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Little Britain

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Little Britain is a BBC radio and television sketch show written by and starring Matt Lucas and David Walliams. The original series debuted on BBC Radio 4 in 2001, running for two short series of five and four half-hour episodes respectively. In 2003, the show began as a television series on the BBC's digital-only channel BBC 3, running to 8 episodes. Most of the TV material was adapted from the original radio sketches, but there were also some original sketches featuring new recurring characters. Due to the success of the series, the first series was repeated on the mainstream channel BBC 2. Although reactions to the series were mixed, many critics were enthusiastic, and the show was recommissioned for another series. Interestingly, unlike many radio-based successes which have crossed over to television, it is understood that a new radio series of the programme is also planned. A second TV series featuring several new characters began on BBC 3 on October 19, 2004, and due to the show's popularity the scheduled repeat run was "promoted" to BBC 1, starting on December 3, 2004, guaranteeing higher ratings. However, it has been confirmed by Lucas and Walliams that the repeat showing will not feature jokes and sketches deemed too offensive for the BBC 1 audience.

A compilation of sketches from the first radio series was been released on CD, later followed by the complete first series (presumably by public demand). Radio 4 began a rerun of all 9 episodes in February 2004. Unusually, this overlapped with a rerun on digital radio channel BBC 7 of the first 5 that began in mid-March. In JuneJuly 2004 BBC 7 broadcast the remaining 4.

A DVD of the first TV series was released in December 2004 in the UK, as well as a book: The Complete Scripts and Stuff: Series One. In January 2005 a half-hour episode was specially commissioned and released on DVD in aid of the Comic Relief charity fundraising event. The episode featured cameos from Elton John, Robbie Williams and George Michael and was broadcast on 11 March 2005. It was reported that a request by Prime Minister Tony Blair to appear in one of the sketches was turned down, with Walliams and Lucas stating that they did not want to be seen as supporting any particular political party in the run-up to the general election.

The name is a modification of the term 'Little England'

Contents

The sketches

The format of the show is based around short sketches featuring familiar characters, linked by voiceovers from Tom Baker (most famous as Doctor Who). These voiceovers take a wry look at Britain, with comically absurd statements on the nature of Britain (e.g. "Britain ... we've had running water for over 10 years and we invented the cat"; "unlike other countries Britain has people of two genders, male and female").

Main characters - series 1

A number of characters that have recurred throughout the series include:

Marjorie Dawes (Lucas) runs a branch of diet group Fat Fighters. The group includes Paul, Meera (a British-Indian whom Marjorie calls either Mary or Moira), Pat, Tanya, Jenny, Sue, and Dave (whom Marjorie mistakenly calls Johansen.) One diet used by Fat Fighters is the Half the Calories diet. This involves cutting food in half. Because it is in half, it has half the calories, and because it's half the calories, you can have twice as much. Marjorie is also a great believer in diets which involve eating dust (because it has no fat in it so you can have as much dust as you like). Unfortunately, the diets don't seem to work for anyone, least of all Marjorie, although she does claim to be at her target weight, despite being over 15 stone (95 kg). She often bullies the members of the club. Marjorie originally appeared in the BBC 2 comedy panel game Shooting Stars in the late-1990s as the mother of baby percussionist and score-keeper George Dawes. She was suspended at the end of the first series, but is again seen in charge of Fat Fighters at the start of the second, as some viewers may have been confused by her absence. She has been compared to the character Pauline in the comedy series The League of Gentlemen, who plays a vindictive "restart officer".

Ray McCooney (Walliams) is the Mediaeval-esque owner at Ye Olde Hotele somewhere in Scotland. He likes speaking in riddle and rhyme and also plays his flute whenever possible, infuriating customers and staff. He did not appear in the show's second series, as the character's set was proving to be too expensive, but after various fans (including Jonathan Ross and Richard and Judy) asked why he had suddenly disappeared, Matt Lucas said that he would return for the third series, although it is unsure as to whether he will move more away from his hotel. Some people have accused Ray McCooney of being a musical-hall racist stereotype, but he is certainly less controversial than some other characters.

Dafydd Thomas (Lucas) claims to be the only gay man living in the small Welsh mining village of Llanddewi Brefi, despite plentiful evidence otherwise. He himself, however, often displays homophobic, or least stereotyping tendencies, much to the chargrin of barmaid Myfanwy. He can often be found in his local, The Scarecrow and Mrs King, sipping Bacardi and Coke and reading his copy of Gay Times. The character has caused some controversy, both over his portrayal of homosexuals and of Welsh people (a frequent target in British comedy such as Blackadder and Men Behaving Badly, especially their language).

