* Prices may differ from that shown
NB *****This review is for the Christmas Special ONLY. Blame Dooyoo for any confusion, not me! (I don't own the complete collection DVD so I'm unsure if it also includes the extras)*****
The Christmas Special is supposedly a 'bubble' from the TV series - it exists on it's own and yet in the third series there is an allusion to it that suggests it really did happen. It is an Amicus inspired portmanteau horror that has 3 different stories that are linked by Bernice, the vicar who each person tells their tale to. Bernice herself is haunted by a Christmas memory of her mother being kidnapped by a mysterious man in a Santa outfit...
The first story centres around feuding husband and wife, Charlie and Stella Hull. Stella is annoyed at Charlie's obsession with line dance and seeks the help of a secret group called 'solutions' to put a stop to it in what is a very funny pastiche of Stanley Kubrick's 'Eyes Wide Shut'. As well as the usual black humour, it's pretty scary and unsettling.
The second story is set in the German town of Duisberg, and here we meet Herr Lipp as a choirmaster. This is a very creepy vampire story and genuinely frightening, as well as uncomfortable! Again, it has some very funny moments but I'd say the horror takes over the humour here.
The third and final story is set in the Victorian era, where we see the vet Chinnery's ancestor was actually an excellent vet...until he moves to Royston Vasey and we learn why Chinnery seems cursed with animals.
The ending of the Christmas special is genuinely frightening and it's easy to see why this is a fan favourite. It is in my opinion the best piece of work the Gents did. Everything fits together so well and even the music is amazing - the composer Joby Talbot created lots of new music especially for the special, I'd love a CD of it! It's suitably creepy in parts but the music for the Victorian segment is beautiful.
As usual the Gents have jam packed this DVD. There's a commentary, (very funny, lots of giggling on this one!) an interview with the Gents by Jonathan Rigby, as well as short clips from a film they made together as students. There's the 'In conversation with' interview with Paul Jackson, as well as an interview with composer Joby Talbot about the score. There's a League style Jackanory with Mark Gatiss (very funny and naughty) extended scenes including a rather cringe worthy undubbed version of the scene where the Gents couldn't play the other characters for obvious reasons. There's also some outtakes, gallery, FX shots (really interesting), a trailer and there's also an Easter egg which I sadly had to cheat to find!
This isn't like most crummy Christmas Specials, this is a great piece of work and anyone fond of the macabre will love this. It's currently £3.43 on Amazon, an steal!
After getting into Psychoville recently, I decided to re-visit Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith's first hit comedy series, The League of Gentlemen. I'd seen bits of the first and second series and really enjoying the LoG film, Apocalypse, I bought the box set and educated myself from beginning to end!
The box set is a classy looking collection, including six discs featuring all three series, with extras and Christmas special. I purchased mine from tesco.com, but it's available form most online retailers for around £15, which I think it a great price. Some ebay sellers and shops do hike the price up selling it for upwards of £30, which I guess is the usual price for a TV box set, so I'm glad I shopped around before buying the first copy I saw.
For those of you unfamiliar with the show, The League of Gentlemen consists of Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and (the gorgeous) Reece Shearsmith. Jeremy Dyson co writes and performs, though is not listed as one of the league in the titles. Whilst there are other actors filling bit-parts the majority of the characters are played by Gatiss, Pemberton and Shearsmith. From the league's evolution from stage show at the Edinburgh Festival in 1997, to radio series, TV series, back to stage on the road and later, to film the three gents have played over 100 characters.
The show in set in the fictional town of Royston Vasey, and was filmed in Hadfield, Derbyshire. The show follows the strange goings on and bizarre characters that live here.
For those of you expecting Friends or Only Fools and Horses when I say this is a comedy, then think again. It will make you smile and occasionally laugh out loud but in equal measures feel very uncomfortable and even be watching though you fingers. This is dark comedy and it's not to everyone's taste. Reading a few other reviews of dooyoo members prior to writing this it's obvious that people are a bit split as to whether the LoG is pure twisted genius or just too weird to be funny. Personally I am with the people who applaud it's twisted individuality. There are so many middle of the road comedies out there, a lot of the mainstream ones just don't hit my funnybone. Having said all that I don't think the LoG has to make you laugh to enjoy it. The characters and superb acting are enough to keep you engaged and hooked even if you barely manage a grin. Yes, if you have to classify it, you'd put the LoG box set in the comedy DVD section, but it's much more that simply that.
Episode 1 - 'Welcome to Royston Vasey'
A clever title, as we as an audience are introduced to the town of Royston Vasey, but also our first character, Ben, (Shearsmith) is arriving to stay with some rather strange relatives, the Dentons, and is discovering the bizarre ways of them and their local town along with the audience.
The Dentons feature a lot in this first episode, Val (Gatiss) and Harvey (Pemberton) are a couple with very precise rules about how they like their house to run. The first scenes are great observation on going to stay in someone else's home and getting used to their little ways. Of course, this is elaborated with hilarious results- starting off with familiar scenarios such as taking your shoes off, and getting progressively more outrageous. Uncomforable watching, you really can feel Benjamin's pain!
