TO AIR MONTY PYTHON'S PERSONAL BEST SERIES
Next month, the American PBS network will begin broadcasting a series of six Monty Python specials called Monty Pyton's Personal Best. Each special focuses on one member of the Monty Python troupe and showcases their favorite clips from the group's television series and movies, mixed with all-new exclusive footage filmed by the Pythons themselves.
The shows will begin airing on PBS starting February 22. All six episodes will also be available on DVD, which debut the following week (although two have been available since last August).
The five living Pythons each produced and wrote their own episode, with the five collaborating on a sixth special to honor deceased member Graham Chapman. Each show features a rich collection of Monty Python clips as well as new sketch material written and performed by the indvidual Pythons.
Eric Idle introduces the first DVD, performing various roles in and around his Hollywood home, including his classic raincoat-clad television announcer (live from the Hollywood Bowl). As his own mother, Eric... ehr, Mrs. Idle... tells how young Eric had confessed many years ago his penchant for dressing up as women and how he insisted that there was a future in cross dressing on British television... "And sadly he was right," she says. Eric presents Nudge Nudge, Lumberjack, and the Silly Olympics among other classic sketches as his favorites.
Michael Palin (in moustache and pith helmet) presents from Teddington Lock, where the classic Fish Slapping sketch was filmed. While presenting this very important piscine documentary on the method, techniques, and equipment for fish slapping, Michael also throws in scenes from the Flying Sheep sketch, Blackmail and the Piranha Brothers among others. "And don't forget that Python series," he concludes, "they did do something worth remembering!"
Terry Gilliam goes for an all-animation Monty Python special, showcasing his cut-out animations from the Flying Circus. “Back in the 60's,” he says secretly from a dark room, “I was a world famous cartoonist and the BBC had come begging on their knees, offering me my own show... ” He swears that the BBC started slipping live action sketches into his shows between the cartoons, calling them connecting links.
Terry Jones spends his show sitting (fully clothed) at the piano while reminiscing at length about how “when I created Monty Python’s Flying Circus in 1964 I conceived it primarily as a showcase of my own talents.” “Monty Python is of course,” he says matter of factly, “an anagram of Terry Jones... I've never mentioned that before...” Some of Terry's favorite sketches include The World's Funniest Joke, the Council Ratcatcher sketch, and Working Class Playwright.
As for Graham Chapman, Chapman has at least eight movie and TV appearances to his credit since he passed away in 1989, making him the most prolific corpse since Elvis. Graham Chapman's Personal Best makes nine. In a comprehensive tribute written by the five other members of Monty Python's Flying Circus, this program includes the sketches they believe Chapman would have called his very favorites.
PBS has not wasted any time promoting the six Monty Python specials. Last week Saturday, Eric Idle joined the PBS Press Tour in Pasadena, California to discuss the shows. "It gives us a chance to get out and maybe be vaguely funny again," said Eric.
How did the Pythons go about picking their favorites? "There was a definite pecking order," Eric said at the press event. "Cleese got first go," Idle said, "And then I got in second, thinking, if you're not in quick ..."
Long-time Monty Python producer John Goldstone handled the negotiations as the program pieces were assembled. Goldstone allowed some overlap when Cleese, Palin and the others all chose the same sketch. "I think everybody chose 'Fish Slapping,'" Goldstone said, "and it's in everybody's program."
The press event is also noteworthy for this recent quote by Eric about the possibility of a Monty Python reunion: "Look, we're all over 60. I'm sorry to say this. But comedy is really a young man's game. And it's sort of about what you had to say when you were fresh and young. And I'm perfectly happy to get drunk with the rest of them. I was just in London, and we had a really spectacular dinner. But I think it should go no further."
Monty Python's Personal Best begins airing on February 22. It will
run for three weeks, with two episodes each week (check your local PBS
affiliate's schedule for dates and show times).