THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN. (1999-2002) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
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.
THE BBC DRACULA. (2020) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
THE BBC DRACULA. (2020) (LOOSELY) BASED ON THE NOVEL BY BRAM STOKER. STARRING CLAES BANG AND DOLLY WELLS. CO-CREATED AND WRITTEN BY MARK GATISS AND STEVEN MOFFAT.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
‘I’ve been just DYING to meet you.’
‘Food should never answer back.’
‘Always take the weather with you.’
‘I’m a five-hundred-year-old warlord.’
‘My God, I can’t wait to eat some atheists.’
‘One learns to keep a tidy slaughterhouse.’
‘Please avert your eyes- I have to murder a child.’
‘After four hundred years, it’s nice to be understood.’
‘This will be the most nuns I’ve ever had in one sitting.’
‘In the matter of blood, I am a connoisseur. Blood is lives.’
‘I’ve acquired some of your husband’s memories. You could say that I’ve downloaded them. Orally.’
‘There are many advantages to being a vampire, but it does make it hard to be a morning person.’
I don’t really know where to begin with this one, except to say that there’s something inherently wrong with the sight of Dracula texting on a smartphone. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adored Hammer Horror’s two attempts to place Count Dracula in the modern era, ie, DRACULA AD 1972 and DRACULA AND HIS VAMPIRE BRIDES. In fact, these are two of my favourite films in the whole Hammer Dracula canon. But the BBC DRACULA, first broadcast on the BBC over New Year’s in 2020, is kind of… well, a mess. Tons of gore but zero atmosphere.
The first episode was tolerable and at least kept more or less to the plot of Stoker’s marvellous book. Jonathan Harker arrives at the Count’s magnificent crumbling abode in the wilds of Transylvania to finalise with him the sale of a house, Carfax Abbey in England. He discovers there that the ancient Count is in fact a vampire, who replenishes himself each time he drinks from the blood of his captive-guest, Jonathan Harker.
Once the Count re-appears as a tall, dark and dashing Englishman, with the posh charming suavity of Hugh Grant and the sex appeal and comic timing of a James Bond, one kind of gets the feeling that we’re not in Kansas any more. In fact, the drama degenerates into farce as the handsome Dracula quips all around him with lines such as ‘You are what you eat,’ ‘One should never rush a nun’ and, to a victim, ‘I must say you’re looking a little drained.’
I must admit that I was unnerved by Jonathan’s accidental discovery of the living dead, incarcerated for all eternity in locked boxes, in the labyrinthine wilderness of the Count’s castle. It’s an idea that puts me very much in mind of the vampire movie THE HUNGER. Also, David Bowie’s accelerated ageing from that very film is reminiscent of what happens here to Jonathan Harker each time the Count drinks his blood.
A bald-headed Harker, covered in sores and (disgustingly!) missing his fingernails is relating his tale of terror and homosexual sex (yep, Dracula’s bi!) to a toothsome Dutch nun called Sr. Agatha Van Helsing. This ballsy dame is an intelligent and courageous woman who is determined not to flinch or to be found wanting when Dracula attacks her convent in Budapest where Jonathan Harker is hiding out.
She and the staunchly sensible Reverend Mother do very well indeed to bat no eyelids at the sight of a gloriously naked Count Dracula emerging outside their convent gates from the bloodied belly of a wolf. Magnificent butt, but no willies are observed, worse luck.
Episode Two sees Dracula spending the four weeks aboard the Demeter it takes to get to England engaged in, well, eating the passengers and selected crew members. He murders his old flame the Grand Duchess Valeria, Lord and Lady Ruthven (the name derived from Dr. Polidori’s story, The Vampyre, in which he based his aristocratic vampire on Lord Byron) and a couple of (male) sailors, proving yet again that he doesn’t discriminate on the grounds of sex.
I liked Olgaren, the gigantic, bald-headed and heavily bearded cook with a hook for a hand, and also the quip Dracula makes in this episode about having worked with ‘skeleton crews’ before. I bet he has, lol. And remember in Hammer’s DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS, in which Christopher Lee’s Dracula is drowned by a little bit of running water? Well, this Dracula can swim, so be warned…
I hated the last episode. The action moves to the present day, and there they lost me completely. Dracula’s main focus here is getting with Lucy Westenra, a cool and glamorous disco chick who glitters and sparkles (might fit in well in TWILIGHT, so!) and takes hundreds of selfies, is never off the phone and has a Gay Best Friend to discuss her many romantic dalliances with.
Lucy is a vain and shallow person who prizes her looks above all else. Dracula doesn’t hold this against her. Why do you always want to meet up in a graveyard, she asks her midnight lover at one point. I like to spend time with people my own age, immediately quips back this smart-ass Dracula…!
The ‘Bloofer Lady’ and cremation scenes were actually quite creepy and there’s no denying that this episode of the drama mini-series made use of some very cool special effects, but otherwise it was a mess, especially the bit involving the modern day descendant of Sr. Agatha, Dr. Zoe Van Helsing.
I liked Dracula’s witty reference to someones’s ‘bringing a bottle to the party,’ and the nod to the original Hammer Dracula from 1958, when Peter Cushing leaps up on to a table and pulls down the curtains, thereby letting in the sunlight that devastates the vampire and crumbles him to dust, but otherwise this episode was a wash-out.
The notion of some people’s still being sentient (feeling, or being aware) when they are buried or cremated was quite a terrifying one, especially for someone as impressionable as me. I can’t be cremated now (normally my first choice) after seeing what happened to wee Lucy, and I don’t just mean Robbie Williams’s Angels being played at the ceremony, lol.
On the other hand, neither do I fancy being one of those poor unfortunates ‘doomed to spend all eternity scratching at the inside of a coffin lid…’ What a genuinely disturbing thought. And those are our only two choices as well. Clearly, we need more options urgently in this area.
Anyway, if they hadn’t moved the action to the present day in the third episode, I might have quite enjoyed this three-parter, although I probably still would have considered it a little unorthodox. I genuinely don’t see why the Count couldn’t have had some perfectly adequate and even exciting adventures in Victorian England after the journey to Whitby, but alas, it wasn’t to be.
Also, in a drama mini-series so obviously intent on shocking the viewer, why wasn’t there any sex, especially seeing as their Dracula was so handsome and had such a fit body that he had no problem with appearing in the buff at the age of fifty-two? Alas, that wasn’t to be, either. Looks like it’s back to using my imagination for me. Good job I have one, eh…?
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:
You can contact Sandra at: