Little Britain: The Complete First Series
DVD | Box Set
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Take a journey around Little Britain, a small and surreal parallel universe peopled by over-the-top eccentrics, lunatics an social misfits. Meet Vicky Pollard, the gloriously incoherent trailer trash teenager. And Emily Howard, the world's least convincing transvestite. Then there's Andy, sitting all day in his wheelchair painstakingly looked after by Lou, who has no idea his friend can walk. Little Britain presents the breathtaking debris of modern life in all its glory.
"Britain, Britain, Britain, land of technological achievement. We've had running water for over 10 years, an underground tunnel that links us to Peru, and we invented the cat," narrates Tom Baker gleefully at the beginning of Little Britain, introducing the first hit show for fledgling digital channel BBC3 and the best new British comedy since The League of Gentlemen.
Read our interview with Lucas and Walliams.
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The League of Gentlemen
- Eight episodes on two discs
- Commentary by Matt Lucas, David Walliams, and producer Myfanwy Moore on episodes 1-4
- Commentary by Matt Lucas, David Walliams, and director Steve Bendelack on episodes 5-8
- Behind-the-scenes documentary
- Pilot episode with commentary
- Deleted scenes with commentary
- Best of Rock Profiles
- Four live sketches
- Little Britain survey
- Interview with Matt Lucas and David Walliams and more
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I can see why some British progressives are "Little Britain" haters as much of the humor in this series, especially in the second and third seasons, is shocking and gross and relies on stereotypes that can be interpreted as sociopolitically reactionary--a teenage mom with criminal tendencies, people with fake disabilities scamming their caretakers, flamboyantly gay men annoying everybody around them. Lucas and Walliams were perhaps unwise in insisting on doing the old Peter Sellers "aren't I funny, I can play anybody" thing, even appearing as blackface minstrels in the first season. This tendency to push the outside of the envelope of what John Waters called "good bad taste" would get them in deeper trouble with their follow-up comedy series "Come Fly With Me," which I do find pretty unbearable. Coming from the land of Rush Limbaugh and "South Park," where great fortunes are built on sadism masquerading as comedy, I honestly don't think Lucas and Walliams' humor is intentionally cruel or demeaning. Let's just say they can be a little callow from time to time.
As far as the contents of this box set are concerned, I can't say enough good things about "Little Britain" the original three-season series and its companion, "Little Britain Live," a recording of the stage show that Lucas and Walliams toured the UK and Australia with at the height of the show's popularity. They are first-rate comedy and great theater by two very intelligent, original and charming performer-writers. Given the sometimes very edgy material they're acting out onscreen, it's funny how polite and decorous Lucas and Walliams are on the DVD audio commentary (although Walliams, whose naked body is much on display throughout, helpfully points out to the viewer every instance in which his genitalia are visible through his costumes.) The additional materials in this set are mostly very welcome. The pilot episode is fascinating as it shows how the TV series evolved from its origins as a radio series (which is also available in its own well-produced box set that includes video recordings of Lucas and Walliams performing the radio shows--I highly recommend this to fans of the TV series.) There's also a generous portion of "Little Britain" sketches performed for TV specials and charity events and a sampler of sketches from "Rock Profile," the Lucas-Walliams TV series that came just before "Little Britain," which I found underwhelming as it's mostly impersonations of British pop stars I've never heard of. I hope the much superior early Lucas and Walliams series "Mash and Peas" and "Sir Bernard's Stately Homes" get their own box set someday.
As for "Little Britain USA," I prefer to pretend it doesn't exist. I can understand Lucas and Walliams' urge to extend their enormously popular UK hit into the American market, but it was doomed precisely because "Little Britain" is such a specifically British confection that it just doesn't translate into the American idiom. But then when you have an iconic comedy series like this it can be hard to recreate in another context.