Probably the most iconic characters that most people think of when you mention LoG is Tubbs (Pemberton) and her husband Edward (Shearmith). They run the local shop, which in fact is in the middle of no where, a long way from the centre of Royston Vasey. Tubbs is petrified of anyone who enters the shop, and asks them all if they are local. Non locals are no liked by Tubbs and Edward "This is a local shop for local people there's nothing for you here " The 'Local Shop's' first customer is Martin (Gatiss), Ben Denton's friend and the reasom they both are visiting Royston Vasey. Needless to say the hiking trip doesn't go ahead after Tubbs and Edward have got Martin where they want him...
Pauline (Pemberton) is another character we are introduced to early on. She is the leader of the town's restart group for the unemployed. Apparently based on a real restart group attended by Shearsmith, Pauline is rude and patronising to the group of no hopers. The sketches featuring restart really remind me of the 'Fat Fighters' group in Little Britain, I wonder if LoG is inspiration for that, or if indeed all leaders of these help groups are a little unhinged!
Another set of characters we are introduced to are Royston Vasey's business men, Mike (Pemberton), Geoff (Shearsmith) and Brian (Gatiss). We see these characters in an Indian restaurant and in this episode, Geoff is trying to tell a joke but cannot remember it all, Geoff's party piece is his hot temper and ends up getting gun out when things get tough. I'm not so fond of these characters, and this scene, for me is one of the weaker in this series, though apparently a favourite of the LoG themselves.
The other character we are briefly introduced to is Royston Vasey's Tranny Taxi driver, Barbara, who likes to tell her clients all about her upcoming surgery in great detail. Funnily enough there is a bus driver near where I live who really reminds me of Barbara.
Episode one is really an introduction to the main characters we follow in the first series, it's essential LoG viewing as there are some hilarious sketches, my personal favourites involving the Dentons.
Episode 2 - 'The Road to Royston Vasey'
News arrives that there are plans to build a new main road linking Royston Vasey to the rest of the world. Of course this comes as bad news for Tubbs and Edward, who realise how many strangers this will bring. Two workmen come into the shop to get Tubbs and Edward to get them to sign some papers little knowing what they were letting themselves in for...
We meet two new characters in episode two, Judy (Shearsmith) and Iris (Gatiss). Whilst small characters there is a great bit of observation between a well to do lady and her cleaner. Shearmith makes a very attractive woman, dressed as Judy who is always bragging about her money and holidays, whilst Iris is always telling her about her exiting sex life. The game of one upmanship makes great viewing. Whilst characters that aren't heavily featured, they are two of my favourites. You can see that the real jealousy lies with Judy and that money can't buy you happiness.
Henry (Shearmith) and Ally (Pemberton) are also two characters we see only briefly from time to time throughout the series. They are two teenage boys who spend all their time watching videos and we see them in the video shop squabbling over what to see. Apparently based on Shearmith and his brother, these characters want to see the films that have the most killings.
We are also introduced to Hilary Briss the butcher (Gatiss) and the mystery of what he puts in his 'special stuff' that makes everyone so desperate for more. Gatiss makes a brilliant stereotypical butcher with ginger sideburns and a creepy look about him. This is one character that sends a shiver down my spine!!
A new character also introduced in episode two is once member of terrible band 'Crème Brulee' -Les McQueen (Gatiss). He reminds me of a friend of Smashy and Nicey, and thinks because he was once in a band he is still cool and trendy. A bit of a cliché character but Gatiss plays him so well, that's forgiven.
Also in this episode tensions rise between Pauline and her smart arse student, Ross when she attacks him with a Big Issue!!
Episode 3 - 'Nightmare in Royston Vasey'
My least favourite episode, down to the one scene, Tortoise Taxi. A character I've not yet mentioned, Dr. Chinnery (Gatiss) is a vet who really should be struck off. Every animal he comes into contact ends up dying. This scene involves him putting so much air into a tortoise that he kills him. I'm not good with animal jokes such as this and don't find them very funny, so I'm afraid Dr. Chinnery doesn't get the thumbs up from me.
There is a great scene where Ross begins to get the better of Pauline whilst acting out a mock job interview.
In the Local Shop Tubbs is confronted with a map, brought in by a workman and seems to be coming round to the idea that 'other' places may not be so bad after all. Though Edward has a plan to get rid of the road workers once and for all and the ending of this episode is pure horror movie.
Overall, a mixed episode, restart I think being the highlight for me.
Episode 4 - 'The Beast of Royston Vasey'
Episode four introduces us to Legs Akimbo, a drama group (Gatiss, Pemberton, Shearsmith) who go round schools to perform 'topical' shows. Apparently, based on a group that Reece used to belong to. I remember groups like this coming to my school, the LoG parody the situations excellently. There are obvious tensions between the members which forms most of the storyline, but for me content of the play they perform is one of the funniest moments of the series. Just as bad as the ones that used to visit my school!
There is also the conclusion to the horror movie ending of the previous episode, though I don't want to give too much away on this.
There is also a weakish sketch entitled Luigi's restaurant in which a couple with a strained marriage, use waiter Luigi as piggy in the middle.
Episode 5 - 'Love Comes To Royston Vasey'
The title of this episode refers to a storyline featuring Barbara placing a lonely hearts ad in the paper. The outcome is somewhat predicable with of course a punter phoning for a taxi, who actually turns out to be Benjamin Denton, and he/she is replying to the ad. Cue lots of innuendo and crossed wires.
This episode also features the wedding of Mike, the business man with a predictably anger driven best man's speech from Geoff.
Look of for the pram sketch that runs throughout this one.