Dame Sally Markham (Lucas) is a famous romantic novelist who likes nothing better than lounging on her couch eating truffles while her aide, Miss Grace, types up what she is dictating. Unfortunately, Dame Sally's novels often fall short of the required length, so normally end with 'blah blah blah', the entire Bible being read aloud by one character, or with whatever is on the radio at the time. The character is quite clearly based on Dame Barbara Cartland.

Emily/Eddie Howard (Walliams) is an unconvincing transvestite who demands to be treated as "a lady" and dresses in Victorian clothes. However she often slips back into his/her normal voice or displays masculine mannerisms. (S)he runs a guest house in the coastal town of Old Haven and claims to have a husband who is away at sea.

Lou Todd (Walliams) and Andy Pipkin (Lucas) are best friends. Lou is kind, generous and incredibly patient and helps his disabled (apparently wheelchair-bound) friend Andy, who can actually walk. Andy is moody, contrary and just plain lazy and will often point at something and demand "I want that one!". Lou will often say that Andy doesn't like the item in a way that makes Andy seem like an eloquent and logical person (eg. "I thought you said that, Torvill and Dean's record breaking performance aside, ice-skating is aesthetically bankrupt"), but will end up complying with Andy and getting him what he wants. Soon after the decision has been made, or up to a point at which the decision cannot be changed, Andy will say "I don't like it" or something else that makes his original decision void, much to Lou's annoyance. The characters of Lou and Andy are derived from a Rock Profile episode featuring fictitious versions of Lou Reed and Andy Warhol. In the second series, Andy's antisocial behaviour is somewhat magnified with some of his actions displaying a complete disregard for others, for instance, wiping the contents of his nose on the trousers of a passer-by, or stating that he does not like a woman he is blind-dating because 'she's in a wheelchair'. Lou also uses the term "kerfuffle" to refer to many of Andy's past actions.

Kenny Craig (Lucas) is a stage hypnotist who uses his powers for silly and trivial reasons, like beating his mother at Scrabble (in one instance, by playing the non-existent word "Cupboardy"). He cannot, however, hypnotise people very well, as his powers eventually begin to wear off or just do not work at all.

Vicky Pollard (Lucas) is a moody, obnoxious teenage girl incapable of doing anything except gossiping (in a strong Bristol accent): "she's some girl who dun this fing wot you don't even know about, so shut up. Anyway, Candice reckons she saw Kelly gettin off wiv Tony Tozer in Paperchase and she giv up smokin wen she was 12." When confronted with a question, she will usually reply: "Yeah but no but yeah but wot 'appened was..." She is seen as the ultimate television charva.

Sebastian Love (Walliams) is an aide to the Prime Minister (played by Anthony Stewart Head) on whom he has a huge crush. He is amazingly bitchy to anyone else who the Prime Minister shows attention to, even his wife.

Dennis Waterman (Walliams) is a minute actor who, unfortunately, never gets a part because he insists he should "write the feem toon, sing the feem toon" in every part he gets, much to the dismay of his theatrical agent Jeremy Rent (Lucas).

Anne (Walliams) is a mental patient with a violent temperament who can only seem to say "eh eh ehhh!" but can speak normally while on the telephone. She is a patient at the Steven Spielberg hospital (a reference to the director) under the care of Dr Lawrence.

Mr Mann (Walliams) is a man who frequently enters a shop, looking for something in particular. The shop, although it sells different items each episode, is always run by the same man, named Roy (Lucas). The sketches' trademarks are Mr Mann's absurdly specific or general requests and Roy's unseen wife Margaret, who gives help from upstairs. She apparently doesn't have any arms or legs. Mr Mann only appeared once in the first series, but was a regular character in the second series.

Mr Cleeves (Lucas) is a traditional looking yet bizarre teacher at Kelsey Grammar School (a reference to the actor Kelsey Grammer), an old-style British grammar school. Mr Cleeves sets the pupils strange tasks such as finding the square root of Popeye.

The Record Breakers At the end of each show, two men, both called Ian, with bushy beards and thick jumpers, are trying to set a world record but end up not meeting the requirements. Example: "Most People in a Mini" attempt, where five people just squeeze in.

