The League of Gentlemen: Series 2 Review
If you ever read articles on the British sitcom, you would be forgiven for thinking that British humour didn't stretch beyond the likes of Last of the Summer Wine, or, for the more 'adult' humour, Gimme, Gimme, Gimme. Certainly, there is remarkably little in the way of innovative, trail-blazing situation comedy on TV. However, The League of Gentlemen have managed to make genuinely innovative programmes which are often as disturbing as they are hilarious, with some of the most iconic characters in popular culture, such as Edward and Tubbs, the owners of the 'local shop'; the Dentons, the toad-lovers; and, in this series, the demonic Papa Lazarou, with his catchphrase 'You're my wife now', as delivered in a hideously guttural tone, complete with chilling laugh.
Another great strength of the programme is that every episode is interlinked, with characters and storylines moving through them entirely logically. On the commentary, the team occasionally remark about how X character will eventually end up in Y location by episode Z, obeying the weird internal logic of the show; of course, you don't need to understand this to appreciate the plots. The overall storyline in these six episodes is probably that of Hillary Briss' 'special stuff', and the mysterious nosebleeds that it is causing, but there are many, many other plot strands, including Edward and Tubbs trying to find a 'no-tail' for David, Pauline the restart officer holding Ross hostage, and Geoff, Mike and Brian 'going native'. And that barely scratches the surface of this remarkable programme.
As Michael Brooke remarked in his review of the first series, most of the comedy revolves around pain, misery and depravation, and at times it verges on the horrific, both in a conventionally 'gross' way and in a far more disturbing, insidious way, with The Wicker Man an obvious influence; however, characters such as the demented paedophile Herr Lipp manage to combine horror and hilarity in a way that Chris Morris would doubtless be happy with. If you're the sort of person who only likes gentle humour, then you're going to be profoundly disappointed; a slightly more regrettable absence (and the reason why this gets 9/10, rather than 10/10) is the lack of witty one-liners, although Mr Denton's comment 'Hoist by my own pet toads!' is one that will bring a smile to the face of every Shakespeare buff.
In a sense, it's wrong to spoil the show further. It's definitely not for all tastes, and might in fact require more than one viewing to fully appreciate, especially if you're expecting something along the lines of The Fast Show, which, for all its intelligence and sophistication, was a far more conventional product than this. However, if you've ever found yourself laughing at something that you've had the sneaking suspicion you really shouldn't find funny, then this is the programme for you. Of course, if you're not local, then you might want to look nervously around the shop before you buy this DVD….
As with several recent BBC releases (and as with the first series), this is presented in anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality is quite pleasing, with strong colours and a generally strong transfer; the only noticeable flaw is some strong grain in some scenes, which is helpfully explained by a multi-angle feature on disc one, showing how a programme filmed on video could be transferred onto film for a more 'cinematic' look.
The stereo mix is fine but nothing really surprising; dialogue is clear, Joby Talbot's score is presented nicely, and the occasional sound effects all come across pleasingly. It's not going to be a test disc, but it's perfectly acceptable as far as it goes.
As with the first series, an excellent package of extras (some useful, some pointless) is presented, all of which are well worth a look. The commentary by the League themselves is pretty similar to that on the first series, and highly entertaining, as well as very worrying in places, as they point out real-life antecedents for many of the characters. Another substantial extra is the making-of documentary; although obviously a BBC promotional item (and narrated by Griff Rhys Jones, of all people), it's got some very interesting interviews, behind the scenes footage and is generally very worth watching.
Other extras are stranger, but still enjoyable. The deleted scenes are great fun, including a sequence in which Edward and Tubbs go to bed in the shop, but are rather too short, whereas the extended scenes are slightly irritating, as the odd line of extra dialogue doesn't really warrant sitting through a scene yet again, unless it's one of the funnier ones. Some brief looks at the special effects and filming techniques are interesting, with a surprising amount of blue screen work for the Dentons' house. There are also bizarre character biographies, a spoof Territorial Army poster, some isolated tracks of Joby Talbot's score, a sing-along scene of the Dentons' musical number (all will be revealed when you see it) behind the scenes photos, and an amusing Easter Egg for those who look long enough, and have the patience to remember numbers…
An already seminal sitcom is presented on a splendid disc, topping the first one, and is highly recommended as a result, although with the warning that it's best to make sure you enjoy it before you buy!
Last updated: 19/04/2018 18:40:02