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Shell [DVD]
Shell [DVD]
Dvd ~ Joseph Mawle
Offered by vivaverve
Price: £4.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Low times in the Highlands, 5 Aug. 2014
This review is from: Shell [DVD] (DVD)
I found this as a late night curio on Film 4.

It's an intriguing film: Pete (Joseph Mawle) and his teenage daughter Shell (Chloe Pirrie) run a remote petrol station in the Highlands. With an absent mother, Shell is devoted to her epileptic father; though she does not have the same need to cocoon herself as her father does. Shell chats to the few people (mostly men) who stop by but shuns their attempts at friendship. Her only physical intimacy is with her father and it takes an increasingly incestuous tone.

It reminds me of a Dogme film in the amount of silence and emphasis on human behaviours and interactions rather than plot. It conjures up the sensation of isolation and Mawle and Pirrie both convey the idea that Pete and Shell are shells, existing rather than living. The incest theme is dealt with touchingly and without sensationalism; it's a product of their loneliness and emotional isolation. The daughter encourages it and the father rightly discourages it, which is a refreshing change as the abuse would be intolerable.

However, the film is hard work. There's no sense of humour at all and the dialogue is sparse. Scott Graham is unfortunately a much better director than writer; he aims for hyper realism but occasionally falls prey to clunky lines such as "Cold hands. Warm heart". Maybe this is because the characters cannot express themselves but to me it seems that Graham makes the actors and landscape do all the work. It seems like a thin tale that would be much more effective as an hour-long TV drama and the ending feels trite.

Ultimately, if you like this type of film, you'll find that Shell meets your expectations but it's more like an interesting blueprint than a fully-fledged film.


Camelot
Camelot
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £8.13

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Camelot, 4 Aug. 2014
This review is from: Camelot (Audio CD)
This was JFK's favourite musical but this association has worked against both JFK and the musical.

Though it's not as good as My Fair Lady (well, few musicals are), it's a lot of fun. Beating Monty Python to the punch, it lightly mocks Arthurian legend and types. Julie Andrews as Genevieve is a narcissistic flirt who yet remains loveable (after all, it's Julie Andrews). In 'The Simple Joys of Maidenhood', she wonders why men aren't fawning over her; trills longily for springtime hanky-panky in 'The Lusty Month of May' and has three knights willing to fight super-knight Lancelot in order to go to various social functions with her in 'Then You May Take Me To The Fair'. Who would have thought she'd be so naughty? We also get the immortal line, "Whence this fragrance wafting through the air?.

The song Camelot is best known for is 'If Ever I Would Leave You', a gorgeous ballad sung gorgeously by Robert Goulet as dashing Frenchman Lancelot. Much humour is made of his being French (as if the French weren't mocked enough in Gigi!) by other characters and in the song 'C'est Moi', Lancelot's ode to himself and his chivalry. Why Genevieve would go for such an obvious tosser is beyond us, although he does sing that lovely song. As with many heroines, she is dazzled by armour and amour.

Lastly we have Richard Burton playing against type as a man who's scared of women. He dreads his honeymoon in 'I Wonder What The King is Doing Tonight'- a recitative straight from My Fair Lady or Gigi. Actually, Burton has a surprisingly gentle singing voice, as shown in 'How To Handle A Woman'.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 3, 2015 8:18 PM GMT


Betty Blue Eyes
Betty Blue Eyes
Price: £13.38

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Betty Cute Eyes, 30 July 2014
This review is from: Betty Blue Eyes (Audio CD)
I didn't see the show so can't say whether the book was to blame for the show closing. My inkling is that it's a show that will work better with a regional tour. The story of a chiropodist (Reece Shearsmith) and his wife (Sarah Lancashire) in a small post-war Yorkshire town still under rationing who steals a pig doesn't exactly sound like one for the Londoners. It's decidedly silly and unsophisticated, which probably put people off spending top-whack prices, and isn't based on something well-known (it's based on an Alan Bennett film called A Private Function). Others have mentioned that the name is a bit cringy, which I don't think helped. It's not so much a question of the musical's worth but that new shows simply cannot compete with jukebox musicals, 'the old favourites' and the mega Broadway imports.

