THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN: A COMEDY SERIES FIRST AIRED ON BBC2 FROM 1999-2002. CREATED BY JEREMY DYSON, MARK GATISS, STEVE PEMBERTON AND REECE SHEARSMITH. DIRECTED BY STEVE BENDELACK.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
‘We didn’t burn him…!’
‘You did it beautifully, Tubbs!’
I watched this comedy sketch show in its entirety over the Lockdown with my kids, and we are all in firm agreement: the first two series of TLOG are pure comic genius, the third and final series not so much. We might just leave it out of the review altogether, lol.
But the first two series are just outstanding, peopled as they are by the strange and often law-breaking citizens of a very odd little Northern England country town called Royston Vasey, the real name of sweary comedian Roy Chubby Brown, who turns up in the show as a foul-mouthed mayor.
Tubbs and Edward are probably my personal favourite characters. They run a quaint ‘local shop’ for ‘local people’ on the outskirts of the town which few people ever visit, which is fine by them. Visitors only disturb the peace of the shop and must be repelled at all costs, even if it means that murder is sometimes the only option…
Tubbs, the chubby, adorable wifey, doesn’t like to be distracted from ‘cleansing the precious things of the shop,’ and the arrival on-screen of her hubby, Edward, based on Christopher Lee’s character Lord Summerisle from THE WICKER MAN, is always heralded by his catchphrase: ‘Now then, what’s all this shouting? We’ll have no trouble here…!’
Pauline (‘Okey-cokey, pig-in-a-pokey, good morning, jobseekers!’), the Restart officer at the local Job Centre, is a gay, lonely and embittered spinster obsessed with the pens which form the tools of her trade. She runs a course for the unemployed, which they must attend as part of the conditions for their claiming the dole, and she’s also a walking bitch drawn from Reece Shearsmith’s own experiences.
It’s hilarious, if deeply unsettling, to see the abuse she heaps on the heads of those poor dole scum, sorry, jobseekers, in her power and, if Matt Lucas from LITTLE BRITAIN didn’t base his Margery Dawes/Fatfighters character on the pale-pink-lipsticked Pauline with her pen fetish, I’ll eat Pauline’s clipboard, the one she uses to whack Ross over the head with…
Aunty Val and Uncle Harvey are fantastically funny characters. Val’s nephew Benjamin comes to stay with them, supposedly for one night, but what does the sign outside the village read? That’s right: ‘ROYSTON VASEY: YOU’LL NEVER LEAVE…’
The pompous Uncle Harvey is a toad-enthusiast, and woe betide you if you confuse his precious pets with (we’ll have to whisper this next word) frogs… The gruesome twosome, Val and Harvey, are obsessed with household and personal cleanliness, and it’s their mission to stamp out self-defilement in the form of masturbation, for which they have numerous lovely euphemisms. (‘Consorting with Madame Palm and her five lovely daughters…!’)
When Aunty Val and Uncle Harvey have their Nude Day, or when they put on those special sandals to ‘restore the weft of the carpet,’ my kids and I nearly fell off the couch laughing. Can poor bemused Benjamin ever extricate himself from the Household from Hell, or is he doomed to relive Nude Day over and over again like Groundhog Day and spend all eternity gliding across the living-room carpet in special shoes…? Only time will tell…
I also loved Pop, the swarthy, hairy Greek or Turkish (I’m not sure which) entrepreneur who owns a fizzy drinks-and-chocolate-bar-kiosk and dreams of an empire to hand down to his two adult sons, Ritchie and Al. He beats up his youngest son for letting some no-good kids nick a few Maverick bars from the kiosk, and he’s also an unscrupulous landlord who charges young folks exorbitant rents to live in his kippy accommodations and then spies on them having sex on his CCTV.
I really loved the character of Les McQueen, who had five minutes of fame back in the ‘Seventies with pop band Creme Brulee (remember Voodoo Lady?) and who’s pined for those five minutes for the rest of his life, and also Papa Lazarou, possibly the show’s most popular- and controversial- character.
The fact that creepy, woman-abducting freak-show owner Papa Lazarou appears in blackface has been the subject of recent controversy, as you can imagine. He also hilariously calls everyone he meets ‘Dave,’ and he’s based on a former landlord of Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith’s, who used to phone up their flat and ask repeatedly to speak to Steve, while ignoring all Reece’s efforts to persuade him that Steve wasn’t there at the moment…!
There are so many other characters in the show to laugh with as well, like Barbara, the town’s transexual taxi-driver, Hilary Briss, the dodgy butcher whose ‘special stuff’ sausages give the people who eat them nose-bleeds, Iris the scruffy cleaner and her snobbish employer, Mrs. Levinson, and the female vicar who doesn’t seem to love her job- or her parishioners-much.
It’s probably one of the best sketch shows ever written, is this. It was very much of its time, though, and you probably couldn’t write something this non-politically correct in our new softly, softly era, where it seems like every day we learn about yet something else that we’re no longer allowed to poke fun at because it’s racist/sexist/homophobic/offensive to minorities, etc. Ah well. We’ll always have THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN, at any rate. Hang on for a minute, though, there was something I wanted to ask you.
‘Is Dave there…?’
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.