Monty Python’s Flying Circus began on the BBC in 1969. The troupe, made up of Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Jones, Eric Idle, Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam, became one of the biggest comedy exports that Britain has produced.
Monty Python: Almost The Truth (Lawyers Cut) is a six-part series that charts the beginnings, middles and ends of the Python gang. Where this series stands out from others, though, is the detail it goes into, along with its extensive interviews with all five surviving Python members – plus David Sherlock, partner of the late Graham Chapman, Carol Cleveland, a host of people associated with the group and various contemporary comedy stars.
Each episode focuses on a different portion of the team’s career, starting with the work on series such as The Frost Report and Do Not Adjust Your Set and the formation of the Python, then onto Flying Circus before charting the development of the movies and live shows.
Threaded throughout the episodes, the interviews give surprisingly honest and forthright opinions and insight into various points in Python history. One issue that often arises from documentaries is the use of generic talking heads, which feel that they’re just guns for hire with no real love for the subject matter. But here, the likes of Russell Brand and Steve Coogan discuss their favourite sketches and the influences these have had on themselves and their work. You get the real feeling that they’re more than happy to talk about their favourite comedians.
The interviews with the surviving Pythons are detailed and there’s very little sugar-coating on the key milestones of their career. There are simple discussions on how famous sketches, such as The Parrot Sketch, and the movies came about, but there’s also talk of Graham Chapman’s issues with alcohol and his sad passing, which had such a huge effect on the group.
The documentary has all of the clips you would ever need, from all of the best sketches to the pre-Python shows and their huge reunion at The Hollywood Bowl. It is a good retrospective, if you want a detailed, yet still accessible, history of the comedians – or if you need a casual reminder of the best of the group in the lead-up to their massive O2 Arena shows in July 2014. You won’t find many better comedy documentaries around.
Monty Python: Almost The Truth is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.
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