A 90-minute, made-for-TV comedy film focusing around the controversy that surrounded Monty Python's Life of Brian. The film is based around real life events, and centres around an infamous television debate on the Friday Night, Saturday Morning show that John Cleese and Michael Palin participated in against prominent critic and broadcaster (and devout Catholic) Malcolm Muggeridge and Mervyn Stockwood, the then-Bishop of Southwark — both of whom, it later transpired, hadn't seen the entire film and thus missed critical plot information to begin with, and who spent more time during the actual debate making cheap jibes against the comedians rather than attempting to rebut their arguments. However, these events are depicted in an irreverent, surreal and — dare we say — Pythonesque fashion, interspersed with non sequiturs, sketches and animation.
Petitioner: [persistently] Do you want to sign my petition? Michael: No. Petitioner: Why not? Michael: Because I'm not convinced the film should be banned. Petitioner: Why not? [sarcastically] Did you write it? Michael: Er, yes.
And then the petitioner starts grilling him as if Michael's been trying to conceal his identity:
Petitioner: Oh, I see — you're one of them. Michael: It's not Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Petitioner:[Dramatically] Deny it if you can, you're one of them! Michael: Why would I deny it? I just told you. Petitioner: You can't! You can't deny it! Michael: I don't want to deny it. Petitioner:You see?! Michael: I do see, because I just told you. Petitioner: You're one of them!
Notably, none of the signatures mimic the original Pythons' and Rufus Jones/Terry Jones' signature is not shown being signed as Rufus is left-handed, which would have made the angle impossible to shoot.
Apologetic Attacker: Andrew Thorogood, the leader of the Christian protestors during Michael's extended dream sequence.
Apologises a Lot: Michael, The Nicest Man In The World. Also: Self-Deprecation. Both directly referenced on several occasions, including the declaration by Terry Gilliam that Michael is "Even self-deprecating about being self-deprecating."
A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside an Enigma: When discussing the booking of Malcolm Muggeridge to debate the Pythons, Alan Dick refers to his unpredictability using the phrase "he's a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside a shit".
Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The secretary of the BBC Head of Rude Words manages to make it through him reading out such terms such as 'cunt', 'motherfucker', 'tits' and 'shit', albeit with both of them squirming with embarrassment the whole time, but it's when 'winkie-woo' pops up that she reaches her breaking point and asks to just type it from the piece of paper.
Brawn Hilda: Jones the Wife, at once Played for Laughs and yet oddly sympathetically when the acknowledgement of her masculinity (on account of the fact she is played by the Terry Jones character in drag) is made.
Cloudcuckoolander: Terry Gilliam keeps going into daydreams that are structured like his famous animations.
The Confidant: Jones the Wife, for Michael. Depicted in their bedtime chats.
Cringe Comedy: The poor BBC Head of Rude Words, an extremely bashful man who has to read out a list of extremely offensive banned terms to his secretary. And then realizes afterwards that he could have just given her the piece of paper with them on and saved them the embarrassment.
Daydream Surprise: Michael's fantasy during the Friday Night, Saturday Morning sequence.
Divided We Fall: The ongoing conflict of opinion between John and Michael as to whether the Pythons should appear on 'Friday Night, Saturday Morning' to defend their film.
Doomed Moral Victor: Michael and John get absolutely mauled by Malcolm Muggeridge and Meryvn Stockwood on the program, but the fact that they've clearly prepared for a debate and are cordially and reasonably trying to make some valid arguments in the face of the swaggering, condescending arrogance represented by Muggeridge and Stockwood serves to convince those watching that they're ultimately in the right.
For a given value of 'evil' (they're certainly antagonists throughout the film), on watching the debate the religious protesters who have been hounding the Pythons throughout the movie are absolutely appalled by the smug, confrontational and intolerant fashion in which Muggeridge and Stockwood conduct themselves against John and Michael.
