Pre-‘Monty Python’ series unearthed in major comedy discovery

Photo: ITV

On the heels of the unfortunate BBC announcement that there was to be no further comission for any new Upstart Crow programs, the comedy pendelum shifted to the positive end of the spectrum in roughly 24 hours with new that ITV has recovered a major, missing comedy series that lead to the creation of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

The Complete And Utter History Of Britain was written by and starred Michael Palin and Terry Jones, with one six-part series airing in January and February 1969. Originally filmed as seven parts, with the first two programs edited into one ahead of broadcast by London Weekend Television, only the first two broadcast programs had been known to survive in full, alongside filmed inserts from the rest of the series.

The Complete And Utter History Of Britain, a spoof documentary presenting the history of the British Isles,  with the Monty Python troupe forming in the immediate aftermath of the program’s airing, with Flying Circus airing from 5th October the same year. Monty Python’s Flying Circus premiered in America on KERA TV, the PBS station in Dallas, five years later on October 6, 1974.

In a statement to the British Comedy Guide, an ITV spokesperson said, “It was found by the ITV Archive team as part of a huge project to fully identify every archive asset ITV holds. The series had been sitting in the ITV vaults (for 54 years!) though mis-catalogued for decades, but through the identification programme we were able to make this remarkable find.

We flagged it to our colleagues in streaming, had the film cleaned and restored from the 16mm telerecordings and then finally made available to our viewers for the first time since the original broadcasts.

All six half-hour shows are available to watch now via ITVX Premium with hopes that a DVD release is not too far behind.

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