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
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.
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.