The Complete and Utter History of Britain (found British sketch comedy TV series; 1969)
The Complete and Utter History of Britain is a British sketch comedy show created by Michael Palin and Terry Jones, famously known as being part of the popular comedy group, "Monty Python." Before Monty Python's Flying Circus, this was the last time any of the members of Monty Python filmed together before officially forming the group.
The show was built on the idea of television existing for thousands of years, and how famous British events would have been reported on. The show featured interviews from various figures from British history, usually caught in silly situations, like the Norman Army cooling off in the showers after the battle of Hastings. Most of the characters were played by Palin and Jones, with other cast members being Wallas Easton, Colin Gordon, Roddy Maude-Roxby, Melinda May, and Diana Quick.
Maurice Murphy was the director, and London Weekend Television were the producers. The show filmed 7 episodes, all covering nearly the entirety of British history. However, the first two episodes were stitched together by London Weekend Television as almost a highlight reel and was aired as a single episode. The show aired as a 6-part series in the chronological order of the history covered, intentionally rewarding viewers who were already versed in British history. The show may have even been a precursor to Monty Python's interest to older time periods in their movies.
The show was one of many victims of BBC wiping the tapes of their shows after they believed they didn't have any use for them anymore, reusing the tapes for other episodes. This caused the belief that the whole show was completely lost. However, London Weekend Television's stitching of the first two episodes angered the director, Maurice, so much that he kept the original copies of the unaltered first two episodes in his collection. The third (aired as the second) episode was also found from a home recording. Terry Jones also kept all sketches that were filmed on location in his private collection. The rest of the episodes have not been fully found, with only certain fragments and sketches resurfacing.
In 2013, Michael Palin and Terry Jones re-shot multiple lost scenes to help a DVD reconstructing all the found sketches and episodes into one pack. The scenes were wrap-around segments linking the sketches together. A majority of the original wrap-arounds, however, are still lost.
On 2 October 2023, the four previously missing episodes were released on British streaming platforms BritBox and ITVX without fanfare.
See Also (Other programs that may/not may wiped by BBC)
- 1953 British Grand Prix (partially found footage of Formula One race; 1953)
- Adam Adamant Lives! (partially lost BBC children's TV series; 1966)
- Anne of Green Gables (lost TV mini-series; 1972)
- Dad's Army (partially lost episodes and sketches; 1968-1970)
- Doctor Who (partially lost episodes of British science-fiction TV series; 1963-1974)
- Jazz Goes to College (partially found BBC jazz concert series; 1966-1967)
- Late Night Line-Up (partially found Beatles "Abbey Road" special; 1969)
- Madhouse on Castle Street (partially found BBC television play; 1963)
- Out of the Unknown (partially found BBC sci-fi series; 1967-1971)
- Requiem for a Heavyweight (partially found BBC Sunday-Night Theatre TV play; 1957)
- The Quatermass Experiment (partially found BBC sci-fi serials; 1953)
- The Sad Story of Henry (lost live BBC broadcast adaptation of "The Railway Series" books; 1953)
- Top Of The Pops (partially lost British music series; 1964-2006)
- United! (lost British soap opera; 1965-1967)
- Zingalong (partially found British children's series; 2002-2004)
- Page about the show from Michael Palin's website. Retrieved 20 Aug '21
- Amazon page for Monty Python: A Chronology, 1969-2012, 2d ed., which mentions the show. Retrieved 21 Aug '21
- British Comedy Guide article on the re-shooting of several scenes from the show. Retrieved 22 Aug '21
- Amazon page for Python for Python, which describes the show and it's production. Retrieved 23 Aug '21
- Mentalfloss article about BBC's infamous wiping of their tapes. Retrieved 23 Aug '21