Judge Clark Douglas knows what's going on here, wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more.
Our reviews of Monty Python's Flying Circus: Sets 1 and 2 (published October 7th, 1999), Monty Python's Flying Circus: Sets 3 and 4 (published November 23rd, 1999), Monty Python's Flying Circus: Sets 5 and 6 (published May 1st, 2000), Monty Python's Flying Circus: Set 7 (published December 4th, 2000), Monty Python's Flying Circus: Eric Idle's Personal Best (published October 12th, 2005), Monty Python's Flying Circus: Graham Chapman's Personal Best (published March 21st, 2006), Monty Python's Flying Circus: John Cleese's Personal Best (published March 1st, 2006), Monty Python's Flying Circus: Michael Palin's Personal Best (published August 30th, 2005), Monty Python's Flying Circus: Terry Gilliam's Personal Best (published April 5th, 2006), and Monty Python's Flying Circus: Terry Jones' Personal Best (published March 15th, 2006) are also available.
Warning: Toxic Jocularity Enclosed!
The time: Late November.
Facts of the Case
Yet another collection compiling the complete run of Monty Python's Flying Circus has been released. Is it worth purchasing? Find out by examining the following conversation.
Ordinary Mustachioed Businessman Wearing a Hat (hereby referred to as "Tim"): Hello, I'd like to buy a DVD, please.
Specially-Trained DVD Merchant Who Looks a Little Like Ken Livingstone (Hereby referred to as "Clerk"): Ah, well then, you've come to the right place, my good man.
Tim: Excellent, excellent. By any chance do you happen to have The Ghost and Mr. Chicken?
Clerk: Let me see, let me see. Oh, no, I'm afraid not. We're fresh out.
Tim: Oh. Okay, that's fine. What about Ordinary People?
Clerk: Ah, an excellent choice, sir. Ordinary People, yes sir, let's take a look…well, bugger, we're all out of that, too.
Tim: I say, what kind of cozy little DVD shop are you running here?
Clerk: An exceptionally cozy one, sir. You'll notice our cute little fireplace, the distinct aroma of hot chocolate, and a series of fresh-faced, sweater-wearing young couples snuggling in the corner.
Tim: That's all well and good, but what about the DVDs?
Clerk: Well sir, you've come to the right place.
Tim: Apparently not, if all you've got is nothing I'm looking for.
Clerk: Oh, but I'm afraid that we do have what you're looking for.
Tim: Really? What would that be, oh great reader of minds?
Clerk: Every single episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus.
Tim: Monty Python's Flying Circus? That positively delightful British sketch comedy program that aired during the late 1960s and early 1970s? Why, I love Monty Python, all six parts of him.
Clerk: Eric Idle, John Cleese, Michael Palin, Graham Chapman, Terry Jones, and Terry Gilliam.
Tim: That's the chap.
Clerk: Yes, Monty Python's Flying Circus was a wonderful program. A grand total of 45 episodes ran over the course of four delicious seasons, and they have all been lovingly preserved on 14 discs. Every one of their classic sketches is included, even "The Parrot Sketch." In addition to these classic sketches and episodes, you get the not-so-classic sketches and episodes that absolutely no one remembers or thinks about very often. The good thing is, even the rubbish is typically far more entertaining than the average sketch comedy program. There has never been anything to equal Monty Python's Flying Circus.
Tim: Not even the likes of Saturday Night Live, SCTV, or The Smothers Brothers?
Clerk: Good as those programs were, none of them reached the giddy comic heights of Monty Python.
Tim: Well, that sounds just wonderful. I may very well buy this delightful collection you speak of. However, I prefer to hem and haw a bit before making a purchase, so I'll ask you to offer me non-sexual further incentive.
Clerk: So much for plan A. Ahem, where was I? Yes, of course. These episodes are also accompanied by a wide variety of substantial special features. You'll see a full live performance of "Monty Python at the Hollywood Bowl" (77 minutes), "Live at Aspen" (60 minutes), "The German Episode" (30 minutes of the Pythons speaking in every German's favorite language), and a documentary called "20 Years of Python: Parrot Sketch Not Included" (82 minutes). In addition to all of this, there are assorted "fiddly bits" scattered throughout the discs. Most of these are simply clips from the show or from the Hollywood bowl performance, but they are indeed there, in all their supplemental glory. If you're a bit of a loner, you can also take a series of quizzes to test your Python knowledge. In addition, despite the fact that the series really shows its age (lots of flecks, specks, scenes that seem rather washed-out) the video and audio have been fairly well-preserved, providing a perfectly satisfactory viewing experience.
