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Series / Little Britain

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"Britain, Britain, Britain. Land of technological achievement. We've had running water for over ten years, an underground tunnel that links us to Peru, and we invented the cat."

Cult British Sketch Comedy show with an array of bizarre characters. Performed by Matt Lucas and David Walliams, with narration by former Doctor Who star Tom Baker. It began life as a radio series, and the TV version ran between 2003 and 2005. There was also a two-part Christmas special in 2006. A US version was broadcast on HBO and the BBC in 2008, featuring a number of new characters along with familiar faces from the original show. During its time on air, it was supplemented by special sketches for Comic Relief. A special one-off radio edition named Little Brexit was broadcast in 2019, which featured a number of sketches based around the theme of Brexit, and a series off sketches were produced for the BBC's Big Night In.

Noted for its excessive use of the Catchphrase and various stereotypes, most of the humour comes from running gags related to each of its many quirky characters, almost all of which are played by Lucas and Walliams in varying degrees of make-up. See the character sheet for more information.

Best-known sketches:

  • Vicky Pollard, chavvy teenage mother, is visited at home by a social worker and admits that she swapped the baby for a Westlife CD. The horrified social worker exclaims "How could you do such a thing?" and Vicky says "I know. They're rubbish!"
  • Lou and Andy visit a swimming pool.
  • A man discovers that his mail-order Thai bride is in fact a "ladyboy".
  • Sebastian, in love with the Prime Minister of Britain (who is his boss), serenades him in the House of Commons with "Beautiful" by Christina Aguilera.