What struck me listening to the soundtrack is that it's very catchy. Composers George Stiles and Anthony Drewe have a knack for this; I saw an amateur performance of their musical version of Peter Pan, which was awfully cheesy and yet really good fun. It also has a warm innocent charm that comes through very strongly; I guess you could call it 'feel good'.

The best tracks are:
- Magic Fingers: possibly a little innuendo here but genuinely touching, as three women sing about how they miss their husbands, who have either been killed or severely injured in the war. It shows that the show isn't completely about broad humour.
- Nobody: the chiropodist's wife's big brassy number. Apparantly Liza Minelli's now doing it in her set and it's a very Liza/Streisand diva song.
- Betty Blue Eyes: the song that you come out singing. Cute and ridiculous- even more so when you YouTube the creepy anamatronic pig that played Betty.
- Lionheart: nice bit of period music here and again, really cute.
- Another Little Victory: jolly little small town feel to this one. Plus, sounds of the pig pooping!

Sarah Lancashire is suitably feisty, with Northern grit and rolled up sleeves, and Reece Shearsmith (one of The League of Gentlemen) is adorable. Best known for playing Papa Lazarou and Edward in TLOG but he also played sweet innocent characters like Benjamin (housebound nephew of hygeine and toad-obsessed Dentons) and Ross (one of Pauline's 'dole scum'). It's lovely to hear Lancashire and Shearsmith's accents come through in the song, as these are very much characters songs. They may not be Elaine Page and Michael Ball but the show requires people who sound suitably ordinary.

It may not be hard-hitting satire but its lack of intellectualism makes it refreshing and very accessible. Personally I love the tweeness but then, I live in a small rural town; towns which tend not to have changed much from the post-war era. I don't think London audiences could really appreciate this or identify with it.

I would definitely recommend a listen of this- maybe quickly Wikipedia it first for the story but it's not as complex as something like Grand Hotel. You can happily follow it along with a basic knowledge of the story.


House Of Cards - Season 1 (DVD + UV Copy)
House Of Cards - Season 1 (DVD + UV Copy)
Dvd ~ Kevin Spacey
Price: £4.99

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars As flimsy as a playing card, 23 July 2014
House of Cards is the equivilent of the prestige pictures that Hollywood used to make: worthy, pseudo-intellectual stuff so that the studios would be respected. Generally it was an adaptation of another art form- classic novels, for example. Here, it is a version of a lauded BBC programme.

Actually, I thought it sounded good. The premise of House of Cards- Machiavellan politician ruthless in his pursuit of the big prize- would translate well into an American setting. The setting and new time period (the original was in 1990) make it sufficiently different from the UK version, so no danger of treading on any toes.

The character types are the same: we have the master of manipulation, his Lady Macbeth wife, a coke-addled politician and a fame-hungry young journo. Let's break it down:

- Frank Underwood:
Kevin Spacey adopts a Southern drawl to play the role. It's deliciously hammy, like a Tennessee Williams character. The other characters are completely humourless; one of the show's major drawbacks. At least there's a degree of humour in Frank and the show even dares to mock him. Like many modern day politicians, Frank loves a meaningless buzz phrase and successfully spreads it across the news. Unfortunately a woeful bit of wordplay he improvises in a TV interview goes viral.

He doesn't go far enough in his Machiavelli tactics though; it's nothing we haven't seen before (apart from some dog strangling in the first scene). It's a feeling that recurrently crops up; the sense that House of Cards isn't really anything new (leaving out the fact that it's a version of an older show).

- Claire Underwood:
Robin Wright is the show's awards bait. Claire is a steely ruthless woman who can play the perfect servient wife to Frank and yet have control over him. Claire and Frank's relationship is based on the Macbeths; they are two-of-a-kind soulmates. If they weren't husband and wife, they might be brother and sister. Of course, we've had wives supporting evil husbands before but the characters' devotion to each other adds a softness to the show. It will be a hard fight for ex-lover, sensitive artist Adam Galloway (Ben Daniels) to get Claire into bed.

