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Based on the highly successful Radio 4 series, Little Britain is a hilarious exploration of the British Isles and its curious inhabitants after a successful pilot earlier this year. The programme travels from the Scottish highlands, through Wales, the tranquil English countryside and the less tranquil council estates of Britain's inner cities, while the narrator (Tom Baker) adds his insightful and eloquent comments for those less familiar with these fair IslesWritten by
Was fresh once but the type of humour and reliance on catchphrases has meant it has got old faster than the BBC would like you to think
Ah Britain, the home of the gentleman, the birthplace of industrial, the home of football, the country that taught the world civilisation. But all is not well in Britain. Chavs have taken root deep in the culture, sexual practices have changed away from the norm even for those in high office while the old and infirm are allowed to remain within the wider population with inadequate controls. This is Britain. This is where we live.
And I suppose that is the best way to sum up how Little Britain began; a sketch show with exaggerated characters drawn from various aspects of life and blown up for effect. Whether it is the "ladies", the benefit fraud, the good-natured sop or the female teenage slag all were here and all were good targets. The humour was rather crude and easy (surprisingly so for something that came from Radio 4 of all places) but once the characters were in place it was easy to enjoy it. This has changed a little bit over the course of three series and we now find ourselves with a series that has probably peaked and now seems to be desperately aping its better days in the hope for ongoing success. It was never so good that it would appeal to a mainstream audience (shown by the BBC editing it for repeat on BBC1) but it was snug on BBC2 with low However with generally good praise and lots of catchphrases comes more pressure and a key spot on BBC1. This has not been a good thing for a series that really shouldn't have gone beyond 2 runs on television. The mainstream audience has come for the catchphrases and they are being fed them over and over without anything really new added. The sketches are not cleverer or funnier, they are just louder or cruder than they were before. The old characters are in a rut and the new characters have settled into repetitive jokes with alarming speed. Relying on catchphrases and such is good for one series, maybe two, but it quickly gets old and, with nothing new coming through Little Britain has managed to outstay its welcome while ironically doing better in the ratings than ever.
With the new series even those that like the show will admit that things have gone for more base targets than before. Many of the characters now rely on physical and toilet humour (always the same jokes as well) and not enough of them are actually funny. Tom Baker's stuff remains funny because, although the approach is the same, his voice and his dialogue is funny. Lucas and Walliams are both funny but they can't totally carry it; given them good material (Orville was an example) and they can do it but ask them to just role around in fat suits and that is what they will do.
Overall this is quite a funny show but not one that is clever or funny enough to appeal to the audience share that it is currently vying for. Relying heavily on extreme characters, catchphrases and crudity is not sustainable and, although I enjoy it, I rarely sit to watch it because I started becoming aware long before series 3 started, that I had probably seen the vast majority of what it had to offer. After that, why watch it retread old ground?
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