Main characters - series 2

The characters of Des Kay, Gary and Jason, Dame Sally Markham, Ray McCooney, Denver Mills, The Record Breakers, Liz and Clive, April and Neville and Bernard Chumley have been discontinued (although some of them may/will return for the third series) in favour of new characters;

Bubbles DeVere (Lucas) is an overweight, middle-aged woman who lives at a health spa (Hill Grange, a nod at Grange Hill) despite constantly being harassed for her payment by Mr Hammond (Walliams). The sketches are based on the shock factor, as Bubbles is the first character to go full-frontal - even though her 'wobbly' bits are made of latex. She is probably most famous for her 'Monte Carlo' number, darling - 123 456 789.

Harvey (Walliams) is an upper-class mummy's boy who insists on 'bitty' - breast milk - from his mother (played by Geraldine James) even though he is in his early 30s, much to the dismay of his prospective wife and her parents.

Florence (Lucas) is a wannabe transvestite and friend of Emily. (S)he is even more unconvincing than Emily considering that (s)he has a moustache.

Judy (Lucas) and Maggie (Walliams) are two elderly ladies from the Women's Institute who work at different voluntary or charitable events. They keenly partake in refreshments provided by their hosts, but when informed that anyone involved in its preparation is either from a non-white ethnic background or not entirely heterosexual, Maggie proceeds to vomit in quite a large amount, often onto someone else, as Judy looks on horrified. The National Federation of Women's Institutes objected to this depiction and the BBC agreed to replace the Women's Institute logo and change the dialogue in subsequent showings of the programme.

Linda (Walliams) works at a bank and has a very close relationship with her computer. When asked by customers if they can take a loan, her answer most of the time is "Computer says no", or for a change, whispers to the computer, still with a negative answer. She's unwilling to use any human initiative to help customers and will cough in their faces to make them go away.

Infrequent characters

The following characters, from both Series 1 and 2, appeared relatively infrequently, and are therefore not part of the main sketch roll.

Viv (Lucas) is a jewellery shop owner who is robbed but she has a huge crush on the robbers. She describes them by saying "Oh he was GAAAWGEOUS! Phowarr!"

Liz (Walliams) and Clive (Lucas) are an old couple who spend a lot of time eating dinner in their local Chinese restaurant. Liz claims she was once a bridesmaid for Mollie Sugden, something that she can't stop talking about to other people in the restaurant (much to her husband Clive's dismay), even as she insists that she doesn't like to 'go on about it'. In the last episode of season one, Sugden herself came to the restaurant, and said that Liz wasn't a bridesmaid at her wedding. Liz threw a knife into her back.

Gary (Lucas) and Jason (Walliams) are two mates who visit Gary's grandmother, on whom Jason has a crush. They have a falling out after Gary discovers Jason sucking his grandmother's toes.

Des Kay (Walliams) is a rejected children's TV host who works in a DIY store. Often seen with his crocodile puppet (called Croc O Dile) and shouts "Wickie Woo".

Denver Mills (Walliams) is a former Olympic silver medallist in the 200m and now acts as a guest speaker, although his speeches are often politically incorrect. People sometimes call him Dennis.

Sir Bernard Chumley (Lucas) is a faded actor who looks after his sister Kitty, who is disabled after an accident. Bernard insists that he didn't push her. The character of Chumley is probably the oldest Little Britain character, having appeared in a live-stage show in the early 90s (where Walliams and Lucas met for the first time), his own six-part television series in the late 90s, and a cameo in Shooting Stars.

Peter Andre (Walliams) is a royal correspondent who gets the sack after first making bizarre and inaccurate claims about the Royal Family (such as Prince Charles being a magician) and then declaring his love for Princess Anne.

April (Walliams) and Neville (Lucas) are two supposedly First Aid experts. Neville is the young boy with little experience, while April guides him through different problems, but uses a variety of mints instead of medical procedures to treat patients.

Boris (Walliams) is an immigrant Russian babysitter who teaches a child about communism, while at the same time proving to be an effective babysitter. He appears in two continuous sketches, in one episode only.

Doug (Lucas) is a drugs counsellor who, having had a past life with drugs, give out helpful (yet abusive) advice to others. In one episode, his mother comes to one of his meetings (she had previously mistaken it for a pottery club), but announces that she doesn't know about his drug experiences.

Matthew Waterhouse (Walliams) is an inventor who comes up with very silly ideas for musicals, board games, impersonators and cereals, with a sketch on each subject. An example of one of his ideas is "Sugar Poofs: Real gay men frosted with sugar."

Sandra Patterson (Walliams) is a mother who is determined for her son Ralph to get into acting. She seems to be nice, but behind-the-scenes she is horrible to him.

