Comedy Connections: Monty Python, BBC1
What to say if you liked it
The fascinating story of how the Pythons came together and then drifted apart, coupled with the brilliant archive footage from the BBC’s rich back catalogue.
What to say if you didn’t like it
The BBC pat themselves on the back for bringing us a legendary TV programme in a fawning documentary that failed to give any information that 90 per cent of Python fans didn’t know already.
What was good about it?
• The charming Eric Idle came out with virtually all the best lines: He claimed he wanted Terry Gilliam to join the Do Not Adjust Your Set team because he liked his Afghan coat and fancied his cute girlfriend; he called John Cleese “the great whore” for being the link between all the Python elements; and he described the BBC in the late 60s as “like a retirement home for the RAF.”
• The information that Terry Jones and Michael Palin wrote together, as did Cleese and Graham Chapman, but Terry Gilliam and Eric Idle wrote alone. Sketches were then read to each other “over the kitchen table”, which must have been a sight to behold (Idle: “It was better if you had a partner because then they could laugh when you read your stuff”).
• Michael Palin admitting that all the Pythons, deep down, had a horrible part of themselves that wanted the others to fail after they all moved on. Cleese claimed they all wanted success for each other afterwards – just not too much.
• Some great archive footage of the tremendous body of work this group produced between them over the years.
• The nostalgic retro-style credits and graphics.
What was bad about it?
– Comedy Connections sounds like it should be the title of a daytime game show hosted by Lennie Bennett.
• At times it was depressing. BBC1 controller of the time Sir Paul Fox and the head of comedy Michael Mills simply let these incredible talents make the show they wanted. As Idle put it: “It was the golden age of TV executives… there weren’t any.” As Doon Mackichan’s voiceover hinted at, it’s little short of a tragedy that such ways of working in TV are now almost completely a thing of the past.
• While it’s great that all the Pythons went on to great success after the show, you can’t help but feel a little sad that none of them are doing TV comedy anymore.
• The programme makers managed decent interviews with Palin, Idle, Cleese and Gilliam and one couldn’t help feeling cramming this into half an hour was a bit of a waste.
Comedy Connections: Goodness Gracious Me, BBC1
1. The sketch about an Asian vermin exterminator called East Meets Pest who recommends a rival Asian contractor after he fails to get rid of an infestation of mice, saying that he doesn’t actually kill the mice but makes them behave so badly they are reincarnated as pebbles “which are much easier to control”.
2. The appalling manners of Mr Cheque Please who in the samples comments gauchely after a woman returns from the toilet where she “powdered her nose” that it
was “shame as I bet that geezer £20 you were having a shit”.
3. Meera Syal bemoaning the prosaic career opportunities for Asian actresses in their 20s in Britain that are limited to “a victim of an arranged marriage; the sister of a victim of an arranged marriage; the best friend of the victim of an arranged marriage”. And that she knew she was getting old when she was offered the role of “the mother of the victim of an arranged marriage”.
1. The Going For An English sketch is still funny but like the Pythons’ Dead Parrott and Radiohead’s Creep it has become an albatross around their necks which distracts attention from the many other hilarious characters created in the series and the subsequent triumph of The Kumars At No 42.
2. We never discovered why the series ended so abruptly after three successful series (although we can probably guess). Perhaps tellingly Kulvinder Ghir and Nina Wadia disclosed their exasperation while Sanjeev Bhaskar and Meera Syal (who both turned up in the excellent Kumars) were either not asked the question or declined to answer.
3. The contributions to Goodness Gracious Me of Kulvinder Ghir and Nina Wadia seemed marginalised and were merely passed off with a number of vague platitudes.