TV review: Unscripted chat has plenty to offer in The Meaning of Monty Python

Sky Arts 1

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The Independent Culture

There was some actorly nostalgia on Sky Arts 1 with The Meaning of Monty Python, as the surviving members gathered together (via a video link to California, in Eric Idle's case). The purpose of this happy reunion? To discuss the making of The Meaning of Life, the Pythons' intermittently brilliant 1983 film.

Well, that was the idea anyway. In fact, the five old friends went off on tangents, including one-armed cricketers, the childhood friendships of Wittgenstein and how Francis Bacon died in Terry Gilliam's home (Palin: "I thought Aristotle had died in my house, but it was all bloody rumour. He'd never been anywhere near Kentish Town!").

Usually, these kind of cast round tables are best left unexplored at the bottom of the DVD extras menu, but here was a rare example of an unscripted chat having lots to offer. It was pleasant to see how well these five men still get on, and pleasanter still to note that even when they're not being funny, they're still interesting and erudite.

John Cleese's mini-rant on the changing commissioning priorities of comedy's "executive class" should be required viewing for every TV producer in the land.