BBC almost axed 'cruel' Python

Executives' row revealed

Monty Python’s Flying Circus was almost taken off the air because BBC bosses felt it was ‘disgusting’, ‘cruel’ and ‘unacceptable’.

Newly released documents reveal that the first show bombed in the ratings – scoring a pitiful three per cent of the total audience in October 1969.

And although the programme soon found its audience, it had few fans in the higher echelons of the BBC.

Minutes of a crisis management meeting held in December 1970 reveal that many managers felt the progamme had ‘gone over the edge of what was acceptable’.

One executive complained: ‘This edition had contained two really awful sketches; the death sequence had been in appalling taste, while the treatment of the national anthem had simply not been amusing.’

The head of the BBC’s features group, said she had found parts of the programme ‘disgusting’, the controller of BBC One complained the show had ‘gone over the edge of what was acceptable’, and the head of arts features, accused the Pythons of being ‘nihilistic and cruel’.

The head of science features, said they ‘wallowed in the sadism of their humour’ while even the legendary Bill Cotton, head of BBC light entertainment, admitted the ‘team seemed to have some sort of death wish’.

Only Desmond Wilcox defended the programme, asking what was wrong with ‘cruel humour’, The Independent reports.

Published: 1 Jun 2009

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