What TV’s on at the BFI in September 2019

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Every month, TMINE lets you know what TV the BFI will be presenting at the South Bank in London

After the traditional August lull, the BFI is back in full force for September, with a pretty epic line-up. There is a stonking season of Monty Python sessions, including a weekend airing every episode, as well as pre- and post-Python highlights such as Q5, Fawlty Towers and Rutland Weekend Television.

On top of that, there’s a showing of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and Doctor Who story Mindwarp, complete with Q&A with Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant, a preview of the forthcoming Temple with Mark Strong, and a preview of World on Fire. As if that weren’t enough, there’s a celebration of Not the Nine O’Clock News with John Lloyd and an episode of Porridge.

Wowzers. Full details after the jump. Be sure to comb through the details or you might miss something!


Sunday 1 September

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: 40th Anniversary Screening + Q&A with director John Irvin and actor Michael Jayston

BBC 1979. Dir John Irvin. With Alec Guinness, Michael Jayston, Anthony Bate, George Sewell. Ep1 49min

Alongside special guests, we celebrate 40 years of this classic British TV series, based on the book by John le Carré. Alec Guinness stars – in a BAFTA-winning role – as British spy George Smiley, who comes out of retirement to hunt down a Russian spy buried deep within MI6. Many years before The Night Manager enthralled us, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy proved itself to be the definitive spy drama.

BBC Studios will be releasing the whole series of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, digitally restored for Blu-ray, on Mon 2 Sep

Sunday 1/Saturday 7 September

Sunday: 18:15 NFT1; Saturday: 15:20 NFT3
And Now for Something Completely Different + Q&A with actor Carol Cleveland (Plus intro by Nancy Lewis, Monty Python’s US manager, Sat 1 Sep)

UK 1971. Dir Ian MacNaughton. With John Cleese, Michael Palin, Graham Chapman, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones. 88min. Digital. PG

Made on a very low budget and with the intention of introducing the Pythons to the American market, all of the favourite early Monty Python’s Flying Circus sketches were filmed without a live audience and included the parrot sketch, nudge nudge, hell’s grannies and some great Gilliam visuals. If you don’t have 23 hours to re-watch all four series then this is for you.

+ Pythonland

BBC 1999. Dir Ralph Lee. 25min

Michael Palin revisits Monty Python filming locations.

Tuesday 3 September

18:15 NFT1
TV Preview: World on Fire + Q&A with writer Peter Bowker plus cast TBA

BBC-Mammoth Screen 2019. Lead dir Adam Smith. With Helen Hunt, Sean Bean, Lesley Manville, Jonah Hauer-King. Ep1 c.60min

World on Fire is an adrenaline-fuelled, emotionally gripping and resonant drama, written by the award-winning Peter Bowker (The A Word, Marvellous). It charts the first year of World War Two, told through the intertwining fates of ordinary people from Britain, Poland, France, Germany and the United States as they grapple with the effect of the war on their everyday lives.

Join us for a Q&A and preview of this new landmark series boasting a stellar cast, headed up by Helen Hunt and Sean Bean.

Please check bfi.org.uk for further guest announcements

Wednesday 4 September

18:10 NFT1
Michael Palin & John Cleese’s Pick of Python Influences: Q5

BBC 1969. Dir Ian MacNaughton. With Spike Milligan, John Bluthal. 30min

Q… was a surreal television comedy sketch show written by Spike Milligan and Neil Shand. Palin noted that Milligan’s outrageous Q5 was ‘full of enviably subversive ideas’ and admitted that they ‘poached Spike’s director, Ian MacNaughton, for Monty Python’.

+ The Goon Show: Tales of Men’s Shirts

Thames Television 1968. Dir Joe McGrath. With Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe. 25min

Both Palin and Cleese cite The Goons as an influence. In this special TV version, John Cleese acted as announcer.

+ Not Only… But Also

BBC 1965. Dir Joe McGrath. With Peter Cook, Dudley Moore. 45min

John Cleese chose the famous Peter Cook and Dudley Moore series as a particular influence.

Thursday 5 September

18:20 NFT1
Imagine: And Now for Something Rather Similar + discussion

BBC 2014. Dir Jack Cocker. TRT 110min

As the Pythons prepared for their mammoth season of gigs at the O2 in London in 2014, Alan Yentob’s Imagine series presented this uncompromising and unsentimental look at the team and their careers. Jack Cocker’s piece provides one of the most telling observations of the Python era.

