Friday, July 22, 2011

The 2011 Summer Re-Watch: Monty Python's Flying Circus "Full Frontal Nudity" Review

Every Friday, I write about Monty Python's Flying Circus, and every Friday I note how one or two or three sketches rank among my favorites in the series. I'm beginning to resemble a broken record because "Full Frontal Nudity" features three of my all-time favorite sketches--'the dead parrot, 'buying a bed,' and 'army protection racket.' The three sketches are completely different from one another yet equally silly, so much so that Graham Chapman's no-nonsense Colonel stops them for becoming too silly. The Colonel's the one character who makes the episode feel like a cohesive whole.

Of course, with the title being "Full Frontal Nudity," one wonders, "well, how about THAT full-frontal nudity?" Well, there's no full frontal nudity in the episode. Random characters offer their opinions about full front nudity. Gilliam's animation sequences include a perverted character who desires to see women full frontal but each woman's covered up before the camera pans to the other naughty bits. I interpret the full frontal nudity material as a commentary on the BBC standards and practices, and on the idea of censorship. Furthermore, the Pythons perpetuate the image of men-as-slobbering-and-perverted fools when presented with the opportunity to see a woman completely naked. They certainly covered their bases.

What's memorable about the episode, though, is the sketches (naturally). Specifically, the brothers Dino and Luigi are introduced, as well as Chapman's Colonel--all in one sketch. Dino and Luigi are two characters straight out of a B Italian mobster movie from the mid-1960s. The brothers walk with swagger, make veiled threats and break random objects to perpetuate a sense of fear in the colonel's office at the army base. Dino and Luigi compliment the base, suggest that the colonel wouldn't let anything BAD happen to it. Of course, things break and things burn. The brothers break objects to legitimize their threats; however, the colonel's fed up with the sketch and ends it because he hasn't gotten one funny line. Before the Vercotti's enter the office, the colonel deals with a soldier who requests to leave the army. Watkins, the solider, had no idea the army meant killing and fighting, that he assumed he'd water ski and travel. The colonel wonders, "Are you a pacifist, Watkins?" Watkins responds, "No, sir, I'm a coward." The colonel mutters that it's a silly line and orders Watkins sit down. So, when the colonel ends the Vercotti sketch, Watkins begins his bit again only to have Chapman yell "Look, I stopped your sketch five minutes ago so get out shot!"

Luigi Vercotti actually returns in the Piranha Brothers sketch later in the series. The colonel's a mainstay, showing up throughout the series to end sketches that are poorly written or very silly. For this episode, the colonel interrupts sketches whenever a character utters a punch line to the sketch or whenever the sketch meanders. The Pythons publicly expressed their disdain for punch lines, and the colonel's great to use with sketches that have no natural conclusion.

'The Dead Parrot' sketch created generation after generation of parrots, who recite each and every line of the famous sketch. I based my linguistics final on this sketch because of its use of euphemisms. The sketch is about wordplay and linguistics. Cleese offers every euphemism for death in the book as he tries to make the foolish clerk understand that he sold him an ex-parrot. The absurdity of the premise lends itself to humor but the many, many euphemisms Cleese utters makes the sketch what it is. And, well, I'd be remiss if I ignored the insane excuses Palin's clerk offers Cleese ("He's pining for the fjords" and "he was tired after a long squawk"). The colonel interrupts the sketch when it becomes too silly.

I just love the language in the sketch, the word play, its attention to euphemisms and palindromes. Palin's the best when he portrays characters attempting to get away with something. Palin and Cleese will have another scene, in a shop, in which on tries to get one past the other. Cleese is so good as the dis-enchanted and frustrated customer--a representation of working-class frustration in 1960s England.

As for the 'buying a bed sketch,' it's just silly. The word mattress causes Chapman to put a bag over his head. Other workers must stand in a box and sing a song. The sketch ends with every Python hopping on the set.

"Full Frontal Nudity" is funny and well-made episode. The episode boasts some of my favorite characters and sketches. I don't have much more to write about, though.

UP NEXT: "The Ant, an Introduction."


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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.