A British comedy world w/out Python?


One can only imagine, if even only for a brief moment, what our available British comedy viewing choices would be today had the BBC acted on their early feelings regarding Monty Python’s Flying Circus. According to this article in theTelegraph, documents obtained last year under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that BBC management found Monty Python’s Flying Circus to be “disgusting”, “nihilistic” and “in appalling taste”.

Speaking recently at a film festival, one of the founding Python members, Terry Jones, revealed to an audience in Croatia what many of us in the North Texas area have known for decades. It wasn’t until a Spanish television executive approached the BBC to acquire broadcast rights did the BBC think they might have something on their hands. Not long after, Ron Devillier, then program director for KERA, the PBS station in North Texas, inquired about the possibility of U.S. broadcast rights. As the story goes, Ron screened the entire 13 episodes in one sitting and thought they were the funniest thing he had ever seen. Remember this was the early 70’s. Unfortunately, it was also Dallas in the early 70’s which didn’t have much of a reputation as having a culture that would embrace the Python humor.

That aside, Ron immediately acquired for KERA and even brought several members to the Dallas studios, making it the first station in the United States to broadcast the series in its entirety. As referenced in several Python historical accounts, both Jones and fellow Python member, Michael Palin, refer to the initial KERA broadcast and immediate follow-up by stations in Chicago, New York, Boston and Philadelphia as another reason that the series was saved from not only elimination, but from the bulk erase pile. An interesting side note from that original broadcast…Dallas’ 70’s conservative culture gave way to the series making it the all-time highest rated program on KERA at that time. So, while it was quite possibly that lone Spanish television executive and KERA’s Ron Devillier, along with then President/CEO, Bob Wilson, that saved Python from the BBC, you could also say that the Dallas/Fort Worth television audiences of the 70’s saved British comedy in the North Texas area.

Thanks, Ron, from all of us that love British comedy for what we know it as today.

  • Steve Burstein

    I was impatient for a British comedy invasion to start after PYTHON got here, but without MONTY in the US would we have even gotten all those Britcoms in the 80s and 90s(or now?).NO, HONESTLY used to play in tandem with PYTHON in Boston circa 1976.Did KERA introduce that as well?

    • Steve: Not sure about No Honestly originating with KERA. I know that once Python hit, everything else pretty much fell in line across the country with shows like No Honestly, Fawlty Towers, Good Neighbors, etc. pretty much happening at the same time in Dallas, LA, Chicago, Philly, NY and Boston. Those were pretty much the driving stations and cities that kept it going after Python started in Dallas.

  • I recall it was The fall and rise of Reginald Perrin paired with Python in the 70’s. I didn’t get where I am today without recalling that fortuitous matchup.

    • @Michael: Will do some checking and try to source out some old schedules from back in the day. Personally, I couldn’t remember it it was Reggie or if it was Good Neighbors first, but you may be right given the timing. Will let you know.