The Writing Journal #46

It’s been fifty years since Monty Python’s Flying Circus debuted on British televisions, and to mark the occasion there was an evening of shows on the BBC, including a re-run of the very first episode from way back when. Monty Python and Messrs Cleese, Jones, Idle, Palin, Chapman and Gilliam have always been a massive influence on my work across sketches and film. I personally adore surreal comedy and love the way it’s crafted to appear completely ridiculous whilst actually being quite layered, and there are few better than these six for doing just that. I also love them because my dad loves them, and I have been able to enjoy many a laughing moment with him because of the Pythons. From having to re-watch Life Of Brian a couple of times to actually hear the jokes he’d pre-emptively laughed over because he knew and loved them so well, to going with him to see their “One down, five to go” show a couple of years ago (at the cinema, as the O2 itself was sold out), the Pythons have given us many a bonding moment and entertained us both for many a year, and for that I cannot thank them enough.

Among the discussion and recollection of their early careers, something that stood out was the ease with which the Pythons were given their first shows as a collective, and the complete lack of planning before their pitch. They told us themselves that they rocked up at the BBC knowing they wanted a series, but when questioned further about the name, content, and structure of the show, they had nothing to give back except that it would be comedy and (probably) sketches. Rather than be thrown out the door with nothing, however, they were given 13 episodes for a first series of what would become Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Of course, they had a background from their various work on shows like The Frost Report to stand them in good stead, but that sort of faith and chance-taking would surely never happen now and leave your chances of ever being taken seriously by a commissioning panel again deader than a dead parrot. It’s certainly a decision of its time, and indeed I think with inflated numbers of people vying for those television opportunities now it’s right that you need a bit more than a promising background on other shows to get a specific, individual show made. But as I sit here trying to think on the ways I can get a series/film of my own commissioned, it made me shed both a chuckle and a tear for how such chances will likely never be taken again, and what we could be missing out on as a result.

Target Number 1: Spend a minimum of 20 hours editing my novel.

With no other projects to prioritise this past week, I managed to get a nice amount of editing work done on the novel and spend some decent time with it. How much, I hear you ask? Well, I’m not entirely sure, for in a move as clumsy as something you would find in a Poor Uncle Dave story (available now on all good podcast providers), I managed to completely forget I had the timer running after my last writing session, and when I returned to my laptop later that evening I discovered the clock still ticking despite no work taking place! The number I have on my stopwatch app (nobody can accuse me of not being in the 21st Century) currently stands at 11hrs 22mins, but how much of that is actual editing time and how much of that was spent watching Strictly Come Dancing/Monty Python is anybody’s guess.

Quite frankly, I’m amazed this is the first time this has happened in the three months I’ve been setting this timer, as my short term memory is absolutely appalling these days and there have been a number of occasions where I’ve only just been able to save myself this sort of embarrassment by the skin of my teeth. As for where this puts me moving forward, I’m going to round the figure back down to five hours as a reasonable estimate and aim for fifteen more for the rest of this month. If I did more than this before the botch, that’s great as it just means I’ve done more overall; if I did less, it’s perhaps not so great, but I’m reasonably confident that I did do more than five so it shouldn’t be an issue.

As for other projects, thought and discussion is still ongoing. Plans are being talked about on the film side of things that may come to fruition soon (both short and feature), whilst the direction of Poor Uncle Dave moving forward is still to be determined. I’m also quite keen to really work on my TV portfolio in the current “streaming wars” climate, but for now there’s no immediate rush and it’s nice to be keeping the novel steadily pushing forward, even if I am my own worst enemy from time to time!

And now for something completely different…





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