John, to Michael: Why can't I say things to offend you? Why can't I say, 'I don't like your hair' or 'Your wife looks like a man and makes fucking awful soup?' What is the worst that could happen?
Jones the Wife: [appears at the door to the room; after some small talk, closes the conversation with] Sure I can't get you anything? Glass of cordial? [manly voice] Spot of soup?
Fish out of Temporal Water: Alan Dick is essentially a stereotypical 1980s fast-talking hard-hitting style TV executive (complete with pastel suits) who's been dropped into a slightly stodgy 1970s TV environment, as represented by the long-suffering Harry Balls.
Gender Bender: As a shout out to the Pythons themselves playing a lot of the female roles they write, Jones the Wife, Michael Palin's spouse, is played by Rufus Jones-as-Terry Jones. Accordingly, she is acknowledged as being masculine in appearance and interest, but referred to continuously as female.
Hypocritical Humor: John is incredibly contrarian and will switch sides to oppose anyone else. He also has a tendency to rewrite history and his own opinions.
Andrew Thorogood frequently asserts that he 'hates conflict', yet is the driving antagonist behind most of the conflict we see arising in the film (or at least represents it). This leads to something of a Heel-Face Turn at the end when, having been sickened by the side that's supposed to be representing him in the debate, he resolves to catch the next screening of Life Of Brian as soon as possible and make up his own mind about it for once.
Michael: ...and you're the most disrespectful, disagreeable, obnoxious and annoying man in the world.
John: That's right! And I fought very hard for that title... wasn't easy to wrest it away from Michael Winner...
Intro Dump: The opening scene at the Distributor's office.
It Will Never Catch On: Alan Dick gets this response when he basically describes how he wants to invent the 'water-cooler moment' effect. Except he's not helped by the fact that water-coolers themselves haven't been invented, meaning he's forced to refer to it as the substantially less impressive 'water-jug moment'. Or by the fact that his show is called Friday Night, Saturday Morning and is shown on Friday nights, and most people wouldn't be working on Saturdays anyway.
Never Accepted in His Hometown: Arguably subverted - the film is expected to be accepted in France and America, but the Americans protested it strongly and the film itself went on to be regarded as one of the best British films ever made.
OOC Is Serious Business: Michael is presented as The Nicest Man In The World throughout the entire movie, which is mostly light-hearted. The debate, in which he is more angry than the other Pythons have ever seen him before, is correspondingly the most serious part of the film.
John's general depiction in the film is more Basil Fawlty than the real John Cleese. Of particular note is the scene where he ends up attacking a newspaper vendor with a tree branch after an argument, followed by a 'Party Political Broadcast by John Cleese on behalf of John Cleese' where he explains that the real John Cleese is much nicer.
His argumentative nature is also often conveyed as him automatically responding to anything anyone says or suggests with a blunt, contrary response — as his character in The Argument Sketch did.
Terry Gilliam's appearance in Michael's dream naked except for a baby mask alludes to Brazil.
Rufus Jones playing Terry Jones playing Jones the Wife is a rather recursive reference to the way that the Pythons would play a lot of their female characters (often referred to as 'Pepperpots').
Take Our Word for It: Desmond's Tourettes outburst at the BBC office, during the meeting with Alan Dick.
The Drag-Along: John, who is acknowledged as being a contrarian and almost invariably in opposition if opposition is there to be represented.
Those Two Guys: Desmond Lovely and Gareth Nice, the Christian protestors who each have speech impediments.
Tourettes Shitcock Syndrome: Desmond Lovely has a case of this, although he also tends to use it as an excuse to get away with insulting Andrew Thorogood when Thorogood is being particularly obnoxious.
Trouble Follows You Home: The Christian protestors appearing in both John and Michael's front gardens during the course of the film.
Tyrant Takes the Helm: Alan Dick's introduction scene, where he announces that things are gonna be very different now that he's replacing the unseen and apparently deceased 'Trevor', is played like this. Except he forgets to tell the people he's talking to who he actually is, so their response is more one of confusion than anything else.