DVD
Little Britain
The Complete First Series

Starring: Matt Lucas, David Walliams and Tom Baker
BBC Worldwide
RRP 19.99
BBCDVD1494
Certificate: 15
Available 11 October 2004


Meet the people of Little Britain, characters such as rubbish transvestite Emily Howard; Daffyd Thomas, the "only gay" in his village; Jason, the young man with a passion for a pensioner; and inarticulate teenager Vicky Pollard. Just who are Britain? What do they? And why...?

Following two brilliant series on Radio 4, Little Britain has made a successful transition to TV, and now you can enjoy all eight episodes of the first series over and over again on DVD. This is truly hilarious stuff from start to finish, which really does stand up to repeat viewing.

My favourite characters include the wheelchair-bound Andy (Matt Lucas), who isn't really disabled at all - just bone idle - and his gullible carer Lou (David Walliams). Then there's Jason (Walliams), who is passionately in love with his best friend's grandmother. Not forgetting Ray McCooney (Walliams), the unnecessarily cryptic Scottish hotelier, or gay Welshman Daffyd Thomas (Lucas), whose attempts to gain attention via his sexuality are constantly thwarted by the laid-back attitudes of those around him. Oops, and I nearly missed out everybody's favourite character, Vicky Pollard (Lucas).

Oh, who am I kidding? They're all fantastic!

There's an element of The League of Gentlemen's brand of dark humour in several of the sketches - which is hardly surprising when you consider that Leaguer Mark Gatiss is the programme's script editor. This darkness is most evident of all in the Jason sketches, which are as toe-curlingly cringe-worthy as they are uproariously funny, and in the arch narration of Tom Baker. Much of what Baker says could have been deeply offensive, were it not for the sheer insanity of his sentence structures and the eccentric tones of his voice.

My only real criticism of Little Britain concerns the Fat-fighters sketches, which owe far too much to the job club scenes in The League of Gentlemen. Marjorie Dawes (Lucas), the bullying club leader, is uncomfortably similar in concept and realisation to Steve Pemberton's horrid Pauline. And her comeuppance in episode eight is almost exactly the same as that of Pauline at the end of her first series. There are also elements of Alan Partridge in the embittered children's TV dropout Des Kaye and has-been Olympic athlete Denver Mills (both Walliams).

As was the case with The League of Gentlemen and Dead Ringers, some characters and sketches have not survived the transition from radio to television. As a result, roughly half of the material in this series is brand new. Andy ("Yeah, I know") and Lou are completely new characters, as is the mental patient Anne (Walliams).

In addition to the resonant tones of former Doctor Who Tom Baker, sci-fi fans should derive particular pleasure from the names of several characters in the skits concerning hopeless inventor Matthew Waterhouse (Walliams), for they are named after performers who played Doctor Who companions. The Prime Minister in the Sebastian Love (Walliams) and Michael the PM sketches is amusingly played by Anthony Stewart Head: that bloke off Buffy, as Baker puts it.

As if eight excellent episodes were not enough, this double DVD pack is also brimming with extras, including 36 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage in How to Make a Little Britain, a 32-minute radio interview, and 15 minutes of material from the Teenage Cancer Trust charity show. You can also select compilations of sketches featuring many of your favourite characters by accessing the Character Playlist. My favourite extra of all is the half-hour Best of Rock Profiles, which features hilarious highlights from Lucas and Walliams's previous television venture.

As you might expect, the humour of Little Britain even pervades the DVD menus. For example, on the extras menu you hear Ray McCooney asking: "Ye want to know ma secrets, do ye?" However, the compiler of the subtitles rather missed the point of the Vicky Pollard sketches by abbreviating her inarticulate ramblings into rather lucid statements!

Now, I don't hand out tens very often, but this superb product truly deserves it.

(Are you sure? Ed)

Yeah.

(Because once you've given it a ten, you can't mark it down again.)

Yeah, I know.

(So you definitely want to give it a ten?)

Definitely.

Richard McGinlay

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£11.99 (Amazon.co.uk)
   
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£14.99 (Streetsonline.co.uk)

All prices correct at time of going to press.