Little Britain is a British character-based sketch comedy that was first broadcast on BBC radio and then turned into a television programme. It was written and performed by comic duo David Walliams and Matt Lucas. The programme's title is an amalgamation of the terms 'Little England' and 'Great Britain', and is also, coincidentally, the name of a Victorian neighbourhood and a modern street in London.
|Created by||David Walliams|
|Written by||David Walliams|
|Narrated by||Tom Baker|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||6|
|No. of episodes||36 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Original network||BBC Radio 4 (2000–02)|
BBC Three (2003–04)
BBC One (2005–07)
|Original release||Radio series:|
3 August 2000 – 5 February 2002
9 February 2003 –
1 January 2007
|Followed by||Little Britain USA|
|Related shows||Rock Profile|
Come Fly with Me
Little Britain USA
The programme consists of a series of sketches involving exaggerated parodies of British people from all walks of life in various situations familiar to a British audience. Each of them is introduced with a voice-over narration in a manner which suggests that the programme is a guide – aimed at non-British people – to the ways of life of various classes of British society. Despite the narrator's description of "great British institutions", the comedy arises from the British audience's self-deprecating understanding of either themselves or of people known to them. The programme's title is in part an elaboration of the term Little England(er): a reference to narrow-mindedness and complacent insularity – as exhibited, to humorous effect, by many of the (recurring) subjects of the sketches. The programme was a huge ratings success, receiving 9.5 million viewers following its move to BBC One in 2005.
Little Britain initially appeared as a radio show, produced by Edward Flinn, which ran on BBC Radio 4 from 2000 until 2002.
Radio 4 began a rerun of all nine episodes in February 2004 (which were slightly edited for content to suit the 6:30 pm timeslot). Unusually, this overlapped with a rerun, beginning in mid-March, of the first five programmes on the digital radio channel BBC 7. In June–July 2004 BBC 7 broadcast the remaining four.
Like several other BBC comedies (such as Dead Ringers and The Mighty Boosh), Little Britain made the transition from radio to television. All the episodes for the series were filmed at Pinewood Studios. Much of the TV material was adapted from the radio version, but with more emphasis on recurring characters and catchphrases.
- Series One, 2003
The first TV series was one of the new programmes in the launch line-up for digital channel BBC Three, the replacement for BBC Choice, which launched in February 2003. As a result of its success, the first series was repeated on the more widely available BBC Two. Although reactions were mixed, many critics were enthusiastic, and the programme was commissioned for another run. Part of the series was filmed in Kent at Herne Bay - Emily Howard the Lady, and the Lou and Andy sketches.
- Series Two, 2004
The second series, featuring several new characters, began on BBC Three on 19 October 2004. Its continued popularity meant the repeats moved to BBC One, starting on 3 December 2004. The episodes were edited for their BBC One run, to cut out any material that may be too offensive for the more mainstream BBC One audience.
- Series Three, 2005
A third series began on 17 November 2005, for the first time on BBC One and not BBC Three, and ended six weeks later. After its transmission, it was unclear whether there would be another, as many sketches were given dramatic twists and "wrapped up" — (see individual character articles). Lucas and Walliams were reportedly in talks for a fourth series with the BBC. Furthermore, they admitted in an interview they preferred to "kill off" certain characters in order to make way for new ones.
- Little, Little Britain, 2005
In 2005, to raise money for Comic Relief, Walliams and Lucas made a special edition of the show, dubbed Little, Little Britain. The episode included a variety of sketches with celebrities including George Michael, Robbie Williams and Sir Elton John. This was released on a limited edition DVD and was released in the United States as Little, Little Britain on the region 1 version of the Little Britain: Season 2 DVD.
- Little Britain Abroad, 2006
In 2006, a two-part Christmas special was released, in which characters from the programme were depicted as visiting other countries.
Little Britain LiveEdit
As a success of the television series, Lucas and Walliams created a travelling stage show based upon their series.
- Comic Relief Does Little Britain Live, 2007
Little Britain USAEdit
In 2007, Matt Lucas and David Walliams announced that there would be no more of the British Little Britain, but they taped an American continuation of the programme entitled Little Britain USA, which featured both returning characters from the British series as well as new American characters. According to David Walliams, the new show is "effectively Little Britain season four". The show debuted on HBO at 10:30 pm EST Sunday 28 September 2008, then the following week on BBC One in Britain. It also started airing on The Comedy Network in Canada in January 2010.
