Monty Python to return to TV after almost 25 years off-air

John Cleese says BBC 'wouldn't commission Monty Python now'

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One of the most frequently quoted comedy series of all time, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, will be back on British TV after nearly 25 years of being off-air. Known for its subversive and innuendo-laden humour, the popular sitcom will be aired on That’s TV after the channel acquired exclusive network television rights to all four seasons. Fans will see the return of Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin, who were at the heart of the satire.

Coinciding with the arrival of colour television, the show had made its debut on BBC One back in 1969.

The much-loved sitcom had also received three BAFTA awards and soon gained international acclaim.

Members of the Python themselves have often complained about the failure to show reruns of the iconic show on UK television when actor Michael told the Radio Times: “I am amazed it hasn’t been repeated.”

His co-star John had also remarked on the show’s lack of exposure across the channels and suggested that the BBC were refusing to rerun the show because it was “too funny”. 

John told Radio 4’s Today show in 2018: “It might not contrast well with some of the comedy they’re doing now, that’s the only explanation I’ve got.”

 The TV actor went on to complain further in 2020, saying: “The BBC has not put Monty Python out on terrestrial television now for 20 years and young people don’t know about it… 

“Now young people have no idea who I am.”

He added: “It seems odd as I think they would enjoy Python.”

Depicting the peculiarities of British life with observational sketches, sight gags, racy humour and intellectual references to philosophical figures and literary personas, the show became a favourite with the nation providing popular sketches such as The Ministry of Silly Walks, The Spanish Inquisition and Albatross. 

Despite the success it had, a comedy commissioner for the BBC, Shane Allen admitted that the programme would not be suitable for today’s audiences.

He said: “If we’re going to assemble a team now it’s not going to be six Oxbridge white blokes, it’s going to be a diverse range of people who reflect the modern world.”


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The show was labelled “disgusting” because of some of its sketches by the BBC’s head of features back in 1970.

The release of Monty Python’s film Life Of Brian, caused even more controversy when themes of religious satire drew accusations of blasphemy. 

In the comedy, the story follows Brian Cohen (played by Chapman), a young Jewish-Roman man who is born on the same day as, and next door to, Jesus, and is subsequently mistaken for the Messiah.

Some countries, including Ireland and Norway, banned its showing, and in a few of these, such as Italy, bans lasted a decade. 

Hitting back at critics, the filmmakers used the notoriety to promote the film, with posters in Sweden reading: “So funny, it was banned in Norway.”

Meanwhile, the movie really took off in the UK and was a box office success, ranking the film the fourth-highest-grossing feature in 1979.

Despite the show’s notoriety, fans will be able to see Monty Python as it forms part of That’s TV’s new schedule of classic comedy in response to the soap-focused schedules launched this month by both BBC1 and ITV.

Monty Python’s Flying Circus will be aired uncut every weeknight from Monday, March 14 at 9pm.

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