Surreal, disturbing, crossing the boundary of good taste, Little Britain features some of the most grotesque characters ever seen on television.
Combining a series of wickedly funny sketches observing life in modern Britain as seen through the eyes of Matt Lucas and David Walliams and linked together by Tom Baker's insightful and eloquent dialogue ("today's show is finishing early because I have to do a pooh now!"), the series was a triumph for BBC3, where it debuted on the digital station's opening night. And the characters that populated 'Little Britain' quickly reached cult status. The wheelchair-bound Andy, who can secretly walk without any problem but enjoys being pushed around and waited on by his caring and oblivious friend Lou; Sebastian Love, the effete personal secretary to the Prime Minister (Anthony Head), who has a huge crush on his boss; Vicky Pollard, Britain's most illiterate teenager who had a baby but "swapped it for a Westlife CD"; Daffyd, who is adamant - despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary - that in Llandewi Breffi he is 'the only gay in the village'; Marjorie Dawes, the ruthless leader of the Britannia Fat Fighters diet club; Jason, a teenager sexually obsessed with his mate Gary's octogenarian grandmother; Ray McCooney, the medieval fantasist who runs Ye Olde Hotele; Anne, clearly the most barking resident of the Steven Spielberg residential home for psychiatric patients; Emily Howard, the rubbish transvestite; and the teachers and pupils of Kelsey Grammar School in Flange.
The show pulls together many of the obsessions Lucas and Walliams had previously explored in other series and also has a touch of The League Of Gentlemen about it (indeed, the 'League's' Mark Gatiss was script editor for 'Britain'). Although some of the sketches featuring regular characters were at times seemingly a little repetitive, the show moved along at such a blistering pace that the audience didn't have time to get bored. And just when you think you've seen it all, that there is no blasphemy left untouched, the series will hit you with a jaw-dropping wallop, as in the sketch featuring a school secretary who is trying to describe to her colleague on the phone, the growth-stunted student who is seated at the opposite side of the desk to her; "You know...the one who buys his clothes from Mother Care. Yeah...that's right, the oompah loompah." Little Britain does what British comedy has always done best, it flies in the face of convention and delivers it's comedy with a stinging slap!
A second series of Little Britain aired on BBC3 in October 2004 introducing a number of new characters, the most popular of whom was Harvey, the twentysomething male who is still breast fed by his mother, and Bubbles, a female character who lives on a health farm and is played by Matt Lucas, who donned a bodysuit of grotesque proportions which helped the series collect a prize at the Royal Television Society's Craft and Design Awards in December 2004.
Unfortunately, the series did indeed become repetitive, and once the shock factor had worn off, seeing the same characters making the same jokes every week, it lost it's edge. Perhaps realising this Matt Lucas and David Walliams announced in 2007 that there would be no more of the British Little Britain but there would be a series entitled Little Britain USA. This series was not as well received as previous ones and the series was a one-off. Lucas himself said later that if he were to re-make the series he would avoid making jokes about transvestites and minority groups. "Basically, I wouldn’t make that show now. It would upset people. We made a more cruel kind of comedy than I'd do now. Society has moved on a lot since then and my own views have evolved".
Published on December 31st, 2018. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.