I recently got the first few episodes of HBO’s Little Britain USA, which the network is hoping will become America’s new favorite comic oxymoron. (If you combine Britain and the USA, don’t you get Canada?)
I’ll write more about the show later. For now, I like it well enough, just as I liked the original Little Britain well enough, but it carries over so many characters and is so similar in content and tone that I don’t entirely see the point in watching the remake as opposed to Netflixing the originals. My issues with it are the same as my issues with the original show. Some of the characters and concepts are brilliant, but the more episodes I watch, the more I wonder if I couldn’t have stopped at just one.
Most Little Britain sketches, after all, involve a familiar character playing out a familiar gag in a slightly different situation, over and over. (Yeah, “bitty.” I get it, already.) Now I realize this is a dilemma for a lot of sketch comedy shows; it’s not like I’ve never watched SNL. But because this is pretty much all Little Britain does, it eventually reaches the point of diminishing returns.
Anyway, watching Little Britain gets me thinking of another British comedy with a similar dark, gross-out sensibility: The League of Gentlemen, which was one of the first comedies BBC America imported when it started up nearly a decade ago, and still one of the best things it ever aired. What made League (to me) less repetitive is that it set its memorable characters in a single setting, a small English town mistrustful of outsiders (“This is a local shop! For local people!”), it gave them interlocking stories, and it actually had ongoing, macabre story arcs about abductions and cannibalism. All of which, beyond the sheer comic genius of the individual sketches, made the show move forward rather than simply run in place.
All of which is to say, The League of Gentlemen is my underappreciated TV import of the day. What’s yours?