Episode 6 - 'Escape from Royston Vasey'
The final episode of the series and a lot of loose ends are tied up. The 'Local Shop' scenes are my favourite here, when Tubbs and Edward's long lost son, David (Gatiss) turns up. I think these scenes are probably the darkest of the lot, and provide some true twists in the tale. A good example that LoG is as much about telling a good story as laughs.
Pauline also gets her come uppance, Dr, Chinnery sees off his largest animal yet, Geoff fakes his own death on his birthday, Barbara finally gets the op and The Denton's get even more twisted, will Benjamin escape?
This is a really strong episode and brings the series to a close, whilst still leaving you in huge anticipation and what the LoG will come up with for series two.
Overall, this first series is brilliant. By the end you will be bizarrely fond of the strange characters and dying to hear what happens to them next. I may be rambling a little but I can assure you I have only outlined the themes, storylines and main characters. What I love about this series is the attention to detail, the little jokes that you may miss first time around. If you are watching this for the first time, or indeed enjoying it all over again watch out for these-
*Shop in opening sequence
DVD extras -
One thing I have to mention is the attention to detail in the DVD, on putting the DVD in the player, it asks 'Are you local?', by selecting Yes, it takes you to the main DVD menu, by selecting no, it just give you a blank screen!
The extras are under the heading 'precious things'. Unlike the other series in the set which have their own extras disc, series one has is extras on the same disc. With so many characters, it can get confusing who's who so I found the character biographies useful. As well as this there is information about the history of LoG on stage screen and radio, photos and deleted scenes. I like watching deleted scenes, and I think some of them were funnier than these ones put in, before each scene there is a little resume about it and why it was dropped. It was a shame they dropped as many Judee and Iris scenes, but informs us they are back for series two!
In addition to these are the supposedly now essential commentary. Does anyone really listen to this all the way through? I've listened to bits on my favourites episodes and it interesting listening to some of the stories behind the show, however it does grow tiresome and is very much backslapping and a lot of 'ooh that looks good.' It's clear this lot are enthusiatic about LoG and they've a right to be proud but the audio commentary has a bit to much self praise.
SERIES ONE - 5 STARS
Episode 1 - 'Desination Royston Vasey'
This episode is the first time we see probably the LoG's second most famous character after Tubbs, Black faced, circus master, wife collector, Papa Lazarou. (Shearsmith) At first meeting this character is more terrifying than funny, but with all LoG's character, you grow to quite like him. Especially as he calls everyone Dave.
Episode 2 - 'Lust for Rosyton Vasey'
Episode two introduces us to another famous LoG character, Herr Lipp (Pemberton) - a smutty, gay German tour guide who bring a coach load of strangers to Royston Vasey. We also catch up with Pauline and her restart class dunce, Mickey (Gatiss) who get a job at the local burger bar. If you like your McDonalds, this my put you off forever. A mystery nosebleed epidemic takes over Royston Vasey, Tubbs and Edward keep poor son David prisoner and there's a brilliant musical number from the Dentons, which makes me think LoG - The musical could be a treat! Also in this episode, a rare scene where an actor meets themselves when Iris (Gatiss) is working at the supermarket and serves new character Alvin (also Gatiss). A brilliant episode with some parts that will make you squirm.
Episdode 3 -'A Plague on Royston Vasey'
The Plague in the title refers to the continuing nosebleed epidemic, we still aren't let in onto what exactly is the cause but it's something to do with the 'special stuff' butcher Hilary Briss has been supplying to his customers. This is a storyline that has been carried over from the first series, although at it's heart LoG is a sketch show I like the way mystery element s such as this keep the audience watching, something that is explored a lot more in Psychoville.
Tubbs and Edward entertains another stranger, and seem to get more and more risque with every scene they are in, what will they do next?!
This scene also heavily features Pop (Pemberton) who we met in series one. He is an Italian business man who runs a newstands and as we learn here is also a ruthless landlord, who forces a young couple to rent out his grotty house. He is not one of may favourite characters and for me, the scenes with him are skippers.
Episode 4 - 'Death in Royston Vasey'
Another new scene we are introduced to in series two is in a charity shop and in this episode Val Denton goes in to take some baby clothes in. The old ladies who work there (Shearsmith, Pemberton) are rude and forgetful, a little harsh parody of charity shop volunteers but they make for great characters, scrutinising every donation and constantly making tea.
There's more from Judy and Iris, when the tables are turned and Judy goes to visit her at home on the council estate.
There is a bizarre scene involving Benjamin and the Denton's who have nude day. This is probably the most shocking LoG has got so far, but is makes for a very funny sketch, with some cleverly placed toad statues.
Edward and Tubbs see off another stranger who stops by for some petrol and the businessmen get lost in the woods.
Episode 5 - 'Anarchy in RoystonVasey'
Episode 5 begins with the whole of the shops in Royston Vasey cordoned off and everyone running around with nosebleeds as the epidemic reaches it's peak.
Les McQueen makes a return in this episode, after discovering his band Crème Brulee are still touring without him. A character I wasn't fond of you can't help but feel sorry for in this episode.
Tubbs and Edward make it their mission to find their son David a wife, and the Pauline vs Ross storyline comes to a head.
Episode 6 - 'Royston Vasey and the Monster from Hell'
A packed and brilliant end to the series. Benjamin finally escapes from the Denton's into a crazy RoystonVasey. The army are called in to control the crowds and the Mayor's answer is to bring in theatre group 'Legs Akimbo' from the first series who are just as funny and cringeworthy as last time.
