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The League Of Gentlemen: The Collection

Mark Gatiss , Steve Pemberton    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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In some grim and isolated corner of northern England lurks the town of Royston Vasey, where the local cab driver is a hirsute preoperative transsexual, the local butcher sells his special stuff to select customers, and the local employment counselor thinks people are like pens: "If they don't work, you shake 'em. If they still don't work, you chuck 'em away!" But if you're not local, you should steer clear of the local shop, no matter how tempted you are by its precious things. To call The League of Gentlemen a black comedy would be an understatement. Its bleak humor owes as much to Samuel Beckett as it does to Monty Python, so those who like their laughs served warm are in for a shock. The show is the most wickedly inventive comedy to come out of Britain since Eddie and Patsy staggered onto our screens in Absolutely Fabulous, and like that groundbreaking series it proudly ignores the boundaries of good taste. Part sketch comedy, part bizarre soap opera, the narrative jumps back and forth between more than a dozen major characters, all played by the three performers who cowrote the show. These characters range from the odd--a vet who accidentally kills all of his patients--to the thoroughly disturbing, like Edward and Tubbs, the inbred proprietors of the Local Shop, who are willing to go to any lengths to prevent the building of a new road through their beloved town. As the first series progresses, many of the plot threads begin to twist together, revealing hints that some deeper and more sinister plot might be unfolding in Royston Vasey. The League of Gentlemen manages to be both hilarious and chilling, thanks to the terrific writing and performances that are as subtle as they are grotesque.

In the second series, the Gentlemen throw themselves into their many disguises with unbounded enthusiasm. What is even more impressive is that, together with co-writer Jeremy Dyson, the Gentlemen manage to locate these alarming characters within coherent story arcs that interlock over the course of a series as well as inside the individual six episodes. Here we have the apparently inexplicable plague of fatal nosebleeds that affects Royston Vasey, the attempts of the incestuous shopkeepers Edward and Tubbs to find a bride for their monstrous offspring, the misadventures of some lost plastics salesmen, and the hostage crisis at the local Restart center.

A Gothic-comedy masterpiece, The League of Gentlemen Christmas Special is a horrific anthology of three related stories, all set in Royston Vasey, which takes its inspiration as much from the writings of M.R. James and Edgar Allan Poe as the low-budget Hammer and Amicus shockers that the team parodies so affectionately. The stories are all linked by the Dickensian device of Reverend Bernice receiving unexpected guests on Christmas Eve: the first concerns troubled married couple Charlie and Stella becoming unwittingly involved in voodoo and witchcraft; the second features the horrendous Herr Lipp in a Nosferatu skit that reveals the terrible truth about what really goes on in Duisburg; while the third, and best, tells of the horrible hereditary curse that afflicted Dr. Chinnery's great-grandfather. This one-off special distils all the League's penchant for disturbing, twisted characterization and macabre humor into a single hour; the result is one of the most daring "comedies" ever seen on British TV.

The third series takes the portmanteau horror approach of the Christmas Special and extends it daringly across the entire six episodes. Here, each half-hour installment is a self-contained story featuring various familiar and less well-known inhabitants of Royston Vasey. But each individual tale leads--horribly, inevitably--towards a single shocking event, the full circumstances of which are only realized in a final, macabre twist. It's all far too bleak to be called comedy, just too damn funny to be anything else. This is a team that has always defined its own rules, nowhere more boldly than here. Opening with a funky new theme song, the six episodes feature--among others--ex-con Pauline and Mickey in a touching tale of transvestitism; Lance, the one-armed comedy shop owner, yearning for a new limb; foul-tempered Geoff Tipps trying to make it as a stand-up comic in "Lundun"; some eye-popping fetishist behavior at the local B&B; seedy goings-on in the massage parlor; and, most horrendously of all, the dreaded return of Papa Lazarou. It all proved too much for some viewers--too grotesque, too offbeat, too surreal. Packed with knowing references to obscure movies and filled with the most unpleasant characters ever to grace a "sitcom," this is certainly an uncompromising series.

