By Garrett Gilchrist []

With contributions from Bonnie Rose, Laurie Stevens, Greg Duffell, and Yoichi Yamazaki

Special thanks to Tom Strickland, Robert Ross, Alley Ernst, Barb Shapiro,, Kim "Howard" Johnson, Dave Haber and all the rest, and to Eric, Neil and all the RWT cast (for making our weekends just that much more special)

    When "Rutland Weekend Television," a comedy program written by Eric Idle and featuring the music of Neil Innes, first premiered in 1975, no one could possibly have expected the massive, amazing effect it would have on the comedy world for years to come. That is, absolutely none. It had pretty much no effect on the comedy world in any way. Despite Idle's smash-hit success with Monty Python and Innes' cult status with the Bonzo Dog (Doo-Dah) Band, and despite the quality of the low-budget show, it got very little notice and after two seasons in Britain, a soundtrack album and a tie-in book (neither of which sold well), RWT disappeared into obscurity, to appear only as a footnote in books about Monty Python.
    This is sad, as the show (despite miniscule budgets and little rehearsal time) brought out the best in both Idle and Innes. Idle's rambling, nonsensical writing style had served Python well and proved a good, funny way to fill up the shows of RWT. Innes' musical numbers did not stop the show (as on, say, Saturday Night Live) but instead fit with its character and enhanced it, providing laughs as well as beginnings and ends to countless sketches. And a talented supporting cast including David Battley and Henry Woolf brought this delightful, silly little show to life.
    The episodes of RWT (fourteen of them plus one clipshow, according to some sources, more than Fawlty Towers) are not available on commercial video. More than one reliable source has cited legal problems. The only bit of RWT you can buy at a store today wound up there by accident. When Eric Idle first hosted Saturday Night Live, he brought along a short clip from the second season featuring Rutland's own Fab Four, the Rutles. Neil, as Nasty, sings "I Must Be in Love," and Eric, as a reporter, introduces the Rutles story, until the camera runs away. This is available on the Saturday Night Live video "Eric Idle - Volume One." No credit was given to Neil, David Battley or John Halsey (who all appeared in the sketch), nor was Rutland Weekend Television mentioned, but viewers everywhere loved the Rutles! Response was so great that the Rutles story was financed by Lorne Michaels to become the tv movie "All You Need is Cash." (available on video, of course. hope you already have this.) The Rutles were a hit, and much has been said and written about them. But this Rutlemania did not help Rutland Weekend Television, and in this age of endless reruns of Monty Python's Flying Circus, Fawlty Towers -- even Michael Palin and Terry Jones' "Ripping Yarns" -- Eric's most memorable solo flight has crashed and been forgotten.
    With this guide I hope to help end a bit of that. I have gotten hold of seven episodes of RWT as well as the clipshow and selections from the Rutland Times album and the Rutland Dirty Weekend Book, and base this guide on that sketchy information. It is as accurate as we get around here. If you can provide any further information, corrections, or even new episodes please don't hesitate to email me at
    Enough chat. On with the guide.


    As far as I know six episodes, plus a Christmas special, were produced for RWT's first season. I've been able to view all but that Christmas special. RWT's plot is hard to pin down but such as it is it's about a very small television station. Rutland, at least as of this writing, is a real place, the smallest county in England. Inspired by "London Weekend Television" Idle set his show, which was to have a disgustingly small budget (his backer was used to backing cheapo interview programs), there. (Rutland was -- is -- so small in fact that a while back it was absorbed completely by an adjoining county, and after residents protested it was eventually upgraded to independent. Rutland is a very proud place, and there is a nice town in Vermont named after it -- if you're ever there do stop by the Rutland Ponderosa.) The show has a real problem with its hosts, or "emcees" as I'll call them to lessen confusion, and seems to get a new one every episode. The station shows a baffling array of documentaries, interview programs, songs, sketches, and other nonsense, all in an endearingly daffy comedic style. The first series opening titles are animated and feature fancy title graphics which crack and turn into a field, which an cartoon farmer plows before stumbling and flying off. The theme music, since you asked, combines parodies of Also Spake Zarathrusta (aka the theme from "2001"), the London Weekend Television theme (sorta), and, mostly now, a bouncy little fake-french tune by Neil Innes. It is called "L'amour Perdu (Lost Love)" and the lyrics, sung by Neil at the end of show 6, go as follows:

    L'amour perdu to circumstances
    Et tout le monde et Tuesday too
    Avec le raison d'étre-mental
    Cynical comment allez-vous
    "Ello Sailor" méme choses you love me
    Et je t'adore et windows too
    Regardez-moi poor heart is aching
    Toujours l'amour et merci beacoup

    Here are summaries of the six known episodes from the seven-episode first series. The titles are our own. The missing episodes are filled in with some brief and very confusing information taken from the "Monty Python Encyclopedia" by Robert Ross, given to us by our friends at Himajin-Monty in Japan, plus some short clips from the clipshow -- more on this later.

