Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I've stated thing many a time before but you can all stand to hear it again so here goes...if PBS really were as smart, on-the-ball and as cutting edge as they've always lead us to believe then why did they pull many a boner when it came to what they were, or better yet weren't, putting on their broadcast schedule? To be honest about it I actually can't judge what those fru-fru's are up to these days since the only time I tune in's when the weather looks suspicious (y'see, the local PBS station has a large broadcast area range so I can get heads up on when a storm's a'brewin' long before the other local stations get wind of it), but in the past they have performed what I would call ultimate goof ups and obvious errors regarding their lack of smartipantsness in the scheduling field. F'rinstance, when MONTY PYTHON finally got a weekly timeslot here inna States after being piecemealed to death on various other programs (with PBS actually earning some Neilsen's for once in their born days) whywhywhy??? did they do their best to suppress RUTLAND WEEKEND TELEVISION when it seemed like the best way to cash in on all of that Python success anyway?

OK I've been told that RWT did air in the New York City market so perhaps the show earned a smattering of showings across the fruity plain, but it sure wasn't to be found on any of the PBS stations in the tri-state area I'll tell the world! A shame too, because given that RUTLAND was being presented to the great unwashed during the mid/late-seventies Golden Age of Bizarre Satire (the same stew which spawned NATIONAL LAMPOON/SNL and SCTV), young and impressionable dolts like myself coulda really used something like this to stare at on lonely weekends 'stead of THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW or some of the other hit/miss humor that seemed to permeate "straight" tee-vee way back when.

After years of suppression at the hands of Eric Idle no less comes this bootleg DVD-R collection of the entire series containing all sixteen episodes complete with the Christmas one where George Harrison played a pirate. This compilation should please at least a few of the more serious Pythonites out there, especially the ones who missed out on the fun and games the first time around because of the utter daftness on the part of PBS. And after giving these programs a viewing for once in my born days all I can say is...I wonder how could they have passed this show up given it had just about everything under the sun going for it! Talk about "stupid, stupid, STUPID!"

Hokay, now that I'm a jaded oldster I will admit to you that RUTLAND WEEKEND TELEVISION sure doesn't have the same impact it woulda had if I'd glommed the thing at age sixteen when my satirical impulses were coming to a pimply-like head. I'm just an old fogey now and watching this series in 2011 is slightly akin to silent film buffs who were studying Biograph shorts from 1900 at some MOMA showing back in the forties. The show looks nice 'n all in its mid-seventies way while the mix of Pythonesque surrealism and Neil Innes musical numbers would really have settled well had the local PBS station ran this marathon-style during a pledge drive like they once did alternating PYTHON and THE DAWN OF LAUREL AND HARDY (a series featuring silent clips of the duo working together before the L&H team was officially created), but being burned out by everything including life in general has really jaded me to a lotta things. I mean, you can laugh at some English comedian in drag once, but the umpteenth time around the whole schtick wears kinda thin.

Still I found a lot of worthiness in RWT, from Idle's overall brash style which rarely if ever grates on you (unless he was performing in front of Amerigan cameras which really diluted the entire effect) while fellow DO NOT ADJUST YOUR SET cast member (as part of the Bonzo Dog Band) and longtime sidekick Neil Innes is enjoyable even if his tunes could have used a little beefing up. These two pretty much hold up the entire series even if the rest of the regulars did take a bit of getting used to, especially David Battley whom I'm trying to figure out is supposed to be a surrogate John Cleese or Graham Chapman. Or is Henry Woolf but a Jewish Terry Jones and Gwen Taylor a passable Carol Cleveland substitute? Come to think of it, the specter of PYTHON does hang heavily upon this series!

Can't complain that much given the smart humor that does rear its ugly head at the time as well as the usually-cutting mid-seventies satire which spoofs everything from THE OLD GREY WHISTLE TEST (featuring an appearance by the original Toad the Wet Sprocket whose brief presentation here was eons better'n the group who eventually copped their name!) to Amerigan cop shows complete with those high-lariously bad accents you've come to expect from these Limey comedians! (And hey, what do you make of Idle's Rod McKuen sendup, the subject in spoof now going by the name of "McQueen" hmmmmmmmmm?) Not forgetting Innes doing all three Marx Brothers thanks to the miracle of videotape which was good timing since this was being done at the height of seventies Grouchomania and at least Innes knew a good bandwagon to jump on!

A nice encapsulation of a certain place and time that's long gone and which hardly anybody I know would care to re-live, but this not-so-humble reviewer sure wouldn't have minded inundating myself with back during my own formative years. At least these woulda fit snugly in my addled mind along with my old MAD paperbacks, whatever HELP! magazine I could scrape up and all of those bad Chevy Chase impersonations that were all the rage during those rather timewarped days. And frankly, what this country needed back then was a good guffaw and chortle given how hard really funny kicks were getting harder and harder to find. Of course I'm talking intended funny kicks...if I recall correctly reality was already giving us too many real life ones from Gerald Ford to Larry Flynt out the wazoo!


diskojoe said...

Do you have the Do Not Adjust Your Set & At Last The 1948 Show DVD sets? They both show how Monty Python developed.

Also, speaking of Neil Innes, his liner notes for the recent Bonzo Dog CD reissues were the funniest I ever read.

Christopher said...

I have DO NOT ADJUST YOUR SET already...see the highlighted link above to be taken to my review of it, though I have passed on 1948 for the time being. The Bonzo reissue does look tasty though...

diskojoe said...

That 1948 set is worth picking up, especially seeing John Cleese & Marty Feldman. Speaking of which, do you remember watching the Marty Feldman Show that ABC picked up as a summer replacement series in the very early 70s?

I think the funniest story about how Monty Python came to the US was that it was a PBS station in Dallas, TX that 1st broadcast them. In the recent Python documentary, they told the story about how a representative from WGBH (the Bosstown PBS station) went to the BBC to watch some episodes & just couldn't understand the humor.

Christopher said...

I vaguely remember the Marty Feldman show. The only skit that sticks out in my mind is that sped up film about the holiday-ers taking a bus tour and Marty being the last one in line wherever he went...the lavatory amongst 'em.

Funny that the man from WGBH didn't pick up on PYTH-HON given how they were the ones who gave us all of those stodgy English dramas in the form of MASTERPIECE THEATER lo these many years!