Little Britain

Tuesday, October 19, 2004 by

Like The League of Gentlemen before it, Little Britain has managed to become the nation’s latest must-see comedy show. Following a rapturous reception for the first run last year, the programme has enjoyed two three-CD releases, a script book and a superb DVD set. The BBC are clearly aiming high with the series and probably hoping that its imminent move to BBC1 will make it one of their flagship “products”, something that is evident from the way it’s been branded using the Union Flag on all of the merchandise and the series trailers.

Armed with a new director in Matt Livesy and script editor in Rob Brydon, Lucas and Walliams continue the high standard they set in the first season. Not much has changed in the presentation of the show: the opening titles are in the same format and twinned with Tom Baker’s superb narration. The brief scenes in-between the main pieces are slightly different, but serve to introduce the character in the subsequent sketch a little more clearly than before.

In this opening episode most of the more popular characters make an appearance, starting with young offender Vicky Pollard who uses her pram to steal a cash register from a supermarket; “Emily” Howard has an apprentice this time around in the form of moustachioed “Florence”; Lou is still being duped by the ever indolent Andy; and Dayffd still believes that he is the Only Gay in the Village.

Things move on in the Prime Minister and Sebastian sketches however, with the leader of the opposition – played by Nigel Havers – becoming the new object of the aide’s lust after he believes the PM has fallen for “black boy” Gregory. Similarly, the pirate memory game man returns in a new situation (now christened Mr Mann), this time as a customer at a dating agency who has some very specific requests for the long-suffering chap behind the counter and the never-seen Margaret.

Not ones to rest on their laurels, Lucas and Walliams have also crafted a number of new, sicker characters. The two WI ladies, Judy and Maggie, are probably the standout attractions of the fresh batch. In this instance, the pair are busy judging jams and cakes at the local fĂȘte, with an unfortunate occurrence taking place whenever one of the two hears something unpleasant about the produce being sampled. The best line of the show comes here, when a projectile-vomiting Walliams exclaims: “no more lesbian jam – I can’t keep it down!”

Bubbles de Vere is another new character portrayed by Lucas, wearing a quite remarkable, yet utterly repulsive fat suit. Bubbles “lives” in the Hill Grange Health Farm and as she cannot pay her bill, attempts to use her ample feminine charms on the unsuspecting manager. Hopefully all of this added unpleasantness isn’t there merely to shock for the sake of it, although it’s frequently hilarious, too much of a “bad” thing can prove fatiguing.

Elsewhere, the sketch in the bank where a man attempts to get a loan smacks of a concerted attempt to come up with a new catchphrase to rival the success of “I want that one”, or “eh-eh-ehhh!”. On this occasion it’s: “computer says no”. Expect to hear it your local office wag coming out with that one over the next few weeks.

So, the order of the day seems to be more of what went down well last time, coupled with a bunch of new characters who are sicker than any of their season one counterparts. Alongside that, the number of guest stars has increased too, with Havers also joined by Ruth Madoc, Geraldine Alexander and Vanessa Feltz. But when is there going to be a cameo by Tom Baker? He would be ideal for a supporting role that isn’t limited to narration.

How the show will fare when it eventually pitches up on BBC1 is a matter of some small speculation. Will the mainstream channel’s audience take to the highly stylised, repetitive humour and glorious bad taste, or will a move into the big league prove to be the ruin of this fence-posted section of our green and pleasant land?


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