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For lovers of the Completely Different
on June 29, 2000
The very first episode of <Monty Python's Flying Circus> was telecast on BBC1 in 1969 and the very last one in 1974. And so it came to pass that the four series of MPFC shows became a legend--and a top money maker for all its spinoffs (LPs, live shows), and future efforts of its 6 lunatics (7, if you count Carol). True Believers can sing every note of the "Lumber Jack Song" and repeat with proper inflections every word of the "Dead Parrot Sketch"--although I doubt if anyone, including Cleese himself, could name all the cheeses in the "Cheese Shop Sketch." Never since "The Honeymooners" has a comedy series gathered such a fanatic following.
Well, by this time in history, A&E has released the first three seasons on tape and DVD. Having already reviewed the first season (which I have on tape), I want to say a few words about the 2nd and 3rd seasons, which I have on DVD. Of course you will find all those classic sketches you love so much (or why else would you be reading this?): Silly Walks, Piranha Brothers, Blackmail, Killer Sheep, Fish License, Travel Agent, Cheese Shop, Lupins, and of course Dirty Vicar. We have yet to have available the fourth, last, series without Cleese (who wanted to quit after the second and get on to other things).
The advantage of the DVD format over the tape is, of course, you can get direct access to almost any sketch you want. Now this is tricky. Each DVD holds three or four episodes. The main menu (which takes forever to set up) leads to a submenu that is quite confusing at first glance. Just keep hitting the select button on your remote and you will eventually see the episode. There is also a choice on the main menu to Play All. It is because of this feature, I am told, that your display will not show the time elapsed or the track you are on during each episode, nor will your on-screen display show the time. If you find how to bring it up, the submenu will give you a list of the major sketches, but you had better take notes.
In fact, I simply kept open my copy of Robert Ross's "Monty Python Encyclopedia" (TV Books, 1997) to keep track of where I was. Still, the format is a lot better than the tapes when it comes to timing but very difficult to fast forward to any desired sketch.
So if you have not yet decided on the format, I would suggest the DVD, especially with the extra bits of information they provide that are not found on the tapes.