First up is a Restaurant sketch with Cleese and Idle as husband and wife. Idle is good value as the complaining wife (“Ooh I don’t like this, Ooh I don’t like that. Oh I don’t think much to all this. Oh fancy using that wallpaper. Fancy using mustard. Oo is that a proper one? Oo it’s not real. Oh I don’t think it’s a proper restaurant unless they give you finger bowls. Oo I don’t like him. I’m going to have a baby in a few years”).
The sketch then goes off into several different directions, best of which is Jones offering himself as the dish of the day (“I hope you’re going to enjoy me this evening. I’m the special. Try me with some rice”).
I love the authentic looking cinema adverts (“After the show why not visit the La Gondola Restaurant. Just two minutes from this performance”) which is followed an intermission with Cleese as a cinema usherette who’s only got an albatross for sale (“Course you don’t get bloody wafers with it”). For such a typically throwaway moment it enjoyed a long life, right up until the farewell shows at the O2 earlier this year.
The historical impersonations sketch (“I would like to see John the Babtist’s impersonation of Graham Hill”) really belongs to Palin, both for his suitably smarmy host and his turn as Cardinal Richelieu impersonating Petula Clark.
Also good is the police sketch (“Yes, we in Special Crime Squad have been using wands for almost a year now. You find it’s easy to make yourself invisible. You can defy time and space, and you can turn violent criminals into frogs. Something which you could never do with the old truncheons”).
A long sketch brings the series to a close. Cleese is a psychiatrist who finds Palin a difficult case to solve. He keeps hearing guitars playing and people singing when there’s no one around and what’s worse is that it’s mostly folk songs (“Oh my god”). He’s sent along to see Chapman’s surgeon, who happily slices him open and discovers he has squatters inside him.
Squatter: Too much man, groovy, great scene. Great light show, baby.
Surgeon: What are you doing in there?
Squatter: We’re doing our own thing, man.
Surgeon: Have you got Mr Notlob’s permission to be in there?
Squatter: We’re squatters, baby.
Surgeon: What? (to nurse about Notlob) Nurse, wake him up. (she slaps his face)
Squatter: Don’t get uptight, man. Join the scene and other phrases. Money isn’t real.
Surgeon: It is where I’m standing and it blows my mind, young lad. (looks inside Notlob) Good Lord! Is that a nude woman?
Squatter: She’s doing an article on us for ‘Nova’, man.
Girl: (her head also appearing through slit) Hi everyone. Are you part of the scene?
Surgeon: Are you rolling your own jelly babies in there?
Notlob: (waking up) What’s going on? Who are they?
Surgeon: That’s what we are trying to find out.
Notlob: What are they doing in my stomach?
Surgeon: We don’t know. Are they paying you any rent?
Notlob: Of course they’re not paying me rent!
Squatter: You’re not furnished, you fascist.
Apart from a brief Gilliam animation and a Cleese voice over (“When this series returns it will be put out on Monday mornings as a test card and will be described by the Radio Times as a history of Irish agriculture”) that’s the end of the series. Not having seen it for a good few years, it still stands up very well. Whilst the groundswell of opinion that Python is overrated does seem to have increased over the last ten years or so, there’s still more than enough across the thirteen episodes to justify the reputation that Python has always enjoyed. The strike rate of decent sketches is good and even the things that don’t quite work are lifted by the Pythons themselves.
(With thanks to the Monty Python – Just The Words website for the script extracts)