Monty Python 1st screened
The 5th of October 1969 AD
No comedy is totally new: the Monty Python team undoubtedly learned from the Goons, Spike Milligan ’s Q5, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore , and doubtless others besides. But there was something completely different about the Monty Python series, the element that gave the show a uniquely surreal edge, namely Terry Gilliam’s weird and wonderful animations. They were the least discussed in the schools, pubs and universities at the time, but they provided a perfect framework for the lunatic sketches.
The constantly sarcastic and irreverent tone of the programme, the sheer oddness of what went on, made it an instant hit with anyone under about 30 with a brain-cell, and a total mystery to those over 40. In an era where ‘normal’ sitcoms ruled our airwaves the show was delightfully odd, disobeying the TV norms; logic went out the window; non-sequiturs ruled.
The first episode, recorded on September 7 1969 and broadcast on October 5 that year was entitled “Whither Canada” for no readily apparent reason, and contained the Arthur ‘Two-sheds’ Jackson sketch that become part of our national vocabulary for a decade and more. Kids repeated the highlights ad nauseam in the playground and classroom; from being a comedy show the Pythons eventually became almost an industry, with movies , records, books and numerous other spin-offs. After 45 episodes (39 for the more rapidly bored John Cleese ) the group’s members went their separate ways, but they left a mark that more than 30 years later can still be discerned on the likes of Eddie Izzard and Mitchell and Webb .
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