Advanced Television

BBC archive celebrates Monty Python’s 50th anniversary

October 7, 2019

By Nik Roseveare

A new archive of photos and documents has been uncovered which illustrates rarely seen moments from the making of Monty Python, as the ground-breaking comedy show celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Monty Python’s Flying Circus first aired on October 5th 1969 on BBC One and went on to run for four series.

The images from the Monty Python Archive, restored by the BBC Photo Archive team and held in the BBC Photo Archive, include behind-the-scenes photos of the group, made up of John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, and the late Graham Chapman. Dated between 1969 and 1974, the rarely seen images show them on set filming sketches including The Ministry of Silly Walks, And Now for Something Completely Different and The Attila the Hun Show.

The archive release also includes a 1969 audience research report revealing viewers’ initial reaction to the series and its “delicious sense of the ridiculous”, as well as a memo from the then Head of Comedy requesting the “peculiar titles” be changed.

Shane Allen, BBC Controller Comedy Commissioning, says: “These archives are comedy history Holy Grails. They highlight that long-standing BBC reputation of being the vital place that champions pioneering new talents. The Pythons tore up the rule book of comedy grammar, conventions and traditions, but thankfully the support for creative freedom won the day and has certainly paid off in the long run as audiences continue to celebrate and revere their enormous impact on comedy.”

BBC History has also collaborated with the Ministry of Stories to introduce children aged 11-14 to Monty Python and released a teaching resource to support young people across the country to write their own comedy sketches.

Robert Seatter, Head of BBC History, added: “When Monty Python’s Flying Circus began in 1969 it radically changed the face of TV comedy. By introducing these famous Python sketches to today’s young people we want to change it all over again – with the same spirit of surreal invention.”

Categories: Articles, Content