EMCEE: Eric Idle
FIRST AIRED ON BBC2: 12 May, 1975

Opening titles. As you can imagine, Eric Idle plays the emcee on his own first episode. After all, as you can imagine, he's earned the right. And his aged, confused, chuckling, champagne-seeking emcee gets things off to a creepy, nonsensical start, as you can imagine. But then there's "Gibberish," which is as meaningless as it is entertaining. Idle and the disgusting but loveable Henry Woolf feature. The emcee's champagne reappears and overflows all over him. We hear Neil Innes, though we don't hear him yet, singing "He's the Star of the Sexy Movies," about an unassuming-looking Rutlander with an apparently very interesting night life. The host cleans off his wet sleeve, and as we've been hearing a party behind him in the background this whole time he tries to take us to it, but the film has caught fire. He quietly panics, then takes us to a funny bit where a condemned man [Idle] plays a last game of chess with two unhelpful jail wardens [Woolf and David Battley]. He escapes underneath a priest, and the wardens give chase -- Warden Peel [Battley] misses his luncheon appointment. Following is a lecture [from Idle, who does most of the narrator bits] about others who've dared to explore the catacombs of clergymen, and about Raymond Diet [Idle], an odd little man first seen rescuing Neil [minus his usual hairpieces] from underneath a Prevendary. He then tries to save fish from drowning, forms various silly societies, and introduces a Neil Innes song. "Stoop Solo" [Innes], a potbellied, repulsive Gary Glitter lookalike with the body of an aging gorilla, sings his song to no one in particular. We return to the emcee, and the lights go out. The partgoers boo. Following is a documentary on Bert Figgis [Innes], who is still fighting World War II. Others of his admittedly rather stupid regiment are discussed, a policeman [Idle] discusses carpets, and we learn how Figgis' regiment mostly gave up and surrendered to whoever was around, including five to Bob Dylan. A young soldier in Germany [Battley] tries to explain to an old one that the war is over, unsuccessfully, and the old, dumb as a post soldier is used as a minesweeper. (Four explosions there, not bad for RWT.) Previews roll for the 80th anniversary of the birth of Winston Churchill's cat, along with other Churchill-related material, including a little Churchill who dances to a short bit of Neil's tune "Frontloader." The host laughs like an idiot, and the roof caves in. End credits. A voiceover closes down RWT.

REVIEW NOTES: Running at a slow but entertaining pace, the premiere episode is fairly typical of RWT, and quite good. It also shows effectively how the fictional station operates, that is to say not very well. However, it fails to build to a real climax, and for that we must mark it down. The songs are also used ineffectively, and the episode would have benefited from a more open use of "Frontloader." (A proper video for which appears in episode 5.)

Written by ERIC IDLE
Music and Songs by NEIL INNES

OTHER NOTES: Idle's host seems to be a parody of venerable Brit announcer David Hamilton, but that doesn't seem too bad as Hamilton did have something of a sense of humour -- he appeared on one episode of Python (if you recall). David Battley has had an odd career -- he did play the teacher in "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." Woolf is today a theater director -- he's fond of Shakespeare and often lectures to schoolchildren. He appears in, among other things, the Rutles movie and the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and made guest appearances in "Doctor Who" and "The Chronicles of Narnia." The credit for the "Rutlandettes" seems to be a joke. RWT would get a very small chorus girl team together for the first Christmas special, though.

FIRST AIRED: 19 May 1975

Opening titles. The new emcee [Henry Woolf], in a strange floral shirt, starts us off with "Gardening Time" -- actually it's "Come Dancing," with Eric as the word-emitting, word-omitting host. Neil can be seen as some sort of princess. (Note: In this episode whenever the emcee announces a program an entirely different program plays. It's comedy, deal with it.) Eric delivers rambling, silly commentary on the unseen dancers, including the lovely, nude Maureen. A fake Groucho Marx [Innes], in a very fake painted jungle, sings "Say Sorry Again," accompanied by Chico [Innes] on the piano and Harpo [Innes again!] on the unicycle. The emcee returns, and seems to be mutating. "Philosophy Corner," hosted by Idle, discusses Kung-Fucius, the aggressive philosopher, and Ray Laycock [David Battley], expounds on the philosophy of the rich. Along with Eric he attempts to sell a poor man [Innes] some very expensive philosophy (some of this seems to be adapted from material cut from Monty Python's Flying Circus series 2, show 11, "How Not to Be Seen"), but are foiled as he has already sold his body to a department store. Medical professionals get angry. I won't discuss it but it's in nicely bad taste until a cop [Battley] pushes Idle off his set, saying "You can't act here! This is a fire lane!" He goes to another set and helps a moron [Battley] upgrade his status to cretin, until he's stopped by another fire-safe policeman [Woolf]. Back to the emcee, who has developed breasts and now sports a pink blouse and earrings. "Talk About, with Russell Dean" [Idle] features Keith Trapp [Innes], an apparently exceedingly witty man who can't come up with anything to say, and leaves to use the restroom. Sally [Gwen Taylor] demonstrates origami by folding a Japanese person. Rex [Woolf] impersonates an encephalograph. Then it's "Cookery Time," with your host, Lenin [Battley]. Karl Marx [Woolf] makes pudding. Josef Stalin [Idle] prepares a dozen eggs, then shoots them, along with most of the kitchen, and they all sing about "Communist Cooking." The emcee puts his feet up, to introduce the art of aggressive eating, "Kung Suey," and when that's done he's wearing a dress, and introduces a musical, "The Kung and I," and when that's done his shaved legs are showing, as are his underwhatevers. A documentary follows the sad case of Arthur Jones - er, Sutcliffe [Battley] - born to be normal. The newsman [Innes] can't blame his looney parents [Idle and Woolf] so he blames a little liquor-shop owner [Woolf] instead. The little man from the off-license is put on trial for all the crimes of humanity and is promptly hanged, for a happy ending. A very bad mimer [Innes] sings the lovely, pessimistic "Lie Down and Be Counted," though with a set change his miming abilities vastly improve. Back to dancing -- "Kung Dancing" -- and more Maureen, until the policeman [Battley] kicks them all out -- it's a fire lane! Once everyone's safely off the set, he begins to juggle. Roll end credits. The emcee, now a full female with hair, closes down RWT.

REVIEW NOTES: Some weak bits, especially toward the beginning, but the last ten minutes or so is pure gold. Lots of connections to Idle's "World Forum" sketch in Python. I'm surprised they didn't credit all the Japanese extras.


OTHER NOTES: David Battley is actually a pretty good juggler. The communist team is depicted fairly accurately, with the exception of Marx, who had a less fake-looking beard (hee hee) and was more of a reasonable man. Gwen Taylor was born Gwendoline Allsop in Derby, England, and appeared in the Rutles movie as well as Python's Life of Brian and the Terry Jones/Mike Palin series Ripping Yarns (episode "Golden Gordon"). You'll note that one Japanese fellow in particular appears throughout -- if you believe Laurie Stevens this same fellow appeared in "The Magic Christian," the 1968 film starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr, with appearances by John Cleese and Graham Chapman. This version of "Lie Down and Be Counted" appears on Neil's album "Re-cycled Vinyl Blues." The song was also done on the Innes Book of Records, in country-western form - Neil plays a politician for the Apathy Party. Then again, so was "Say Sorry Again," a black-and-white remake with a better budget, still done as a Marx brothers tribute.

