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28 October 2014

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Ripping Yarns

Michael Palin in the Tomkinson's Schooldays

...or what Michael Palin and Terry Jones did next.

After Monty Python ended in 1974 the BBC was eager to find new projects for the now ex-Pythons. 

Among the first was Tomkinson's Schooldays, a spoof of Tom Brown's Schooldays, written by and starring Michael Palin and Terry Jones, featuring young Tomkinson's attempts to escape a school where pupils are shot for disobedience and regularly nailed to the walls for fun.

Tomkinson was a great success.  Within a week of it being aired Palin and Jones were at the BBC being quizzed about prospects for more shows along the same lines.

Inspired by the comic potential of a "Ripping Tales" annual, Ripping Yarns was born.
Over two series, Jones and Palin delivered up a series of parodies of the pre-war stories of derring-do and moral tales of quiet heroism "oop north" on which they had been reared.

Ripping Yarns epitomises the style Palin and Jones developed in their many years of writing together: there is real affection and respect for the "golden age of empire" material the pair play around with in the series, mixed with satire and much outright silliness.

Shot on film (apart from the pilot) the programme still looks good today.  There are faults, however.  Episodes like Escape from Stalag Luft 112B and Whinfrey's Last Case have considerable longuers and the series sometimes lacks the anger and attack that Cleese and Chapman provided during the Python years.

Nonetheless the nine episodes of Ripping Yarns contain much comic fabulousness, whether it be "Golden" Gordon Ottershaw's devastated reaction to his beloved Barnstoneworth United being thrashed 8-1, Walter Snetterton's plucky resolution as he tries to do the impossible and cross the Andes by frog or rain-and-shovel-obsessed Eric Olthwaite's sister telling him to "shut up you boring little tit".


Michael Palin


Terry Jones
Michael Palin
Terry Hughes
Jim Franklin
Alan J W Bell

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