Missing Pre-Monty Python Sketch Series Rediscovered

The Complete and Utter History of Britain
Image via ITV

Four thought-to-be-lost episodes of a comedy series featuring two members of Monty Python shortly before they were to help found their iconic sketch series have been rediscovered and are being made available for the first time since they aired in 1969.

The series, The Complete And Utter History Of Britain, was created and written by future Pythons Terry Jones and Michael Palin, and aired just month’s before Monty Python’s Flying Circus was to debut and change comedy history. Six episodes of the series, which took a farcical look at British history, were aired, but until recently it was thought that only the first two episodes still existed with the other four having their master tapes erased by ITV, the British network it aired on. (And to be accurate, the show never completely covered all of British history. While it started at the Dawn of Time, the final episode only got as far as the mid-1600s and Oliver Cromwell.)

An ITV spokesperson explained to British Comedy Today how the discovery was made.

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 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.

The series is not available for streaming in England on the ITVX Premium service.

Unfortunately, due to a lack of careful archiving, there are still some gaps in terms of missing television episodes that featured Monty Python members before they came together for their classic show. All twelve episodes of the sketch series We Have Ways Of Making You Laugh from 1968, which co-starred Eric Idle and featured animated segments from Terry Gilliam, are thought to be lost. At Last The 1948 Show, which featured future Monty Python members John Cleese and Graham Chapmen alongside Tim Brooke-Taylor and Marty Feldman, is somewhat incomplete, with two episodes of the show’s produced thirteen, unavailable and possibly lost. Another sketch series, Do Not Adjust Your Set (1967-1969), which featured Idle, Jones and Palin, is missing fourteen of its 29 produced episodes, mostly from its second series.

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About Rich Drees 7217 Articles
A film fan since he first saw that Rebel Blockade Runner fleeing the massive Imperial Star Destroyer at the tender age of 8 and a veteran freelance journalist with twenty-five years experience writing about film and pop culture. He is a member of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle.
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