FIRST AIRED: 26 May, 1975

Opening titles. Yet another emcee [Andy Roberts], in conjunction with an unnamed old lady, introduces a system of graphical warnings to point out offensive material before it airs. This includes bad language, sex, violence, religion, violent religion, nudity, football, nude football -- it goes on like this. You think this summary job is easy?? Then "Schizophrenia," with your hosts [Idle and Idle]. They attempt to talk to a paranoid [Battley], but he storms off the set, and then their next guest, a man who is habitually late, fails to show up. They try to pass the time with a bit of film shot in Bognor, but that is unsuccessful - the film is rather short - and it's a very awkward moment. Out of nowhere, Ron Lennon [Innes] appears, and sings a song beginning with the words "See how the good times roll ... away." (Later expanded as a Rutles track.) That's rather short too. Lennon fades away, and the hosts grab his piano, which was apparently very tiny (?!), and toss it on the table. A documentary rolls [hosted by Idle] about Cramp Bottom, the unpleasant home of poet Mungo Wright, who never actually wrote a poem but was considering it for a while. The "Schizophrenia" hosts sign off, the opening titles roll again briefly, and we're warned of "Football," a song [with Idle, Innes, Battley, and Woolf]. A warning of religion -- Corporal Collier [Battley] has tried out various religions to little success and sets out to worship his commanding officer [Idle]. Other popular gods in the army and elsewhere are discussed, as is Yvonne Mitchell. The emcee introduces "Thrust," hosted by Splig Utherism [Woolf], who in a hardhitting, sexy style describes bathtub theatre, and the entire cast has a wet time of it. The bidet version of "Camelot" comes particularly to mind. Neil's pink Batman is Safe Viewing, but his song is "Boring." Less safe is a bit in which the boss [Idle] takes a liking to his employee[Battley]'s family, and attempts to buy them. Back to "Schizophrenia" - the hosts try to stall by reciting a poem, then run off the set, very fast. The emcee, before closing down RWT, turns to Eric, who explains in weather terms the forecast for tomorrow's television -- looks like more sex, violence and football. Roll end credits. Tony Bilbow has the final word after the show, and you think the show's over, that this is serious, until you see he's in a bath, interviewing the same nameless old lady from the beginning ...

REVIEW NOTES: The end interview bit really faked me out. Python did this kind of thing a lot but it was always obvious. Here you don't know what the hell you're watching half the time. Kudos must be given for that. As for the actual show it's a mixed bag. There are many great moments (the opening bit of "Schizophrenia," the Army Religion sketch, Ron Lennon, Idle's bossman, and "Football"), but just as many misfires. Andy Roberts as an emcee makes absolutely no impact. He's just kind of there. Odd. "Thrust" was already used in the Proust episode of Python, but to think up a name like "Splig Utherism" shows Eric was still running at full-tilt here.


OTHER NOTES: Eric's then-wife, Lyn Ashley, who appears here, was credited simply as "Mrs. Idle" in her Python appearances. Andy Roberts, our emcee, is actually a talented studio musician who plays on several tracks here (well, he's credited on the Rutland Weekend Songbook anyway). He also played with Neil on both GRIMMS albums and the later cuts of the Bonzo Dog (Doo-Dah) Band. ("Let's Make Up and Be Friendly" etc.) He still works in television and theatre and has released some albums of his own.

FIRST AIRED: 2 June, 1975

Opening titles roll, but are quickly interrupted by titles for "The Old Gay Whistle Test" (Bob Harris' late-60s-early-70s rock-music review program).A cockeyed Bob Harris is played here by Eric Idle, who speaks in a perpetually-stoned gee-whizper. Wow. He previews the trands and introduces the studio group, "Toad the Wet Sprocket." (Back then Eric wrote that name to be so ridiculous no band would use it! Ha!) They resemble Fleetwood Mac and don't move a lot. Eventually they stop, and Bob turns to Mantra Robinson [Battley], a rocker whose chief interests include lengthy album titles and the destruction of private and public property. He's dropped his bass violinist down a lift-shaft, and while only five people came to his last tour the band manages to do over seven million dollars worth of damage -- not a bad gig. Also aboard is his guru, Siggy [Woolf], who isn't Indian but works in an Indian restaurant, and gets deep spiritual insights from his landlady, Mrs. Fletcher, then sells them. An awkward silence takes us to the Gerard's Cross Pop Festival, with Splint, on the Abbatoir label, and their song "Bandwagon." (You might be distracted by the comedically creepy fashions but dig the lyrics - they're a clever music-biz parody. The entire song can be heard on Neil's album "Re-Cycled Vinyl Blues.") Then Stan Fitch, the first all-dead singer, performs a smashing number from his album "Even Further Beyond the Grave." He doesn't really sing or strum the guitar or move or anything, but there are groovy video effects. Bob digs it. A bit more of the opening titles roll -- it's back to RWT, yay! (or bleah - that Whistle Test bit was really very funny, sad to see it go) Our latest emcee [Bridget Armstrong] is on the standard set, with the standard complement of flowers. The rest of the titles finally roll, the emcee returns, and the small flowerbasket is now a large one. "Rutland Weekend Theatre" features a couple [Battley, Armstrong] who are madly in love, but who have forgotten their own names. Their son [Woolf], Virginia's lover [Idle], and Henry's friend [Innes] aren't much help either. Eric introduces "Amnesia," but keeps forgetting what he's supposed to be talking about. The end credits make it clear that it's spreading, and the emcee forgets too as sits among even more flowers. A documentary rolls - Farmer Ron Granger [Idle] grows, trains, and fattens prize beauty queens, feeding them hay and old copies of "Vogue," until they're taken off to be judged, slaughtered, and eaten. A nasty old beauty show host [Idle] asks a cow if she thinks she's being exploited, with various rude remarks, and other show-biz people [including Neil] are killed and shipped off to the butchers. (Geez, could you get ANY more distasteful, Eric? Lol.) The emcee, with flowers, introduces "A Penny for Your Warts," a medical quiz show. There are only two onscreen casualties, so by this episode's standards it's a mild one. The emcee, now completely surrounded by flowers, introduces the Fabulous Bingo Brothers [Zoot Money and John Halsey], a pair of low-key, black-and-white raincoated mongoloids in a lavatory who mumble out a song about a donkey. Then -- this is the odd part -- Bob Harris, the REAL Bob Harris shows up, and introduces as a closer Neil, in cap and shades and singing his old staple, the Protest Song (parental control lyrics version). He gives a peace sign and exits awkwardly. The emcee, with (goddamn it!) even MORE flowers, closes down RWT. Roll end credits.

