Daily Archives: February 20, 2009

It’s Classic Clip Friday: Not The Nine O’Clock News – General Synod’s Life Of Christ


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Not The Nine O’Clock News was the BBC’s first real attempt to make a comedy sketch show after the demise of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

Nowadays, when NTNON is repeated it is in the form of heavily-edited compilations which remove much of the topical material, so it’s easy to forget that in amongst all silliness, it delivered a mean line in satire.

One of the best examples of this is this week’s classic clip – their General Synod’s Life Of Christ sketch.

To give some background, the first season of NTNON aired in 1979, the same year that the film Monty Python’s Life of Brian was released.

Life of Brian is a satire on organised religion. It uses the story of Brian – a man born at the same time as Christ and mistaken for the Messiah by fanatical followers who refuse to listen to his protests that he is not – to lampoon those who misinterpret or abuse religious teachings.

The film predictably proved highly controversial and sparked angry protests from Christian groups around the world, who saw the film as a blasphemous attack on their religion and beliefs, rather than an indictment of those who would pervert and corrupt those beliefs. Several local councils in the UK went so far as to over-rule the British film censors and ban the film from cinemas in their areas. These bans were astonishingly still technically in force in some places as recently as last year.

At the height of the furore, John Cleese and Michael Palin appeared on a late-night TV discussion programme called Friday Night, Saturday Morning to discuss the film. They found themselves confronted by veteran broadcaster and born-again Christian Malcolm Muggeridge and the then Bishop of Southwark, Mervyn Stockwood, who proceeded to insult the film and the Pythons, ignore all their attempts to argue why the film was not blasphemous and repeatedly talk over them, making it difficult for them to get a word in.

Despite this, or perhaps because of it, Cleese and Palin’s reasoned and rational arguments – compared to their accusers’ cheap insults and dismissive arrogance – got the audience of the show on their side and Cleese has often stated that he enjoyed the interview because he believes that him and Palin came out on top.

An episode of Not The Nine O’Clock News was broadcast shortly after the interview had aired and included the following sketch, which brilliantly turned the controversy on its head and exposed its absurdity by having a Python fan condemn a film called Life Of Christ that has been made by the Church Of England which he feels ridicules the members Monty Python.

Unfortunately, the Friday Night, Saturday Morning interview does not seem to be available online but, to give you a chance to compare the spot-on parody to the original, the following extract from the Channel 4 documentary The Secret Life Of Brian includes (about two minutes in) several clips taken from the interview, along with Cleese and Palin’s retrospective feelings about it:

Here’s a clip from another retrospective look at the film, narrated by Doctor Who star David Tennant, with some other footage from the Friday Night, Saturday Morning face-off:

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Another Reason Why The Big Bang Theory Is The Best Comedy Of Recent Years


At the risk of further exposing my underlying geekiness (I know what you’re thinking – I keep it so well hidden…), you might remember in this post I mentioned that The Big Bang Theory had given us the funniest TV moment of the year so far.

Well it looks like the writers are about to surpass themselves. As I previously reported, in the episode that airs on March 9, The Big Bang Theory’s uber-geeks Leonard and Sheldon will spot actress Summer Glau, who plays herself, sitting alone on a train during an extended cross-country rail trip.

Thanks to her TV roles in  Firefly and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (in which she plays a terminator sent back in time to protect the young John Connor), she’s the ultimate female sci-fi fantasy figure for our nerdy heroes. Awed by her genre credentials, they try to pluck up the courage to talk to her – and I’m betting the resulting encounter will make the episode one the show’s best.

And here’s an indication that my optimism is not misplaced, as told by executive producer Bill Prady to Entertainment Weekly’s Michael Ausiello.

He says: “They have 11 hours to get up the courage to talk to her. Of course, Sheldon does offer a word of caution: ‘If Terminators actually did exist, a perfect way they could lull victims into a false sense of security would be to pose as actors who have played Terminators.’ “

As I believe the kids say: ROFLMAO!

For the uninitiated, The Big Bang Theory stars former Roseanne star Jonny Galecki and Jim Parsons as two physics prodigies in their 20s who share a flat and hang out with two equally geeky pals, Howard (Simon Helberg) and Rajesh (Kunal Nayyar), who are also academics, and their new neighbour Penny (Kaley Cuoco), an attractive blonde waitress who wants to be an actress.

In many ways the show is a very traditional, almost old-fashioned sitcom, with a somewhat cliched premise. What elevates it beyond this is some top-drawer performances and the razor-sharp, inspired writing that really makes the most of the culture-clash between the four geeks and, well, everyone the meet.

The second season of the show is currently airing on CBS in the US and on Channel 4 and E4 in the UK and if you’re not watching it, you really ought to be.

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