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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Little Britain: The Complete Collection
Little Britain: The Complete Collection
BBC Worldwide // Unrated // November 20, 2007
List Price: $99.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Preston Jones | posted December 12, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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The Show

I don't know why other countries don't just farm out comedy to the British. From the (by now) legendary antics of the Monty Python crew all the way up to "Spaced" and "The Office," our neighbors o'er the Atlantic -- it's a rare day when the English don't make me laugh with their exquisitely satiric and often devastatingly amusing TV series. That said, comedy comes in all shapes and sizes, and Little Britain lacks the universality that allowed such Brit classics as, well, "Monty Python" or "The Office" to make the leap to American shores.

The brainchild of David Walliams and Matt Lucas, Little Britain, like so much televised British comedy, has its roots in radio, where Lucas and Walliams gave voice to an astonishing array of crack'd characters ostensibly plucked from the streets and representing Britain in microcosm. The pair, armed with a keen eye for social satire and a willingness, like so many British comedians before them, to play gay stereotypes and dress up as women without a moment's hesitation, debuted Little Britain in late 2003, watching as the program became an instant smash.

To say that Little Britain is politically incorrect would be an understatement -- it's downright barbarous in terms of its comedic treatment of the mentally handicapped, the overweight, minorities and homosexuals (it's probably worth noting that the portly Lucas himself is one of England's more prominent gay celebrities). For as much as it relies caricature, it relies an equal amount of stick-in-your-head catchphrases; in fact, it's worth pondering whether the smashing success of Little Britain was what Andy Millman (Ricky Gervais) was mocking with his "Are you havin' a laugh?" line in "Extras." Lucas and Walliams' show has come under fire from critics, suggesting that its agenda is one of tasteless exploitation, although if you look at some of the topics tackled by "Monty Python" or "Benny Hill," Little Britain isn't so far off the mark. It's certainly edgy and has no real American analogue, except perhaps the late, lamented "Chappelle's Show."

As is customary with British TV series, Little Britain enjoyed a short life -- a total of 18 episodes in all (three series' worth), but did spin off into a couple of one-off specials and, of course, made all of the requisite rounds of charity comedy events. With its blend of surreal humor -- the episodes are often narrated by a stereotypical stuffy Brit -- eerily evocative roleplaying and searing sense of humor, Little Britain isn't for all tastes, but for those who give into its deranged, daring sensibility, you'll be rewarded with one of the most socially devastating TV shows in recent memory.

Little Britain: The Complete Collection is housed in a very stylish package, complete with lenticular slipcover that reveals many of the show's signature characters. The eight-disc set is snug and secure in the red, white and blue gatefold package with its plastic jewel cases bound to the spine. It's quite a handsome set and plays nicely into the overall theme of the show; none of these discs are exclusive to the "Complete Collection" and all have been previously released separately. As such, the content is unchanged from the previous single series and special (Little Britain Abroad, Little Britain Live) discs.

The DVD

The Video:

I'm assuming these 18 episodes are presented as originally broadcast in the UK (and later, on BBC America) in their correct aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The image looks as sharp and clear as can be expected, with no smearing, jaggedness or other noticeable defects. There's a hint of ghosting in certain episodes, but it's fleeting and likely due to the PAL source material.

The Audio:

Again, as originally broadcast overseas and on BBC America, the Dolby 2.0 stereo tracks get the job done, conveying the rapid-fire dialogue and minimal score with no distortion or drop-out. For those who can't parse the occasionally thick British accents, optional English subtitles are included.

The Extras:

The copious, very thorough supplements (seriously, every last scrap of Little Britain-related material must be here) are spread throughout the eight-disc set, as detailed below.

Disc One: (Series One, Episodes 1-4)

In addition to commentary on every episode, the 29 minute pilot episode (presented in anamorphic widescreen and Dolby 2.0 stereo) is included, as is 45 minutes of deleted scenes (presented in anamorphic widescreen and Dolby 2.0 stereo). One minute, 16 seconds of "BBC 3 Idents" are included, along with a 12 minute, 34 second appearance on the Jonathan Ross show (presented in anamorphic widescreen and Dolby 2.0 stereo). Something known as a "character playlist," which essentially cuts right to a particular character's sketches, rounds out the disc.