Tim: Oh, positively delightful. So, may I purchase this set?
Clerk: Yes, you certainly may. It's called the Monty Python's Flying Circus 16-Ton Megaset, and it is available for the fantastic price of 50-60 dollars.
Tim: Excellent. One, please.
Clerk: Excuse me?
Tim: One Monty Python's Flying Circus 16-Ton Megaset, please.
Clerk: Oh, I'm sorry, we haven't got one.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Tim: You haven't got one?
Clerk: No, I'm afraid not.
Tim: Bloody hell! All this time you've been teasing me with the promise of a wonderful collection, but you haven't got one?
Clerk: No. However, I do have everything in the collection you're asking for!
Tim: What do you mean?
Clerk: Haven't you heard? The Monty Python's Flying Circus 16-Ton Megaset is utterly out of date. It's been replaced by a brand new set, which is fantastically titled The Complete Monty Python's Flying Circus Collector's Edition Megaset. Excellent, yes?
Tim: Um…so what makes this new set different from the old set?
Clerk: How dare you question my character and suggest that the box has merely been double-dipped? What a preposterous concept. For one thing, the first set only had 16 discs. This one has 21 discs. Case closed.
Tim: Not really. What's on the other five discs?
Clerk: I'm sorry, what?
Tim: What the hell is on the other five discs?
Clerk: Oh. Well, three of the discs are devoted to collecting the "Personal Best" releases, which offer an hour of the best work of each individual Python.
Tim: But isn't most of that stuff just taken from the episodes?
Clerk: Oh, well, yes. But it's all mixed up and given a theme. Whee! It's a delight, no?
Tim: No. What's on the other two discs.
Clerk: Ah, I'm glad you asked. The other two discs house brand new documentaries on the history of Monty Python. "Before the Flying Circus" is an excellent black-and-white documentary detailing the careers of all six men up until the show started. It's very interesting and candid. That same description can be applied to "Monty Python Conquers America," the fascinating story of how the show became a huge success on PBS here in the states thanks to the father of Owen and Luke Wilson. It includes interviews with a whole host of American fans, including Paul Rudd, Carl Reiner, Jimmy Fallon, and many, many others. We also get a brief peek at a sketch that was never aired after its premiere, and an interview with Terry Gilliam about the animated sequence.
Tim: I see. So this material is spread over two discs…I'm going to guess that it runs about 4, 5, or 6 hours combined?
Clerk: Ha, you imbecile! Obviously there isn't space for all that. No, it runs 2 hours combined.
Tim: Two hours? Then why put it on two separate discs?
Clerk: What do you mean? You know that each disc can only hold one hour of material.
Tim: That's a lie and you know it. Each disc can hold over three hours. Come on, what's the excuse?
Clerk: Well…the material is just more special if it's on two discs. Plus, it's very collectible. Very, very collectible.
Tim: I suppose you're going to bump the price up a little on this new set to make me pay for these "wonderful bonuses."
Clerk: Only a little, sir.
Tim: Fine, then. How much?
Clerk: 100 dollars, please.
Tim: Yes, okay…wait, what did you say?
Clerk: 100 dollars, please.
Tim: But that's twice as much as the previous set! And why are we using dollars in London?
Clerk: Shut up! Retail on the set is 160 dollars, I'm giving you a deal! You'll pay the money and like it.
Tim: I will most certainly not pay this preposterous price for a set that adds a minimal amount of new supplemental material. I will not, I will not, I will not! Do you hear me? I'm simply going to go out and purchase the old Monty Python's Flying Circus 16-Ton Megaset, which offers nearly the exact same thing for much less. Do you hear me? I shan't let your greedy double-dipping lighten my wallet, not this time. I'm leaving!
Clerk: No you're not. (Clerk pulls out a gun and shoots Tim).
Though this delightful series is a must-own for any fan of British comedy, this set is probably not the best way to get it, unless money is no object. A&E has been milking this series to death, and I suspect this is not the last time they will do so. They are therefore sentenced to cease production on any further Python-related releases, with the exception of this one on Blu-ray. Also, the Clerk is guilty of murdering Tim and spoiling the warm ambiance of his cozy little DVD shop. Court is adjourned.
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