We see the departure of Herr Lipp, and the bizarre marriage of David and Barbara, which is followed by the locals rioting toward the local shop and burning it to the ground. I felt strangely sad at the closing images of Tubbs and Edward dancing in the flames. Is this the last we'll see of these characters?
Again, I've only given a brief outline of the series, there are many more new characters introduced. I don't think that the attention to detail is as strong as series one. The nosebleed storyline is the dominant one throughout but I felt it was focussed on a little too much. Also I was a little perplexed at the introduction of Papa Lazarou in episode one and then he's not brought back at all after that.
Still an excellent programme and comedy series, however the strongest characters in series two are the ones we already know from the first series. The plotlines get more bizarre and even more lines are crossed in series two. Again it's an acquired taste and not one to watch if easily shocked or offended.
There are a few twists in the tale involving Judee and Iris and The Dentons and although an excellent and exciting climax to the series, the series as a whole doesn't live up to the first.
One bit to keep your eye out for is a cameo by Roy Chubby Brown as the mayor. Royston Vasey is Chubby's real name and the reason behind the naming of the village. Blink and you'll miss him though.
Series two has a whole disc of DVD extras as opposed to the tag on section on the series one disc. As on the DVD extras for the first series there are character biographies under the title 'local people', and deleted scenes. There are some great deleted scenes, again, from this series. One I liked particularly is a scene involving Ally and Henry discussing who would win in a fight between 'Die Hard' and 'Cannibal Lecter'! This 'who would win in a fight' discussion between these two is a running theme in their sketches and it's such a shame this one wasn't put in, but good we still get to see it. There's no dialogue as to why the scenes were cut this time, however.
In addition to these, there is a scrapbook of pictures from the set and a section called Royston Vasey tunes. All the music from the show is specially composed and here you can listen to the music independently of the show. LoG's brilliantly original and 'stick in the head' theme is one of the best themes from any comedy show in my opinion, it captures the quirky nature of the show just right.
The highlight of the special features on this disc, though is the Behind the scenes documentary, a must watch for fans, where the creators chat about the characters they've created.
SERIES TWO - 4 STARS
The third series has a completely new feel to it. Some characters featured in the first two series and some in gags for followers keep it similar enough to the first two not to alienate fans, but equally this series could work independent of the other two.
The title music has had a makeover, and the laughter track ditched. It's still a sketch show but the episodes in series three also have more of a sitcom edge to them, in that there is a story with a conclusion at the end within the episode. Also for the first time in series three does the LoG venue out of Royston Vasey. At first I thought I may pine for the characters they left behind, but actually the writing in this third series is so good you can't help but love it. In fact, at the end of the first episode I just thought 'wow' and the rest of the series did not fail to disappoint either.
Episode 1 - 'The Lesbian and the Monkey'
It's sad beginning to the series when Tubbs and Edward are killed off. They escape from the burnt rubble of the local shop and set off over the hills for a new life only to find themselves walking along a train track... this is the last we see of these much loved characters, but we also learn that they will live on as Barbara is now pregnant with their son David's baby! I hope this isn't the last time will ever see Tubbs and Edward and that they'll bring them back some how, though what they'd be like without the local shop I don't know.
The title refers to the main storyline in this episode, the lesbian referring to Pauline and the monkey to Mickey. At the end of series two we found Pauline getting a visit from the police after holding Ross hostage. In the beginning of this series, Pauline is in prison, and turned lesbian. On her release she returns to Mickey and although employed by Ross to be a benefit spy, ends up getting engaged to Mickey. It's a great twist to to the Pauline - Ross- Mickey situation and I'm glad they've kept the characters in, they've evolved from the first time we saw them at restart in series one, but still remain fascinating and entertaining characters, with some shocking soap opera style scandal between them in this episode.
People who have followed the LoG from the beginning will feel like they know the characters, and you would have thought it's purely by the look of them you can tell who's who, after all, all the characters are played by just 4 people, it's crucial they are kept distinguishable. Clever then, that in this episode, and a number of times in this series, the LoG play with their own characters in disguise. Brenda hosts a 'Gender Bender' party in episode one, where Mickey is dressed as a woman and Pauline as a man. These aren't half hearted costumes either, but we know even before any dialogue exactly who they are. I think this just proves how strong the LoG characters are.
All the episodes in this series end in exactly the same way, with a van crashing and various RoystonVasey residents getting in the way. We see the incident from a different perspective at the end of each episode, and each is left on a cliffhanger, to be concluded and the beginning of the next. I think this a really clever and adds a new dimension to the show, making you want to watch the next straight away. When you have the box set you can of course... making for some very late nights!!
Episode 2 - 'The One Armed Man is King'
The title here refers to a hilarious storyline involving the new joke shop owner, (Gatiss) who only has one arm. He goes into hospital to have an 'off the record' operation to have a new arm fitted, only to find he has been given a woman's arm! We later find the arm to have belonged to Royson Vasey's late lady vicar, Bernice (Shearsmith). The arm has a mind of his own and brilliant scene where he fights with himself trying to chop off the offending limb is both funny, original and one of the highlights of the series.
