As some of the other reviews have pointed out, some bits from the original series are missing or dubbed over. Those writers noted changes in the Summarizing Proust and Australian Philosopher sketches. Add to that list the removal of most of Terry Gilliam’s religious animations from the “Not Being Seen” episode. (The show ends with a fast-forward summation of the episode and you can see a glimpse of what was expunged.)
I saw all of these episodes uncensored in Canada when they were originally broadcast — now 35 years later A&E decides what we can and cannot see, even as we pay to own the set. It’s disturbing for many reasons that BBC comedy that pushes the boundaries with religion and philosophy is wiped clean by the hand of A&E.
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4.5 (almost 5!) Stars
Take a fantastic set of shows from an excellent British series, add two more discs of the troupe doing the classic bits live, and give it to the customer for practically the same price and you’ve got something for every Python fan.
First, my review of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. I love the show. I think it is groundbreaking in its style and is still incredibly funny today. However, a type of humour doesn’t appeal to 100% of the people and this is British humour so I know it won’t appeal to a larger percentage. That being said, if you like British humour or sketch comedy, you will probably like Monty Python’s TV show.
But, I am here to review the DVD set more than anything since that is what you are considering to buy. I am no Python expert so I can’t tell you every little nook and cranny that should or should not exist on this collection. Like most box sets, it is missing something here and there and some of the other reviews point this out. For the most part, unless you are saturated in Python lore, you will not notice.
What you get is every episode put out on the BBC and I think they did a fine job working with the product. This isn’t digital transfer so there are limitations. All of the skits I knew were on there, many that I had forgotten and many that I hadn’t seen broadcast in the U.S. It is great to see them one after another in their original form. It is also great to have them all together in one box. If you are looking to find just a few specific skits or episodes, you may only need one disc or one of the smaller sets. But the price adds up if you get several, making the box set worth it.
The extras give some nice insight into the making of the series through some written blurbs about each episode and they have spliced together some thematic skits and animations. You can test your trivial knowledge of the Pythons and you can learn some history of the players. Also, some of the skits that they later performed live are available in the extras. The menu, as expected, is also well done using Terry Gilliam’s animations.
However, the chaptering of the discs isn’t real obvious so if you are searching for one skit, it may take some work to get there. Also, the packaging doesn’t list all of the skits on each disc and in each episode so if you haven’t memorized the series completely, you will have to go online to find that resource.
The boys went all out when putting extras on Holy Grail and I wish there was a bit more to this set. I would love commentary or interviews or a documentary or something. It would be quite a chore for this much but even a little bit would be nice. Otherwise, this would rate 5 stars as a DVD set. With the additional discs, it comes even closer than the last set.
For me, though, I’m very happy having the episodes to watch whenever I want, whenever the mood strikes me. Some of the gems are the lesser known skits that aren’t part of the public consciousness. Again, you don’t need to be a Pythonphile to enjoy this set, just someone who really likes the show and the humour.
A&E released this series a long time ago, back before sets like The Simpsons came out and set new standards for TV DVD collections. It was passable, at the time, for them to include only 3-4 shows per disc and lukewarm Extras, but these days… not so much.
Thus, I was a little disappointed when they re-released the Season set a few months ago, and it turned out to be the same thing, only in thinpacks. Don’t get me wrong, the slim cases are nice, but I really wish they had gone the distance and repressed the DVDs, and put 6-7 episodes per disc, cobbled together some commentary tracks from archived recordings, and at the very least fixed the mistake where they deleted a skit from the end of one of the episodes.
Instead, we still have DVDs that are looking rather outdated, complete with a really long, unskippable intro that’s the same on every disc, and “Special Features” that are mostly redundant. Why include clips from the episodes when we could just watch the episodes? Not to mention that we know A&E can do better now, as seen by their work on the Kids in the Hall DVDs and other sets.
As you can see, this is just a review of the DVD set. As for Python itself, there not much I can say that hasn’t been said already. I give the material SIX stars, and the DVD set three stars, which averages out to four. I am a little disappointed, but this remains a must-buy for fans of Python.