The League of Gentlemen

The League of Gentlemen is a Britcom that premiered on BBC Two in 1999. The programme is set in Royston Vasey, a fictional town in northern England, originally based on Alston, Cumbria,[1][2] and follows the lives of bizarre characters, most of whom are played by three of the show's four writers – Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton, and Reece Shearsmith – who, along with Jeremy Dyson, formed the League of Gentlemen comedy troupe in 1995. The series originally aired for three series from 1999 until 2002 followed by a film in 2005. A three-part revival mini-series was broadcast in December 2017 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the group's first appearance on BBC Radio 4. The programme was aired on Comedy Central from summer to autumn 2000.

The League of Gentlemen
TheLeagueOfGentlemen-TitleCard.jpg
Created by
Directed bySteve Bendelack
Starring
Country of originUnited Kingdom
No. of series3
No. of episodes18 (& 4 specials) (list of episodes)
Production
Running time30–60 mins.
Release
Original networkBBC Two
Original releaseOriginal series:
11 January 1999 (1999-01-11) – 31 October 2002 (2002-10-31)
Anniversary specials:
18 December 2017 (2017-12-18)
 –
20 December 2017 (2017-12-20)
Chronology
Related shows
External links
Website

The series was filmed mainly in Hadfield, Derbyshire; other locations include Bacup Lancashire, Glossop, Gamesley, and Hope Valley in Derbyshire; Marsden and Todmorden in West Yorkshire; and Mottram in Greater Manchester.[3]

The series ended in 2002, and was followed by a film The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse and a stage production The League of Gentlemen Are Behind You! in 2005. Shearsmith and Pemberton later collaborated to create another dark comedy series, Psychoville (2009); Gatiss appeared in one episode. The three also performed together in the fourth series of Horrible Histories, in which they play American film producers who hear film pitches from historical figures.[4] Shearsmith and Pemberton also wrote and starred in the black comedy anthology series Inside No. 9, which premiered on BBC Two in 2014.

The BBC announced in August 2017 that three new episodes would be produced to commemorate the programme's 20th anniversary.[5] They aired on BBC2 on 18–20 December 2017.[6]

HistoryEdit

Three of the four members of the League of Gentlemen (Steve Pemberton, Mark Gatiss and Reece Shearsmith) met at Bretton Hall Theatre School. They met their final member – Jeremy Dyson – later in their comedy career. He does not act as such in the franchise but does have a few small/ cameo roles throughout the series. The stage show began in late 1994, and it was not long before the team took as their name the title of a Jack Hawkins film, The League of Gentlemen. In 1997, they were awarded the Perrier award for comedy at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and their radio series On the Town with The League of Gentlemen, debuted on BBC Radio 4. On the Town was set in the fictional town of Spent. They won a Sony Award for this six-episode run. In 1999 the show moved to television and quickly acquired a cult following; three series were produced, the first airing in 1999, the second in 2000 and the third in 2002. A Christmas special was broadcast in December 2000, after the airing of the second series. For television, Spent was renamed Royston Vasey – the given name of comedian Roy Chubby Brown, who appears in the series, notably as the Mayor of Royston Vasey in series 2. Along with The Fast Show, the series is credited with the revival of the sketch show format in BBC comedy. Its influence can be seen on later series, particularly Little Britain (the first series of which was directed by Steve Bendelack and script-edited by Gatiss).

Filming took place mainly on location in the north Derbyshire town of Hadfield and consequently had no live audience.[3] A laugh track was added to the first and second series, by inviting a studio audience to watch a playback of the completed episodes as well as the filming of certain interior scenes, such as the Dentons'. The laughter track was dropped from the Christmas Special and series 3 when shown in the United Kingdom.

The group took the show on tour for the first time in 2001, using a mixture of old and new material. In early 2005 a special one-off sketch was broadcast on the BBC for Comic Aid, a charity benefit for the tsunami disaster. In this, two of the most popular characters, Tubbs and Papa Lazarou, kidnapped Miranda Richardson. A feature-length film, The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse, was released on 3 June 2005. Later in the same year, the League toured the UK with their new pantomime-themed show, The League of Gentlemen Are Behind You!, which ran from October to mid-December.