Features tropes galore, including:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Type A. Marjorie frequently mangles the names of people in her slimming class - Meera ("Moira", "Mary"), Dave ("Johansen") and Jenny ("Julie"). Andy has occasionally addressed Lou as "Len."
  • Actor Allusion:
    • The Narrator reminded us once that we weren't watching the real Prime Minister, but "that guy out of Buffy."
    • The Narrator also remarks once that "he had a book once. It was called "Who On Earth Is Tom Baker?""
  • Adam Westing: The Narrator occasionally hints at his true identity: "With nothing to watch but repeats on the telly of Doctor Who, Medics and that episode of Blackadder II I'm in..." The Narrator character is something of an exaggeration of Tom Baker's real-life eccentric personality (albeit as "an old fascist," according to the creators).
  • Animal Goes to School: Played with in the first series of Little Britain. As a Rule of Three gag, a school teacher tells the class that they have a new boy with them today. The first "new boy" is a grown man; the second is a boy in aristocratic period costume; and for the third, the teacher orders the class not to treat him any differently; the pupil is a dog wearing a tie. The teacher wearily adds, "Yes, he's a dog".
  • Attention Whore: Daffydd, although he wouldn't be the first to admit it. He prides himself on being the only gay man in his village and claims that he feels lonely, yet he feels threatened whenever another gay person arrives in the village and gets along with the locals better than he can. Status Quo Is God means that the new gay character won't reappear in the next sketch but one could reinterpret it as Daffydd's unpleasantness (and internalised homophobia) scaring them off. After a while it became apparent that pretty much everyone in the village is openly gay, he's just selectively oblivious.
  • Back for the Finale: All the students Linda insulted (even ones from deleted scenes) show up in the Series 3 finale.
  • Blackface: Quite a lot and often done unironically. Weirdly enough, the first series had a recurring sketch where minstrels (who are characterised as wearing a very exaggerated form of blackface), are treated like a persecuted minority by the rest of British society. The joke was most likely that they could avoid being discriminated against if they just stopped wearing blackface.
  • Bland-Name Product: The "vomiting ladies" sketches received complaints from the Women's Institute, who did not want their logo associated with a character portrayed as a right-wing bigot (and her put upon friend). From then on, the characters belonged to the fictional "Women's Association".
  • Born in the Wrong Century: The transvestites attempt to dress and act as Victorian "ladies".
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The narrator occasionally does this, the most notable moment being when he encourages upset viewers to write down the names on the credits as they play (even pointing out his own) and make obscene phonecalls to them, someone does.
  • Brick Joke: When Vicky Pollard is in court for shoplifting, the court stenographer tries desperately to keep up with her Motor Mouth way of talking. The same gag is used when Vicky and her mother appear in court in Thailand (just north of Shirtland).
  • British Brevity: Three series plus a two-part Christmas special and a USA spin-off series, 28 episodes altogether.
  • Catchphrase: By the truckload. "Yeah, but, no, but ...", "I am the only gay in the village," "But I'm a lady!", "I want that one," "What a kerfuffle!", "Computer says no", "Look into my eyes ...", "Write the feem toon, sing the feem toon ...", "Bitty", "Margaret? Margaret?"
  • Camp Gay: Dafydd Thomas is a caricature of this.
  • Christmas Episode: Though it showed all the characters in foreign locations, and made no reference to Christmas.
  • Chubby Chaser: Bubbles DeVere's ex-husband Roman is one. He apparently divorced her because she lost a lot of weight, and when she gets into fights with his current wife Desiree he's often eager to watch from the sidelines.
  • Couch Gag: The Narrator's opening and closing spiels are different in every show (and in the third season, many of the opening spiels quote rap lyrics).
  • Couldn't Find a Pen: The reason for the narrator not writing a book.
    Narrator: I'd love to write a book, but unfortunately I don't have a pen.
  • Different for Girls: Emily/Eddie Howard.
  • The Dog Bites Back: During the 2015 Comic Relief Sketch, Stephen Hawking gets fed up with two characters mistaking his disability as deafness, so he shape-shifts into a Humongous Mecha and vaporizes them.
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: In-Universe, in the Dennis Waterman sketches, whenever he wants to get a role, he wants to sing and write the theme tune of the tv program/film as well.
  • E = MC Hammer: In one episode, a class of students is asked to determine "the square root of Popeye".
  • Expy: Marjorie actually originated as one of Matt Lucas's characters on Shooting Stars - she was George Dawes's mum.
  • Extreme Doormat: Lou will give into Andy when he asks for something he doesn't like. He will then rectify the situation (most of the time) when Andy then says that he does not like what he asked as for.
  • Failed a Spot Check: In the first series, each episode ends with somebody trying to beat a world record, but every attempt fails on a small practicality.
    • When becoming the "tallest man", he is told that they're only measuring from the top of the head down; he is wearing an extremely tall hat.
    • When building the biggest house of cards, he is told (having built an enormous house of cards) that he is not allowed to use sticky tape.
    • When lying in a bath of baked beans, they only have one tin of baked beans.
    • When making the largest pie, it is too big to fit in the oven.
    • The "world's smallest ant" cannot be found.
    • Trying to eat a bowl full of eggs as quickly as possible hits a snag when the spotter hits the wrong button on his timer and erases the recorded time.
  • Fan Disservice: Bubbles gets naked everytime she's onscreen.
  • Finish Dialogue in Unison: When Vicky Pollard and Jackie Hayes have simultaneous Motor Mouth rants, they finish with "Don't listen to her because she's gone all lezzy".
  • Flipping the Table: Marjorie (Fat Fighters) does this when she finds the table laid out with really fattening food for the class participants, for an engagement party to which she is not invited.
  • Frames of Reference: Andy wears enormous thick-framed glasses, which possibly make him look even more gormless. (Lou wears more modestly-framed ones.)
  • Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?: The Sir Norman Fry MP sketches from series 3 involved the aforementioned Fry meeting a group of journalists outside his house and telling them how he "accidentally" fell into said other gentleman.
  • Have I Mentioned I Am Gay?: Dafydd will have to remind you that he's the only gay in the village. He's actually not — see Everyone Is Gay above; his village is quite literally Wales' answer to Provincetown — but don't ever tell him that. It's kind of questionable if he is gay, since he reacts with anger and disgust when men hit on him.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Lou and Andy.