Sunday 8 September

15:00 NFT1
At Last the 1948 Show + Q&A with actors Aimi Macdonald and Tim Brooke-Taylor

ITV 1967. Dir Ian Fordyce. With John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Marty Feldman, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Aimi Macdonald. TRT 90min

The series has now been lovingly pieced together for a BFI release, and this afternoon we’ll also exclusively preview some of the extra material that will be included, alongside two last recovered editions from the series. This material has not previously been shown at our popular Missing Believed Wiped events.

17:40 NFT1
Do Not Adjust Your Set + discussion

ITV 1968. Dir Daphne Shadwell. With Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, David Jason, Denise Coffey. TRT 110min

This evening we’ll screen two episodes (one newly recovered) of the pre-Python comedy sketch show, featuring the distinctive music of The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band. After the screening, a fully illustrated panel discussion will look back at the series and assess its importance within the Monty Python canon.

Monday 9 September

20:15 NFT1
TV Preview: Temple + Q&A with writer Mark O’Rowe, exec producer Liza Marshall, actor Mark Strong, and further cast TBA

Sky-Hera Pictures 2019. Dirs Luke Snellin, Shariff Korver, Lisa Siwe. With Mark Strong, Carice van Houten, Daniel Mays, Tobi King Bakare. Eps 1 and 2, 80min

Temple tells the story of Daniel Milton (Strong), a talented surgeon whose world is turned upside down when his wife contracts a terminal illness. Yet Daniel refuses to accept the cards he’s been dealt. He partners with the obsessive, yet surprisingly resourceful, misfit Lee (Mays) to start a literal ‘underground’ clinic in the vast network of tunnels beneath Temple tube station in London. They’re soon joined by Anna (van Houten), a guilt-ridden medical researcher whose past is entangled with Daniel’s, and fugitive bank-robber Jamie (King Bakare). Daniel does his best to juggle this dysfunctional family as his moral boundaries as a husband, friend and doctor are challenged. Just how far will he go for love?

Please check bfi.org.uk for further guest announcements

Friday 13 September

18:10 NFT3
Pre-Python Picks

TRT 95min

Join us for a bespoke compilation of vintage clips featuring various Pythons in action (as performers or writers) before they came together for the Flying Circus. The programme will feature extracts from The Complete and Utter History of Britain, The Frost Report, Frost on Sunday, How to Irritate People and many others.

Saturday 14 September

12:00 NFT1
Doctor Who: Mindwarp + Q&A with actors Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant

UK 1986. Dir Ron Jones. With Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant, Michael Jayston, Nabil Shaban, Brian Blessed. 4x25min. Courtesy of BBC Studios

The Doctor is on trial for his life, accused by the Time Lords of meddling in the affairs of other worlds. Here he faces arms dealer Sil (Shaban), and discovers that there are plans afoot to transplant his leader’s brain into another body to prolong his life. This second story in ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’ season of Doctor Who reunites Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor with arch-villain Sil, and marks the final appearance of Nicola Bryant as companion Peri Brown. This version of the story contains a new 5.1 stereo surround mix and re-recorded music by original composer Richard Hartley.

Tickets £15, concs £12 (Members pay £2 less) Doctor Who: The Collection – Season 23 is released on Blu-ray on Mon 23 Sep

Saturday 14/Sunday 15 September

The Complete Monty Python’s Flying Circus

In six sessions over one weekend we’ll screen the whole of this legendary TV series back-to-back in a binge worthy of Mr Creosote. It’s time for you to revisit Mr Pither’s Cycling Tour, The Ministry of Silly Walks, The Man with a Tape-Recorder Up His Nose, The Fish-Slapping Dance and (unexpectedly) The Spanish Inquisition!

Tickets £6.50 per session, day ticket £15, two-day ticket £25

Monday 16 September

20:30 NFT3

BBC 1974. Dir Sydney Lotterby. With Ronnie Barker, Richard Beckinsale, Brian Wilde, Fulton Mackay. TRT 90min

Ronnie Barker had a huge, versatile career and created many memorable characters, but he always claimed his greatest achievement was playing Norman Stanley Fletcher, in Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais’ marvellous comedy series Porridge. To mark the publication of a new BFI Television Classic on the series, the book’s author Richard Weight will be in conversation with the show’s writers and creators following the screening of an episode.