- Little Britain Comic Relief Special, 2009
Crossover between the UK and USA versions. Last episode to feature Matt Lucas.
- Little Britain Comic Relief Sketch, 2015
- Little Britain Does Sport Relief, 2016
The latest instalment of the series. Features David Walliams reprise the role of Emily Howard. Matt Lucas does not feature
Cast and charactersEdit
As a sketch show, Little Britain features many characters with varying degrees of costume and makeup. Matt Lucas and David Walliams play all the main characters in the show. Tom Baker narrates and Paul Putner, Steve Furst, Sally Rogers, David Foxxe, Samantha Power, Yuki Kushida, and Stirling Gallacher regularly appear as several different characters.
A two-part Christmas special, Little Britain Abroad, was broadcast in December 2006 and January 2007. This makes a total of 25 episodes to date. There has also been the Little Britain Live show.
In the UK, the series was originally broadcast on BBC Three and BBC One and was aired in repeats on Dave, Gold, and Watch. In the US and in Bermuda, the series airs on BBC America. BBC Canada aired the program from 3 March 2005 – present. UKTV broadcasts the program in Australia and New Zealand. Comedy Central India broadcast the program for Indian audiences.
The programme, particularly the second and third series, had been criticised for their perceived treatment of minority groups. For example, in 2005 Fergus Sheppard wrote in The Scotsman
|“||The latest series of the hit BBC comedy Little Britain may be hauling in record viewing figures, but it has also sparked a previously unthinkable chorus of criticism, with claims that the programme had lost its way, trading early ingenuity for swelling amounts of toilet humour in the search for cheap laughs, and becoming increasingly offensive.||”|
Journalist Owen Jones argues in his book Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class that Little Britain helped to perpetuate unkind stereotypes about working class people: exacerbated by the fact that both Walliams and Lucas attended private schools.
The series has become increasingly popular with children, despite being shown after the watershed. There has also been criticism from teachers that the programme leads to inappropriate copycat behaviour in the playground.
Speaking in October 2017, Lucas explained that if he were to re-make Little Britain he would avoid making jokes about transvestites and would not play the role of a black character. Lucas went on to say that "Basically, I wouldn’t make that show now. It would upset people. We made a more cruel kind of comedy than I'd do now ... Society has moved on a lot since then and my own views have evolved". Lucas, however, defended the decisions that were taken at the time, and explained that he and co-star Walliams deliberately sought to play a very diverse group of people.
Spin-offs and merchandiseEdit
Matt Lucas and Peter Kay, in the guise of their characters Andy Pipkin and Brian Potter, re-recorded the song "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" with its creators, The Proclaimers. This version was released as a charity single for Comic Relief on 19 March 2007.
Little Britain ProductionsEdit
- "'Victorian London - Districts - Little Britain'". Victorianlondon.org. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
- "Ratings record for Little Britain". The Guardian. 18 November 2005.
- Kent Film Office. "Kent Film Office Little Britain Article".
- TheSun.co.uk: Matt Lucas: I would like kids URL accessed 24 June 2008
- "Little Britain USA". littlebritainfans.com. 2008-09-28. Archived from the original on 2012-07-31. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
- "BBC One - Little Britain". Bbc.co.uk. 28 July 2012. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
- "Little Britain". Uktv.co.uk. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
- "Little Britain comes to BBC Canada". Channel Canada. 16 February 2012. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
- "Schedule". BBC Canada. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
- Series 1. "Little Britain - UKTV Australia". Uktv.com.au. Archived from the original on 2007-07-02. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
- Little Britain's in trouble... no buts about it URL accessed 3 July 2006
- Jones, Owen (2011). Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class. London: Verso. p. 127. ISBN 978-1-84467-864-8.
- BBC News: Head calls for Little Britain ban URL accessed 12 December 2006
- "I would not play black person in remade Little Britain, says Matt Lucas". The Guardian. 3 October 2017. Retrieved 3 October 2017.
- Lyon, James (16 February 2007). "Little Britain: The Video Game".
- Walker, Shaun (28 July 2008). "Russia buys the right to have a laugh at Moscow's David Brentski". The Independent. London. Retrieved 11 May 2010.
- "Moscow News - Columnists - 'Nasha Russia' must go on". Mnweekly.ru. 12 February 2009. Archived from the original on 2009-02-12. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
- Sweney, Mark (14 May 2010). "Little Britain's David Walliams and Matt Lucas star in Nationwide ads" – via The Guardian.