REVIEW NOTES: On the strength of "Whistle Test" alone this becomes a favorite episode. The bizarre, uncanny accuracy of this lengthy, pure fakeout parody puts it right up there. When RWT actually begins officially it seems to want to do so only by gunpoint. Wonder who was holding the gun? No matter. "Amnesia" is funny, and the Bingo Brothers are odd enough to win some sort of following. The bit about the show-biz butchers is long and completely distasteful, and would have been censored on Python. Clearly no one was watching here so if you're in to that sort of thing ...


OTHER NOTES: Bridget Armstrong appears in the "Curse of the Claw" episode of Ripping Yarns. The Bingo Brothers were old music-biz friends of Neil's - Zoot Money was in GRIMMS and John Halsey, of course, would later be Barry Wom of the Rutles. The Protest song is here sung by "Ray Onassis," if you believe Robert Ross, but the character is usually called "Raymond Scum," after Eric's intro in "Python Live! at City Center." Our favorite versions of this oft-performed oddie are on the Innes Book of Records show and the Rutland Weekend Songbook. For you conspiracy buffs: The Protest Song was cut from Python Series 4, Show 5, "Mr. Neutron," written largely by Michael Palin and Terry Jones, and whether it's a coincidence or not Neil's performance here reminds this author of that, and a "Michael Palin (no relation)" is credited at the end of this episode. Could just be coincidence. And it could also be coincidence that when Innes performed the Protest Song on the 3rd-series Innes Book of Records episode "Don't Make Me Use My Imagination," Palin made a guest appearance. Then again ...


Opening titles roll. Our emcee [Wanda Ventham] goes on a bit about tonight's fine programming on RWT, but is continually interrupted by Frank [David Battley], who confesses his love for her, and they run away together. "Open Door Access TV" features the Solihull Wife-Swapping Contest. Harry Rirkin [Idle] announces the pairings, but the committee keeps starting the swap early. Frank comes on with a weather flash - It is raining in Hendon. Wanda compliments him on his reading. "Rutland Weekend Documentary" looks at the harsh world out there for politicians wanting a job in television. Agent Bo Robinson [Henry Woolf] watches a desperate John [Battley] beg drunkenly, and turns him down anyway. Watkins [Idle] fares little better, until he mentions he can juggle. Jeff [Battley] has to say "Good evening," but waffles on the issue. He then convinces the director [Idle] to waffle on the issue of how bad his reading was, though it does him little good. The next applicant [Innes] is dead, but the director likes him anyway. No further news on the rain in Hendon. The Prime Minister [Idle] is accused [by Battley] of being too Americanized; he doesn't understand a word of it and thinks he's being asked about a dead Jewish American ventriloquist named Nosher Ono. Following is "A Party Political Broadcast on Behalf of the Conservative Party," in which Neil, dressed in a top hat and a suit with tails, sings "I'm the Urban Spaceman" loudly and off-key as he bangs cymbals on his feet and fiddles with a hand-keyboard which makes accordion noises. Bit of a non-sequitur, really. In the background, a very awkward-looking girl in a red pixie dress tapdances, never sure when the song is actually supposed to end. It is still raining in Hendon. Opening titles roll again, briefly. "Your Questions Answered" comes to us from Cornwall and features an impressive panel with absolutely nothing to say, despite much prodding. Frank gives another report on the rain in Hendon, and Wanda, curled up by his feet, introduces "Holiday '75." Eric reports that the state of the economy is so bad that many people have decided to take their vacations directly inside the Holiday '75 studio, which is then toured at length. It is still raining in Hendon, but inside the studio the weather is fine. The vacationers, now running the studio, switch to "Top of the Pops," and a music video, "Frontloader," in which a very cool fellow [Innes] confesses his love for a washing machine. In Solihull, the wife-swapping is still going on. A serious anchorman [Woolf] reports on the rain in Hendon and political reaction to same, along with a static-y report by Christopher Serpent, in Washington. Opening titles roll yet again, again briefly. Eric goes into the electrical shop for a quick purchase, but can't help noticing that the store clerk [Battley] looks quite a lot like the devil. He tries to sell the clerk his soul in exchange for 24 years of power and debauchery, but the clerk isn't interested, so he offers his car, house, and life insurance, plus his wife's body (in advance), and the rain in Hendon stops. The next morning at breakfast, his wife is all smiles after a night with Satan. However, something seems awry, and he begins to suspect he sold his soul to Ron Badger from the electrical shop. The rain in Hendon starts again, and 'Satan' takes his customer on a dubious holdiday, complete with canned fish and Helen of Troy. A now-nude Frank stands up to take us live to the rain in Hendon, Wanda pulls him down again, and all goes down the drain as the credits roll. The happy couple, in voiceover, closes down RWT.