Latymer Crown (Lucas) is a masseuse who tries to get his clients to calm down in strange ways, usually by describing scenes of graphic carnage.

Janet (Walliams) can't get over the death of her husband Ivor, and connects everything her sister Eileen (Lucas) says to him. ("'Yeah!' That's the word Ivor used to use when he wanted to answer in the affirmative! When he wanted to respond in a casual manner as opposed to the more formal 'Yes'!")

Pilot Episode

The pilot episode was made in 2002, and contained many sketches that would be remade for the series. It is included on the DVD set of the first series.

The sketches included:

  • The sketch where Vicky Pollard is tried for theft. It is almost the same as the broadcast version, but carries on for slightly longer and reveals that Vicky has stolen her solictor's purse. Vicky has a slightly deeper voice, and doesn't speak as fast as in the series.
  • A version of Ray McCooney's initial sketch, but set in Mr. Aberdoon's Stook Hoose (Steak House). McCooney becomes Aberdoon, the chef, and the conversation is largely the same, though Aberdoon gives a few extra ingredients to the soup. His appearance is completely different: he has pointy ears, no glasses, a beard and red hair. He also wears different clothes.
  • A number of scenes featuring Latymer, a masseuse who tries to get his clients to calm down in strange ways, usually by describing scenes of graphic carnage.
  • Emily Howard going to the local sports center for a swim, and nearly being thrown out by the attendant after trying to get into the Ladies' changing room. S/he has different clothing and more make-up, plus a higher voice.
  • Mr. Mann's initial sketch. It is exactly the same as it was in the broadcast version. Only the first half is in it, however. There was not enough time for the conclusion from the series to be shown.
  • The Prime Minister's press conference with a number of children's magazines. Also the same as the broadcast version.
  • Marjorie Dawes holding a Fat Fighters meeting. The meeting is set at her house instead of the village hall, and only has four people in attendance, Paul, Pat (played by a different actress), Meera and Christopher Halliday, a 13-year-old boy.
  • The sketch with the PM and Sebastian Love holding an approval poll meeting, then having Love pin the PM to the couch pretending that a sniper is near the window. Runs a few seconds longer than the broadcast version, and ends with the PM's wife irritatedly suggesting that Love be fired.
  • Jeremy Rent offering Dennis Waterman the chance to appear in a new film called Lucky Runnings, only for Waterman to dismiss it out of hand after discovering that the theme tune has already been written. Rent reminds Waterman of the effect this is having and also reminds him that he was nearly cast as Indiana Jones' brother in a new film. The producers on that film then call Rent and offer Waterman the role again (due to the chosen actor being decapitated), only for Waterman to instantly mess up in his usual style. The office is different.
  • A slightly different version of the initial Gary and Jason sketch, featuring a different cast for the family. An extended version of this scene can be found in the Deleted Scenes, in which Jason tries to seduce Nan with sexy music. Gary and Jason look the same, but the house is different.
  • Daffyd's initial sketch, but in a different pub. The characters and dialog are the same as they were in the broadcast version. There is a different person playing Myfanwy, and Daffyd and the lodger's outfits are different.
  • An attempt at breaking the world record in toppled dominoes. The attempt fails when the men only use a single standard-sized box of dominoes.

Removed from the Pilot Episode

  • A Matthew Waterhouse sketch in which Waterhouse comes up with board game ideas. Appeared in the series.
  • Several Latymer Crown sketches.
  • Part of the Gary and Jason sketch, in which Jason seduces Gary's Nan with sexy music.
  • The second half of the Roy and Mr. Mann sketch. Appeared in the series.
  • A sketch in which Kenny Craig backs into a car in a car park, and has to hypnotise everyone in the area. Reshot in Season 2.
  • A sketch in which Denver Mills gives out awards at a school sports day.
  • Several continues of the Domino Toppling sketch.
  • A sketch showing the relationship of Edward Grant, a teacher and his wife and former pupil Samantha. This was reshot for the series. The gag at the beginning was moved to the Marjorie Dawes sketch.

Removed from Series One

  • A lot of sketches at Kelsey Grammar School and the Uncle Albert Hall.
  • A sketch with a man named Barry who records silly messages on his answer phone.
  • Two sketches at the hospital with the girl who is in a coma and her parents.
  • Two sketches each for Peter Andre and April and Neville.
  • A sketch involving a French tourist couple, who are always delayed by the slow and constantly-fatigued wife in seeing what they had visited a certain site for.

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