The League Of Gentlemen (BBC2, 1999-2002, 2017)
This is another comedy show that went on to become very popular. As I have realised when doing pieces about comedy, this is yet another one that I first discovered in two ways. I didn’t hear the original radio version first time around, and I first discovered it in repeat runs on BBC7/BBC Radio 4 Extra, and having missed the first series of the TV version at the time, I first saw it when it was repeated on UK Play, that long-gone channel triumphing once again in introducing me to comedy from that era.
On The Town With The League Of Gentlemen began on the radio in 1997, featuring a cast of three writers and performers. The show was set in a northern town called Spent, which wasn’t as picturesque as it first seemed, because it contained all manner of odd characters, where outsiders are not welcome, and they don’t consider their ways to be unusual at all. This did well enough to transfer to TV in 1999, but there would be one problem.
Only three people play all of the characters, whether they were young or old, short or tall, male or female. This meant they would now have to portray all of these people for real, but the challenge of creating looks for them was met very well, and they were transformed into all kinds of various hideous personalities, including, Mickey, Pauline, and many others. Your average horror film couldn’t better it. The village was now renamed Royston Vasey.
As the show increased in popularity, it went on to win a Bafta, and the Christmas special in 2000 was very ambitious, featuring some of the characters’ ancestors in a Victorian story. The third and final series had a different format. Instead of various sketches, every episode concentrated on a single character, and then it was revealed that all of these stories were being played out at the same time, as all of their paths crossed during a car crash.
After the success of the TV show, the cast went on tour, and this was then followed in 2005 by the film The League Of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse, which was a further chance to expand on the now-familiar characters. If you ever met a fan of the show and talked to them about it, you would soon realise that you wouldn’t ever be that far away from references to pens, “special stuff”, or Legz Akimbo, all crucial parts to the story.
In more recent years, the cast have occasionally reunited for various other comedy shows with a strange twist including Psychoville and Inside No. 9, that have also been very successful. And almost 15 years after the final series, there were three specials, proving that this was still a rather strange place to live. All of the 22 episodes have been released on a DVD in a big fancy boxset, along with some books too.