REVIEW NOTES: With the exception of the joyous electrical shop/Satan bit I can't think of a single worthwhile sketch in this entire episode. But oddly that doesn't hurt my appreciation of it much - the running gags with the amorous emcees and the all-important Hendon rain are genuinely funny stuff. Also we get two twisted, but entertaining, Neil Innes numbers. These get an A+, the sketches get a C-, and the episode overall is about a B.


OTHER NOTES: The end credits give the name of the show as "Rain in Hendon" instead of RWT! The dead politician and Nosher Ono titles recall Whistletest. "Urban Spaceman" was a hit for the Bonzo Dog (Doo-Dah) Band round about 1968, produced by Apollo C. Vermouth (who under the psuedonym Paul McCartney was in another semi-important band, but no matter). This version is nothing like that. But at any rate, this semi-funny corruption of the tune inspired Neil's equally offkey performance in 1983's "Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl," although he wore his regular Neilclothes and strummed a banjo with the tapdancing help of Python glamour girl Carol Cleveland. In a somewhat less obvious way, this may also have inspired Neil's performance as a dapper, if invisible, Urban Spaceman in the Innes Book of Records episode "Don't Make Me Use My Imagination." "Frontloader" was also done on IBOR.

FIRST AIRED: 16 June, 1975

The emcee [Innes] introduces the show but can't help complaining about the lack of money. RWT is closing down tonight. "Religion Today" with Paul Yes [Battley] asks "Are people difficult bastards?" until a Really Difficult Bastard [Idle] and the Bishop of Somerset [Woolf] hijack the show. They've kidnapped tv personality Michael Aspel and want a thousand pounds, but the bishop keeps asking for more. The emcee complains about security and loses his flowers. Neil, against a backdrop of stars, sings "Singing a Song is Easy." The emcee loses his jacket, endtable and lamp. The bishop and bastard ask for more. Security sleeps. "Incident at Bromsgrove" features a long and heated discussion between a soldier [Battley] and a carrot [Idle]. In a flashback they become Admiral Nelson and Hardy. The bishop and bastard ask for more, Hardy gets lost, and Nelson asks for a kiss (he is wearing pink lacey undergarments and becomes a casualty in voiceover). "The Execution of Charles I" [Terence Bayler] begins. The Michael Aspel fan club tries to answer the still-growing list of demands, and Charles I has severe acting problems. An impressive montage of people from this and previous shows giving the "cue" sign follows -- Eric, at a urinal, is the last -- and a small parlor band [including Woolf and Battley] plays "L'Amour Perdu," as the end credits roll. Neil, in bizarre drag, sings "L'Amour Perdu," to recieve good marks from a panel of judges. The bishop and bastard worry about where they're going to put it all, and the RWT sign is taken away from the emcee. "Man Alive" looks at suburban prisons -- many are nice places, but Mrs. Harris has brought back hanging. At Mrs. Fletcher's, they have Johnny Cash [Innes] come and sing. Eric, in the studio, has a cast of thousands (six are seen -- hey, it's RWT!) watching the last sketch with him, but there's no time to talk to any of them. The emcee, dumped in the supply room, has lost his shirt, and quits. The bishop and bastard take it all back, then take back the taking-back, until Paul Yes wakes up just in time to close down "Religion Today." The final shot is perhaps the most enigmatic in all of RWT -- having lost everything, Eric and Neil, covered-up with borrowed towels, sit on a bench in the supply toom and deadpan a song about the final state of their budget. The lights are shut off, and there are three minutes of dead air ...

REVIEW NOTES: This episode has been criticized for its somewhat obvious comedy tactics, in which every sketch goes on about three times as long as it ought, just because it can - you can almost hear the wheels in Idle's head spinning throughout much of this. Nevertheless I like it. It's a nice, clean ending to the series, and there are even hints of a nostalgic look back in the "cue" montage and elsewhere. Neil really shouldn't dress in drag, though, he'll scare the children. He certainly scared me. RWT really did, of course, have budget problems, as is obvious from watching any episode. The final scene ought to stick in mind - it is a minimalist (dadaist?) non-ending. But it is an ending, and in its way a good one. MPFC never gave us an ending like this. It seems almost a shame to note that RWT was not quite dead ...


OTHER NOTES: There is an almost infectious Python quality to this episode, what with running the end credits in the middle of the show, all the quick cuts, returning to Religion Today etc. A version of "Singing a Song is Easy" appears on Neil's "Re-cycled Vinyl Blues." Born in Wanganui, New Zealand, Terence Bayler adds weight to RWT here -- with his corpselike delivery he seems to be trying to outdo Henry Woolf. He appears in the Rutles movie as well as Python's Life of Brian and Terry Gilliam's "Time Bandits." He also gets a credit in Gilliam's "Brazil," but his part is so small we've not been able to find it. Like Woolf he guest-starred on Doctor Who and took an interest in Shakespeare - he played Macduff in the 1971 movie version of "Macbeth." He was also in "The Remains of the Day."

FIRST AIRED: 26 December, 1975

Yes, it's the RWT Christmas special! Sadly we've not got it. Robert Ross' guide gives the lineup like this:

"The Alberto Rewrite Five, George Harrison Wants to Be a Pirate, Christmas Night with the Scars, Song: Testing One Two, How to Ski in Your Own Home, Giving Women as Christmas Presents, Song: I Don't Believe in Santa Any More, Overfed and Ill Vicar, Rutland Weekend Film Night - Bit of Scratchy Film, Linda Lovelace in Sore Throat, Pommy the Rock Opera, Song: Concrete Jungle Boy, Interview with Ann Melbourne, Roundup of the Year's Films, Film of HM Queen of Rutland's Year, Mr. George Harrison Sings."