On the DVDs, the cast and co-writer Jeremy Dyson indulge in some "local gossip" on the audio commentaries, happily reminiscing about making the series and discussing the origins of the innumerable characters and sketches, as well as pointing out hidden jokes and movie references galore. Among the other goodies on the discs are behind-the-scenes documentaries, entertaining character biographies (Pop's favorite lunch from Greggs is "Chicken & Mushroom Pie", the sinister Denton twins are happiest when "Courting the Lords of Misrule"), an archive of the show's theatrical origins, a treasure-trove of deleted scenes, video diaries, interviews with costume designer Yves Barre and composer Jody Talbot, a Mike King Enterprises editing suite, the League "In Conversation" with Paul Jackson in the complete Radio 4 broadcast, and a Jackanory special with Mark Gatiss as the Victorian Dr Chinnery telling the Gothic tale of "The Curse of the Karrit Poor," a spot-on Arthur Conan Doyle spoof.


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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars League of Gentlemen are top of the League Sept. 22 2005
By A Customer
Format:DVD
Hello Dave!! The League of Gentlemen's Collection is FAB!! All the series, extras and the Christmas Special in one. What more could you ask for. Their genius comedy and fantastic writing keeps you gripped, laughing and repeatedly quoting the lines. I, being a fan of League of Gentlemen, love this collection and cannot wait until the film (League of Gentlemen's Apocolypse) comes out on the 3rd October 2005. So.....keep watching and keep reviewing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond Monty Python and so hilarious Jan. 27 2014
By Big Bill TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This is comedy noir. Off the wall concepts and characters. No subject is safe from them.
Set in a quaint , to say the least , rural British village. The occupants are sort of local in
their attitude and strangers are treated with suspicion. Can plots that come from horror films
be funny? Yes they can! Without any doubt it is the funniest series I have ever viewed.
If you like to laugh out loud , and they do say that laughter is healthy , I cannot recommend
this highly enough. I don't know if it was ever broadcast in North America and if so I didn't notice it at the time
so I think it has not been widely seen , which makes it a diamond in the rough , just waiting for
you to notice. You will laugh your arse off!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  38 reviews
39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BBC's best ever sitcom? I think so! Dec 6 2005
By Review Lover - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Absolutely Fabulous, Fawlty Towers, Only Fools and Horses, Dad's Army, Are You Being Served?, Nighty Night and a whole host of other shows have proven to the world, time and again, that the greatest sitcoms come from merry old England. With a few notable exceptions, our British brothers and sisters seem to have nailed with microsurgical precision the art of getting television comedy right.

"The League of Gentlemen" began life as a series of short radio broadcasts, and featured a whole host of grim characters in macabre situations, and, thanks to the foresight of the Beeb and the unbelievable talent of the show's four creators - Jeremy Dyson, Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith - the show came to television, with mind-bendingly brilliant results.

Comedy isn't really a suitable genre in which to bracket "The League of Gentlemen", since it's not as laugh-out-loud funny as, say, Ab Fab or Nighty Night. Similarly, it's just too damn funny to be labeled as Drama, but since it's got more than its fair share of horrific moments too, it's also got a finger in the pie of the Sci-Fi/Horror genre. On paper, then, "The League of Gentlemen" should, by all accounts, have been a terrible mess.

In actuality, it's the polar opposite - brilliantly crafted and thoroughly watchable, with more black comedy and more riveting characterisation than anything in recent memory. It's oddly endearing how the one-joke characters such as Herr Lipp and Barbra the transgendered taxi driver come to life with sympathetic scenarios, designed to turn these otherwise-throwaway charicatures into real, memorable parts of the story. And they're just secondary to the antics of the main body of heroes - people like Tubbs and Edward, proprietors of the Local Shop for Local People (seriously, you'll remember that line forever!), Pauline the Unemployment Retrainer, and Judee Levinson and her downtrodden maid Iris Krell - are so well-acted and so damn riveting that you'll want to see them over and over again.

