Monday, October 29, 2012

Collapsing Into An Unmemorable End: Monty Python’s Flying Circus Volume 22 On VHS.

The Good: It ends?
The Bad: Not funny, at all, Medium, Short.
The Basics: Ending, poorly, Monty Python's Flying Circus's final two episodes are presented on VHS, which does nothing to improve their lousy content.

Whatwith the advent of DVD and now Blu-Ray, video tapes are outdated and a real reason not to buy when the material is available on better mediums. But sometimes, I encounter a VHS where "medium" is not as much of a detraction because the material on it is just plain bad.

This is where I find the final volume of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The classic British sketch comedy series that began in the late 1960s and made it to the early 1970s goes out with the two episodes found on "Volume 22" and they are tragically unfunny. Here, Monty Python’s Flying Circus goes out, not with a riotous laugh but with a whimper and a pained wince from the viewers.

These final two episodes, "Mr. Neutron" and "Party Political Broadcast" are generally more cohesive than earlier episodes, with "Mr. Neutron" essentially being a thirty minute science fiction spoof. The final episode is more like the early days when there was no theme running through the episode. Instead, it has little sketches that have no connection to one another, save a pantomime salesman who pops up in the background of several sketches, waves and leaves frame.

This video, which represents the final hurrah for the five Pythons who made it this far - Graham Chapman, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin - is largely lacking in the satire which made earlier episodes funny. The timing of the gang is off and Chapman, especially, comes across as stiff. Idle and Palin only seem to hit their chemistry for a brief sketch in the final episode and Gilliam and Jones seem particularly lost throughout. The absence of John Cleese is felt as the final sketches run and it is only then that it is likely to occur to most viewers that they have not laughed a single time the entire program.

For a better idea what these two unfunny episodes are about, here are the sketches:

In the aptly titled "Mr. Neutron," the gang does a spoof of melodramatic serialized science fiction works. After a neighborhood completes its complete nuclear disarmament, a new postal box is put up on the corner to replace an old postal box. This sets the stage for the introduction of Mr. Neutron, who is living with Mr. and Mrs. Entrail. Billed as the most powerful being in the galaxy, Mr. Neutron has tea with the Entrails before leaving the house. This puts F.E.A.R. on high alert as Mr. Neutron had been under close watch by the international organization. The U.S. sends an agent to recover Teddy Salad, the ex-CIA operative who knows where in the world Mr. Neutron is at any given moment. The specialist, though, is bewildered to discover that Teddy Salad is hiding in a dog's body now.

Without the information on where Mr. Neutron is hiding, the Prime Minister of the U.K. begins bombing the entire world in an attempt to flush Mr. Neutron out. Mr. Neutron, though, has fallen in love with Mrs. Scum and he wants to be married to her. Teddy Salad is killed before he can divulge the location of Mr. Neutron and the Earth appears to be on the verge of an absolute holocaust. The episode is capped off then with "Conjuring Today" where the big gag seems to be everyone is wearing giant eyeballs as if able to mesmerize with just their stare.

The series finale, "Party Political Broadcast" begins with the "Most Awful Family In Britain" contest. This vile family has everyone shrieking at one another, the mother ironing everything in sight, including the family cat. As one kid yells for more beans, the teenage girl prepares for a date. This sketch is succeeded by Icelandic Honey Week wherein a person from that country, which has no native honey, tries to sell honey door-to-door. This is followed by a hospital sketch and a lewd exchange between an officer and a bishop who lament how they cannot kiss (or do more) on television.

After an appeal for viewers to send money to rich people, there is a bit involving a man who finishes other people's sentences. This is followed by a mockumentary on the walking tree of Dahomy. After an extensive search through the jungle for the walking tree, the documentary crew discovers wild batsmen playing cricket, with very bloody consequences. The series ends on a BBC news bit about the economy which satirizes the fickle nature of the markets.

Because this is VHS, there are no bonus features or additional programming. The two episodes take up an hour of tape and there are no previews, clips or other incentives associated with this tape.

[For a much better value, check out the final season, Monty Python's Flying Circus Season 4 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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