We were able to view two short clips from this program, plus credits, from the 1976 clipshow (more on this later). Judging from that version, then: The opening animation is new - I suppose a farmer wouldn't do at Christmas. This one features a couple of silly snowmen on ice skates. One sticks his tongue out as us, and another little one opens up an umbrella, which begins to spew rain, and he sinks into the ice. At this point two chorus girls rip through the paper logo and dance as they warble, very much off-key, a few bars of "Christmas Time is Here Today." Eric is heard congratulating them. In the other clip, Eric, in a moustache, gold jacket and curly blonde wig, looking the very epitome of parodic showbiz evil (as in several Python bits), introduces the moment we've all been waiting for -- Mr. George Harrison Sings! The former Beatle, the genuine article, walks out and begins to play. There is a very long intro, and the suspense builds. Then he begins to sing: "Ohhh I'd like to be a pirate! A pirate's life for me! All my friends are pirates, they sail on the BBSea ... I've got a jolly roger, it's a-black and white and vast, so! Get out-a-ya skull and crossbones, I'll run it up your mast ..." And so on. Despite some effort to stop him (he has a crazed look in his eyes throughout) eventually all is ok, and everyone joins in, and the credits roll.


The presence of Jeannette Charles in these credits suggests Queen jokes -- she appeared in that role on the Neil/Eric ep of Saturday Night Live and the Rutles movie, and it seems to be all she does. Harrison also appears in the Rutles movie and Python's Life of Brian, which he bankrolled. In both of these clips you can see an ever-changing band of barbershop scrappers in red plaid jackets. These fellows appear very briefly in the Rutles movie as the "Machismo Brothers," and that's what I will call them. They also appear as hosts in two short scenes in the clipshow, which from Robert Ross' guide seem to be from the second episode of the second series. As for the songs, "Testing One Two" appears on the Rutland Weekend Songbook and is just what you'd think it is, and "Concrete Jungle Boy" appears there too. Eric Idle mentions in his unpublished memoir "Say No More" that "Pommy," a parody of The Who's Tommy, was about a man trapped in a Ken Russell film and his struggles to get out of the cinema. He was proud of this bit and aired it for Lorne Michaels for possible showing on Saturday Night Live. Michaels, of course, wanted the Rutles clip (more on that in a moment), and the rest is history.


    As far as I know seven episodes were produced for the second series of RWT. I've been able to view one of them. Oh well. If my information on the second series thus seems a bit lacking, I can probably be forgiven. Judging from what I've seen, then: The second series had a few problems in that Idle, still the writer of pretty much everything but the songs, didn't have much more to prove. He'd done the first series because he was still interested in that Python tradition and had leftover material bubbling in his brain. This time it took a running start. But the money was there - that old interview-show money, just barely enough to keep Idle jokingly complaining for 7 episodes. For the second series Neil's music was finally given second billing behind Idle's writing, instead of being put behind the list of actors. This had begun in the Christmas special. Also the old animated titles (with the farmer) were tossed away in favor of a rotating space cow. Yes, a space cow, with a globe on its sides, spinning about in a neat mirror-ball effect which perfectly parodies the BBC spinning-globe logo (seen often in Python). Indeed, RWT was a station to be reckoned with. As the cow spins, the RWT "chimes" play briefly and the words "RWT -- Rutland Weekend Television" draw themselves in. And then our show begins ...

FIRST AIRED ON BBC2: 12 November, 1976

An emcee wannabe [Bunny May -- yes I know that's an odd name for a guy] tries to introduce the show. Failing that, the next fellow, a Scotsman [Eric] does even worse. Then Neil, then someone's Swedish girlfriend ... the directing team, John and Betty [David Battley and Gwen Taylor] are not amused. Then a scary, nonverbal fellow [Terence Bayler], and they're at their Rutland witend, so to speak. John asks Betty to be the emcee ... she's worried that she's too plain, and she's right, but she goes on anyway and introduces tonight's drama. Eric is a lawyer/burglar who's just lost his case defending a client/burglar/friend/likeable dope/Scotsman/fall guy [Battley]. He's lost on purpose, and is keeping the money. But Bats finally catches on, and justice is done, which is all part of life's rich pattern, something the next emcee [Bayler again!] can't seem to say. Betty has to fill in again. A documentary follows on a hospital which sees love as an illness and tries to cure it, with the help of Eric, Gwen, and Staff Nurse Sutton. That singing sensation, the Rutles, Dirk [Eric], Nasty [Neil], Stig [John Halsey -- yes I know he's supposed to be Barry], and Barry [Battley], sing "I Must Be in Love." Eric attempts a documentary on the group, but the camera runs away -- it is seen driving to the seaside. "The Entire History of the World: Volume 3" honors the "backroom boys" behind the creation of everything. Angels Robinson [Bunny], Nobby [Neil], Eric and Bats concern themselves with fixing antlered wasps with wheels, smelly fish with legs and pink zebras. Gabriel, the supervisor [Bayler], keeps them at a 6-day deadline as they're expecting another order, and Bats explains woman to an interested Eric. Robinson makes a snake, thus dooming makind and introducing evil into the world. SuperNeil flies in, discussing in semi-musical form the "Age of Desperation," and the camera is in bed with with Staff Nurse Sutton. RWT's "Classic Season" previews an disturbingly low-budget production of "War and Peace," and the studio camera runs away. Eric and Bats discuss the ravages of inflation over lunch, and flash back to 1747, which is just as bad. A further flashback shows Eric and a Queen smoking something groovy, and Gwen scolds the camera. Then "That's My Mum," and a voiceover [by Eric] closes down RWT. Credits roll over the standard theme song and rotating cow.

REVIEW NOTES: This is a very tedious episode in places. Then again, some of it is spiffy. The RWT version of the Creation is a classic, and one almost wishes a similar bit had been included in Python's The Meaning of Life. The Rutles bit started something great, of course, not to mention turning the camera itself into a character. Also "War and Peace," the court drama and "Age of Desperation" are on the whole pretty good. But the love bit is long, bilious and awful, and "That's My Mum" seems entirely in the wrong place. Mixed views on continuing the budget jokes. An overall decent but sadly patchwork effort from the RWT crew.