- Peter Russo:
Corey Stott plays a boring 'likeable' politician, who's just lured by the pleasures of drugs and sex. He has some cute kids so we feel a bit sorry for him but really, why we're meant to be interested in his hypocritical do-gooderness is beyond me. The whole point of House of Cards is that evil and power are not condemned but secretly admired. By having a character like Russo (played competently enough by Stott), the show comes across as wishy-washy.

- Zoe Barnes:
Kate Mara plays an eager little journo who looks like a high school reporter, despite being in her twenties. Zoe knows that Twitter and blogging are the future but her crusty old boss dismisses them as a fad. It's unclear why a major newspaper in 2013 would act as if Twitter and blogging had only just sprung up, though it is at least an interesting fight. Zoe (Mattie in the original) was the most obvious candidate for modernising. Like Mattie, Zoe wants all the goss- a look behind closed doors. So naturally she ambles up to Frank and offers her services- in every way. The writers seriously fumble her character, attempting to make her sassy but really making her irritating. It makes no sense why she would choose to bed Frank seeing as he's already agreed to the professional deal. Spacey just doesn't exude power in the way that Ian Richardson does in the original.

Now let's go into the inevitable "Why the original is better" argument:

Whilst Spacey has a degree of charisma, Richardson drips with it. It's obvious why people would kow-tow to him but not so obvious how Spacey is able to play people so easily. The show is also afraid to make Frank completely despicable, so we get a soppy episode devoted to his college years. Evil is seductive; we all love a fictional villain. The audience's inner conflict between being seduced and repelled by evil is what made the original House of Cards stand out. No such conflict here.

The relationship between Frank and Zoe falls flat. The writers don't give a plausible reason as to why she would start a sexual relationship with Frank, who looks like he could take her or leave her. We're left to deduce that it's just a TV cliche. No offence to Richardson, but what made the Mattie/Francis relationship work was that sexual lure was the one card Francis couldn't play. True, he had power but he looked like an old man. Mattie floors him by revealing her fetishistic desire for him. Whilst Spacey is no hunk, you get the sense that he could still play the sexual attraction card.

Zoe as a character is too weak. She has no power over him beyond the potential to find dirt by being so close to him. Zoe is also completely unaware of her brattish naievity, whereas Mattie was only too aware of it.

The US House of Cards isn't terrible but it has stretches of dullness, particularly in the politics- though maybe it's more entertaining for a US audience. Hopefully Season 2 will patch things up.


Stephen Ward (Original Cast Recording)
Stephen Ward (Original Cast Recording)
Offered by positivenoise
Price: £9.98

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite a 'Stephen Bored', 14 July 2014
My problem with the title still remains: Stephen Ward is not the title of a musical. It relies on a decent knowledge of the Profumo affair- i.e. knowledge beyond the fact that there was probably someone called Profumo involved. If you're going to use a name, it better have an obvious resonance. There was a musical about the Profumo affair in 2007 actually, called A Model Girl- a much better title.

The second problem- that young audiences won't be familiar with the material- is not necessarily a problem. After all, how many people watching Evita are au fait with South American politics?. The fact that it was the fiftieth anniversary of the events meant that Stephen Ward's trial might pop up in the papers, and therefore people who were around at the time have a reason to remember it. And yes, the parallels with modern celebrity and the culture of scapegoating makes the show relevant; although ALW banks a little too much on this parallel.

For example, we get lots of songs showing the music of the time. The sixties' pastiches are very enjoyable- songs like 'Super Duper Hula Hooper' and 'Black-Hearted Woman'. ALW's strength has always been in creating a popular sound and as the sixties were his teenage years, he should know about the 'sound of the sixties'. Then we get songs showing the culture of the time: Cold War fears in 'Mother Russia, While We Can' and swinging orgies in 'You've Never Had It So Good'. The latter is a kinky version of Ascot Gavotte, with the assumption that Fifty Shades of Grey has whetted our appetites for such things. It is funny but not as witty as it could be; more of the simple Carry On type humour. Then we have police interviews, press interviews and the trial- all sung of course.

