Friday, July 15, 2011

The 2011 Summer Re-Watch: Monty Python's Flying Circus "You're No Fun Anymore" Review

"You're No Fun Anymore" is the first episode of Flying Circus that I loved, adored and admired. I discovered Monty Python in my senior year of high school when my history teacher showed a scene from Holy Grail blew my mind (the "Who are the Britons?" sketch). I loved the humor, the smart writing and, above all else, Terry Jones' ridiculous pepperpot and Palin's Dennis. Two weeks before my graduation, BBC America aired marathons of Flying Circus episodes. "You're No Fun Anymore" aired during one of the marathons and the episode made me a fan of the troupe for life.

'Science Fiction Sketch' pre-dates any of the four films the troupe made. The sketch is basically a short film. For twenty plus minutes, the troupe tells a complete story about an alien invasion and the aliens attempt to win Wimbledon. The story is complete with a central protagonist, antagonist, secondary characters and the token scientist who can figure out the reason for the alien invasion, and their motivations for invading England.

The story begins simply, over narration of the many galaxies and planets in the solar system. The scene shifts to a middle-aged couple who live ordinary lives where nothing extraordinary ever happens, so the narrator pans over them and focuses on a man who soon turns into a Scotsman. Soon, men and women all over England turn into Scotsmen until England's nearly empty. When the aliens finished transforming English men and women into Scotsman, they ordered 48 million kilts from Angus Podgorney, which is how our central protagonist becomes involved in the story.

Angus and his wife are perplexed by the order but Angus vows to knit 48,000,000 kilts because they sold 9.5 kilts in the last 12 months. He and his wife are looking at $900 million pounds of profit from the sale. Angus figures that if blancmanges traveled 2,200,000 light years they must be keen on kilts. Things change, though, when the blancmange eats his wife. Angus is saddled with guilt, filled with the knowledge that he could've saved his wife if he simply went to the police with information that he'd been approached by unearthly beings from the Galaxy of Andromeda (from the planet Skyron) then they would've sent a police man investigate and all would be well.

Angus Podgorney's filled with sadness and guilt. He's the only one who knows what viciousness the blancmanges are capable of. Angus stands as the lone man who can hope to defeat the unearthly beings from the planet Skyron of the Galaxy Andromeda. Now, I'm merely projecting the traits of a leading man in an alien invasion film. Truthfully, Podgorney's not mad. He wanders into the tennis court to save the day, truth be told. The heroism is good-timing rather than intentional heroism, which is tremendous.

The one man who can solve the mystery of the blancmanges is Charles, the Chief Scientist at the Anthropological Research Institute, at Butley Down - an expert in what makes people change from one nationality to another. We meet him as he's kissing a beautiful blonde woman (Donna Reading). Her parent's have been turned into Scotsman; however, she doesn't seem concerned. She's pre-occupied by flirting with the camera. She purses her lips and plays with her hair. She takes every comment literally. Charles eventually hits her on the head with a rag and she doesn't have another line. Charles solves the mystery of the blancmanges--the aliens have been practicing tennis all over England, turned every one into Scotsman (the Scots are terrible at tennis), so they mean to win Wimbledon.

The sketch is insane. There are random asides throughout the story such as the police man advising people to inform the police of mysterious activity or another officer questioning a player about playing doubles with five people. I interpreted the exchange as a parody of the audiences for actual sci-fi films in which they'll suspend their disbelief for everything except for someone playing doubles with five people.

Podgorney wins Wimbledon in the end but the uninteresting, ordinary couple from the beginning of the sketch defeat the blancmange by eating it. You see, they're from the planet Skyron in the galaxy Andromeda--they were about to tell the production but they were panned over.

'Science Fiction' sketch works so well because it parodies movie tropes while telling a very funny, ridiculous story about aliens. Throughout the sketch, characters react to the incidental music of the scene or camera choices. The sketch is my favorite in the entire series. I also love the opening sketches with Eric Idle as a camel (train) spotter because of the build to the 'you're no fun anymore' punchline (I used the phrase constantly over the summer of 2005).

The episode's a masterpiece. The Pythons proved they could write brilliant isolated sketches but science fiction sketch showcases their ability to write a long-form narrative and never once lose momentum or laughs.

UP NEXT: "Full Frontal Nudity"


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About The Foot

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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.