To those of you who are fans of Monty Python, or perhaps of British broadcasting history, or the Life of Brian, or even just interesting comedies; I would highly recommend Holy Flying Circus, a BBC offering that tells the story of the Pythons tribulations as they sought to release the Life of Brian in the United Kingdom, and a resulting televised debate that two members of the comedy troupe, Michael Palin and John Cleese, took part in.
The show is presented in an interesting fashion, as it tries to represent not only the facts and how these events took place, but also goes tongue in cheek as it pays homage to both the Pythons, and their style of comedy.
For instance, throughout the show you will note that any of the main characters who are women, are played in true Python form by a man (specifically by Rufus Jones who fittingly also plays the role of Terry Jones).
Not to mention the smattering of current reference thrown into the decidedly late seventies setting. There is a great scene where John Cleese is walking down the street and gets into a verbal altercation with a newspaper salesman who accuses them (Monty Python) of being too afraid to joke about Muslims. To which John rants and raves about how it isn’t really appropriate given that it is the seventies, and Islam’s place in England isn’t really worth lampooning for such a small segment of the population.
There are also some jibes at the pythons future roles, with Eric Idle showing interest in making money with a musical as one of the other characters suggest all you have to do is rehash some old jokes and put it to music. Spamalot anyone?
Adding to the surreal nature of the show are a couple of public service style announcements by the John Cleese character, a few animated segues in the style of Terry Gilliam, as well as the odd splintering off from reality to indulge in a supremely entertaining buraku-style dual between the Cleese character, and the nicest man in the world; Michael Palin.
And even though there are these frequent breaks from reality, the show nonetheless presents itself in a coherent nature, and does a great job of telling the story it set out to tell.
Then, as always, there are the actors.
I was surprised at how well they managed to get actors that not only fit the roles in terms of acting style and ability, but were also able to look and sound so much like their source material. The Michael Palin guy looks and sounds like Michael Palin. The John Cleese character sounds amazingly like, and is quite reminiscent of, John Cleese (or is it Basil Fawlty). The Eric Idle character bears more than a passing resemblance to Eric Idle. And so on, and so on.
Oh, and I can’t forget to mention that the always amazing Stephen Fry makes a befitting appearance as God, who chastises his son Jesus for turning their beer into water, and converses in the epilogue with one of the Pythons; brilliant!
It really was thoroughly entertaining watch, the more I think about it, the more I remember enjoying it.