A few weeks ago, the wife I had a hankering for some Kids in The Hall episodes but couldn’t find any of the DVD sets to buy. What we did find was a very acceptable substitute in Little Britain – also a half-hour sketch comedy show and though it comments more on British culture it does share some similar features with KitH. There is a nearly all-male cast that is prone to cross-dressing as female characters, jokes about sexuality, an assortment of wacky and eccentric recurring characters and a healthy dose of satire. Dare you dig deeper? Hit the jump and dive in.
The principle writers/actors in Little Britain consist of two men; Matt Lucas and David Williams. Between them, they portray every central character in the series. Lucas plays characters such as Vicky, the 14 year old blisteringly fast-talking young offender and Davith, “the only Gay in the village”. Williams plays Emily Howard, the unconvincing transvestite and Sebastian, the aide to the British Prime Minister (played by Anthony Stewart Head!) who he is hopelessly in love with. The range of Lucas and Williams is quite astounding at times, especially Lucas who seems very versatile in his ability to play men and women at almost any age quite convincingly. After a few episodes, my wife had to ask me exactly how many actors there were and was surprised when I said there were only two. Of course there’s a small supporting cast, but Lucas and Williams are the main players.
The writing of Little Britain is quite sharp and pulls no punches as to who it pokes fun at. The elderly, the young, families, homosexuals, heterosexuals, the mentally challenged, overweight people… nobody is spared. It’s all with a British twist, of course… a lot of play on how British culture sees these groups of people and they also use the characters to make comments on British culture too. The season is only 8 episodes, pretty standard for BBC shows, but even in that short time you can see the evolution of the characters as well as what works well and what doesn’t. For example, the skits commenting on racism (by showing white guys in black-face being discriminated against) don’t work so well, and seemed to be dropped but the developing “story arc” between Sebastian and the Prime Minister builds and builds as it really does work well and garnered lots of laughs from us. A word of warning, the humour may not be for everyone. While it’s all in good fun, some of is meant to make you squirm (but laugh at the same time) or to just plain shock you, but there is very smart satire here too. There’s lot of references to British pop culture that non-Brits like us may not be aware of, but you won’t get lost.
Little Britain is a great series to try for any fan of sketch comedy troupes like Kids in the Hall or Monty Python. The outlandish and memorable recurring characters are what make the show really click, you’ll be laughing and quoting lines in no time. Easy buy