Saturday, July 2, 2016

The tail of the snake

Rutland Weekend Television is an odd duck. Eric Idle was given two seasons to produce it after Monty Python's Flying Circus ended. While that show was on its way to becoming an international hit - already having a following in Britain - this was an even smaller scale operation. Each season had only six or seven episodes, while Python had always gotten thirteen, except for the Cleeseless final season. And even the smaller order was underbudgeted, meaning limited shooting locations, no eye-catching animated bumpers, etc.

Idle made a distinctive go of it anyway, turning the liabilities into assets. This is a show about an impoverished light entertainment program, and is also that very thing in real life. It's a different kind of cast, too, dominated by older character actors, but with Gwen Taylor given a fairly large, non-eye candy part. The "world's wittiest man" above is The Bonzos' Neil Innes, who's something.


susan said...

While it certainly didn't meet the stylistic level of Monty Python or the over-the-top hilarity of Fawlty Towers (or was that Farty Towels?) this episode is good fun. I loved the World's Wittiest Man.

A few years ago (actually quite a few since it was the night we all learned GW had won the election) we had tickets to see Neil Innes at a theater in Portland. When we arrived we found a sign that said because ticket sales had been poor the venue had been changed (to a small club in a neighborhood we'd never visited). We found the place. It was small - maybe 30 of us packed into an oversized living room. The show was great and he sympathized with all of us depressed voters, telling us England had survived Maggie Thatcher (okay, that's debatable). His wife sat near the door selling souvenirs.

Ben said...

It was also Flowery Twats on one episode. What's especially funny about that is that there's an extra letter. The vandals actually imported a T from some other sign to complete their masterpiece.

One thing I didn't mention was that this show was also ground zero for Idle doing the Rutles. Well, coming up with the idea and acting in the mockumentary. He doesn't seem to have had a lot to do with their songs. Being the most musically inclined Python - he and Michael Palin were the only ones who could really sing - didn't count for much in a roomful of old studio hands.

But Neil Innes certainly had a lot to do with them. It must have been good to catch him on that night. And I'm glad he had some encouraging words for America (Americans at least.)