Parrot Sketch Not Included: 20 Years of Monty Python

Parrot Sketch Not IncludedSynopsis: Presented by Steve Martin, this anthology of some of the group’s best bits from “Flying Circus” and “Fliegender Zirkus” (minus the eponymous Parrot Sketch), compiled by John Lloyd, marked the 20th anniversary of the original series’ premiere. “Some people like them, I guess,” espoused Martin in the intro.

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Parrot Sketch Not Included: 20 Years of Monty Python 7.0

eyelights: Monty Python.
eyesores: the bland presentation. Steve Martin’s non-gags.

“‘ello, I wish to register a complaint.”

‘Parrot Sketch Not Included’ is a 72-minute television special that was produced to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Monty Python. It was broadcast by the BBC on October 5, 1989, exactly 20 years to the day of the first episode of their seminal comedy series ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’.

Hosted by Steve Martin, who is said to be a huge Python fan, it consists mostly of various clips from the television series pastiched together. Many are considered the comedy troupe’s best in some fashion or another – although, as the title suggests, the classic “Dead Parrot Sketch” is noticeably absent.

It is interesting to note that most of the show is rehashed material, with only the Steve Martin bits (at best 6-7 minutes’ worth) being new to audiences. Martin tries his best to be funny, but most of his material is unsubtle and/or trite – the only exception being the megalomaniacal opening credits.

In fact, given how fresh and influential Monty Python were, it comes off as a rather lame tribute, paling in comparison to their genius. I’ve seen good Steve Martin; this isn’t it. I’ve also seen terrible Steve Martin, and this isn’t it either. But it’s a highly forgettable bookend to the rest of the show.

The Pythons are noted for having messed around with the format of sketch comedy shows, and for refusing to allow ABC to edit their shows in the mid-’70s because it diluted their effect. Interestingly, this devastatingly uninspired presentation does exactly that; there was no attempt to sustain their vibe.

And, given that not all of their most classic skits are included (No “Cheese Shop”, “Nudge, Nudge”, “Battle of Pearl Harbor”, “Crunchy Frog”, …etc.) and that some of their lesser ones (“Dennis Moore”) are, it’s not exactly the most stellar compilation one might watch. I’d much rather watch the shows as intended.

For fans, the only real reason to watch this programme would be to see the Pythons together again after 20 years. Sadly, they are but a footnote in the programme, appearing for only 10 seconds at the end of the show, hidden in a cupboard (with a hauntingly frail-looking Graham Chapman at their centre).

Otherwise, although it has a clever title, ‘Parrot Sketch Not Included’ is rather redundant and a bit of a letdown for fans, who likely expected more of an event. I couldn’t possibly recommend this to fans nor to non-fans: fans have seen better in the original shows, and non-fans wouldn’t see what made Python so great.

“What about this “Monty Python” crowd? Well, some people like ’em, I guess.”, Martin quipped flatly.

They (Python, fans, and non-fans) deserve better than this.

Date of viewing: March 16, 2015

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