Monty Python's Flying Circus
Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969–1974) is the first outing by the British surrealist comedy group Monty Python, broadcast on BBC. The sketch comedy series is the product of surreal and absurdist experimentation by the writers combined with equally unusual, typically stream-of-conscious, animations by Terry Gilliam used as a linking device. The series is seen as one of the pioneering forces in not only sketch comedy, but comedy as a whole due to its constant attempts to push the boundaries of what could be done on television.
The idea for a series was first established when John Cleese and Graham Chapman were offered a chance to do a sketch comedy series for BBC. However, due to a variety of reasons, Cleese wasn't comfortable with attempting a two-man show. Instead, he invited Michael Palin into the fold. Palin, at the time, was in pre-production with his writing partner Terry Jones, Eric Idle and animator Terry Gilliam for a series on ITV. The result of this invitation was the merging of the creative teams of both shows for the BBC series. The six took a note from series like Beyond the Fringe and Q5, which forced them to innovate past conventions like "giving up" on sketches in favor of being as daring with their ideas as possible.
The process for creating the show was fairly static for the duration of the series. The Pythons would write from 9AM to 5PM, Chapman and Cleese would write in a pair, as would Jones and Palin, leaving Idle to write on his own. At the end of the day, the five would reconvene and pitch their sketches to each other. Sketches which the majority found funny would be given to Gilliam, who was allowed carte blanche to animate transitions as he saw fit. These animations were typically cribbed from famous works of art and cut together into a collage of jagged animation which was often violent and nonsensical.
The series ended in 1974 after a lack-luster fourth season without Cleese's involvement. In the 1974 summer season, a clip from a Python show was shown on NBC's prime time show Comedyworld. A year later, the series was first broadcast in the United States on KERA, a PBS station in Dallas, after a programming executive was searching for new shows to broadcast and stumbled, by chance, over Flying Circus. PBS affiliates across the nation caught on and the series quickly developed a fervent American cult following.
|Season One||October 5, 1969||January 11, 1970||13|
|Season Two||September 15, 1970||December 22, 1970||13|
|Season Three||October 6, 1973||January 18, 1973||13|
|Season Four||October 31, 1974||December 5, 1974||6|
- At a Glance: Additional information about the series