You might well wonder where the characters are. We've had a whole Who's-Who of them in the song 'Manipulation', which has a very clumsy conceit where Christine Keeler doesn't recognise the name Harold Macmillan, so of course Stephen has to remind her that he's the Prime Minister! To be fair, the song is entertaining and makes a nice introduction into a world where all the real political decisions are made between the sheets. However, these type of scene-setting songs make up the bulk of Stephen Ward. As another reviewer has said, there's also a touch of pastoralism in the songs that are essentially dialogue sung to music (You're So Very Clever To Have Found This). It's strongly reminiscent of Aspects of Love; you half expect to hear Michael Ball.

The opening number, Human Sacrifice, has elements of a character song but Stephen (sung by Alexander Hanson) is also the narrator so it's a story introduction maninly. We now know the figure and mystery of Stephen Ward the historical figure but not what he's like as a character- what makes him tick. The summary we get from this song is he's just a nice bloke who likes to play the field but there's no real indication as to what drives him to this orgy lifestyle. Stephen also has no love interest, as in real life Christine Keeler had a strictly platonic relationship with him. ALW knows how to write a nice love song but he doesn't get enough chances here.

Another song, 1963, works well on both sound and character as teenage call girls Christine Keeler (Charlotte Spencer) and Mandy Rice Davies (Charlotte Blackridge) sing of their hopes and dreams of fame and celebrity.


Heathcliff (Starring Cliff Richard) [DVD]
Heathcliff (Starring Cliff Richard) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Cliff Richard

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hilariously Awful, 11 July 2014
Emily Bronte's novel Wuthering Heights is a classic bit of Gothic romance, where love is synonymous with death and violence. Why it would be of particular appeal to Cliff Richard is beyond me- although to be fair to him, he uses Bronte's words a lot. It's not Cliff's attempt at trashing the novel but it's simply a simplistic and unenlightening attempt to musicalise Wuthering Heights.

The novel's tone lends itself more to opera than pop-rock. The score is awfully cheesy apart from one great song, Be With Me Always. Instead of the songs adding dramatic weight, they're just songs plonked clumsily into the story. There is some laughable staging as well; Heathcliff and Isabella are at their wedding doing their vows as Heathcliff turns around every so often to sing "I Do Not Love You Isabella"!

Director Terence Bully is abysmal. You could find a better director at your local am-dram group! Cliff Richard's performance is hammy rather than intense and it was a bad idea to make Cliff attempt a Yorkshire accent. One of my favourite accents completely butchered! To be fair to Cliff though, he is surrounded by limp actors, with no-one bringing any sense of drama or human emotion to their roles. This is in a novel where everyone is wildly emotional; a tough concept for any actor to convey without being humorous, let alone these third-raters! Obviously Cliff wanted to shine out with his performance but instead the third-raters emphasise his inadequacy.

Underneath the artists' incapabilities- even the set looks shoddy and amateurish- there is the problem with the story. It has been distilled to the first generation of characters, as per usual, but the song that opens the show 'Misunderstood Man' implies that the musical is going to add a new take.


Psychoville: Series 1 [DVD][2009]
Psychoville: Series 1 [DVD][2009]
Dvd ~ Reece Shearsmith
Offered by Assai-uk
Price: £6.48

3.0 out of 5 stars Maybe two and a half. It's a bit...scattered, 7 July 2014
I wouldn't watch Psychoville too close to a rewatch of The League of Gentlemen; the character of Mr Jelly here is blantantly Geoff Version 2, with the same voice and characterisation. Also, it takes adjusting to that writers Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton multi-role only some of the characters; which considering that the characters all meet up at the end makes sense. Still, that was a major part of why The League of Gentlemen was so good.

The plot doesn't really stand up for the first two episodes; too uncompelling. It's the standard set-up of five people receiving mysterious letters saying "I know what you did" and then "You killed her". It's such a cliche that you might be tempted to switch off after Episode Two, if not before. The thin plot is really just an excuse to have a bunch of odd characters involved in spooky/comic goings-on but you can't afford to be careless with plot when your show has the set-up of a thriller, comedy or not.