In September 2006, the unofficial website reported that The League of Gentlemen were to 'reunite' at the beginning of 2007, most likely to plan for the fourth series.[7] Shearsmith and Pemberton appeared on The Russell Brand Show on 22 December 2006. When asked "Will there be any more of The League of Gentlemen?", Shearsmith simply replied "Yes" but was quick to change the subject and not reveal anything about a new series. On the official website, Shearsmith's blog entry for 23 May 2007 stated that the troupe had recently met up in London's West End: "We discussed our next project – it seems we have hit upon something. Early days – but exciting nevertheless."[8]

In May 2008, Shearsmith confirmed that although he and Pemberton would be making Psychoville (broadcast in 2009) without the other members of the League, the League would reunite in the future. Despite this claim, Gatiss appears in the programme as an actor who is murdered by the characters played by Pemberton and Shearsmith.[citation needed]

A one-off radio show, The League of Gentlemen's Ghost Chase, was broadcast on 28 October 2010 for Halloween.[9] Unlike other shows, this was not a scripted dark comedy but a documentary of the members spending a night at The Ancient Ram Inn, reputedly the most haunted hotel in the country.[10]

Speaking to BBC Radio 6 in October 2016, Mark Gatiss spoke about the desire of the creators to revive the programme in some form with Brexit forming a suitable background to revive it.[11]

In April 2017, both Gatiss and Shearsmith confirmed that the programme would be returning for an anniversary special.[12] The BBC announced in August 2017 that three special new episodes were to be produced, to be aired in December 2017.[5]

Writing and inspirationEdit

It is widely believed that a lot of the characters and indeed the town are based on Pemberton's home town of Chorley, with Royston Vasey based on Adlington, a village within Chorley Borough[citation needed] . A second source of inspiration is the town of Alston in Cumbria[13] . The character of Herr Lipp is believed to be based on a hospital chaplain Steve Pemberton encountered after suffering a heart attack in Germany and Pauline is primarily based on a restart officer of Reece Shearsmith's.[citation needed] Similarly, Ollie Plimsolls is based on a community theatre actor that Shearsmith had worked with.[citation needed] In the DVD commentary on the second series, Pemberton and Shearsmith state that Papa Lazarou's speech patterns are based on their former landlord, who would phone their flat and insist on speaking only to Steve.[citation needed] Gatiss has said in interview that the local shop was inspired by a shop in the village of Rottingdean[14][15] and that he was influenced growing up around the former Winterton Hospital asylum near Sedgefield.[16]

The majority of the inhabitants of the village — male and female — are played by Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton, and Mark Gatiss, and the script was written by these three, along with Jeremy Dyson. Dyson, not an actor like the others, appears only in cameo roles. As there are usually only three actors on screen at any one time, the different characters mostly play out their own stories in several serialised sketches, rarely crossing into each other's storylines. Only rarely do actors "meet themselves". Exceptions include Papa Lazarou facing the Reverend Bernice in the Christmas Special (both Reece Shearsmith), Les McQueen buying a magazine from Pop's son (both Mark Gatiss), and Alvin Steele buying food from Iris at a supermarket checkout in Series 2 (again, both Mark Gatiss). The idea is taken further in The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse, when the characters meet the actors (especially when Herr Lipp meets his creator, Steve Pemberton). In the live shows, when Pam Doove was auditioning for a part in the Christmas Nativity Play, directed by Ollie Plimsolls, Pam had to audition in front of Ollie's Legz Akimbo colleague Dave (Pemberton), who said that Ollie couldn't make it "for obvious reasons" (Shearsmith plays both Pam and Ollie in the television series).

Royston VaseyEdit

Royston Vasey is a fictional English town featured in the BBC television comedy series The League of Gentlemen.[17] The exterior shots for the series were filmed in Hadfield, Derbyshire and, according to the writers of the series, the town is based on Alston, Cumbria.[13] The preceding radio series On the Town with the League of Gentlemen was set in the equally fictional and almost identical town of Spent.

Royston Vasey draws on the upbringing of all the League of Gentlemen's members – Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith and Jeremy Dyson – all of whom were raised in the north of England.[18] Royston Vasey is the real name of British stand-up comedian Roy Chubby Brown.[18] Brown played the part of the town's mayor in a cameo appearance. Brown is a controversial stand-up whose profanity-laden material has resulted in his never appearing on the BBC other than this brief appearance.

DescriptionEdit

The town as it appears in the TV show has a sign which ominously declares "Welcome to Royston Vasey. You'll never leave!" The first building many visitors come across is the "Local Shop". The Local Shop is located some distance from the town itself on a lonely hilltop moor.