Episode 3 - 'Turn Again Geoff Tipps'
This episode see the return of characters from the first two series, business men Geoff and Mike and Drama Group Legs Akimbo. Very topical for the moment, the plastic company Mike and Geoff work for have to make cutbacks and Geoff is to be laid off, prompting him to travel to London to start a career in Stand up comedy, made all the more funny if the audience have seen the first series and remember the ' mau mau' sketch. A character, I didn't previously like, putting him on his own in this series -and the first time we see a character out of Royston Vasey-I've come to like the character a lot more. The storyline involving Geoff in this episode has some twists and turns that are just brilliant.
Legs Akimbo, this time are doing a play on disability, a bit close to the mark but very funny. Watch the outtakes in the DVD extras, when a passer by tries to help Phil after falling out of his wheelchair, and doesn't seem to grasp that he's acting!!
Episode 4 - 'The Medusa Touch'
The medusa refers to a rather bizarre sex 'toy' that restricts airflow, brought to B&B owners Sonny and Alvin, by new character 'Daddy' (Pemberton) for one of their sex parties. Things don't go according to plan however and ends up in multiple deaths. The B&B sketches aren't my favourites, but I do think the character of Alvin is a good one, much preferring a trip to the garden centre than to get involved with his wife's kinky hobbies.
The other main storyline in this episode is based around new characters Noel (Shearmith) and Nancy (Pemberton) Glass. They are typical wannabe celebrity parents who push their child, Casey into performing. They are brilliant characters as pushy parents and look out for Casey who is a young Sophie Webster from Corrie!
Overall, I think this is the weakest episode of the series.
Episode 5 - 'Beauty and the Beast'
Back on track we have a number of familiar faces in this episode, many characters that haven't met before now put in a storyline together. Judee Levinson has opened a beauty parlour called Spit and Polish, though it is not her but Charlie Hull (Pemberton), a character we first met in Luigi's restaurant in series one, who is providing the massages. Things take a dramatic twist when male customers start asking for extras...
A good episode, very much is sitcom style, with dirty jokes and even a love triangle. However still manages to keep the bizarre element only to be found in Royston Vasey.
Episode 6 - 'How the Elephant got it's Trunk'
An action packed and fantastic end to the series. There are so many twists in the tale I don't want to give too much away. However, the highlight of this episode is the welcome return of Papa Lazarou who is still collecting wives, but is found out. Cleverly he arrives in disguise and there is a brilliant visual joke where you see him applying peach flesh tones over his blacked face as he applies his make up.
All loose ends are tied up, including Barbara having her babies - twins that look very familiar.
This series and in particular, this final episode are real triumphs for the LoG and much as I loved Tubbs and Edward, Hilary Briss, The Dentons and all the other characters that have been left behind this time round, there are enough of the old and some equally funny new characters that make this even better than the previous two. As I mentioned the style is different and a lot more plot driven, but as the creators say themselves in the 'Behind the Scenes' interviews, making more of the same would eventually get boring for the viewer. They may have taken a risk making such changes but it paid off. This series works alone, and if you only watch one series of LoG, make it this one.
P.S Look out for a short lived cameo from Laurence Lewellen Bowen, he fits in rather well!
DVD extras -
A treat for fans in the bonus disc, which contains over two hours of bonus features including a 'Behind the Scenes' making of series 3 documentary, video diaries, audio commentary, deleted scenes, character biographies, outtakes, music, and an interview with the costume designer.
SERIES 3 - 5 STARS
THE CHRISTMAS SPECIAL
As analysed in the DVD extra 'Tales from behind the Crypt' the Christmas special is a bit of a homage to Amicus horror films. Three stories involving three familiar LoG characters are told after each character goes to see the Reverend Bernice (Shearsmith) on Christmas Eve.
It's an elaborate production, which wouldn't look out of place on the big screen. The familiar theme tune is given a sinister make over, and though it may be completely different from the usual tales we are used to from Royston Vasey, there's enough small details for it to be familiar. As I've mentioned the attention to detail is one of the real strengths of LoG. Again, in the Christmas Special, you will notice something new each time you see it.
Reverend Bernice is trying to get rid of the locals so she can watch the box and have a brandy on Christmas Eve when there's a knock on the door. Our first story involves Charlie and Stella, the rowing couple. Charlie has taken up line dancing and is have terrible dreams ahead of his competition dance on Boxing Day, involving Stella getting involved in some strange voodoo sect to curse him. The scenes featuring the voodoo society as very clever, as although each member has a mask on, we can tell from the clothes, voices and hair poking round the edges that these figures are in fact Pauline, Iris, the charity shop ladies and many other characters from the LoG series. Funny also because you realise if the actors playing these characters were actually behind the masks, they'd be in the room four or five times over!
The second person to visit the church is an old man, who tells of when he was a young English student and went to Germany to stay with Herr Lipp. Herr Lipp is a character who appears in the TV series by not one of the most featured characters, however the league must be quite fond of him, because not only is he featured heavily in the Christmas special but also in the feature film 'Apocalypse.' Herr Lipp doesn't disappoint with his innuendos in the Christmas Special and the theory of this young boy that Herr is in fact a vampire comes as some surprise, but does he have the right person? This is may favourite of the three mini stories in the Christmas Special, more suitable for Halloween that Christmas however as it's pure horror movie.