We have a cast of freaks of course: a midwife (Dawn French) who insists that her doll is a real baby; a millionaire (Steve Pemberton) with an obsession for collecting Beanie Babies; Mr Jelly (Reece Shearsmith), a clown who is bitter about being mixed up with nemesis clown Mr Jolly; a telekinetic pantomime dwarf (Jason Tompkins) in love with the actress Snow White; and mother-and-son murdering duo Maureen (Reece Shearsmith) and David Sowerbutts (Steve Pemberton). But simply making everything a bit weird and freaky does not constitute good writing. If I make up a character who has Babybels for eyes and drools jam, that's imaginative and freaky but it doesn't make it good. TLOG (yep I abbreviated it because it may crop up once or twice in this review) was at its worst when the characters were so freaky that they bore no resemblance to people (such as the doctor obsessed with party games).

For the most part, the actors are suffocated by the artifice, remaining cartoons. Shearsmith and Pemberton are still very funny and 'become' the different characters far more than other sketch-show comedians have done. But their knack for playing normal people made monstrous and for playing women as women rather than men in drag is not on display here, with just one drag role. It's hilarious but underplays their acting talents. Maybe this is out of courtesy to the other actors but surely the onus is on the other actors to make themselves shine out. Saying that though, Dawn French does a good job: she is darkly comic and feels like a plausible person- albeit with surreal elements. There is also a strangely endearing bond between David and Maureen, that's both comic, cringy and downright creepy (Episode 1 implies an incestuous dynamic). They also get to be in my favourite episode, number 4: a homage/parody of Rope, guest-starring Mark Gatiss (yay, the trio of performing League members complete). It's well-written, blackly comic; how a comedy horror/thriller should be done. It has a focus lacking in the rest of the series.

The problem with writing a comedy-horror-thriller is that the comedy is lying in wait to undermine the suspense. There's always the chance that plot and logic will go out of the window because hey, it's funny. Like the ending of Crossroads. I feel that this problem plagues the first three episodes; it's only after Episode 4 that the horror and creepiness comes through. Contrary to other viewers, I don't think the show is dark enough at the beginning; I've seen darker things on CBBC; an influence that permeates the show. Every character has some link with childhood, whether it's toys, entertainment, or a mother-son bond. Of course perverting childhood touchstones is a staple of horror and dark writing, but Shearsmith and Pemberton don't go that far. It's frustrating because black comedy is all about straddling that line between what is 'acceptable' and what is 'too far'. We do have some serial killer song-and-dances but we get that sort of thing in Horrible Histories. It's a far cry from TLOG, which pretty much lived on that line.

I know I sound like one of those boring old fans who'd prefer them to churn out the same things ad nauseum, as if Shearsmith and Pemberton are somehow obliged to replicate past successes and try to fill in the missing half of The League (and I'd love to see them collaborate on something as a twosome). But apart from being very obviously a comedy horror rather than a comedy with horrific aspects- and I don't deny that there is some hilarious stuff towards the end- Psychoville doesn't uncover any new strengths.

EDIT: I gave the show three stars rather than two because the second half of the show does what the first half should have done and with the benefit of a DVD, you can simply skip episodes one and two. Also, the show was always going to suffer by comparison to TLOG; it would be a lot more fun for people coming in completely fresh.


The League of Gentlemen -- Christmas Special [DVD] [1999]
The League of Gentlemen -- Christmas Special [DVD] [1999]
Dvd ~ Mark Gatiss
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.30

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Silent Night, Sleepless Night, 5 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
For those expecting a nice light Christmas Special to watch before you go to bed on Christmas Eve...try elsewhere. Not that there isn't humour here but it's dark, very dark- in particular the ending. It was the Christmas Special that shifted the comedy towards something much darker and bleaker, without any catchphrases to comfort you (well, apart from two catchphrases that would send shivers down anyone's spine).

Irreverent Reverend Bernice suffers yet another miserable Christmas; Christmas being a time associated with an awful event from her past. She is visited by three characters, each with their own story: Charlie suspects Stella of meeting with a sinister group of ladies who dabble in voodoo; an elderly man tells of his time as a foreign exchange student visiting Duisburg and encountering Herr Lipp, who may well be a vampire; and finally Dr Chinnery tells of how his family line has become cursed.

