The Complete and Utter History of Britain

ITV (ended 1969)


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The Complete and Utter History of Britain

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Broadway Joe Namath's guaranteed Super Bowl III win was so stunning that all of England paid almost no attention to a new television comedy series that debuted the day of the Jets' Super Bowl upset. Believed lost for almost 30 years (their tapes were rediscovered before the millennium was out), The Complete and Utter History of Britain was a humor show that was ahead of its time. Literally. Future Pythons Terry Jones and Michael Palin, then writing and performing on the kids' series Do Not Adjust Your Set, squeezed in time for this miniseries on the relatively new LWT. The Complete and Utter History of Britain televised some of Britain's most significant historical events as they were covered on a fictitious television network's newscast. It's a concept since copied by Gary Witt for his PBS series Newscast from the Past (1984) and Timeline (1989). The scene most Python fans may remember from The Complete and Utter History of Britain (it was excerpted for the 1989 BBC special Life of Python) was Jones's Fox Sports Net-ish interview with the victorious Normans in the showers after the Battle of Hastings. Palin, one of the Normans, explained to Jones how difficult it is to know when one side has conquered the other, but they were "pretty confident halfway through the second half, when [our enemy] were 2000 down." "And that was the good bit," Palin was to say 20 years later. He recalled that one of the series' down sides was that Jones and Palin did not have control over either the actors they could use or the locations at which certain scenes were filmed. Despite its disappointing ratings, The Complete and Utter History of Britain's place in television history is very significant indeed. A few weeks after LWT finished running the series, John Cleese (who did see the shows) called Michael Palin to ask him about doing a show together. It was the first step toward the creation, in October 1969, of Monty Python's Flying Circus.moreless