OTHER NOTES: Most of the Rutles bit was shown with a new introduction [by Lorne Michaels] when Eric first hosted NBC's Saturday Night (Live). This is available on video and has been much-discussed. The Rutles bit here is "A Hard Day's Rut, directed by Dick Leicester which is very near Rutland." Dick Lester, of course, directed "A Hard Day's Night," among others (including, oddly, the second and best of the Superman series). Besides that quip the entire monologue was pretty much reprised in the tv movie "The Rutles: All You Need is Cash," financed by Lorne Michaels after positive viewer response to that and another Rutles-on-SNL experiment (Nasty came on and sang "Cheese and Onions"). In the movie Idle is able to catch up to that naughty camera and tell us about the entire legend of the Rutles, who have their own following and thus I shouldn't need to discuss them at length here. I will say that Eric gets the names of Stig and Barry switched here, and in the Rutland Dirty Weekend Book the drummer's name is given as "Kevin!" Besides that things survived pretty much intact into the film, where Rikki Fataar played Stig and Ollie Halsall played the heretofore-unknown fifth Rutle, Leppo. The Rutles movie is available on Rhino video. There is also the Rutles CD, with music from the film plus two bonus tracks, "Blue Suede Schubert" and "Baby Let Me Be." Dirk and Stig recorded a single, and in 1996 Ron Nasty, Stig O'Hara and Barry Wom reunited to record a new album, the "Rutles Archaeology." The Japanese version had bonus tracks. (So did the Japanese CD version of the Rutland Weekend Songbook, come to think of it -- more on this later.) Bunny May appears in this episode - an oddly-named, odd-looking, likeable kind of fellow. He appears briefly in the Rutles movie, sniffling over "those little girls, one of 'em screamed in me ear ..." "Age of Desperation" is on Neil's "Re-cycled Vinyl Blues."

FIRST AIRED: 19 November, 1976

We don't have this episode. Indeed, we don't have anything more from the second series (except the clipshow, which doesn't count). But I will list what Robert Ross has to say:

"The Razor Blade Four, Quite Interesting People - Sheep Worrying, Madame Butterfly Collecting, Song: Shoeshine Boy, Expose on Carswapping, Song: Godfrey Daniel, Rutland 5-O, Coming up on RWT"

"Rutland 5-O," a cop show parody (taking its name from "Hawaii 5-O," but then you knew that), appears in the clipshow, so thankfully that at least we've seen. It is introduced in barbershop-song form by the Machismo brothers (already discussed in our notes for the Christmas show), who seem to be our emcees, and follows the adventures of detectives Muttsky and Jeffovitch (the name a triple play on cartoon characters Mutt n' Jeff, TV detectives Starsky and Hutch, and stereotype Russians). Mutt [Eric] is giving a suspect [Bunny May] the "treatment" - a head treatment - when Jeff [Bats] breaks in. They act tough and take lots of commercial breaks. A sketch artist [Neil] identifies Gwen's lost pearls. There are puns about the Who and the Hope/Crosby "Road" movies, and everyone winds up in wheelchairs following a particularly violent commercial break. A Durante-ish judge [Bunny again] presides, Mutt cross-examines, Gwen confesses, Jeff confesses, and a voiceover details Mutt's plans to confess as the credits roll. This sketch contains some clever funny business but is ruined by hopelessly confusing plotting and edits. The fake credits says it's "Creatively Directed by Monty Baz-Baz," and it rather seems to show it. The songs we don't have but "Godfrey Daniel" was done in the Innes Book of Records episode "Now She's Left You," and "Shoeshine Boy" might be "Topless a-Go-Go," a Neilsong we have heard about a shoeshine boy.

FIRST AIRED: 26 November, 1976

From Robert Ross:

"Lance Corporal Collier Steps In, Prisoner Requests Leave, Science Lecture with a Saucer of Rancid Milk, What Makes James Burke Tick, Uri Geller Bending, Perpetual motion Machine, Lecture, Caretaker, Recursive Documentaries, Song: I Give Myself to You, Husband and Wife, Collier Rides Again, Song: Crystal Balls, Restaurant with Strange Dress Code, Bad Habits of Killing People."

The name of Lance Corporal Collier you'll remember from show 103, the Army Religion bit. "I Give Myself to You" appears on the Rutland Weekend Songbook, but was done, and done in bizarre, memorable form, in the Innes Book of Records episode "Don't Make Me Use My Imagination." The IBOR Crystal Balls is the best we've seen/heard too.

FIRST AIRED: 2 December, 1976

"The Ricochet Brothers, Ill Health Food Store, Disco Song: The Hard to Get, Sprimpo(From Scunthorpe Television), Bad Continuity, Film Doctor, Recursive Flashbacks, Classically Bad American Film - Fiddle-Dee-Dee, 24 Hours in Tunbridge Wells, Expose - The Massed Flashers of Reigate, Police Runnning Shops, Police Being Evicted by Squatters, Rant About Critics, The Cast Revolts."

The "Classically Bad American Film: 24 Hours in Tunbridge Wells" concerns a bunch of happy-go-lucky naughty sailors singing and rejoicing in that little, rather rural town. I know this because it's on the Songbook. "The Hard to Get" is there too. It's a dance.

FIRST AIRED: 6 December, 1976

From Robert Ross:

"Boring Intro to Tony Bilbow Theatre, Extremely Method Actor, Flag Flog Day, Sex Problem Clinic, Song O'The Insurance Men, Accountancy Shanties, Singing Gynaecologist with I Don't Want to Fall In Love Again, Escape from a Travel Agency."

Another show 103 reference: Tony Bilbow had the "Last Word" after that ep. The "Accountancy Shanties" bit should not be confused with the song Eric wrote for Python's "The Meaning of Life" ... It's less rousing (though there are some similarities). The Insurance/Accountancy/Gynaecologist song bits lead into each other. I know this from a bootleg recording of this bit given to me by Laurie Stevens. Some of this appears on the Songbook. "I Don't Want to Fall in Love Again" rambles a bit -- it was sung by the Lone Ranger on IBOR, but Neil left out the line about the kangaroos. Pity.