Events from the town's fictional historyEdit

In the first television series of The League of Gentlemen a construction company called PQ Construction threatens the isolation of Royston Vasey by building a "New Road" near the Local Shop.[19] The project is first delayed when a monster (later revealed to be parts of a goat, a pig and a chimp crudely stitched together by Edward Tattsyrup) is unearthed on the construction site and comes to an end in the final episode when the owner of PQ Construction, David Tattsyrup, is revealed to be the son of Edward and Tubbs who convince him to "live locally".

In the second series Royston Vasey receives visits from both a travelling circus and a group of German exchange students. The town becomes gradually overrun by a deadly nosebleed epidemic which causes a high percentage of the town's residents to experience incessant bleeding and death, usually within 24 hours.[20] Eventually the epidemic devastates the town, with the Ministry of Health running riot in a desperate attempt to staunch the plague. The cause of the nosebleeds can be traced to a substance known only as the "Special Stuff", a highly addictive and mysterious foodstuff served by demonic butcher Hilary Briss, which becomes deadly when cut with sandwich paste. However, the surviving local residents mistakenly accuse Edward and Tubbs of spreading the disease and burn the Local Shop to the ground.

In the third and final series, several of the residents of Royston Vasey are involved in a traffic collision which leaves Lance Longthorne and Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen dead while Geoff Tipps is facially disfigured. The travelling circus also returns.

In the film The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse, the town is on the verge of destruction when the League of Gentlemen – Jeremy Dyson, Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton, and Reece Shearsmith – agree to stop writing for Royston Vasey. This causes meteorites to rain from the sky until the entire town is razed to the ground. The destruction of Royston Vasey can only be prevented when all four of the writers are killed, but it transpires that the entire ordeal was conceived by Dyson while unconscious in a hospital.

The League of Gentlemen book, A Local Book for Local People, released between the second and third series, describes Royston Vasey's history in a brochure, from its beginnings, as mentioned in an appendix to the Domesday Book as "an hutte with a pigge outside" to the construction of the town hall in the late 1930s, as designed by Albert Speer. The endpapers of the book show real maps of northern England turned upside down and with fictional place names, Royston Vasey corresponding to the real town of Settle, North Yorkshire (close by to Panties / Giggleswick).

The town's most featured landmarks include the Local Shop, an angelic war memorial, H. Briss & Son Butchers, the St Mary Of Bethlehem hospital, the Windermere B&B, and the local Job Centre.

Filming locationEdit

Filming of the television series took place in the Derbyshire village of Hadfield, located in a Pennines valley.[18] The "Local Shop" is a purpose-built building on nearby Marsden Moor.[18]

The League considered a number of filming locations before settling on Hadfield.[18] Another town to feature prominently in the series was Bacup in Rossendale, and the West Yorkshire town of Todmorden was used for some later scenes.

CharactersEdit

 
Steve Pemberton in character as Pauline Campbell-Jones

The League of Gentlemen have played in total nearly a hundred characters, many created in the early stage shows, others during the span of the television series and some especially for the team's film. Most of the characters live in Royston Vasey.

Radio seriesEdit

In the radio series, the plot involved outsider Benjamin Denton visiting his aunt and uncle in Spent to be interviewed for a job at the local power plant. Not surprisingly, he missed the interview and was forced to stay longer than expected.

EpisodesEdit

Series 1 (1999)Edit

No.TitleOriginal air date
1"Welcome to Royston Vasey"11 January 1999 (1999-01-11)
Benjamin Denton arrives in Royston Vasey to stay with his relatives: Uncle Harvey; Auntie Val; and twin cousins Chloe and Radclyffe. His friend Martin drops into Tubbs and Edward Tattsyrup's local shop; and we are introduced to pals/workmates Geoff, Brian, and Mike; and to Restart Course leader Pauline.
2"The Road to Royston Vasey"18 January 1999 (1999-01-18)
Tubbs and Edward deal with a pair of construction workers on the new road. Meanwhile, Pauline continues her brutal treatment of the unemployed; and we are introduced to Les McQueen, a former musician whose glory days are long behind him.
3"Nightmare in Royston Vasey"25 January 1999 (1999-01-25)
Mr. Chinnery tries a new method of treating an old woman's pet tortoise's anaemia, and Geoff goes to Lance's joke shop to get a treat to secure his being best man at Mike's wedding.
4"The Beast of Royston Vasey"1 February 1999 (1999-02-01)
Primary school drama group "Legz Akimbo" give a talk on homosexuality entitled "Everybody Out". Meanwhile, the zoo goes missing and the corpse of a grotesque beast is found on the moor.
5"Love Comes to Royston Vasey"8 February 1999 (1999-02-08)
While Mike and Cheryl tie the knot and Geoff gives a memorable best-man speech, Barbara places an ad in the lonely-hearts column and gets a reply from an unexpected caller. Also, Henry and Ally torment a man when watching Trois Couleurs Bleu in the cinema.
6"Escape from Royston Vasey"15 February 1999 (1999-02-15)
Tubbs and Edward find out that the construction manager for the dreaded "New Road" is their son David, who has not been "local" in the long time since he left to attend university in London. Mr. Chinnery disembowels a cow.