The third character to visit Bernice is the unfortunate vet, Dr Chinnery. As I've mentioned not a character I have been particularly fond of but I like the way in this programme, it is explained how he became such a bad vet, it's all down to a curse that was put on a relative and has been passed down the generations. I love the way that the scenes that show his great grandfather, although set in the past include some familiar faces form Rosyton Vasey's future.
Also look out for Papa Lazarou who makes a very sinister Father Christmas...
Overall, a great Christmas Special, not one to fill you with festive cheer but a nice antidote to all the sickly sweet stuff that's on the TV at that time of year. I'm a little disappointed that Edward and Tubbs couldn't be there though.
This include the standard commentary, outtakes and extended scenes, as well as the 'Tales from Behind the Crypt' features which looks at the LoG's love of the horror genre and 'In Conversation' - a radio interview with the actors. There is also a photo gallery and 'local people' character biographies.
CHRISTMAS SPECIAL - 4 STARS
If hope I haven't bored you with this somewhat epic review, but I still don't feel I've done the LoG justice in just how much is packed into their work. This is more a 'diary of watching the series' than a review and I've enjoyed every grotesquely bizarre minute!
** The title, in case you were wondering is a catchphrase from the charity shop ladies, unfortunately, another dooyooer had taken the Tubbs / Edward quote for their own!!**
Welcome to Royston Vasey and The League of Gentlemen, you'll never leave.
The League of gentlemen are Jeremy Dyson, Steve Pemberton, Mark Gatiss and Reece Shearsmith, who after becoming friends when they all attended Bretton Hall Drama College, got together to do a comedy stage show, winning the Perrier award at the Edinburgh Festival, then going on to Radio scooping the Sony Silver Award and then a Talkie Award for best audio comedy. This was all before bringing their wonderfully dark humorous show to the small screen in early 1999, making three series, a Christmas special, live show and finally a movie on the silver screen in 2005.
The box set comprises of six discs, and comes in a book like case, which is covered in a sleeve. On the six discs there are all three series, Christmas special and lots of extras. Each series consists of six episodes.
The league of gentlemen is set in the small town of Royston Vasey, which just happens to be Roy "Chubby" Browns real name, and is filmed in the village of Hadfield in Derbyshire. Steve Pemberton, Mark Gatiss and Reece Shearsmith portray many different characters in the show, all who are very strange, some a lot stranger than others, but very funny. They play around 60 characters in total. Jeremy Dyson doesn't really appear in the show, opting to appear only in cameo roles. Most of the characters are residents of Royston Vasey.
There are far too many characters for me to mention here, but I will tell you about some of my favourites.
Tubbs and Edward Tattsyrup, played by Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith respectively, co-own the local shop. These are the characters with the funny noses. They live as man and wife, but are actually brother and sister are probably two of the stranger characters. The only people who are allowed to use the shop and buy the 'precious things' are local people and anyone else better watch out. They are the main reason that you will never leave Royston Vasey. They have a son David, who moved to London, but comes back to build a road, but he himself will now never leave. Whenever anyone goes into the shop you are sure that there will be strange things happening.
Barbara Dixon, voiced my Steve Pemberton. Barbara is a Pre-op transsexual who runs the local taxi firm, 'Bab's Cabs.' You never see her face, but she is always wearing a dress and high heels, and is constantly telling passengers in her gruff voice about having the 'Op.' All that Barbara wants is to find a decent man.
Matthew Chinnery, played by Mark Gatiss, the local Vet. He is very sweet natured and has good manners, he only wants to do well. But he manages to kill every animal he comes into contact with by accident.
Hilary Briss, also played my Mark Gatiss, the local butcher. The question is what or who does he butcher? I think that he would scare me a bit if I went into his shop. Hilary serves up 'special stuff' to a select few which then goes on to give everyone nose bleeds.
Val and Harvey Denton, played by Mark Gatiss and Steve Pemberton respectively. Toad mad and obsessed by cleanliness. They also have loads of rules, including using different coloured towels for different parts of the body, and the door is locked at 8.15pm sharp, these can not be broken. Harvey also pines for a self lowering toilet seat. They have twin daughters Chloe and Radclyffe who have a knack of sneaking up on people and talking in unison (a homage the twins in the shining). When they have their nephew Benjamin to stay, all of the rules get broken, and the toads struggle to survive.
Pauline Campbell-Jones, played by Steve Pemberton, the local Job Centre Re-start officer, who is obsessed with pens, her friends, and doesn't want any of the 'Dole Scum' to get a job. But she gets fired for violent conduct and becomes 'dole scum' herself, having to attend 'her' re-start class.
Papa Lazarou, played by Reece Shearsmith and is the circus ringmaster. Papa Lazarou is a very strange character, who paints his face black, calls everyone 'Dave,' talks in his own language which is just rubbish, sells pegs and steals wives. As strange as he is though, he is grossed out by the goings on in Royston Vasey, when everyone starts to have nose bleeds he takes his circus and leaves.
