Monday, 27 October 2014

Holy Flying Circus (2011 TV Film)

"You're not the nicest man in the world; you're a very naughty boy!"

I know- odd time to blog it. But I'm off work with a hammy leg and I needed something to watch, having Sky plussed this month's ago.

It's sobering to note that, in a sense, 2011 is another age; BBC 4 used to makes its own one-off dramas back then, invariably excellent. This, I think, was one of the best.

This is a comedic dramatisation of the initial reception to Monty Python's Life of Brian, leading up to and beyond the notorious "debate" between John Cleese and Michael Palin on one side and a sneering Malcolm Muggeridge and a waspish queen of a bishop on the other. Naturally, the focus is on Cleese (Darren Boyd steals the show here and Palin (Charles Edwards). Cleese is played, for comic relief, as Basil Fawlty, but his abrasiveness and annoying tendencies are leavened by the fact that he's always, always right, and votes Lib Dem... er, Liberal, to boot. I particularly love the blatantly anachronistic bit about why the Pythons didn't go after Muslims.

Palin is, of course, portrayed as the nicest main in the world, the audience identification character and only semi-serious bit of a drama long on surreal and humorous assaults on the fourth wall, although his wife is portrayed, magnificently, by Rufus Jones, who also plays Terry Jones. This is a decision of sheer genius, given Terry J's habit of playing the "pepperpots", but it does lead  to a troubling my oestrogen-lite cast.

Steve Punt plays Eric Idle as a money-grabbing bastard, but the other Pythons recede into the background of what is a magnificently silly drama. It looks very 1979, and has some sharp points to make about both then and now; the bombastic producer in 1979 is contrasted with the Head of BBC 4. Both are rather less prim than the splendid Head of Rude Words, but the point about BBC bureaucracy, with all these unnecessary heads of this and that, is well made.

The debate itself is based on true events; the bishop and Muggeridge were as smug and childish as the drama shows, showing exactly the sort of undergraduate humour that the bishop effects to dismiss. It's quite realistic that the public, even the People's Church of St Sophia, would side with them.

This is really quite brilliant, and it's a crying shame that BBC4 won't be doing any more.

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