Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Falling From Greatness, Monty Python’s Flying Circus Volume 7 Has Its First Dud!

The Good: Funny, DVD bonus features are adequate.
The Bad: "Archaeology Today" is a real dud and last episode on disc doesn't bounce back well.
The Basics: In a near miss, one of the episodes on "Volume 7" of Monty Python’s Flying Circus drags the rest of the disc down such that it cannot be recommended.

It is a tough thing to admit sometimes that the institutions, artists or shows we love do not always produce gold. Every episode is not always a winner, every show does not yield consistent laughs, every song is not going to be equal to the hit song that brought the artist to our attention. I mention this because I truly do love Monty Python’s Flying Circus, but as I go through the entire series again to rate each episode, I have found that there are one or two episodes that do not hold their water with the rest of the series.

One of those episodes is "Archaeology Today," one of the three episodes found on Monty Python’s Flying Circus Volume 7. This DVD has three of the episodes from the latter half of the second season, including "The Attila The Hun Show," "Archaeology Today," and "How To Recognize Different Parts Of The Body." The first episode is hilarious as is characteristic of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Unfortunately, after a good start, "Archaeology Today" tries a series of stories that are loosely derived from one another and the last half of the episode plummets like a cinderblock through water. Similarly, "How To Recognize Different Parts Of The Body" just does not have as many laughs as other episodes and the DVD bonus features are not enough to bring this set back into "recommend" territory.

"The Attila The Hun Show" opens with a sketch by the same name. A parody of ridiculous family sitcoms, "The Attila The Hun Show" has Attila the Hun as a wisecracking conqueror coming home to his wife and children. This transitions into a sketch featuring Terry Jones as the Secretary of State performing a strip tease, which in turn leads to a sketch featuring politician groupies. A ratcatcher then attempts to help out some customers by looking for rats in the wainscoting of their flat, but discovers the walls are infested with sheep, not rats. When the ratcatcher is shot at by one of the sheep, the program becomes an animated bit about Basil, the killer sheep.

The news is presented after that as the News for Parrots, which is one of the few obvious duds of the program. That is followed up by a work of Classic literature adapted for parrots and that sketch is ridiculous enough to be funny. After that is a sketch on the sociology of village idiots and that is actually quite funny. A commentary on cricket is made next as sports announcers follow a test match wherein batters are replaced with furniture and the sport is no more interesting. After races featuring various pieces of furniture, the episode closes with a gameshow where the contestant wins a blow to the head.

"Archaeology Today" opens without John Cleese delivering the trademark line "And now for something completely different" as the show begins with a description of various viewing options new to the BBC (mostly sport and variety). The opening credits animation continues into a sketch wherein the foot decays into a city which is then recovered by archaeologists. This leads to the program "Archaeology Today," where the interviewer of archaeologists finds himself agog over the height of some of the guests on his program. This becomes a chicken fight between several of them at a site in Egypt.

A vicar then makes a plea on behalf of insanity. There is an animated bit about gangsters, including a hen which lays gangsters. A party scene follows wherein a man and his wife are introduced uncomfortably to a couple whose surname is "Git" and then there is a bit on mosquito hunters. The last portion of the program is interwoven bits with judges gawking about their trials, Mrs. Thing and Mrs. Entity having a conversation and Beethoven dealing with a mynah bird.

After a bevy of beautiful women in lingerie comes John Cleese in the same to deliver his trademark opening to the show, this episode entitled "How To Recognize Different Parts Of The Body." The show begins with a sketch by the same name wherein various parts of the body are pointed to and identified. A sketch of an Australian college where everyone is called Bruce follows. After deriding "pooftahs," the "naughty bits" of various people are pointed out. From there, comes an interview with a man who contradicts people, a sketch that is quickly aborted and then a mob-rub airline where the price keeps going down drastically.

The episode continues with another historical recreation by the Townswomen's Guild, this time of the first heart transplant. After that brawl comes the classic sketch with the penguin atop the television. The episode concludes with a murder investigation that quickly turns into a musical number and a competition between various police officers singing.

On DVD, this set contains the usual extras, including biographies of the six member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and definition of key terms from the series. As well, there is a live version of the Communist quiz show, which is pretty funny and a clipshow of "pepperpots" (when the men play the old batty gossipy women on the show!).

[For a much better value, check out the sophomore season, Monty Python's Flying Circus Season 2 on DVD, reviewed here, as it has the complete season, with nothing left to search for!]


For other television episode, season and series reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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