young to realize how much gratuitous nudity some of these shows already had at the time.

Thus at the same time that he educated me in the worlds of science fiction with shows like the classic Star Trek, he also exposed me to shows like Benny Hill and of course the irreplaceable Monty Python.

Years later and I still remember those times and of course all the other episodes, movies and scripts I've found for myself whether on the web or in some obscure video shop in some far-flung corner of the city. Let's face it - British Humor is just not quite the usual flair for folks here in the Philippines, and thus not as popular as we'd like for it to be. Thus I eventually gave up and aggressively acquired the full collection of episodes online one day.

Monty Python's Flying Circus was a landmark British comedy series that ran on the BBC from 1969 until 1974, spanning 45 episodes across 4 distinct seasons. This particular collection has all 4 seasons together which means hours and hours of Python goodness that is bound to have your sides hurting from laughing and your mind all twisted into knots and squiggly bits.

The Python team  Back row: Graham Chapman, Eri...Image via Wikipedia Monty Python collectively refers to the six comedic geniuses that made the show happen - Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin. Together, they wrote and starred in various comedic sketches that were put together in a very unusual somewhat stream-of-consciousness flow with one sketch somehow connected to the other whether in terms of the actual characters crossing over or merely through the use of Terry Gilliam's animations which acted as sort of transitional devices between scenes. In later seasons they didn't even follow the traditional format of the show starting and ending with the proper credits - this was yet another convention that got tossed out the window in the interests of pushing the limits of the medium.

It's hard to even attempt to describe this show without spending a whole weekend on it - heck, the word Pythonesque actually exists in some dictionaries in an attempt to capture the essence of the show.

Should you sit down to watch the entire series all together, you'll be treated to seeing the continuing experimentation and dynamism the show went through over the years and notice the nuances of difference from one season to the other. As much as we could argue it was just a load of silliness, there was clearly a progression in terms of their writing and the concepts in their humor.

Some of the best sketches could generally be found in the first two seasons with the others having a few gems here and there. More importantly, the latter seasons really showed the Pythons experimenting with their limitations and circumstances by trying to poke fun at more current world political issues, breaking up the regular flow of the episode by shifting both beginning and ending credits around and of course better and more unusual comedy.

Since it is the complete body of their television, all the good stuff are there like my personal favorite, The Dead Parrot Sketch and choice ones like the Argument Clinic and The Ministry of Silly Walks.

The impact of Monty Python of the comedic world that followed is beyond belief. Current Shows like Saturday Night Live and and MADTV have these 6 gentlemen to be grateful for given how they were the pioneers who really defined the genre and opened up the doors to the imagination, for those daring enough to color that far outside the lines.


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