On The Town With The League Of Gentlemen (BBC Radio 4, 1997)
The comedy group The League Of Gentlemen first achieved success when their stage show won the Perrier Award in 1997. That must have been rather nice for them, they did all of these performances, and then they are given a big bottle of water afterwards. Later in the year, it was decided to transfer the idea to radio. Once again, this was a series that I heard for the first time in a repeat run on BBC7/BBC Radio 4 Extra.
The radio version was set in a curious place somewhere in the north of England, which at this point was called Spent. A lot of the characters that would soon become rather familiar were already established. Some of the most memorable of these were Tubbs and Edward, and there were many more in a remarkable array of grotesques. You wouldn’t want to go there, and anyway if you did, you might never leave.
It is fair to say that plenty of their antics got audiences gasping as much as giggling. There were only six episodes in one series of On The Town With The League Of Gentlemen, which ended up winning a prestigious award too, and this was something that they were going to get rather used to. It was clear that this had enough potential to now make the transfer to TV.
After a repeat run in 1998, the TV version launched in 1999 (with a slightly different title), meaning that they had come a huge way in only two years. When they put the TV version together, they could start to imagine what their characters actually looked like, and they were very creative, making them appear as hideous as they actually sounded. I’m also fairly sure that some scenes were recycled for the first TV series.
There were three series of the TV version, and they also went on to further stage shows, and even a film, but it mustn’t be forgotten that the radio series plays a big part in their story and was as impressive as anything else that they’ve done. And of course they could look forward to people shouting “this is a local shop!” at them for the next 25 years, how terrific.