How To Recognise Different Types Of Trees From Quite A Long Way Away

Ok, here comes another one...

The third episode of our fledgling new series was filmed on 14 August and transmitted on 19 October 1969. It is, by convention, split up into the following sections:

  1. Court Scene (Witness in Coffin/Cardinal Richelieu)
  2. The Larch
  3. Bicycle Repairman
  4. Children's Stories
  5. Restaurant Sketch (Dirty Fork)
  6. Seduced Milkmen
  7. Stolen Newsreader
  8. Children's Interview
  9. Nudge Nudge

This tiresome cataloguation neglects to mention a record two appearances by l'Homme dans une Armure avec un Poulet and, as usual, cocks a snoop at M. Gilliam's exquisite animation. It also fails to acknowledge the main theme.

The usual request applies... how would you describe, comment on, criticise or rate some, all or none of the listed vignettes, or anything about the episode not therein noted?

You should, by now, be able to see where this is going and I also invite other members to post likewise - a similar thread for each episode, which is perfectly justified on a Monty Python forum.

Monty Python's Previous Episode

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Lvndr HppE: I watched this episode last night. :-)

genji at 10:05 am November 27

Someone should do an episode 5 thread.

Not that late at 12:33 am November 28


Here Comes Another One: I have a terrible memory for extra bits, despite only just having watched the episode. But I do remember a couple of really fab knight-with-rubber-chicken bits, which never fail to crack me up. There's also the 'Donkey Rides' bit before the restaurant sketch, which is just so silly it's great. First of all: bits I watch (out of the listed) vs bits I wind through:

I watch: court scene, bicycle repairman, restaurant sketch, seduced milkmen (sometimes), stolen newsreader (sometimes), and children's interview. So they're the ones I'll talk about.

The court scene is one of my absolute favourite Python sketches. It has Terry Jones doing one of my favourite of his characters - the bored and/or slightly bewildered/frustrated judge, which he of course perfected in series 4 ('Basingstoke in Westphalia?'). John Cleese as a slightly Jewish lawyer doesn't miss a beat, and I especially love the line: 'Mr Oldridge, are you considering the question, or are you just dead?' Michael Palin as the rather prima-donna-ish Cardinal Richelieu is a stroke of utter genius that I was really glad to see reprised in Historical Impersonations. Eric Idle as the defendant is brilliant, especially when he makes the transition between the two tones of voice. The 'defendant's unlikely speech' motif is, again, repeated in the aforementioned series 4 sketch. But both as Inspector Dim (who has a song!) and especially Mrs Fiona Lewis, Graham Chapman steals the show. Apart from the Death of Mary Queen of Scots/Penguin on TV sketch, and possibly the Sartre one, Fiona Lewis' testimony is THE best pepperpot moment ever in my opinion.

Bicycle Repairman reminds me of Captain Fantastic from Do Not Adjust Your Set (oh damn, that bloody Eric Idle Captain Fantastic Song is stuck in my head now!), but one imagines it's more as Palin & Jones would have intended, since Captain Fantastic was significantly changed from their original ideas. I don't name it as one of my favourite sketches, but I always end up watching it when I put this episode on, and it always makes me laugh. As a straight parody of American superhero shows it's brilliant - especially 'Bicycle Repairman - but how?' and the cartoon words like 'Adjust saddle!' when the Repairman goes to work. It doesn't have the sparky originality of most Python stuff, but it works as a parody. Its style reminds me of the more recent show 'Dead Ringers', with Jon Culshaw & co.

Restaurant Sketch started off being hit-and-miss for me but it's really grown on me in the past few viewings. It gets into danger of turning into the sort of shouty slapstick chaos that really gets on my nerves, like in the Carry On films, and the '50s/early '60s version of Three Men in a Boat, and certain bits of Fawlty Towers. But it resolves itself just in time, and is generally well done I think. Better in FC than in the film. I love the individual characters in it - Gilberto and his 'wound,' mad Mungo, and the snivelling Gaston. Anyone see similarities between the Gilberto/Gaston combo and the host/archaeologist in Archaeology Today? I do. Eric Idle is so good as the downtrodden manager that I actually start feeling sorry for him; luckily Cleese, made even more impossibly tall by that chef's hat, comes in just in time to inject the comedy back in.

Seduced Milkmen is very funny, and I love the sheer pointlessness of it - she doesn't seem to do anything with them (I don't just mean sexually), she just leaves them in there! - but I think it could have done with being chopped a bit; it takes too long for them to get up the stairs. Having said that, Carol Cleveland is brilliant in it.

Stolen Newsreader is another favourite, but it doesn't necessarily lend itself to repeated viewing. I think it goes on for just a touch too long, but then again, the idea of having the full bulletin read out by the time he gets dropped into the water is a very good one. Mostly it's the situation I laugh at, but John Cleese is hilariously deadpan.

The children's interview is very cute and funny - especially Idle saying 'I've written a sketch,' Palin saying 'Mi-chael,' and 'I wanna go home!' and Jones saying 'Bottom,' and reminding me of Jenkinson in the Concorde sketch when he confesses that he told Phillips Concorde was a ship just as a joke. I also like how the schoolboy characters come back in later shows - notably Palin going: 'I'd like to see more racial prejudice' - is hit by the 'adult' next to him - 'less racial prejudice.'

