The Good: Generally funny, Decent DVD bonus features
The Bad: Generally more average than prior seasons
The Basics: Monty Python’s Flying Circus hits a bump with the opening to season six on "Volume 9" of the DVDs.
Monty Python’s Flying Circus is often regarded as one of the greatest sketch comedy shows of all time. The series made household names out of John Cleese, Terry Jones, Eric Idle, Graham Chapman, Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam. The show was considered timeless largely because the comedy focused on universal human foibles as opposed to dated political sketches, which distinguished it from many other sketch comedy shows both of the late 1960s and since.
But when a series is considered legendary in one form or another, it is often hard for fans of it to look at the series objectively and admit that not every episode is gold. In fact, sketch comedy - where characters are not developed, nor are plots or themes or anything else, for that matter, over the course of episodes or seasons - is largely hit or miss and Monty Python’s Flying Circus had a huge number of hits right up front with its audacious concepts and wacky animations.
"Volume 9" on DVD ends the streak. Opening the third season of the sketch comedy program, this DVD for the first time has a greater balance of duds than classics. Indeed, it is arguable that this set lacks any real hits and considering it "average" is being generous to it. With the three episodes, "Whicker's World," "Mr. & Mrs. Brian Norris' Ford Popular," and "The Money Programme," "Volume 9" is less funny than any of the prior DVD collections and gets the third season of the show off to a rocky start. Still, for those interested, here are the sketches found on this DVD.
"Whicker's World" opens with a sketch involving a court case involving a multiple murderer. When the party who has been accused and convicted of over fifteen counts of murder, he says he is sorry and the judge lets him off with basically a wrist-slap. A film, Njorl's Saga then begins but is continually interrupted by advertisements for a little town in England. The Eric Njorl, the subject of Njorl's Saga is put on trial then. There is a sketch involving a stock market report after that.
After that, Mrs. Premise and Mrs. Conclusion get into an argument on Jean-Paul Sartre. These two screechy housewives are talking about existentialism and row their boat to France to see Sartre. After a conversation with Sartre's wife, they abandon the sketch. Following this, the episode closes with an island of interviewers, "Whicker's World" where cliche television interviewers congregate and interview one another.
"Mr. & Mrs. Brian Norris' Ford Popular" opens with that title sketch which has the couple as part of a mock-documentary wherein Mr. and Mrs. Brian Norris trace the emigration of people within Britain from Surbiton to Hounslow. The joke here being that the emigration is between two places rather close within England. The show continues with a sketch on schoolboy life assurance, then a parody of '70's talk shows where the hosts postulate how to rid the world of all known diseases simply by becoming a famous doctor and telling others to get rid of them. Then there is an exploding wife (literally) and a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman who is disguised as a vicar.
After that there is a pretty hilarious parody of "Farm Report" wherein the works of Tschiakovski are discussed. Then, a pianist/escape artist performs his routine and the show has to come up with additional funds to continue. As a result, a children's show that begins spins out of control when extras on the set inadvertently speak or do stunts, which causes the BBC to charge them more money. There is the classic fish-slapping dance which is exactly what it sounds like and the episode concludes with an appearance by Ringo Starr (the real one!) and Lulu who show up for the opening credits to role as "The Man Show!"
The final episode on this disc, "The Money Programme" opens with the titled musical number, wherein a seemingly legitimate business program degenerates into a song about loving various forms of currency. The show takes a downward spiral when a movie featuring Elizabeth I's court all on bicycles is interrupted by the film police. This ridiculous sketch is separated from another film fraud sketch by the church police. The show attempts an ambitious but overlong sketch involving a restaurant in the jungle where the diners are being picked off by gorillas.
The show then continues with another mock-documentary that puts the cast in the Lost World. The final sketch involves a client who visits a service that offers abuse, lessons on how to take a blow to the head and abuse. This sketch, like many of the others, is interrupted by the fraud prosecution squad and ends the episode and disc well.
On DVD, these three episodes are accompanied by a filmography of each of the six men of "Monty Python" as well as one focusing on the animations of Terry Gilliam. There are clip shows from other episodes as a bonus feature and each episode has a useless trivia function as well.
All in all, the sketches are more up and down than other Monty Python’s Flying Circus discs and while others might have a few duds, usually they have classic sketches mixed in. "Volume 9" does not. As a result, it is virtually impossible to recommend, even for lovers of sketch comedy.
[For a much better value, check out the penultimate season, Monty Python's Flying Circus Season 3 on DVD, reviewed here, as it has the complete season, with nothing left to search for!]
For other television reviews, please check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2012, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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