Big laughs for “Little Britain”

Big laughs for “Little Britain”

Let’s be clear–we love American comedies. However, let’s also be honest–British imports are just so much more outrageous, provocative, thought-prevoking, enjoyable, and, well … funnier than their U.S. counterparts. Yes, we can boast about “Seinfeld,” “Will & Grace,” and “Frasier”–and “M*A*S*H,” “All in the Family,” and even “Sgt. Bilko,” if you want to go way back–but please, when an “Everybody Loves Raymond,” or “Cheers,” for crying out loud, is deemed a classic and given a decade of airtime, it’s time to wonder about that great TV wasteland known as the American audience. As further evidence, witness “Sports Night,” an absolute right-on howl. No wonder it didn’t even last two seasons.

The English, though, always seem to get it. Whether dipping back to the halcyon days of “Monte Python’s Flying Circus” or “Benny Hill,” the net-so-long ago “Butterflies” and “Thompson” (that’s right, the Academy Award-winning actress, Emma Thompson, best known for her searing dramas, is a scream) to “Absolutely Fabulous” to “The Office” and “Coupling,” the Brits are the best at producing belly laughs. Any remaining doubters are hereby referred to BBC Worldwide’s latest two-disc DVD release–distributed by Warner Home Video–“Little Britain: The Complete First Series” ($29.98).

“Littte Britain” is a small and surreal parallel universe peopled by over-the-top eccentrics, lunatics, and social misfits. Viewers will meet Vicky Pollard, the gloriously incoherent trailer trash teenager, and Emily Howard, the world’s least convincing transvestite. Then there’s Andy, sitting all day in his wheelchair, painstakingly looked after by Lou, who has no idea his friend can walk. “Little Britain” presents the breathtaking debris of modern life–all the mad, bad, quirky, and generally crazy individuals who populate the fringe of British society.

This hysterical sketch comedy series–created by Matt Lucas and David Walliams–evolved from being a cult favorite to a mainstream smash hit in record time. In the week leading up to Christmas, 2004, “Little Britain: The Complete First Series” was the UK’s top selling DVD across all genres, the first nontheatrical title to top the charts in England since “Riverdance” a decade earlier.

The recipient of two 2005 BAFTA Awards (Best Comedy Performance and, for the second year in a row, Best Comedy Program), “Little Britain” also swept the board at this year’s British Comedy Awards (even beating “The Office Special”); Lucas and Walliams were voted No. 1 in the Radio Times (UK equivalent to TV Guide) Most Powerful People in TV Comedy poll; and they led the pack of nominees at this year’s Rose d’Or awards (Europe’s most prestigious comedy award) with eight nominations in the performance category.

“Little Britain” premiered on BBC Television in February, 2003, and on BBC America in June, 2004. The buzz surrounding the show has become so intense that some of the series’ biggest fans are celebrities. In fact, Johnny Depp reportedly has asked the creators if he could make an appearance on the show and Matt Groenig, creator of “The Simpsons,” wants to use Lucas and Walliams to write an episode for his animated program. In addition, the series boasts a rester of high-profile British guest stars, including Anthony Stewart Head (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), Molly Sugden (“Are You Being Served?”) and narrator Tom Baker (“Doctor Who”).

COPYRIGHT 2005 Society for the Advancement of Education

COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group