A&E // 2003 // 55 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Ryan Keefer (Retired) // March 15th, 2006
"Monty Python is, of course, an anagram for Terry Jones."
Growing up as a repressed youth in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. gave me a chance to view various things through the strange lens that is television. And Sunday nights on the local Public Broadcasting affiliate afforded me the opportunity to view the magic and the genius that was Monty Python's Flying Circus, followed by the John Cleese show Fawlty Towers. And I enjoy revisiting some of those shows, along with the newer ones (for me, anyway) like Keeping Up Appearances and Are You Being Served?
But it was the humor of Python that has managed to remain timeless through the years. I'm not entirely sure how much new wisdom I can impart on you, but for me, Python took my already existing knowledge of sketch comedy with Saturday Night Live and transformed it into something that was quite simply, magical. They would stop a sketch dead in its tracks, sometimes openly telling the audience that it wouldn't work, taking an episode into a completely different and unexpected direction. The choices were silly, the choices were bold, and they almost always worked flawlessly. I also took away from watching Python an absolute knack for being a dry, sarcastic little arse, but I could never pull that off with the perfection that John Cleese, Michael Palin and the other members of the troupe could.
So after seeing the slow, steady release of the television seasons of Python finally get released to video, they are being compiled and released as part of each cast member's "Personal Best" collections. This installment provides the viewer with the opportunity to see Terry Jones' best or most favorite Python sketches. Those who may not recall Jones should be able to identify him as the loony organ player occasionally, or as one of the many women that the Brits decided to impersonate. Jones does appear at some points through this feature, with some generic introductions from time to time while he stays at what is presumably a lavish hotel room of some sort.
Some of the things that Jones identified as his favorites are gems. The "funniest joke in the world" sketch is in its full glory, along with "Bicycle Repairman" and the Olympic finals of the Hide and Seek championship (with Jones playing a Paraguayan attempting to seek Graham Chapman). Some of the other sketches, like "The Bishop" or "Killer Sheep" don't appear to be complete. Now granted, the show (like HBO's Mr. Show of the early '90s) runs commercial free, and the sketch links are included, so if it ran on a broadcast network with commercials (or was cut up for the sake of a compilation video several decades after initially airing), it would come off as being a little bit awkward. The other thing that's a little bit disappointing about this is that it's easy to get the impression that these compilation discs that possess the "Personal Best" seal would include the Python's personal favorites for things that they wrote, either together or apart. Now, I'm presuming that the famed "Spanish Inquisition" sketch was probably a collaborative effort with various individuals, but the sketch has some edits that are clearly present, even during a particular scene. It's extremely disappointing.
The videos appear to be reproduced just as they were on the previous volumes that came out, and the audio is the usual pre-'80s stereo mix, and sounds perfectly decent. In terms of supplemental material, aside from some additional footage (dubbed the "Personal Second Best" in this and other cast releases) that runs about 10 minutes, there's a trivia game that's nothing more than video clips for every right and wrong answer, and a biography on Jones. That's about it.
Those who are enthusiasts of Monty Python's Flying Circus might enjoy a particular episode or two would probably be better off to enjoy any possible commercial-free broadcast, or even renting the occasional volume. Otherwise, I'd advise passing on this release, and holding out for possible bigger and better Python videos in the future.
Jones' reputation precedes the court, and he is acquitted, despite his participation in this cash grab. And because this is a cash grab, the studio is found guilty of this shoddy work, and it's recommended that they go back to the drawing board for better things if they want die hard Pythons to shell out their money on worthy discs.
Review content copyright © 2006 Ryan Keefer; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 55 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Terry Jones' Personal Second Best
* Trivia Game
* John Cleese's Personal Best Review
* Eric Idle's Personal Best Review
* Michael Palin's Personal Best Review