That's my critique. I don't dislike the other bits, it's just that Storytime was on the tape I used to listen to before I saw Flying Circus, and I got bored with it ages ago because I used to like it so much. Nudge Nudge, as I've said in another post, I just don't find that funny. I will say though - it is one of very, very few Python sketches that has anything even close to a punchline. And whether I personally like the thing or not, it works, and it's one of Idle's best performances.

Well, genji, I don't know if that's the sort of thing you're looking for ... I did try and make references to other sketches and characters, but I'm not very good at critiques. These things are there to be laughed at, and I know what makes me laugh, but I don't know how much explaining they stand up to before it starts feeling too academic - for me, anyway.

Not that late: Bicicle Repairman doesn't make me laugh, I think it was borrowed from Do Not Adjust Your Set, and looks like a children's sketch, do I miss something?

genji at 11:27 am October 18

No, I don't think so. I'd probably agree. It's silly enough but goes on too long for such a one-dimensional gag.

mrsCutout: I just love the ranndomness of this episode! I mean it starts with a silly theme of recognising trees and goes straight to a court room!A very serious place where silly things happen haha! i always loved the sketches they made using courtrooms.Like (can't recall the name) the one they try to guess what the judge sais with pantomime! Anyway I always thought that Nudge Nudge was irrelevant to the whole episode I mean however strange this may seem I think all the sketches connect in an odd way but this one's irrelevant! I love that sketch! It's like an extra at he end of the episode no links at all haha but it's like a gift goodbye!

genji: Does nobody fancy having a crack at a critique of the episode? You know - when and how and why the sketches work (or don't work), any relationships with other episodes or other shows and characters' similarities or differences with other characters, which sketches are intelligent or satirical and which are just plain silly, and how they contribute to the show as a whole. That kind of thing.

Mrs Attila the Hun 93: I don't know why, but the Stolen Newsreader sketch always has me chuckling.
The last part's the best, where the robbers push John over the end of a pier. It's so simple, yet so stupid, yet so great!

Not that late: My top 5, besides the whole Restaurant Sketch and Nudge Nudge:

5: Inspector Dim's song, followed by Mr Barlett's song.
4: What's your name? Mike... el
3: I couldn't find a kosher car park.
2: (Court Scene when Chapman is a witness as a pepperpot) the way Cleese points and looks at the audience and doesn't let them laugh.
1: With a melon?

thewastelandr at 10:06 am October 15

#4-3... gorgeous! Great episode!

Lvndr HppE: See, now all the sketches in this episode, I like. :-) Hopefully, there won't be another argument with anyone. Anyone in particular. {cough, cough, genji, cough}

genji at 10:00 am October 15

Are you sure you like all these sketches? I don't think you do.

Lvndr HppE at 8:05 am October 18

No, these I like. Especially Restaurant Sketch.

genji at 9:34 am October 18

Ah, so you don't like the other sketches as much as 'The Restaurant', eh? Why not? What's wrong with them then?

Not that late at 10:18 am October 15

I'm not in love with Bicicle Repairman

Not that late: I see, I see, I get the picture...

Can I make a suggestion? If you create the post, you shoud put your summary, but not like a comment, because it shoud be at the top, and if you write it like a comment it will go down and eventually to another page. Don't you think?

genji at 11:31 am October 14

I thought I'd try something different. The original post is there to invite people's comments. My comments are just my own comments, the same as everyone else's. If it drops down to another page then it's fine.

genji: How to Recognize Different Types of Trees From Quite a Long Way Away
Theme of show 3; runs throughout the episode.

Court Scene
The Judge (Jones) presides over the case of Mr Larch (Idle), presented by Counsel (Cleese) questioning witnesses Mrs Fiona Lewis (Chapman), the dead Arthur Aldridge, Cardinal Richelieu (Palin) and Inspector Dim of the Yard (Chapman).

Man In A Suit Of Armour
'With a chuffchuffchuf' as the Man in a Suit of Armour (Gilliam) hits Counsel with a chicken.

Bicycle Repair Man
Following a 'How to Spot Trees…' link we learn that F. G. Superman is… Bicycle Repair Man (Palin), with commentary by Norman (Cleese), who proceeds to rant against the commie red scum until his wife calls him in for tea.

Children's Stories
The Storyteller (Idle) reads adult stories to children in a Jackanoryesque setting.

Restaurant Sketch
A man (Chapman) and a lady (Cleveland) are seated at a table in a restaurant and attended by the waiter (Jones). The man asks for a clean fork and the couple receive the attentions of the head waiter (Palin), the manager (Idle) and the psycopathic cook (Cleese).

Man In A Suit Of Armour (part 2)
The man (Chapman) from the 'Dirty Fork' sketch borrows the Man in a Suit of Armour's chicken and hits the commentator (Palin) with it.

Seduced Milkmen
A milkman (Palin) is seduced by a seductively dressed young lady and follows her inside and upstairs…

Stolen Newsreader
Newsreader Michael Queen (Cleese) is stolen by Newsreader thieves and dumped in the sea.

Children's Interview
Following a 'How to Spot Trees…' link an interviewer (Cleese) asks three schoolboys (Idle, Palin and Jones) if they could recognise a larch tree. They decide they want to see Eric's 'Nudge Nudge' sketch.

Nudge Nudge
There's two men in a pub, right - Norman (Idle) and Him (Jones). Him asks Him knowingly, "…photographs, eh?"