Who are the British? It’s the question at the heart of Little Britain, and the answer it offers is: a bunch of very queer buggers indeed.
The eight-part comedy series is now halfway through its premiere ABC TV screening, and for a program taking a sweep at an entire kingdom there are an awful lot of queens.
Gratefully they’re funny. There’s Daffyd Thomas, a Welsh poof so proud of his position as the only gay in the village he angrily denies the burgeoning scene around him. Then there’s Sebastian, a political aide so in love with the prime minister he’s bitchy to the leader’s wife.
Crap transvestite Emily Howard is rapidly becoming a favourite, as is the creepy resting thespian Sir Bernard Chumley. The star of such stage classics as An Inspector Pops Round and Sex Please! We’re Not British thinks nothing of sleazing on to teenage actors and may (or may not) have murdered his sister for her Meals On Wheels supply.
The show has drawn inevitable comparisons with The League Of Gentlemen and Monty Python and they’re fair enough, given its familiar yet warped universe and flashes of the absurd.
In Little Britain garbos deliver rubbish rather than collect (as we might have found in Python’s Circus).
To keep up the momentum, however, the show needs to draw even more inspiration from its comedic parents. Python rarely repeated skits or characters, and new entries in tonight’s episode are a breath of fresh air.
We meet Sir Michael Craze, a theatre producer with 3,000 musicals on the West End, and Edward Grant, a schoolteacher who has married one of his ex-pupils.
Do you love me? his lover asks. He groans. If you’ve got a question, put your hand up.
Some skits are wearing thin. The trials of Lou and his disabled friend Andy and the criminal behaviour of hypnotist Kenny Craig are becoming tired, with the characters in need of the narrative development (however slight) that revitalised The League’s relentless running gags.
Time will tell if Little Britain stays great, but one thing is certain: when the ratings period ends on 27 November it will probably be the best thing on television (if it isn’t already).
Little Britain screens Thursdays at 9pm on ABC TV.