Little Britain (BBC3, 2003-2004, BBC1, 2005)
This is a comedy sketch show that doesn’t need much introduction as it went on to become one of the most successful shows of its era, but as I do remember watching, and despite its faltering reputation in more recent years, I want to feature it here. Matt Lucas and David Walliams are a double-act who have worked together on TV since the mid-90s.
They contributed to a few shows including Shooting Stars, and they also featured in their own shows (that they also wrote) including Rock Profile, Sir Bernard’s Stately Homes, along with sketches on the Paramount Comedy Channel, and also various adverts. Despite fairly regular TV appearances, there probably weren’t too many viewers who could put a name to them.
In 2001 they launched Little Britain on BBC Radio 4, where they developed a range of bizarre characters. I didn’t hear this at the time, but caught up with the various repeats on BBC7/BBC Radio 4 Extra. This did well enough to transfer to TV, with the first edition shown on the launch night of BBC3 in 2003, which was followed shortly after by a full series.
Every episode would be a tour of the country focusing on various characters, who are all introduced by the booming voice of Tom Baker. Among those were Vicky Pollard and Daffyd, plus many more, along with plenty of memorable catchphrases. Two characters who particularly caught my attention were Lou and Andy, although this was mostly because their sketches were made not too far away from where I live.
The combination of all of this was rather well received by viewers and critics, and after about a decade working together, Lucas and Walliams were suddenly among the most high-profile people on TV. BBC3 were proud to have a hit on their hands, and some editions were repeated very frequently. By the third series, the show was promoted to BBC1, by which point it had been established as one of the most popular comedy shows of its era, and celebrities were very eager to make guest appearances.
Unfortunately the format was beginning to get a little tired by this point, and some of the characters seemed to be going through the motions, although there would be more. There were spin-off series set in various places including America and Australia where the characters travelled around the world. There was also a stage show tour, and lots of merchandise including script books, and even a hit single supporting Comic Relief, they definitely milked this one and made a few quid out of it I’m sure.
All of the regular series have been released on DVD, packed with extras, as have some of the specials and the tour, and there was even an interactive DVD game to play too. After this, Lucas and Walliams went off to other comedy shows, both together and individually. What is a little surprising is that the show has fallen out of favour recently, and Lucas seems to have disowned some of the characters, but you definitely can’t forget them.