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In 1969, five overeducated British comics and an American illustrator invaded the homes of unsuspecting BBC viewers with a brand of comedy that was, at the very least, odd. "Absurd," "bizarre," and "incomprehensible" are other descriptions that jump to mind. Nonetheless, this wacky sextet inaugurated an absurd tradition that continued through three-and-a-half seasons of half-hour TV episodes, a series of live performances, a handful of movies, and a legacy of dead parrots and upper-class twits. Monty Python's Flying Circus, Season 1 features the first series of episodes foisted on a still-reeling public, introducing running gags ("And now for something completely different") and recurring characters (an armor-clad Terry Gilliam wielding a rubber chicken, Graham Chapman's pompous Colonel intruding on sketches he deems simply too silly, and of course Michael Palin's "It's a Man" wandered through the entire season). Among the sketch highlights are Nudge Nudge, the Funniest Joke in the World, How to Defend Yourself from a Man Attacking You with Fresh Fruit, Confuse a Cat, and The Dull Life of a City Stockbroker, all interspersed with various and sundry cut-out-animation sequences by Terry Gilliam. Also here are the Lumberjack Song, the Dead Parrot sketch, and the epic Science Fiction sketch (featuring the tennis-mad Blancmanges from outer space), and John Cleese announcing, "And now for something completely different" with all the authority of a BBC announcer who suddenly finds his news desk hijacked by mobsters. Some of these early episodes may lack the consistency and stream-of-consciousness flow of their later, more assured work, but they're packed with some of the most memorable moments of the group's brief but brilliant history. The Pythons hit their first-season stride in the middle episodes, in which clever sketches and strange and wonderful linking gags come together in a wierd logic, but if the final episodes of the series flag compared to their comic peak, their brand of comic madness infects every episode with moments of pure lunatic magic. --Sean Axmaker
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