The Christmas Special is a portmanteau film (well, a double-length episode to be precise); basically three separate stories within a larger story. Series 3, if watched in one sitting, has a similar effect. The style does work well as it gives structure, although many would probably have been happy enough with a run of sketches with a Christmassy theme, seeing as we all switch our brains off around that time of year. The plus point of doing it this way though is that the special doubles nicely as a Halloween special, as it is the most overtly horror-inspired.

I'm not a big fan of horror so I can't pick out the various allusions in the way that others would be able to. However this doesn't impair the enjoyment; it merely makes things creepily uncomfortable. The first story is the least 'scary' but the most 'funny', as Stella is at her bitchiest and most emasculating. There is of course an underlying sadness in Charlie and Stella's marriage which makes them compelling characters; recognisable in a more sombre sense. It's the perfect blend of League pathos with comedy, pushing their grotesquerie ever closer to something quite bleak.

The second story is full-out black comedy but those with a sensitive disposition might want to check out at this point. Herr Lipp is at his most malapropic- unless the Fruedian slips are intentional of course. Whilst he is a sinister character, his feebleness makes him 'safe', and Matthew, the 'boy' he is persuing, is Reece Shearsmith in a blond wig. The moment where he watches Matthew undress through a peep hole is grusomely funny and yet also quite sad. This story is full of brilliantly quotable lines and a moment akin to Uncle Monty paying 'I' a night visit in Withnail and I. Hilarious.

The third story is a spoof of Victorian horror tales and is refreshingly unbleak in an episode that's bleaker than a desolate snowy landscape.

The ending is horrific, complicating the League's genre even more. Is it a comic horror or a horrific comedy? The continuity is kept in Series 3, strengthening my view that The League of Gentlemen developed and evolved in a way that no other comedy series has or will.


The League Of Gentlemen - Series 3 (2002) [DVD]
The League Of Gentlemen - Series 3 (2002) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Mark Gatiss
Offered by A ENTERTAINMENT
Price: £3.66

4.0 out of 5 stars A not unpleasant surprise, 3 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Perhaps Series 3 might have fared better if it was under a different name. People expected the laugh-out-loud humour of the crazy local folk that we got in Series 1 and 2, whereas Series 3 is a separate beast- more like a dark comedy drama than a sitcom/sketch show.

There are six episodes, each focusing on one character- or one 'set'. By far the worst of the episodes is the second one, centred around Lance The Joke Shop Man trying to find an extra limb. It's not funny or moving. Oddly enough, half of the episodes are love stories and sentimentality is frequent; there must have been something in the water. Yes, Series 3 is pretty dark- if people dying in an autoerotic asphyxiation game doesn't raise a wry smile then you'd do well to stay clear, as 'perversion' is the dish of the day. The end of Series 2 didn't feel right, with the 'normal' triumphing over the bizarre or unconventional- whereas the underlying theme of the show was about celebrating the unconventional.

Maybe the distance of ten years makes me give it four stars; I can certainly see why people might have been disappointed. But it is tightly made and well-constructed and in the light of what Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton would write subsequently, it makes perfect sense. The League were clearly at a crossroads; in the commentary for Episode 1 Jeremy Dyson says that Shearsmith and Pemberton were responsible for that episode and he and Mark Gatiss wrote Episode 2. I don't know how the writing mix worked for the previous series but if we're to take Episode 1 as being Shearsmith and Pemberton's 'style', that style dominates. Again, this is why Series 3 might have worked better as a new show.

Saying that though, unlike other shows, there's a lot of character pay-off here. The twisted power struggle between Pauline and Ross pays off in an episode that feels like a play in its focus on character interaction. Alvin and Sunny, two characters which don't work in Series 2, actually have a good story, with Alvin having a Brief Encounter-type romance with a woman at the local garden centre. The odd thing about The League of Gentlemen is that the drag is not really referenced; we see the characters rather than a man in a dress (apart from cab driver Barbara of course). All three men, maybe Shearsmith in particular, are eerily accurate in their portrayal of the female characters. The fact that there are three love stories means that the kinkiness of the drag is up to the max. Sexuality, gender and well, everything, is completely fluid; fascinating to some viewers but perhaps too unsettling for others (saying that though, the series' most loved characters are a pair of murderous inbred shopkeepers- hardly lightness and sunshine).