  • Hidden Depths: Andy makes some very poetic statements off screen.
  • The Hilarity of Hats: Somebody tries to win the world record for the tallest man by wearing an extremely tall top hat, until he learns that they're only measuring from the top of the head down.
  • Hypocritical Humor: At one point Tom Baker says that old people who don't kill themselves are selfish. Tom Baker was 69 when the first series aired and doesn't seem to regard that as old.
  • I Have Brothers: Parodied in an Emily sketch.
  • Jerkass: Vicky, Andy, Marjorie, Sebastian and Maggie.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Bubbles DeVere is a notorious gambling addict, skips on her bills, and is often enough too eager to get to know a man without any respect for his personal space. Beyond that she's fairly easygoing and amicable around everybody else.
  • Lower-Class Lout: Vicky Pollard plays the chav stereotype for laughs.
  • Manchild: Harvey Pincher, who still insists on being breastfed ('bitty') by his mother, despite being in his twenties or thirties.
  • Minor with Fake I.D.: When Vicky Pollard tries to buy alcohol, one of her mates holds up a scrap of paper saying "Vicky is definly 18".
  • Namesake Gag: According to the narration, transvestism was invented by Dr. Neil Transvestite.
  • Narrator: Links together the otherwise unrelated skits... sort of.
  • Nice Guy: Lou, who is arguably the only truly nice character in the show.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Quite common in the 10 Downing Street sketches, with an stand-in for Tony Blair being the most prominent, stand-ins Peter Mandelson and Gordon Brown appearing a few times, and even a stand-in for John Prescott being present in the background of one episode.
    • However, this is averted with Vanessa Feltz, who plays herself, and is spat on by Marjorie Dawes.
  • No Peripheral Vision: Lou, when he goes to talk to somebody else: Andy will get out of the wheelchair to ride on a horse, or to dive into a pool from the top diving board, with Lou completely unaware.
  • Obfuscating Disability: Andy.
  • Odd Couple: Lou and Andy.
  • Only Sane Man: Judy, who is horrified whenever Maggie vomits.
  • Oppressive Immigration Enforcement: In one recurring sketch, David Walliams plays a bigoted and unpleasant immigration officer at a major airport who considers his job to be all about turning away illegal entrants into Britain.
  • Overly-Long Gag: Later Mr. Mann sketches would drag on and on with the gap between "Margaret? Margaret?" and "Yes?"
  • Planes, Trains, and Imbeciles: A recurring sketch involves a rude travel agent discussing customers' holiday options, only to process them in a program and answer "computer says no."
  • Pun: Some of the voiceovers by Tom Baker contain puns.
    In Thailand, just north of Shirtland...
  • Putting the Pee in Pool:
    • When Vicky Pollard is in a pool and is ordered by a lifeguard to go and get changed, she says she'll just have a wee first; which she does right there and then, in the pool.
    • Andy pees in a hotel swimming pool in Little Britain USA.
  • Recycled Premise: The show has been criticized for ripping off the surreal and grotesque humour found in The League of Gentlemen, of whom Lucas and Walliams are both fans and friends. That said, League of Gentlemen member Mark Gatiss served as one of the co-writers on series 1.
  • Reluctant Gift: Played with. One Running Gag is the tricky customer Mr Mann, who is unsatisfied with every item he would buy in Roy's shop, for spurious reasons such as a book having 312 pages instead of 306. When he is finally satisfied with a picture of a disappointed horse, Roy hands over the picture at the exact same moment as Mr Mann hands over the money; they tussle simultaneously, each reluctant to let go.
    Mr Mann: (As an afterthought, as he is leaving) I can't help thinking that that horse looks disillusioned rather than disappointed.
    Roy: Get out of my shop or I will strangle you.
  • Running Gag: Sometimes criticized as Overused Running Gag.
  • Selective Obliviousness: Daffydd simply refuses to acknowledge that everyone is gay in Llandewi Breffi.
  • Self-Deprecation: When Walliams and Lucas brought the show back for the BBC's Big Night In, the pair reprised their roles on the transvestite ladies, where Lucas remarks that he isn't sure if they should still be doing the sketch.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Several to classic Doctor Who - one character was named Matthew Waterhouse (after the actor who played Adric), Andy once flew into a rage when some bullies called him Davros, and, naturally, there's a reference or two in Tom Baker's narration.
    • Godzilla and Godzooky, of all things, gets one in series 3.
  • Sound-to-Screen Adaptation: Started off as a radio show before going being made for television. Some sketches, such as the authoress who has trouble having long books written began on radio that were adapted for television.
  • Special Guest:
  • Spoonerism: Occasionally used by Motor Mouth Vicky Pollard.
    He tried to nick my brand new Reebok trainers, so I well reckon I should get consenpation for that as well.
  • Stage Mum: Sandra Patterson, with her son Ralph being the child she wants to make famous at any cost.
  • Staircase Tumble: Lou takes Andy to meet a woman who is also in a wheelchair. Andy dislikes her on sight, because she is in a wheelchair. When Lou's back is turned, Andy gets out of his own chair, and pushes the woman away, so that she rolls down a long flight of steps in her chair.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Sebastian, who is infatuated with the Prime Minister.
  • Stealth Pun: Dennis Waterman's size-related gimmick may seem inexplicable until the remember the old adage: there are no small parts, only small actors - Dennis in a nutshell.
  • Stop Being Stereotypical: One Dafydd Thomas sketch involve him encountering a group of normal gays and lesbians that calls him out for being a caricature.
  • The Unintelligible: Inverted in the Fat Fighters sketches. Meera speaks perfect English with an Indian accent, despite Marjorie pretending not to understand her.
    Marjorie: Do it again?
  • Translation: "Yes": When Vicky Pollard is paralysed and only able to communicate by moving her eyes, she is connected to a machine which translates her eye movements to words. Most of her replies are her usual motor mouth gibberish, but one long sequence of eye movements translates to a simple "no".
  • Transvestite: Emily Howard and her friend Florence, who are men who dress as ladies.
  • Unsatisfiable Customer:
  • The Voice: Margaret, in the Mr Mann sketches. She is never seen, only heard.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Maggie, the conservative old woman who vomits whenever she finds out the food she ate was made by someone not white, British, straight or just different in general — much to the horror of her friend, Judy.
  • Younger Than They Look: One sketch involves an elderly grandmother discussing with her grandson all the drugs she used to do back in the day, citing "we didn't know it was bad for you!" She's 28 years old.
  • Your Size May Vary: Dennis Waterman is small. How small depends entirely on Rule of Funny and what props the production team has at hand.