I just finished watching the first season of the original U.K. version of Little Britain (I have to say that, because an American version was launched recently). The show was recommended to me by some friends who are aware of my penchant for British comedy. As they had expected, I loved it.
David Walliams and Matt Lucas
I was impressed with the ability of Matt Lucas and David Walliams to play a wide variety characters. With the help of makeup and wigs, the ordinarily attractive David Walliams is transformed into an unrecognizable rogue's gallery of often well-meaning but terribly flawed characters.
Matt Lucas shares his willingness to dare anything for the sake of comedy, even if it means wearing ridiculous, tight-fitting clothing as Daffyd Thomas, who proudly proclaims himself, "The only gay in the village," despite all evidence to the contrary.
The two embody their characters with such success that, along with the on-location shots, they create a sense that these people actually exist. And in essence, each of them do, as they're each based on recognizable, human flaws. Everyone has known a troublemaker like Vicky Pollard, and nearly everyone has, at one time or another, developed a crush on someone entirely inappropriate, such as the boss.
Among my favorite characters are Vicky Pollard (although I had to use the subtitles to make out what she was saying), as well as Lou and Andy, a recurring duo. Andy is masquerading as a paraplegic, while his unknowing friend Lou makes every effort to care for and please his thankless charge. I also enjoyed Sebastian Love, the aide to Anthony Head's prime minister, who nurses a not-so-secret infatuation for him.
Little Britain bears some similarities to League of Gentlemen, in that they're both sketch-based shows, primarily shot on location, where the actors play multiple roles. There, the resemblance ends, as Little Britain has a much gentler, brighter feel to the humor. I was not surprised to learn, in a radio interview included with the DVD, that the two were inspired by an older style of comedy, epitomized in such shows as The Two Ronnies, where pure silliness dominated over satirical wit.
A lot of the sketches revolve around the same recurring jokes, but somehow the two manage to keep the humor fresh. In part, they achieve this by keeping the sketches only as long as they need to be, something that other comedy shows would do well to learn.
As an extra on the DVD, there was a montage of segments from a show they'd done called Rock Profile, where they impersonated various rock and pop musicians, interviewed by a host. Sometimes the jokes were funny, such as portraying Elton John as a spoiled prima donna, or the struggles of two lesser-known members of another band to get back in the limelight, now that their more famous lead has abandoned them. Still, these segments lacked the magic of Little Britain, perhaps because they developed those characters more fully than they did their parodies of rock stars.