This really is the only "League of Gentlemen" DVD to buy, it's got all three seasons of the show, and a whole host of truly excellent extras to mull over, once you're done with the episodes. Sound and picture quality are very, very sharp and for the price, you're getting more than your money's worth.

Thoroughly recommended.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wickedly Funny British Series... April 9 2005
By David Demchuk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
I have all three series plus the Christmas special as released in the UK and love them -- I'm very glad to see they're being released in North America at last! If you've never seen them, The League of Gentlemen (three of whom perform, with the fourth remaining behind the scenes) have created a fictional northern UK town called Royston Vasey, and play all of the townspeople - male and female. The characters and their stories are all intertwined, and are united by a macabre vision of small-town life influenced by countless horror and suspense stories. Cursed veterinarians, wishing toads, mobster newsagents, mysterious meat from the local butcher and "a local shop for local people" are just a few of the highlights. Enjoy!
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hello Dave Aug. 10 2005
By Gabi Knight - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
The BBC knows how to do it--comission a number of episodes and extend the show no further than those given episodes. The result? Fresh, original shows that never get stale and are usually exciting and totally engrossing. The League of Gentlemen is characteristic of such fare but is so different (and better) than anything you'd ever see on American network television. Once you're through the first two episodes, you'll see how the characters really start to develop and how deep and thought out the plot really is. More than just a showcase of grotesque characters, this show is a masterpiece, especially when you take into consideration that all of the members (except for one) perform all the characters they create. This is one show I can't stop talking about!
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Truly Macabre, Yet You Have to Laugh Oct. 23 2005
By Karen V. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
First let me say, this series is NOT FOR CHILDREN! This is truly a series where you don't know whether you should be disgusted or laugh hysterically. It's dark and perversely funny, and if you don't have a somewhat "sick" sense of humor it's definitely NOT for you.

The series pokes fun at the oddities in life, ranging from a really bad Veterinarian to a Transsexual Taxi Driver with a botched operation. There are bored housewives, inbred shopkeepers, over-the-hill musicians, a butcher who serves mystery meat to his "special" customers, a seemingly "man's man" who finds he's attracted to the same sex, a screwy Mafioso, and many more bizare and unusual characters.

The series focuses on the everyday lives of the individuals, their involvements with each other, and the inane fear of "outside" influences coming in and changing local customs and ways of life. It's a dark parody of small town life and the extremes some will go to so progress and change will be stalled, or at the very least, waylaid.

I consider myself a pretty average person, and found there were times I wanted to turn the DVD off, but couldn't because I couldn't believe what I'd just seen, and wanted to see what happened next. The only reason I didn't give 5 stars is because I thought some scenes really were disgusting, gross, and offensive, even though I couldn't help laughing.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The League of Gentlemen - The Collection April 27 2005
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
A warning - This is not anything to do with the film 'The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen'. This is something else, something far more interesting, exciting, scary, original, twisted and frankly far more absurdly hilarious. It is a comedy proggramme based around the fictional town of Royston Vasey, a refuge for the weird, psychotic or just generally insane... The first two series are like sketch shows based around a central theme, with very strange characters in nearly every scene. For example Tubbs and Edward with the now immortal phrases "Hello, hello, what's all this shouting, we'll have no trouble here!" "This is a Local Shop for Local People, there's nothing for you here!" and "They are not children... they are MONSTERS!", and these are just one set of characters. More characters include Papa Lazarou ("You're my wife now...."), the Denton's, Pauline and Mickey and so on and so forth. The third series are in the format of episodes, each one focusing on a paticular set of charcters, keeping the whole thing as fresh as a daisy. The Christmas Speicial, however, is a darker affair. It is equally is fantastic, but darker in every respect of the word...

I recommend this product to anyone with a sense of humour worth speaking of, and if you do not laugh, then you really do NOT have a sense of humour at all!
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