Series 2 (2000)Edit

No.TitleOriginal air date
7"Destination: Royston Vasey"14 January 2000 (2000-01-14)
Papa Lazarou brings his Pandemonium Carnival to Royston Vasey and finds that the locals are even stranger than he is. Pauline meets her replacement at the Job Centre and Uncle Harvey's new toad seems to have mythical powers.
8"Lust for Royston Vasey"21 January 2000 (2000-01-21)
A tour bus of German exchange students, led by Herr Lipp, arrives in Royston Vasey. Pauline and Mickey get jobs at Burger Me. Dr Chinnery attempts a little dental work on an iguana. Uncle Harvey and Auntie Val nurse Benjamin back to health.
9"A Plague on Royston Vasey"28 January 2000 (2000-01-28)
Tubbs and Edward take inventory at The Local Shop, and decide that David needs a bride. After being sacked from Burger Me, Pauline and Mickey confront Ross at the Job Centre. Hilary is outraged when Maurice brings his wife to a top secret meeting. A young couple signs a contract with Pop to live in Royston Vasey.
10"Death in Royston Vasey"4 February 2000 (2000-02-04)
Benjamin wakes up to find that it is his aunt and uncle's 'Nude Day' and they insist he joins them. A flatulent dog causes concern for Dr Chinnery; Edward and Tubbs start their trip to find David a wife.
11"Anarchy in Royston Vasey"11 February 2000 (2000-02-11)
Pauline is still holding Ross hostage at the Job Centre, but no one has noticed. Les discovers Crême Brulée have reunited without him. Tubbs and Edward have traveled to the local supermarket in search of a 'No-Tail' for David. Maurice arrives at Hilary's shop in a panic, worrying about the health inspections, while Eunice's sandwiches are suddenly a hot item.
12"Royston Vasey and the Monster from Hell"18 February 2000 (2000-02-18)
Barbara and David's big day has arrived, but Royston Vasey is in chaos from the epidemic. The police have a good idea what is causing the deadly illness, though the torch-wielding locals have errantly decided to take care of matters themselves. Meanwhile, Dr. Chinnery accidentally electrocutes a falcon, Judee discovers that Iris is her mother and Benjamin escapes the clutches of his Auntie Val and Uncle Harvey and gathers the locals to destroy the Local Shop.

Christmas Special (2000)Edit

TitleOriginal air date
"Yule Never Leave!"27 December 2000 (2000-12-27)
Bernice listens to three different disturbing tales: Charlie talks about a recurring nightmare involving Stella and a voodoo spell; a tramp talks about how he came to suspect that Herr Lipp was a vampire; Mr Chinnery recounts how his great-grandfather became infected with an ancestral curse which now affects him after an incident with monkey balls.

Series 3 (2002)Edit

No.TitleOriginal air date
13"The Lesbian and the Monkey"26 September 2002 (2002-09-26)
Ross springs Pauline from jail--provided she can find evidence to convict Mickey and get him off the Dole.
14"The One-Armed Man Is King"3 October 2002 (2002-10-03)
Lance goes to hospital in order to have a second arm grafted onto his body. He receives a woman's arm that has a life of its own.
15"Turn Again Geoff Tipps"10 October 2002 (2002-10-10)
Fired from his job, Geoff heads down to London to become a stand-up comedian. Meanwhile, Legz Akimbo practise role-playing for a play about disability.
16"The Medusa Touch"17 October 2002 (2002-10-17)
Alvin and Sunny host a small group of fellow "Sexplorers" to a trial of a new auto-erotic asphyxiation machine. While Alvin slips away to tryst with his mistress, everyone else accidentally dies.
17"Beauty and the Beast (Or, Come into My Parlour)"24 October 2002 (2002-10-24)
Charlie and Judee team up to form their own beauty parlour, but Charlie ends up performing hand-jobs for male customers and ends up falling in love with one, Tony.
18"How the Elephant Got Its Trunk"31 October 2002 (2002-10-31)
Vinnie dies trying to collect a plastic bag, so Reenie hires a new charity-shop helper, Keith Drop. When Brian tells Keith that his wife went missing when the circus came to town, it is discovered that Keith has a secret identity.

