This year marks the 40th anniversary of the debut of Monty Python's Flying Circus on the BBC, aired just before the TV station shut down for the night. This three-disc set contains over seven and a half hours of material celebrating the history of the troupe and their effect on comedy. There have been several extensive print biographies of Python, but this is the most extensive documentary about them. The first two DVDs comprise a six-part series detailing the their history up to the present.
The third disc contains some of their best sketches, which will no doubt not include some your favorites, a collection of Terry Gilliam's mad art, extended interviews, and the amusing outtakes/cutting room floor fodder.
There are interviews with the surviving members as well as snippets of their various solo careers, before, during, and after the TV show. Now older and wiser, they are candid about their various troubles, amongst themselves and with their art. Much of their early history has been lost due to the BBC's early practice of erasing program tapes. We get to learn the true story behind George Harrison's efforts to make sure Life of Brian got made. I bet not many know that Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd donated money to make sure the movie was made.
These men are funny even in interviews, which is interesting. Interviews with Python stalwarts Carol Cleveland and the brilliant Neil Innes add to the pleasure.
Various fans are along for the ride, including Elvis in spirt, Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden (his Pythonesque tale in the outtakes is a highlight), as well as comedians as diverse as Steve Coogan and Dan Aykroyd. Wait until you hear what the Pythons think of Aykroyd and his reaction.
It is assumed that viewers will already have a decent knowledge of Python. That said, this should be on the Christmas list of any fan of the troupe or of English comedy.