The 'local' feel is missing, with less emphasis on Royston Vasey and 'Northerness', but there is an amusing nod to this in the third episode, where Geoff ventures to London and finds himself a little lost. I do miss that but then we have two series which to savour localness.

Series 3 is an optional adventure but if you loved the pathos, darkness and gender-bending, I recommend this. And to be fair, you get some good 'jokes' as well, such as the man rehearsing his funeral.

The Product:
Two discs again but there's more special features, including an interesting thirty-minute featurette that looks at the writing process, plus the usual commentaries and deleted scenes. The commentaries are a little chaotic but there is unintentional humour in Shearsmith thinking that the audience won't get a joke or won't be able to read a bit of writing. Also, Jeremy Dyson is quite chatty.


League of Gentlemen Series 2 (2 disc set) [DVD] [1999]
League of Gentlemen Series 2 (2 disc set) [DVD] [1999]
Dvd ~ Steve Pemberton
Offered by DVDBayFBA
Price: £3.97

4.0 out of 5 stars The saga continues..., 2 July 2014
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In Series 2, we see The League become much darker. There is still a laughter track but the laughs are sporadic. This does have the effect of making the show seem less 'funny' whereas it is wickedly funny- albeit darkly so. People seem surprised at why Series 3 changes in tone but the seeds are all here, as well as character development.

Because character has always been The League's strong point, the existing character sketches are even more enjoyable, as we 'know' the characters. The Dentons gaslight Benjamin, the tension between Pauline and Ross is stronger than ever, and Edward and Tubbs are on the hunt for a bride for their son David. The most notable of the new characters is Papa Lazarou, who brings his travelling circus and kidnaps local women- "You're my wife now!". By sparingly using him, the League make him a shadowy figure so he remains dark. Tubbs and Edward, formerly the darkest characters, are now strangely endearing, even if their inbred status is confirmed. Another new character who features heavily in the Christmas Special is frustrated 'Queen of Dreisburg' Herr Lipp, whose mangled English results in accidental innuendo- or really Freudian slips. Like many of the League's characters, he has a great deal of pathos- even though he preys on teenage boys. The fact that he is a pathetic predator (similar to Uncle Monty in Withnail and I) means that his character is darkly funny and we are all right to laugh (even if we feel a little guilty afterwards).

There are more characters in this series and so it doesn't feel as tight as the first series does. However the amount of characters does contribute to the claustrophobic feel of Royston Vasey, which is ever freakier. The ongoing 'storyline' this series is the nosebleed epidemic spreading throughout Royston Vasey; a lot surrealer than the building of the New Road in Series 1.

Even if the inhabitants of Royston Vasey are allergic to change, change works for Series 2. With other comedy shows, it is simply about which series has better jokes; either Series 2 trumps Series 1 or Series 2 feels repetitive. Because The League of Gentlemen is a different breed of show, even if some jokes fall a bit flat (Alvin and Sunny's kinky B and B for example, which lacks the identifiable quality of the other characters- too off-the-wall), the characters triumph.

The Product:
It's a 2-disc set this time, with all six episodes on the first disc and all the extras on the second disc. As there are the same type of extras as Series 1 (character biographies, commentaries, deleted scenes and a photo gallery), it does seem a bit redundant. Even a bit irritating if you are a lazy-bones like me.

There's a sing-a-long version of Voodoo Lady and The Denton's Cleaning Song, plus deleted scenes. I haven't looked at these yet but Series 1 deleted scenes were presented nicely, with little introductions giving the reasons as to why the scene was cut, where it fits in and any little things to look out for. I imagine Series 2 is much of the same. As with Series 1, the special features (or Special Stuff) all have odd names. The commentaries are 'Local Gossip' for example; I've only watched episode 3 with commentary but they're interesting and light-hearted, unlike the Fawlty Towers commentary where John Cleese nitpicks and doubts almost every joke. It's nice to have the whole League (including writer Jeremy Dyson) on every episode but they sometimes talk over each other. For me, DVD commentary works best with one or two people, and as The League wrote in pairs (Mark and Jeremy, Reece and Steve), it would have been fun to mix it up a little.

Anyhow, most BBC series get barely any extras so feel grateful to have such a generous amount.


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