Series one - Disc One
1. Welcome to Royston Vasey
2. The Road to Royston Vasey
3. Nightmare in Royston Vasey
4. The Beast of Royston Vasey
5. Love Comes to Royston Vasey
6. Escape From Royston Vasey
Series Two - Disc Two
1. Destination: Royston Vasey
2. Lust For Royston Vasey
3. A Plague on Royston Vasey
4. Death In Royston Vasey
5. Anarchy in Royston Vasey
6. Royston Vasey and the Monster from Hell
Series 3 - Disc Four
1. The Lesbian and the Monkey
2. The one Armed man in King
3. Turn again Jeff Tipps
4. The Medusa Touch
5. Beauty and the Beast (Or, Come into My Parlour)
6. How the Elephant Got Its Trunk
Both Series one and two follow the story from episode to episode, and are built up of all of the different characters, having a few scenes each. But when The Gents wrote series three, they did something that took me ages to get my head around. They decided that each episode would be dedicated to only a couple of characters each, but at the end of each show you have the same scene. Basically the whole series is one day in Royston Vasey with a big ending in episode six. I found this very hard to follow, and preferred the first two series, although it was good in its own right.
Christmas Special - Disc Six
Also in this box set we have the Christmas Special, which was aired in December 2000. Here we have most of the main characters from the series, but in a gothic style. It consists of three stories based in Royston Vasey, and is inspired by the writings of MR James and Edgar Allan Poe. This is a one-off special that distils The Gents fondness for disturbing, twisted characterisation and chilling humour into a single hour.
There are many extra features of this box set.
On Disc One to accompany series one, there is Character Biographies, Cast and Director Commentary, Photo Gallery, and over 20 minutes of unseen material.
Disc Three accompanies series two. The features of this are a Behind the scenes look at series two, Character Biographies, Cast Commentary, Photo Gallery, and over 20 minutes of unseen material.
Disc Five, Series Three's Special stuff, has a lot more to offer, maybe because when series three was being made, it would be going to DVD not video, so more extras can be included. On offer here is over two hours of bonus material, commentary, interview with the costume designer, outtakes and deleted scenes, photo gallery, isolated music cues, video diaries, the making of series three and character biographies.
On Disc Six there is Christmas Special Stocking Fillers. These include a documentary, Tales from behind the Crypt, character biographies, Interview with Composer Joby Talbot, Jackanory, The Curse of Karrit Poor, Photo Gallery, Outtakes, the Gents in Conversation with Paul Jackson, and commentary by The Gents.
Where to buy
At the time of writing the cheapest place I found this box set was on dvd.co.uk, retailing at £28.99, possibly be able to get it cheaper on auction sites. If you bought these discs separately though you are looking at between £40 and £50 so in that respect the box set is a bargain.
This DVD box set is a must for any true fan of The League of Gentlemen if you haven't already got the separate DVDs. It has hours and hours of hilarious comedy, and more extras that you can shake a stick at.
If you like your humour to be a bit different to the norm and a bit dark and surreal then you are sure to love the League of Gentlemen. It could be seen as a dig at remote villages where there is little to do, where there could still perhaps be people whose genes are just a bit too close together and strangers are looked upon with suspicion.
Director: Steve Bendelack
Approximate Running Time: 10 hours (not including extras)
Thanks for reading. Gayna x
The League of Gentlemen, a kind of cross between a sitcom and a sketch show, first appeared in 1999. There were three series and one Christmas special, all of which are collected here. Since then theyve made a film (which I havent seen yet), and it may be that they arent going to do any more TV shows.
Before they were on the TV, they did a great radio series, and before that they were an acclaimed live act, doing well at the Edinburgh Festival, and wherever else it is that live comedy does well. The series is set in the (fictional) small northern town of Royston Vasey, and concerns the extensive cast of weirdos, freaks and psychopaths who live there. All the main characters, and there are dozens, are played by the same three people: Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton, who also write the show along with Jeremy Dyson, who doesnt act.
Its a bit like the Fast Show, in that its essentially a series of sketches featuring recurring characters, except that almost all of them have ongoing storylines. The best-known are probably Edward and Tubbs, in-bred local shopkeepers with a murderous dislike of strangers. Other major characters include Uncle Harvey and Auntie Val, the hygiene-obsessed toad breeders; ghastly lesbian unemployment restart officer Pauline, and the spectacularly inept vet Dr Chinnery. My favourites are Pop, a repulsive Greek newsagent/slum landlord; Hilary Briss, a sinister butcher; and Papa Lazarou, a terrifying circus owner and kidnapper.
I find it almost impossible to explain humour properly, and probably wont have much success here ( because you see, vets are supposed to *help* animals, but this one always accidentally *kills* them. Ha ha). Some of the humour is fairly traditional, even old fashioned (silly voices, slapstick, men dressed as women etc). Some of it is reasonably ordinary post-Python surrealism (various sight gags around the town, for instance). Not all the gags are stunningly original theres a complicated card game sketch thats very similar to a scene in a Tom Stoppard play, and the camp German Herr Lipp could easily have appeared in Allo Allo but even when theyre not being original, theyre still usually very funny, so it doesnt matter.
Theres also a pretty dark strain to it all, which is probably why I like it so much (and some of it really is very nasty indeed). The series seems to try to capture a small-town bleakness, and nails the horror of living life without meaning better than any other comedy outside of Alan Partridge. Its also very rooted in Northern English traditions (all the League are from Yorkshire), with specific piss-takes of things like Kes or All Creatures Great and Small, taking the beloved idea of the North as being full of jaunty characters wilfully ignoring their miserable surroundings, and putting wilfully perverse twists on it. (Not that the North of England is really that bad the bits Ive been to have all been rather nice but there does seem to be a mini-industry in the British media which of course is based in London of having quirky northerners rising above their grim circumstances through their lovable, working class eccentricity. Its this that the League are taking the mickey out of, I think.)
