on 21 June 2008
If you're considering buying this, I'll just presume you already know what the show is all about (the weirdness of northern England fictitious town Royston Vasey citizenry as written and portrayed by the four gentlemen of the League). All you really need to know is that this box set is, to me, the epitome of how DVDs should be!
This box includes EVERY episode of the 3 series of the show, plus the fabulously constructed stories-within-a-frame Christmas special. EVERY SINGLE SHOW has commentary by all four members of the League, including rarely-seen Jeremy Dyson.
Each season, as well as the Christmas show, comes absolutely loaded with extras: deleted and extended scenes, behind the scenes featurettes, town member profiles, stills galleries, special effects footage and on and on.
If you enjoy this show, this is the best way to get it: all in one big chunk (save the movie and other bits and bobs) and piled on with additional goodies. If you don't like this show, well, you're clearly NOT local...and there's nothing for you here.
It's most probably the case that if, like me, you're a huge fan of The League Of Gentlemen then you've got everything that's in this box-set already when it came out first time around. So I think that this collection of the 1st, 2nd & 3rd series along with the Christmas Special is for the people who perhaps have never really got into The League & are now becoming curious to see what all the fuss is about. So welcome to the wierd & wonderful world of Royston Vasey - You'll Never Leave!
This show is one of the most original, innovative, intelligent, dark, scary & damn right hilarious televison programmes ever produced. Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton, Mark Gatiss & Jeremy Dyson have created a whole world for which their characters belong to.
If you watch this set in its correct order then you will notice how better it gets with each installment.
The 1st & 2nd series essentialy turn the whole idea of the sketch-show on its head & feels more like a surreal soap-opera than a series of repetitive & meaningless sketches. The characters are imaginative & often grotesque yet you love them all instantly. There's Tubbs & Edward who run the "Local Shop for Local people" & kill any strangers that enter, there's demon butcher Hilary Briss who's sideline in 'Special Stuff' has grave consequences for the town & then there's Papa Lazarou, circus leader & serial bigamist. These are some of the more extreme creations but there are many more inhabitants that will have you in fits of laughter.
Then came the Christmas Special, an hour-long feature of absolute genius. It takes the horror element of The League to new heights yet keeps the hilarity intact. Bernice the vicar is the central character this time & she is visited by three of the other characters on Christmas Eve. There's Charlie, who keeps having the same nightmare, Matthew, who is haunted by memeories of a trip to Duisberg when he was younger, & Dr Chinnery, who believes he is under a curse. Each story rakes up horrific memories for Bernice & leads up to a genuinely surprising yet scary finalie which see's the return of a much-loved & much-feared character...
The 3rd series has recieved major criticism from some people but I feel they perhaps just fear change. Gone are the days of the sketch-show format, gone is the laughter-track but here is the most engaging TV series in years if not ever! People may argue that it just isn't as funny & whilst I agree that it's not packed with as many laughs as the previous series, this is far superior due to brilliant story-telling, wonderful acting & sheer intelligence. It's better to watch in one sitting as a three-hour film & that's not hard to do as every episode is totally engaging & leaves you wanting more. The climax is amazing.
This set is packed full of extras. Funny character bios, fascinating documetaries & the ever-brilliant Local Gossip (commentaries) to but a few of them. There's also a fair few easter eggs hidden within that are well-worth finding for some extra special treats...
All in all, The League Of Gentlemen are the most exciting & fresh comedy writers around &, along with the sell-out live shows & full-length movie, this box-set is proof of their utter brilliance. If you havn't already got everything in this collection then what are you waiting for? BUY BUY BUY!!!
on 14 September 2006
The League of Gentlemen's Complete Collection is essential for anyone who loves original, distinctive and intelligent comedy or who cares about groundbreaking & innovative television in general.
All three series and the Christmas Special make up this superb boxed set of six discs, which is the ultimate showcase for The League's genius.
When I watched the first series back in 1999 it was like nothing I had ever seen before. Unsettling, disturbing, very, very funny & practically unclassifiable...a brilliant gothic soap might be a starting point to describe the riches contained within each episode. It was also evident from the show's distinctive filmic look that high production values were extremely important to the show's creators - a real first for British television comedy.
You can't help but be drawn into the enclosed world of Royston Vasey & once there it will stay with you forever - you truly will 'never leave'!
The series is even more addictive when you can watch the programmes back to back... This is especially the case with the stunning third series where each episode followed the same narrative timeline and ended with the same traffic accident from a different point of view...
Then there is the outstanding writing and acting - narrative arcs & emotional depth are distinctive League trademarks. By turns both grotesque and subtle, the quality of both the writing and acting is such that often you're not certain if you're watching a comedy or drama.
All the best comedies have a dark edge but The League of Gentlemen pushed the subject matter of what could be used to create comedy further than anything before.
The League's influence on what has come in their wake is incalculable, but their black comic masterpiece stands head and shoulders above all contemporaries and wannabes.
