I know ‘The League of Gentlemen’ is hardly a recent television show to review, but for me is it a rather recent discovery. I was too young to watch it when it was first broadcast; I wasn’t a babe in arms but I wasn’t quite a teenager either, even though I was probably more mature then than I am now. Over the years though, I’ve been appreciating the various works of the writers since, and decided that watching the show was something that finally needed to be done.
But this is not just me filling in a day on my blog, by going other a TV show that has been available for years to view. The main reason I can’t help but review the show is because it is one of the few things I’ve found that will make me laugh. This is great praise for a comedy I know and I will accept comments from people who are now wondering whether I’ve gone a bit daft. ‘Of course comedy is going to make you laugh’, and cue eye-rolling from my readers.
Let me explain; I find laughing out loud to be something I mainly do as part of a group activity. Deep belly laughing and setting off my asthma is something I only do with other people (and not just for the obvious safety reasons in that admission). When I’m on my own though and watching comedy I don’t laugh. I appreciate what I’m watching, but few things make me chuckle while I’m on my own.
I’m weird what can I say.
When I watch ‘The League of Gentlemen’ alone though I do laugh, perhaps not quite as loudly as when I watch it with others but there is an actual external acknowledgement that my sense of humour has been tickled. It’s gets under my skin. I will never hear the word ‘Local’ in the same way again, and from now on I will always have a silent chuckle with myself when they turn the lights out on a cave tour. I’m quite serious in my praise for ‘The League of Gentlemen’ because it does have the rare effect of making me laugh with myself.
It is a brilliant British cult classic that gets at the very heart of the type of black comedy that I find very funny. The show twists quite normal situations to dark extremes, with a delightful mix of black humour and horror. It has well thought out characters and great writing (especially the plotting of series three). The slant of Northern English context is even relatable (as a proud Northerner myself), and sometimes painfully accurate.
It is also everything that I want from a comedy.
I want a situation to be subtly and satirically twisted; blatant stereotyping and a generic laugh track, common to many popular sitcoms, will just make me switch off. Yes, this show has a laugh track, but isn’t a cue for me to laugh because I’m supposed to find this highlighted moment funny; the laughing is there because it is actually funny.
If the comedy is physical then it needs to be simple or slightly farcical, like Peter Sellers peering around a corner and spilling milk. Unnecessary slapstick will just make me roll my eyes. While the more grotesque elements of the show have an element of slapstick, the sublime acting from Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith, and in particular from Mark Gatiss, shows how using subtle body language to twist the already satirical dialogue, a larger than life characters can be created for comic effect without resorting to cheap tricks. Fine it isn’t verbose to the same extent as the likes of Sir Humphrey, but the writing is on point, which works marvellously with the talent of the cast.
It is just fantastic and I’m very glad to add it to the list of reasons why I admire the creators of the show.