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THE TINY SCREEN: And Now for Something Completely Different – Monty Python on PBS:

When I was a teenager in the 1980s, a scant few of my friends were “into Monty Python.” They were like a secret club – singing the lumberjack song and talking about dead parrots. To the uninitiated, it might as well have been a foreign language. Those of us who know Monty Python knew them from their films like The Holy Grail, Life of Brian, and of course, The Meaning of Life. But there was a whole very long Python television show that began in England and eventually spread to the US, where it achieved great success, much to the surprise of the funny men behind the show – who didn’t think Americans would think it was funny. Of course, they did think it was funny and many of us still do.Lucky for us, and everyone else, PBS is rolling out a six-hour look at the comedy troup this week to run in batches in early March. The show will feature all of the Python members in a kind of tribute to the late Graham Chapman. There will be specially chosen clips of each member’s favorite moments, lots of familiar and unfamiliar sketch comedy and even some new stuff, apparently.Most of the Python members have gone on to quite fabulous careers – John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones and, of course, Terry Gilliam. Some of them have worked together on films like A Fish Called Wanda, (which is easily as funny, though not as obtuse, as the other Python films). But they will all always be associated with their late 60s television series, “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.” Each of the one-hour programs will focus exclusively on one member of the Monty Python. Clips from their films will also be shown. And the best part of all, each of the five remaining Pythons will produce and write his own episode with all five working together on a final sixth episode in honor of Chapman. What made the Python troop so exceptional was that they were writers first, comedians second. They wrote their own characters and jokes and pushed their own boundaries. There was an audacity to what they did that has never really been equaled, particularly since for any given comedian on television today there are easily five to ten writers making them funny. What made the sketches so funny wasn’t the written jokes as much as it was the way they were played by the six funny men. Their jokes have been sewn into the fabric of the last few generations – particularly the baby boomers. To take a look back at their extraordinary work is a special treat indeed.In the age of TIVO, there is no excuse to miss the PBS broadcast. The special will be a great way to introduce PBS’ further plans for showing all 47 episodes of “Flying Circus” in April. Meanwhile, it seems that not many people are watching the Olympics this year compared to previous years. Is it because we have “Skating with the Stars,” “American Idol,” “Fear Factor” and other competitions that make the Olympics seem, well, civil?Americans have finally tired of civility and, like their competitions, become nasty and humiliating. Unfortunately, the only humiliation at the Olympics this year, if you don’t count curling, is when the poor skaters fall on the ice, or the skiers take a tumble. Perhaps if they found a way for Americans to join in the vote they might actually watch. They could phone it in, a la “Idol,” thus ensuring that the cutest would triumph over all others. Extra points for hot skater outfits and cute smiles. Monty Python airs part one tonight and will air the next segment March 1. For more info, visit www.pbs.org/montypython. Notable TV This WeekTurner Classic Movies’ “360 Degrees of Oscar” rolls on through Friday, March 3, with films that have won or been nominated for Oscars 24 hours a day — all uncut and commercial free. It truly is a movie lovers’ feast. For the complete schedule, go to www.turnerclassicmovies.com. Thursday, February 23Buffalo 66, 8 p.m., IFC.Jurassic Park (***), 8 p.m., BRAVO.A Guy Named Joe (***), 9 p.m., TCM.HG Wells’ War of the Worlds, 9 p.m., SCI FI.Friday, February 24Same Time, Next Year (***), 7:30 p.m., TCM.Traffic (****), 8 p.m., BRAVO. Twister (***), 8 p.m., TNT.The Silence of the Lambs (****), what Oscar dreams are made on, 8 p.m., AMC.Saturday, February 25 Sleepless in Seattle (***), 7:30 p.m., TCM.Grizzly Man (****), 8 p.m., DISCOVERY.Forrest Gump (***), 8 p.m., ABC.Jaws (****), 8 p.m., HISTORY.Sunday, February 26Braveheart (**), 7:30 p.m., USA.For a Few Dollars More (****), 8 p.m., AMC.Grizzly Man (****), 8 p.m., DISCOVERY. The Shawkshank Redemption (****), 8 p.m., SPIKE.The Bourne Identity (***), 9 p.m., CBS.Monday, February 27An American Werewolf in London, 8 p.m., AMC.Rambling Rose (***), 8 p.m., IFC.The Apprentice premieres, 9 p.m., NBC.Medium, all new, 10 p.m., NBC.Tuesday, February 28American Graffiti (****), 7:30 p.m., TCM.The Amazing Race 9 premieres, 9 p.m., CBS.The Deep End (****), 9 p.m., OXYGEN.Law and Order: SVU, all new, 10 p.m., NBC.Wednesday, February 29From Here to Eternity (****), 7:30 p.m., TCM.For Your Eyes Only (***), 8 p.m., AMC.Indecent Proposal (**), just awful Demi Moore film, 8:30 p.m., OXYGEN.Criminal Minds, all new, 9 p.m., CBS.

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