In this special edition of imagine… Alan Yentob follows Cleese, Palin, Jones, Gilliam and Idle (collective age 357) as they pursue solo projects in far-flung locations, reflect on old age, and prepare for the shows in London that will bring the final curtain down on Python after 45 years.
eyelights: its behind-the-scenes look at the reunion.
eyesores: its relative brevity.
‘Imagine…’ is a BBC 1 arts documentary series that has been on the air since June 2003. Hosted by Alan Yentob, it consists of over 20 series and various specials. On June 29, 2014, the series did a special feature on the latest Monty Python reunion.
Called ‘Monty Python: And Now for Something Rather Similar’, this 70-minute special focuses on the making of the legendary comedy troupe’s latest venture, ‘Live (mostly) – One Down Five to Go’, which saw them take The O₂ by storm in July of 2014.
Broadcast at the unusual time of from 10:25pm, the special starts with 1999 interviews of them saying they’ll likely never work together again, with Gilliam, Palin and Cleese being particularly disparaging of the notion of “old farts redoing their old skits”.
Then came the ‘Spamalot’ lawsuit, which found the Pythons having to pay the producer of ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ 800 thousand British pounds in legal fees and royalties. In serious financial distress, the troupe mused about doing a live show to fund it.
So they did. And the first show sold out in under a minute. So they added four more dates. Those sold in under an hour. So they added yet another five more shows. Those also sold out and they were subsequently offered large sums to go on a world tour.
Palin nixed the notion.
It’s not made quite clear why he chose to veto the idea, but the show finds them discussing age and mortality to some degree. Combined with their numerous other projects and their personal lives, it’s quite likely that Palin felt that ten shows was plenty.
Idle, who is the group’s biggest promoter and showman, talks about it being the last show, as they can barely even get insured at their age. He was the project leader, having produced ‘Spamalot’ and ‘Not the Messiah‘. He’s the only one who understands the scope of this project.
In fact, while he’s busy trying to put their stage show together and coordinate everything, the others are distracted by their various ventures: Cleese is doing his 200-date alimony tour, Palin is starring in a ghost story, Gilliam is doing an opera and Jones is directing a movie.
Graham is resting in peace. Splitter!
The programme is terrific because it not only gave us a bird’s eye view on the making of the show (ex: Idle trying to dig up for the famed albatross in a storage area, and listening to Palin plugging the shows on the radio, or the dancers practicing) we get tons of interviews as well.
Ultimately, we get the impression that Monty Python is really just a side note for these incredibly busy individuals, but that they really do enjoy getting back together on occasion, not just to pay a few bills, but to savour their old and long-standing alliances.
As ‘Monty Python: And Now for Something Rather Similar’ ends, fittingly as the remaining Pythons prepare to hit the stage, we get the impression that they are going once more unto the breach, dear friends, and that after these shows the troupe will be done forever.
Quoth the ex-Python, Nevermore.
Date of viewing: June 28, 2015