Disc Two: (Series One, Episodes 5-8)

In addition to commentary on every episode, the four minute, 51 second featurette "What Does Britain Mean to You?" is included, as is the 28 minute, 28 second "Best of Rock Profiles," the 36 minute, 16 second featurette "How to Make a Little Britain" (presented in anamorphic widescreen); 14 minutes, 37 seconds' worth of "Teenage Cancer Trust Sketches" (presented in fullscreen); a character playlist and a 32 minute, 10 second Radio 5 Live interview with the creators.

Disc Three: (Series Two, Episodes 1-6)

The lone extra here, aside from commentary tracks on every episode, is a character playlist.

Disc Four: (Series Two Bonus Features)

The 43 minute, 43 second featurette "Little Documentary" (presented in anamorphic widescreen) kicks things off, followed by the 22 minute, 20 second "Comic Relief Special" (presented in anamorphic widescreen with optional commentary); two minutes, 53 seconds of "Comic Relief" outtakes; 49 minutes, 51 seconds of deleted scenes from Series Two (presented in anamorphic widescreen, with optional commentary) and the 43 minute, 13 second featurette "Little Britain at the NFT" (presented in anamorphic widescreen). The 34 minute, 22 second appearance on radio's "The Chris Moyles Show," the 34 minute, 51 second appearance on Jonathan Ross' radio program, the nine minute, 56 second appearance on "Friday Night with Jonathan Ross" (presented in anamorphic widescreen), a one minute, three second "Richard & Judy" sketch and a one minute, 58 second "Dafydd" sketch complete the disc.

Disc Five: (Series Three, Episodes 1-6)

The lone extra here, aside from commentary tracks on every episode, is a character playlist.

Disc Six: (Series Three Bonus Features)

Forty-four minutes, 20 seconds of deleted scenes from Series Three (presented in anamorphic widescreen, with optional commentary) get the ball rolling, with the 48 minute, 43 second "South Bank Show" special; 36 minutes, 37 seconds of "Little Britain Night" highlights, a 30-second "Little Britain Live" trailer; a 14 minute, 50 second "Richard & Judy" interview; nine minutes, 41 seconds of Walliams on "Top Gear" and a 28 minute radio interview with David Baddiel finishing the disc off.

Disc Seven: (Little Britain Abroad)

The two episodes of Little Britain Abroad are presented as originally broadcast in anamorphic widescreen and Dolby 2.0 stereo, with optional commentary. In addition, the 58 minute, 58 second doc "Little Britain Down Under" (presented in anamorphic widescreen); the 45 minute, 33 second "Little Britain Live Does Comic Relief"; five minutes, nine seconds of deleted scenes from Abroad and a 50-second "Comic Relief" trailer complete the disc.

Disc Eight: (Little Britain Live)

In addition to the Live show (presented in anamorphic widescreen with optional commentary), there's the 13 minute, 41 second featurette "Making the Tour" (presented in anamorphic widescreen); the one minute, 47 second "Lou & Andy in Blackpool" trailer (presented in anamorphic widescreen, with optional commentary); the two minute "Fatfighters" scene (presented in anamorphic widescreen, with optional commentary); the 58 minute, 18 second doc "Little Britain's Big Swim" (presented in anamorphic widescreen, with 23 minutes and 45 seconds' worth of deleted scenes); the 11 minute, 49 second featurette "Making the DVD" (presented in anamorphic widescreen) and 15 minutes, 15 seconds of deleted scenes from Live, presented in anamorphic widescreen with optional commentary.

Final Thoughts:

With its blend of surreal humor -- the episodes are often narrated by a stereotypical stuffy Brit -- eerily evocative roleplaying and searing sense of humor, Little Britain isn't for all tastes, but for those who give into its deranged, daring sensibility, you'll be rewarded with one of the most socially devastating TV shows in recent memory. This eight-disc set, a repackaging of previous series and specials, is nevertheless stuffed to the seams with bonus features and well worth picking up if you own none of the earlier Little Britain releases. A cinch for the DVD Talk Collectors Series.

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