FIRST AIRED: 16 December, 1976

From Robert Ross:

"Highwayman, Lone Accountant, Judge Jeffries, Song: Bella the Beauty Queen, Safari Park with Animals in Cars, Safari Car Park, Sexist Sketch, The Power of the Writer, Wife Swapping Poem, Coming Soon - Nixon Is Innocent."

By "Bella the Beauty Queen" he probably means "Drama on a Saturday Night," which was sung on the IBOR ep "Don't Make Me Use My Imagination." That song's first line is "Bella Was a Beauty Queen ..." It doesn't end happily.

FIRST AIRED: 24 December, 1976

For the final original episode of RWT, Robert Ross has this to say:

"Repressing Women for 2000 years, Censorship, Showtime, Song: The Smoke of Autumn Bonfires, Song: Playing on the Penthouse Floor, An Affair is Announced, Tomorrow Night on RWT - Autocue, David Frost Show Again, Return of the Pink Panther, Joining the AA, Australian Love Song, Song: The Slaves of Freedom, Angel Demonstration, William Plastic-Bidet and the Postman, Most Boring Man in the World Competition, Song: It's Hard to Make it When You're Straight."

David Frost and Australians were frequently mocked in Eric's Python sketches. "(We are) The Slaves of Freedom" was performed on IBOR, in a strip club. It contains the classic line "Freedom is the handle on the bucket of your soul, the image of illusion in the goldfish of your bowl, the shampoo of perfection in the bathroom of your dreams, freedom is the universe and everything it seems, oh yes, we are the slaves of freedom."

But wait! There's more! More or less.

ADDENDUM: The Clipshow

FIRST AIRDATE: UNKNOWN (probably 26 December, 1976)

We have no real information on this thing. Robert Ross doesn't mention it, and we wouldn't believe it existed if we didn't have a copy of it right next to us at the moment. It is a very hastily-assembled collection of old RWT footage into a half hour show. No new footage was created, as far as we can tell. Even the credits are recycled (from the first Christmas show), and are completely incorrect (Bunny May and Terence Bayler aren't even credited, though they appear). We had guessed it might be a fan effort, but the editing is a little too good, and a fan wouldn't reuse the Christmas opening animation. Our best guess is that even though the last episode, 207, aired on Christmas eve 1976, the BBC wanted a day-after-Christmas show as before. So this thing was cobbled together, maybe in one night, by some BBC2 editor. If you're wondering, it's not that great. They could have picked better clips, especially songwise. But this show becomes important because our only information on some episodes comes from this special. This is discussed elsewhere at length. Here is the list of clips, and the episode they came from:

"Christmas with RWT" - snowmen/chorus girls (show 10X)
Terence Bayler host, John + Betty (show 201)
Henry Woolf host - "Gardening Time" intro (show 102)
"Incident at Bromsgrove"/Nelson & Hardy (show 106)
Woolf - "So much for Biggles!" (show 102)
The Boss/Secretary/Sherry/Purchasing People (show 103)
Machismo Bros. introduce Neil (show 202)
I'm the Urban Spaceman (show 105)
Stan Fitch the All-Dead Singer (show 104)
Woolf - "International Rabbit Show" (show 102)
"Man Alive" (show 106)
Rutland 5-O (show 202)
George Harrison Sings!/Credits (show 10X)
Woolf - Handover to ATV (show 102)

(soundtrack album)

The cover of this little gem shows a large photo of Eric with half-a-beard, and Neil, similarly dressed, smaller and standing outside, pointing at the photo of Eric. It is marked "Rutland Times" in large letters, and is thus often known as such, but smaller letters mark it as "The Rutland Weekend Songbook." It consists mostly of rerecordings of songs that appeared on RWT episodes (largely from the first season), along with some Eric Idle babblings to link it together. Some (all?) of these songs only made sense on the episodes they came from and are presented with much less context here, making some of this a losing proposition. Still, a fine album, and the original liner notes filled in the gaps. It was released on LP in Britain and on CD in Japan. The CD contained bonus tracks, so the album versions of "I Must Be in Love" and "Protest Song" have been released, in essence, twice. The differences are the removal of the (loud!) female crowd screamings from "I Must Be in Love" and the "bleep" from "Protest Song" (which covered over the words "fucking good time," sung as "fantastic time" in the episode). Here is the track listing, with the episodes that inspired them:

L'Amour Perdu, Gibberish [101], Frontloader [105], Say Sorry Again [102], I Must Be in Love [201], Twenty-Four Hours in Tunbridge Wells [204], The Fabulous Bingo Brothers [104], Concrete Jungle Boy [10X], The Children of Rock and Roll [103], Stoop Solo [101], Song o' the Insurance Men [205], Closedown, Testing One Two/I Give Myself to You [10X/203], Communist Cooking/Johnny Cash [102/106], Whistletest - Protest Song [104], Accountancy Shanty [205], Football/Boring [103], Good Afternoon from the Good Evening - L'Amour Perdu Cha Cha Cha [102], The Hard to Get [204], The Song o' the Continuity Announcers [106]

"L'Amour Perdu" is the theme song, instrumental. This version of Gibberish fails, because Eric plays both parts - three parts, actually. He reads the credits too. Frontloader seems to be the same performance from show 105. Say Sorry Again is played straight here, no Groucho Marxism. I Must Be in Love features a quick Rutles intro by Eric, and is in the original version drowned out almost entirely by girls screaming. The Bingo Brothers may be the same performance, but with very different accompaniment. Stoop Solo is almost the same, but with some additional nonsense - he coughs at the end. Closedown is an Eric ramble about annoying the neighbors. Communist Cooking is just the song, not the sketch, and features Neil (the original didn't). Johnny Cash is also presented without explanation. The Protest Song is better than the one heard on the show. Football isn't. The first bit of Eric rambling in "Come Dancing," just before the song, is used as "L'Amour Perdu Cha Cha Cha," because as Eric rambles (with a slight French accent, here) Neil is playing a long "cha-cha" variant on the theme in the background. The Continuity Announcers closedown is slightly shortened.

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