The same care and attention to detail that characterises the League's work is reflected in the Complete Collection. Six picture DVDS featuring different League characters are contained within a DVD case that opens up like a book & features s a wonderful photograph of Papa Lazarou on its sleeve... There are shed loads of extras too, including what all fans of the League treasure the most - the Gents' legendary commentaries. They're hilarious, informative & daring all at once & worth the price alone...
If I had to choose only one DVD boxed set to recommend it would be this one! If you've not yet discovered the brilliance of The League of Gentlemen & why they are so special and unique then this Complete Collection will put you right!!
on 14 June 2005
Every few years something comes along which redefines the shape of comedy - the Goons, Hancock, Monty Python, Hitchhiker's Guide, and the League of Gentlemen stand out as the most dynamically original comedy to grace radio and television. Significantly, only Python began as a television show (though its stars had plenty of radio experience). The League's transition to television gave them an added dimension - having learned scriptwriting and characterisation on stage and radio, they could now move into a very visual medium and stamp their personality upon it.
And Royston Vasey became the perfect vehicle for that. A simple little Derbyshire town is transformed into the horror capital of the British Isles. Marrying comedy and horror is far from easy. The League manage to combine the two without ever trivialising the horror element or reducing it to mere parody. Bad horror movies can be funny, but good humour can't simply be based on bad horror.
There is a quality to the writing and characterisation of the League's series which captures your attention and your imagination. The humour is exceptional, but draws its strength from an exaggeration of reality. This is not surreal - the characters are people we can all recognise or imagine ... humanity dragged to extremes. And, when we thought we were acting for the best, we've all, metaphorically, blown up a tortoise or two in our time ... or maybe next week. The horror is in the reminder or in the recognition of what could have been ... or could yet be, of that wholly dysfunctional world which might yet greet us next time we wake.
The DVD package includes the first three series and the Christmas special. These are quality productions in their own right, and any fan would want to treasure them and enjoy them over and over. There seems little point in exploring the comedy. But what of the extras?
Well, these are good in parts. The first series is accompanied by some stills and bits and pieces of information. The second series is supplemented by an amateurish behind the scenes interview and review. Given that the producers had total access to the League, there is great potential to explore, but it dissolves into trivia and clumsy editing. Nevertheless, it does offer some insights into the League's horror roots.
The series 3 "Making of" extra is much better, following a year in the making of the series. I'd never attempt to write comedy, it is by far the hardest medium - but as a writer I am fascinated by the way others work. There are interesting snippets here; the four appear quite self-critical and unselfconscious. But this extra does cover some interesting ground in analysing the way a series is put together - the costume-fitting scene is particularly entertaining.
There is "All About Yves" - an interview with designer Yves Barre which is fascinating. But the best feature of the series 3 extras is the Video Diary - concentrating on the effort involved in writing. As the saying goes, "writing's easy, you just stare at a piece of blank paper until your eyes bleed". And there is clear evidence here of the strain (and fun) of the writing process, the frustration, the blind alleys, the search for something which works, and the tedious monotony of typing the words once the idea had gelled in your mind.
The Christmas Show comes with some very different extras - the pick of these are the exploration of the influences of horror on the League, a Jackanory spoof of the Victorian ghost story, and an extended radio interview with the League ... and, I must confess, while I found the radio show very entertaining and informative, you do have a certain sense of loss at simply listening to a recording without effective visuals.
The comedy/horror speaks for itself and the talent of the League is exceptional. As a fan, you'd buy this package just for the shows, but the extras - although variable in quality - do offer a valuable 'extra', even if you feel that maybe they could have been more sophisticated and a little more time and trouble invested in them. But it remains excellent value and entertainment to which you will return again and again.
on 5 July 2007
This is a kind of love or hate comedy pheomenon, much like 'Brass Eye', though no-where near as risque as that.
But a lot of the humour is quite risque in 'League Of Gentlmen', which is basically a Northern soap opera set in the fictional town of Royston Vasey. Just like classic soap operas such as Coronation Street, excellent characterisation draws the viewer in, and before they know it, they are horribly addicted, immediately moving onto the next episode to see more outrageous goings-on and striking visual humour.
Kudos has to be given to Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith for creating some truly convincing costumes, make-up, and characters, as well as referencing a slew of celluloid classics from 'The Shining', to 'Kes', to 'The Exorcist', all with a liberal dose of 'kitchen sink' thrown in for good measure. Indeed, much of this is very near the bone and gritty, particularly a lot of the job centre scenes.
The plot basically centres around the lives of various people who live round and about Royston Vasey, including Pauline, the Job Centre 'restart officer', Hilary Briss the butcher, a vet called Mr. Chinnery whose patients all meet a nasty end, and a pre-op transexual named Barbara. Through excellent characterisation, the viewers interest in the characters is piqued and we become involved. Besides which, there are so many classic lines and soundbites in this programme it would be difficult to count them all.
