|Pop Culture Gadabout|
Thursday, February 23, 2006 |
( 2/23/2006 06:50:00 AM ) Bill S.
BEAUTIFUL PLUMMAGE – In an inspired bit of counter-programming designed to hook us elitists who couldn't give two figs for downhill skiing but still feel a deep concern for the Ministry of Silly Walks, PBS aired two hours of the six-part Monty Python Personal Best series. The offerings on our local public broadcasting were Eric Idle and Graham Chapman's "bests." Of the two, the Idle offering was arguably the most consistently amusing due to its new interstitial sequences featuring Eric in faux documentarian mode. The Chapman program contained interview snippets with all five surviving members doling out anecdotes about their late partner, some of it more speculative than concrete. (At one point, we're told that Chapman – who often co-wrote sketches with John Cleese – most likely contributed the breed of the bird to the Dead Parrot Sketch, but since the one offering this insight isn't Cleese, the observation only serves as an example of how difficult it can be assigning responsibility for part of a collaborative creation decades after the work was done.) As the most prolific of the musical creators, Idle's entry contained three of his music hall-ish turns (always welcome, especially "The Money Song"), including footage from the troupe's Hollywood Bowl gig where he did the lumberjack song more typically assumed by Michael Palin. Wonder if Palin will include the series version on his set. . .
An enjoyable repackaging of this much-recycled comedy, I thought, even for those of us who could recite many of the sketches in our sleep. The Idle set, in particular, played fast and loose with this sacred material, occasionally cutting from sketch to sketch before the first bit's final "punchline." Python humor was less about punchlines and more about absurdity, anyway . . .