Best of all, and the reason I love it so much, is the fact that it references old horror films like mad. The League are all big horror fans, and theyve tapped into the vein of dark and deeply weird humour that runs through the best horror movies. And there are stacks of references for the attentive horror fan to pick up on. Some are very obvious (The Shining, Dont Look Now), others are more obscure (is Papa Lazarous three-legged dog a nod to the obscure British video nasty Killers Moon? I like to think so ). Shopkeeper Edward is essentially Lon Chaneys Phantom with Christopher Lees Dracula wig, and one whole scene is pretty much lifted verbatim from The Wicker Man. The series was very successful, so presumably the wealth of references doesnt alienate people who arent as obsessive about horror movies as I am, but I love that theyve put them in.
The series is beautifully shot, obviously aspiring to look cinematic, and succeeding. Every episode was directed by the same guy (Steve Bendelack), so theres a real sense of continuity. The music is great, too. The three main cast members are fantastic, grotesque comic actors, and the make-up is fantastic. There are various celebrity cameo appearances, increasingly so as the series became more successful, including Roy Chubby Brown (real name Royston Vasey) and a pre-Who Christopher Ecclestone, but they all fit pretty well.
So there are three series. The first is probably the most consistent, introducing the best characters. The second series also has some wonderful stuff, and a great ongoing storyline about an epidemic of nosebleeds. Its main weakness is that it does feel like some characters were shoe-horned in because they were popular Harvey and Val and Edward and Tubbs dont really have much to do. The Christmas Special is a parody of old Amicus anthology horror movies, as well as a nod to the BBCs old Christmas ghost stories. Its great for horror movie reference spotting, and generally good, but it does feel slightly overlong, as if a few minutes could easily have been chopped from each story. The third season didnt go down nearly as well with the public, each episode focusing on one character rather than the sketch-show approach of earlier series. It also had far fewer actual jokes, was a lot darker, and abandoned the canned laughter of the earlier series. I actually think its pretty good for the most part, although the new characters they introduced arent generally as good as the old ones. Its certainly better than people tend to give it credit for, especially on a second viewing.
The set is laden with extras (there are two disks full of them). For each series theres an image gallery of characters (rather pointless) and various out-takes and deleted scenes. Seasons two and three have reasonable making-of documentaries.
The Christmas special has a strange little featurette where horror film critic Jonathan Rigby talks to the League about their favourite old horror anthology movies (it includes clips of some endearingly awful home movie horror they made before they were famous). It also has a nice little jackanory pastiche, where Mark Gatiss reads out one of the stories from the special. There are various other interviews and video diaries in the set, although after a while you do start to suffer a bit from information overload.
The best special features are the commentaries. Each series, and the special, have full commentaries from all the League (the director joins them for the first series). These are genuinely worth watching, as theyre entertaining and tell you a lot beyond the usual where-we-filmed-this-bit stuff. They talk about where their ideas came from, and complain about various supporting cast members. They also talk a lot about horror films. The main criticism is that they seem to think the audience is too thick to spot all the gags, or understand the plots, so tend to explain them rather laboriously (Jeremy Dyson is especially guilty of this). But on the whole the commentaries actually add to my enjoyment of the shows, and there arent many other commentaries I can say that about.
I think this is probably my favourite TV comedy since Brass Eye. I certainly cant explain why its so funny you just have to watch it, and youll either like the humour or you wont. (Basically you know that bit in the Masque of the Red Death where Patrick Magee, dressed as a gorilla, gets hoisted up on a rope by a dwarf who then sets him on fire? Well if you think thats one of the funniest things ever then youll probably enjoy League of Gentlemen. If you dont then you may not.) This box set is the same as the previous individual season releases, so if youve got them then this adds nothing at all. If you havent, then its an easy way to get the whole lot in one go. Its supposed to be £40, but you should be able to get it for at least £10 less than that.
The bizarre yet critically acclaimed BBC television series The League of Gentlemen is to sitcoms like The Good Life or even Friends what David Lynch's films are to Frank Capra movies. Instead of the usual one-family-in-suburbia or group-of-pals set-up, Gentlemen centres on the whole town of Royston Vasey. A Northern village of, to say the least, eccentric characters, the weird people of Royston Vasey (actually, the real name of lewd northern comic Roy Chubby Brown) look like they've been intermarrying for too long and are suffering from a particularly demented variety of xenophobia that drives them to extremes of tetchiness and psychosis. There are the local shopkeepers Edward and Tubbs, who go to murderous lengths to ensure their shop remains for local people only; the Denton family, toad-breeders obsessed with maintaining their household rituals at all costs; inept veterinary surgeon Dr Chinnery, who's never yet saved a patient; Barbara, the local transsexual taxi driver (one of the show's more well adjusted characters); Pauline the demonic Restart Officer at the local Job Centre; and Lance, the sadistic owner of Lance's Joke Shop which sells poisonous sweets and the ever-popular finger in a matchbox (with a real finger), among many others. Most of the characters are performed by the three core members of the group, sporting a disturbing variety of prosthetic demi-masks and latex make-up, who started the concept off with a stage show and then transferred it to radio before taking it on TV, which may explain why The League of Gentlemen seems blithely oblivious to normal sitcom conventions and has a stately air of surrealism that feels like The Archers as written by playwright Eugene Ionesco. Brilliant stuff. --Leslie Felperin