Small Town Psychos,
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This review is from: The League of Gentlemen - Series 1 [DVD]  (DVD)
Anyone who comes from a small town, be it Northern or otherwise, will recognise some of the characters and their attitudes- such as snub-nosed Edward and Tubbs, owners of the local shop (for local people), who mistrust any outsiders. These are probably the darkest characters in this series (Papa Lazarou doesn't appear until Series 2) and yet they're strangely endearing, even if they are darkly psychotic.
The League of Gentlemen is a mix between a sketch show and a comedy series. All the characters live in the fictional town of Royston Vasey, storylines (of sorts) develop, and the characters often interconnect- but quite naturally so. This series has a humorously undramatic storyline- though it is very dramatic for the characters. A new road is being built, meaning that outsiders can travel to Royston Vasey and undo their community. The sense of a community, however bizarre, is something that other comedy shows have lacked. For all its darkness and grotesqueness (such as the Aunt and Uncle who trap their nephew in their insanely immaculate house and are obsessed with bodily functions such as masturbation), there's a degree of heart here that makes the show very watchable.
There's many great characters, one of my favourites being Job Centre worker Pauline and her 'dole scum'. Little Britain pinched this set-up of supposed supporter belittling and humiliating her charges to create Weight Watcher Marjorie (who is admittedly terribly funny).
The League of Gentlemen is also the name of the comedy troupe behind the show: Jeremy Dyson (who doesn't actually appear on screen), Steve Pemberton, Mark Gatiss and Reece Shearsmith (the latter three play all the main characters). I do enjoy some drag and there is plenty of drag here, whether it's the obvious drag of Barbara (Steve Pemberton), the taxi driver who loves to talk about her forthcoming sex operation and the procedure that this entails, or rich woman Judee Levinson (Reece Shearsmith, looking strangely comfortable in drag).
The show has good re-watch value and although you can YouTube the classic bits (as I do with The Fast Show to filter out the boring stuff), it works quite nicely watching the episodes as they are. Bear in mind that the series get progressively darker; this is the most 'accessible'.
Welcome to Royston Vasey- you'll never want to leave!
EDIT: It has brillant re-watch value. On the second watch you appreciate the tragic aspects. There's many moments in which the laughter track is completely silent because the pathos isn't simply played for laughs. Sketches such as Tubbs and Edward's marriage are dangerously close to drama, as over the course of this series we see Tubbs' optimism and her conflicted desire to explore the outside world. I can't think of any other comedy series that achieves this emotional level.