Little Britain: The Comic Relief Special Review

Will the charity DVD replace the charity single? If so then the model the BBC have established with this Little Britain release is a good one to follow. At £4.99 the price is identical to that of a CD single, but at 22 minutes (plus extras) represents far greater value for money. Moreover, all of the material contained on this disc is previously unseen, but not in the sense that the Beeb have been rooting through the archives, rather Matt Lucas and David Walliams have come up with a number of new sketches. Of course, you could complain that the length is slightly less than that of a typical Little Britain episode (and this is essentially what has been produced; the title sequence is identical to that of series two), but then 22 minutes still equals that of the average US sitcom, and I’m sure that there would be few complaints if, say, a fully formed and exclusive episode of Arrested Development were released in the name of charity.

For the majority, however, this will be neither here nor there. A much more important question will be whether the spectre of charity has compromised the material as well as the duration. Admittedly, there is no “bitty” or granny fancying, but as the 12 certificate testifies, we are treated to Judy and Maggie and their racism induced vomiting, plus the sight of Andy (of Lou and Andy fame) eating on the total and various cheap - though often funny - innuendos. That said, the intention isn’t solely to shock and there is still room for the computer to say “no” (my personal favourite) and tiny Dennis Waterman.

The major selling point (and sales are the point, with at least £3.80 per disc going to Comic Relief) is not so much the material itself, but rather those that are performing it. Indeed, as there has been much fuss about, Elton John and Robbie Williams are amongst those putting in star turns. Yet whilst their presence is likely to shift a few more copies, the process of actually fitting them into a sketch isn’t always successful. The appearance of George Michael is a case in point. Such is the attention paid to the singer that it no longer becomes part of a Little Britain sketch, but a George Michael one; the characters of Lou and Andy become almost peripheral to the action leaving only one awkward looking pop star and a predictable punchline. (The same is almost true of Elton John’s appearance until Walliams turns up as the most flamboyant gay stereotype the pair have attempted yet, which is really quite saying something.)

When the correct balance is achieved, as with the guest spots by Simon Callow and Trisha Goddard, then the results are quite wonderful and as good as anything from the series proper. The latter is also especially notable as it also demonstrates the benefits of doing a charity production insofar as it no doubt makes the realisation of “fantasy” sketches an easier prospect. And I’m sure that the idea of motormouth chav Vicky Pollard on Trisha is one that tops many wish lists.

It’s also worth noting, however, that as Little Britain essentially survives (much like The Fast Show did) by playing out endless variations on the same gags, this disc simply offers another handful of alternatives. Certainly, none of the narrative threads - if they can be described as such - are resolved over these 22 minutes meaning that fans aren’t really missing out on anything beyond a certain novelty value if they do pass the disc over (plus there’s a nagging feeling that the special will one day appear as an extra on some future Little Britain release). That said, there is also nothing that especially disappoints (indeed, much of it is quite funny) plus it no doubt represents a better investment than whatever godawful cover version is likely to be released next under the auspices of being a charity single.

The Disc

Despite the budget price, this disc sees a level of presentation quality that is equal to the BBC’s previous Little Britain : Series One release. The sound is in Dolby Stereo as per television transmission (the sketches will eventually appear on Comic Relief night) plus the picture comes with an anamorphic transfer at a ratio of 1.78:1. Moreover, there are no technical difficulties to speak of meaning that this is as good as could be expected.

What perhaps wasn’t expected was anything in the way of extras and as such the BBC are to be congratulated for making the effort, however inessential they may be. The outtakes (totally just under three minutes) are self-explanatory, whilst the interview sees Lucas and Walliams re-teaming with Jamie Theakston. Sadly, anyone expected a nod back in the direction of their previous Rock Profiles collaboration will be sorely disappointed as this is decidedly straight-faced, concluding as it does with four minutes worth of a Comic Relief appeal of the sort that regularly punctuate the actual night.

As with the main feature, both extras come with optional English subtitles.

This disc is available exclusively through HMV and can be purchased by clicking on the link.

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Last updated: 31/05/2018 17:51:00

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