Tuesday 17 September

18:30 NFT1
Terry Gilliam Introduces Ernie Kovacs

Clip compilation + discussion. TRT c.100min

Ernie Kovacs was a mercurial American comedy talent whose brilliant, sometimes surreal, visual gags proved to be a strong influence on the young Terry Gilliam. In a timely tribute (it’s Kovacs’ centenary year) join Gilliam as he introduces a bespoke compilation featuring highlights from Kovacs’ career, one that was cut tragically short due to his death in a road accident in 1962.

Wednesday 25 September

18:10 NFT3
Fawlty Towers

BBC 1975. Dirs John Howard Davies, Bob Spiers. With John Cleese, Connie Booth, Prunella Scales, Andrew Sachs. 30min

Post-Python, John Cleese co-wrote and delivered this legendary sitcom that proved a global smash hit and achieved cult status.

+ Ripping Yarns

BBC 1976. Dirs Terry Hughes, Jim Franklin, Alan JW Bell. With Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Charles McKeown. 30min

Palin and Jones turned to boy’s-own adventure stories for inspiration in their hilarious post-Python series, which told a different ‘ripping-good yarn’ per episode.

+ Out of the Trees

BBC 1976. Dirs Bernard Thompson, Ian MacNaughton. With Graham Chapman, Maria Aitken, Simon Jones, Mark Wing-Davey. 30min

Graham Chapman teamed up with Doctor Who writer Douglas Adams for a comedy series that never went beyond this pilot. Simon Jones and Mark Wing-Davey went on to star in Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Friday 20 September

18:00 NFT3
The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash + Q&A with actor and musician Neil Innes

UK-USA 1978. Dirs Eric Idle, Gary Weis. With Eric Idle, Neil Innes, John Halsey, Ricky Fataar, George Harrison, Bianca Jagger. 76min. 12A

Eric Idle’s brilliant mockumentary on the rise of the ‘Pre-Fab Four’ perfectly blended the worlds of Python and The Beatles. He was ably assisted by ex-Bonzo Neil Innes, whose Beatle pastiche songs would become fan favourites and stand the test of time.

+ Rutland Weekend Television

BBC 1976. Dir Ian Keill. With Eric Idle, Neil Innes, Henry Woolf, Gwen Taylor, David Battley. 30min

An episode from the series that introduced the world to The Rutles.

Friday 27 September

20:20 NFT3
Monty Python: The Meaning of Live

UK TV Gold 2014. Dirs Roger Graef, James Rogan. 90min

This candid and revealing documentary follows the Monty Python team as they re-form and play a marathon 10 shows at The O2 arena in London. With unprecedented access, this observational portrait reveals the humour, chaos and passion that went into creating the ‘Monty Python Live (mostly): One Down, Five to Go’ shows. It also includes newly found archive revealing how Monty Python pioneered stadium comedy, with rare footage from early live shows, including their 1973 ‘1st Farewell Tour’.

Monday 30 September

18:10 NFT1
Not the Nine O’Clock News at 40 + discussion

BBC 1979. Dirs Bill Wilson, Geoff Posner, Bob Spiers. With Rowan Atkinson, Mel Smith, Griff Rhys Jones, Pamela Stephenson. TRT 100min

When Monty Python’s Flying Circus finished, many TV pundits heralded the death of the sketch show, as the Python’s brilliant deconstruction of the genre seemed to make it impossible to launch a traditional sketch show. However, Not the Nine O’Clock News brilliantly demonstrated this wasn’t the case and delivered a fast-paced, contemporary, cutting-edge show that took pot shots at late-70s and 80s Britain – lampooning pop videos, breakfast TV, punk rock and Margaret Thatcher. Join the show’s producer, John Lloyd, and others (tba) to revisit this fondly remembered and highly respected series.


Members: £10.50
Member concs: £8.20
Non-members: £12.50
Non-member concs: £10.20
Under 16s: £6

Reduced prices for weekday matinees. Concessionary prices are available to senior citizens, students, unwaged and disability visitors. Proof of eligibility may be required.

As always, visit the BFI web site for more details.