Monty Python's Flying Circus: The Complete Series

"Essential"

Monty Python's Flying Circus: The Complete Series Review


In the history of sketch comedy, Monty Python's Flying Circus stands as The Beatles of humor. Not only were members Michael Palin, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Jones, Eric Idle, and Terry Gilliam geniuses at the short skit format, but they redefined the configuration and expanded its realm of possibilities. Celebrated like rock stars and elevated to the status of gods, such success begs the question: does the origin of this myth --- i.e. the TV show from several decades ago -- still hold up. The answer, without a doubt, is a resounding yes.

Spread out over four series (the UK answer to seasons) from 1969 to 1974, the group created 45 fantastic installments of pure British lunacy. From slapstick to scathing satire, the ridiculous and the surreal, the former Oxford and Cambridge grads took the British Broadcasting system by storm and the maelstrom is still going strong almost 40 years later. By now, fans all have their favorite bits -- the "Dead Parrot" sketch (a customer returns to a pet shop to complain about his lifeless purchase), the "Spanish Inquisition" (in which members of the famed Church torture tribunal use such horrific devious means as the comfy chair and the soft pillows to elicit confessions), and the "Ministry of Silly Walks" (pure physical comedy greatness in motion). While the troupe would go on to create three of the greatest big screen comedies of all time, the TV show equally illustrates their range as well as the reasons for their longevity.

Over time, the familiar have grown into legend, leaving room for the lesser known moments to shine. While Series One celebrated "The Funniest Joke in the World," the completely incompetent "Marriage Guidance Counselor" and an unlikely confection known as "Crunchy Frog", there's also the attempt by feline professionals to "Confuse a Cat" and a visit with "The Gorilla Librarian." In fact, some of the sketches are so famous, a kind of instant recall exists just by mentioning their name -- "Nudge Nudge," "Self Defense Against Fresh Fruit," "The Lumberjack Son." It's the same throughout the rest of the run. In fact, few who lived through Python's PBS heyday (the educational channel imported the program to America) will never think of Spam, lupins, or a simple argument in quite the same way.

The best thing about Monty Python is its unpredictable nature. The sextet behind the bedlam has often claimed in interviews that the run-on, stream of consciousness nature of the show came from an inherent inability to end their sketches properly. Ideas bounce into each other randomly, seemingly disjointed and dissimilar until a theme or single punch line is revealed. American born animator Gilliam was critical to its success, keeping the show moving with his insane, always dreamlike connective cartoons. Even more enjoyable was the level of performance involved. Everyone -- Cleese's upper class crankiness, Idle's star smugness, Palin and Jones' schoolboy mischievousness, and Chapman's suave silliness -- had a place in Python's mix. The result was a combination that few could compete with, and none could eclipse.

As the founding fathers of the post-modern laugh, Monty Python's Flying Circus has inspired a legion of similarly styled -- and successful -- offshoots. Without the boys from Britain, we might not have SCTV, The Kids in the Hall, or the still-running-strong Saturday Night Live. Even after going their separate ways, Palin, Cleese, Idle, Jones, and Gilliam all made major strides within the entertainment industry (Chapman, sadly, died of spinal cancer in 1989 at age 48). Like the Fab Four they're often compared to, they remain a staple of the category they helped change forever. If one is looking for the true definition of timeless, Monty Python's Flying Circus unquestionably deserves such consideration.



Facts and Figures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 5 / 5

Cast & Crew

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

This remake of Disney's 1991 classic is remarkably faithful, using present-day digital animation effects to...

The Salesman Movie Review

The Salesman Movie Review

Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi won his second Oscar with this astute drama which, like 2011's...

Get Out Movie Review

Get Out Movie Review

Leave it to a comedian to make one of the scariest movies in recent memory....

Personal Shopper Movie Review

Personal Shopper Movie Review

After winning a series of major awards for her role in Olivier Assayas' Clouds of...

Certain Women Movie Review

Certain Women Movie Review

In films like Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, writer-director Kelly Reichardt has told sharply...

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

After the success of 2014's Godzilla reboot, the Warner Bros monsters get their own franchise,...

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Filmmaker Gurinder Chada (Bend It Like Beckham) draws on her own family history to explore...

Advertisement
Trespass Against Us Movie Review

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

With an extra dose of attitude and energy, this Irish comedy-drama hits us like a...

Logan Movie Review

Logan Movie Review

Hugh Jackman returns to his signature role one last time (so he says), reuniting with...

Patriots Day Movie Review

Patriots Day Movie Review

The third time's a charm for Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, who previously teamed...

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

It's no surprise that this creep-out horror thriller is packed with whizzy visual invention, since...

It's Only the End of the World Movie Review

It's Only the End of the World Movie Review

At just 27 years old, Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan has an almost overwhelming set of...

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.