Judge Ryan Keefer disappears into a vortex of sketch comedy and ice cream pies while watching a compilation disc full of sketch links.
Our reviews of The Complete Monty Python's Flying Circus Collector's Set (published November 19th, 2008), 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), and Monty Python's Flying Circus: Terry Jones' Personal Best (published March 15th, 2006) are also available.
The saints of satire, the lords of laughter, the high priests of low comedy, have sold out once again.
Arguably, one of the challenges in reviewing these Monty Python compilation discs has been how erratic the discs have been when one sits down to watch them. Because the shows themselves worked so well, watching three minutes of a seven minute sketch just doesn't cut it.
Despite the frustration over watching the compilation discs for Python alums Terry Jones and Graham Chapman, the "Personal Best" of Terry Gilliam could very well be the best of the set, because there are definitive guidelines to Gilliam's animated work. Fast forwarding to the extras for a moment, aside from the trivia quiz and biography that seems to be apparent on the other discs, there's a featurette with Gilliam where he discusses his upbringings, along with what brought him over to England. At first (despite a good friendship that was struck with Cleese) it sounded like Gilliam wasn't received with unanimous open arms and kisses, but eventually the rest of the boys managed to accept what he was doing, and appeared frequently on the show to utter the occasional line ("The comfy chair???"). Gilliam explains how he managed to come up with some of the more unique ideas, and he talks about those parts that were his favorites. Gilliam is always an engaging interview, and this is no different.
Going into the feature itself, Gilliam provides a makeshift introduction to it, holding a flashlight to his face and denouncing the show's success, and taking credit for the original idea, which was to be an all-animated festival. And from there, we get how things should have been in a Gilliam-led Python regime. Among some of the stranger inclusions are Gilliam's introduction to the fish-slapping dance, along with the entire Gilliam-free sketch in all its glory (can someone check, I think this sketch has been on all the "Personal Best" discs). But for fans of the "Killer Cars" and "Killer Cats" animations, they are all here. Liked "Charwoman"? Well, get ready to see it again. A fan of "Conrad Pooh's Dancing Teeth"? Dance with glee at seeing it at the front of the disc. Now going back to why this was so enjoyable is that when taking a look at Gilliam's work, most of it was to get to sketch B from sketch A, which he did rather well. The result were standalone cartoons that were (and still are) quite funny. I still brush with Crelm toothpaste, for God's sake.
Over the course of the disc, Gilliam (to his credit) seemed to put in a concerted effort to make this enjoyable, rather than a tired "Greatest Hits" reunion tour of some old standards. The fact of the matter remains that this still is a collection of old standards. The sketch work of Python flows so well that for those fans of the boys, you're probably more likely to watch the individual episodes rather than the usual clip treatment afforded to sketch comedies. Commercials during Mr. Show never worked, so it's safe to say that you're either going to watch the entire episode or not, there's no in-between to navigate through.
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Scales of Justice
• Terry Gilliam's Featurette
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