Anniversary Specials (2017)Edit

TitleOriginal air date
"Return To Royston Vasey"18 December 2017 (2017-12-18)
"Save Royston Vasey"19 December 2017 (2017-12-19)
"Royston Vasey Mon Amour"20 December 2017 (2017-12-20)

FilmEdit

The film was made in 2005. The plot is that Royston Vasey is coming to an end and that the locals appear in the real world to try to save it. In the beginning Jeremy Dyson is killed by Tubbs, Edward, and Papa Lazarou.

Live toursEdit

ReceptionEdit

In 2003, its creators were listed in The Observer as among the 50 funniest acts in British comedy. In 2004 The Radio Times listed Papa Lazarou as the 8th funniest comedy sketch of all time.

In June 2020 the show was withdrawn from distribution on Netflix due to the character Papa Lazarou being considered as blackface, following similar action taken against Little Britain by the BBC during the George Floyd protests.[21]

AccoladesEdit

InfluenceEdit

The series was cited as an inspiration for the later Canadian television series Death Comes to Town, a reunion project for the Canadian sketch comedy troupe The Kids in the Hall.[22]

BooksEdit

  • A Local Book for Local People (2000) London: 4th Estate, ISBN 1-84115-346-X
  • The League of Gentlemen: Scripts and That (2003) London: BBC Worldwide, ISBN 0-563-48775-5
  • The League of Gentlemen's Book of Precious Things (2007) London: Prion, ISBN 1-85375-621-0

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ The League of Gentlemen: Scripts and That. London: BBC Worldwide. 2003. ISBN 0-563-48775-5.
  2. ^ "The League of Gentlemen to make TV comeback, writer announces". Lancashire Post.
  3. ^ a b "BBC Comedy Map – Series 1: The West – Birmingham to Manchester". BBC Online. Retrieved 29 March 2013.
  4. ^ "Why did the League of Gentlemen choose to reform on Horrible Histories?". Radio Times.
  5. ^ a b "Patrick Holland announces range of new titles for BBC Two". BBC.
  6. ^ "'League of Gentlemen' revival and 'Alan Partridge' documentary among BBC highlights for Christmas 2017". 28 November 2017. Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  7. ^ "The League of gentlemen Web site Latest News about The League of Gentlemen by Jason Kenny www.xshot.co.uk". Leagueofgentlemen.co.uk. Retrieved 16 March 2009.
  8. ^ "Blog | This Is A Local Shop – The Official League Of Gentlemen Web site". This Is A Local Shop. Archived from the original on 19 December 2007. Retrieved 16 March 2009.
  9. ^ "BBC Radio 4 – The League of Gentlemen's Ghost Chase". BBC.
  10. ^ "Theancientraminn.com". www.theancientraminn.com.
  11. ^ Jackson, Jasper (13 October 2016). "Mark Gatiss: League of Gentlemen star hints at 'Brexity' return to TV". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  12. ^ "The League of Gentlemen is making a TV comeback".
  13. ^ a b The "League of Gentlemen" Scripts and That. BBC. 2003.
  14. ^ "You ask the questions – Profiles – People – The Independent". The Independent, London. 4 October 2000. Archived from the original on 7 March 2015. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  15. ^ Close (10 February 2001). "Interview with The League of Gentlemen | From the Guardian | The Guardian". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 16 March 2009.
  16. ^ "Renaissance gentleman". The Sunday herald. 7 November 2004. Archived from the original on 28 June 2009. Retrieved 8 April 2009.
  17. ^ "The League Of Gentlemen". BBC. Retrieved 16 April 2013.
  18. ^ a b c d e Viner, Brian (17 February 2000). "Welcome to the real Royston Vasey - You'll never leave". The Independent (UK). Retrieved 16 April 2013.
  19. ^ "The League of Gentlemen: Series 1–2. The Road To Royston Vasey". Radio Times website. Retrieved 16 April 2013.
  20. ^ Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 Through 2010. McFarland.
  21. ^ "Netflix pulls League Of Gentlemen in blackface row". Chortle. 10 June 2020. Retrieved 10 June 2020.
  22. ^ The Kids in the Hall: Death Comes to Town Archived 17 January 2010 at the Wayback Machine. twitchfilm.net, 12 January 2010.

External linksEdit