Put simply, 'League Of Gentlemen' is rife with imagination, wit, sarcasm, northern black humour, originality, excellent characterisation, and some humour which is extremely cutting edge. This DVD is excellent value for money and also includes the notorious Christmas special featuring the derranged 'Papa Lazarou'. If you buy this DVD, you may love or hate it, but you'll never be bored by it.
on 21 August 2007
Though now they undoubtedly suffer comparison to weaker shows that have followed in their wake (and in a couple of instances have become infinitely more successful), the League of Gentlemen were a breath of indecent fresh air when they arrived onto BBC2 back in 1999 with their eponymous sketch series. A television series that paid as much attention and homage to classic English moments in cinema, TV and literature as it did to cult horror classics and serial killer trivia, the world of Royston Vasey and its bizarre inhabitants was one as chock full of witty irreverance as much as it was of disgusting toilet humour, with the odd un-PC characterisation thrown in for good measure. Like any uniformally terrific piece of TV heaven, the League would inspire a cult following that still laments/praises their efforts in provoking laughter and disturbance to this day, and remains especially unique in their daring to take their characters towards avenues darker and more surreal than most English comedies fear to tread.
The progenitors of this vividly weird world deserve every amount of praise bestowed upon them for bringing it to life so indelibly, as co-writer Jeremy Dyson and co-writers/lead cast members Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith imbue their characters with an honesty and commitment that most sketch shows rarely afford to do. Even when dragged up to the nines, fat-suited-and-booted or adopting all manner of over-the-top mannerisms, not only is their comedy rooted convincingly within the innumerable social neuroses of all isolated English communities, but the performances also serve to eak out some semblance of truth in the farce played onscreen, no matter how overblown, fanciful or downright disturbing it may be. The Tubbs and Edward storyline from series one is one concerned with the restrictions of home and the need to find something beyond the smalltown life whilst Hilary Briss's indiscretions in series two can be seen as an essay on corruption and blackmail amongst a smalltown's political figures. That both storylines happen to feature hair sandwiches, culinary excrements and bestiality makes their core themes more appealling. Aided substantially by exemplary costumes and makeup (particularly the former courtesy of Yves Barre), as well as an overtly naturalistic filming style that belies the staginess of past sketch shows, the League strike chords that unnerve as much as they induce laughter precisely because there is no wink at the audience to let them know when to laugh, which is as big a feat as you're unlikely to find in English comedy.
As with any cult success, the League's fanbase is one that can often be found arguing over the merits or detriments of each series, though rather unfortunately a lot have isolated series three as the nadir of their work with the BBC. Granted, with its ambitious storytelling technique and marrying disparate characters from other sketches to tell even weirder and out-of-leftfield stories, series three had the power to alienate even hardcore fans that had grown accustomed to the more traditional sketch show structures and catchphrase-reliant punchlines of the first two seasons. Series one and two were still held together by a thinly-etched storyline to help provide continuity between the six episodes as well as provide a soap-opera style level of intrigue and investment to the proceedings, and each group of characters was given either moments to shine or at the best of times character arcs and plot twists that provided further shading and depth. Series three was limited in its scope by focusing on a single set of characters in each episode for so long, but it still can't deter from the sheer subversive delights found within or some joyously silly stand-alone sketches. However, most are unanimous in their praise of the Christmas Special, which no doubt helped to inspire the multi-layered structure of series three, and it remains their highlight even outside of their work with the BBC.
The more horrific aspects of their characters and actions can be attributed to the League's fascination with the horror genre, specifically the Gothic qualities of the Hammer horrors and the Amicus horror compilations. Plot points, shots and episode titles pay homage to the likes of Nosferatu, Don't Look Now, The Wicker Man, The Shining, The Exorcist... the list goes on. Though thankfully, the level of technique from the behind-the-scenes crew helps to ensure that each reference is made tastefully and with the utmost care, of particular note being The Divine Comedy's Joby Talbot supplying a rousing underscore to the events onscreen, especially the Christmas special which includes a beautiful pastiche of Jocelyn Pook and her score for Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut. It's not all doom and horror though, even if the lighter moments are tainted quite indelibly with some incredibly dark humour, notably the Chinnery sketches (the Kes pisstake is priceless), a couple of ceaselessly creepy monologues (one set in a cave system, the other in a morgue) and a wonderful Jehovah's Witness pitch that goes from bad to worse in less than two lines. In short, its the most fun you're likely to have laughing at the sort of stuff you really ought to not be laughing at.
However, the best part of this DVD collection is the fact that the League, being the geeks that they are, have taken great pride in providing bountiful extra material for each disc in this package. Those who have bought each TV outing individually will feel shortchanged by its slashed price and the lack of any new material specifically for this release stops it from being an essential purchase for the die-hard fan (unlike, say, Channel 4's seminal Spaced DVD collection), it would be the perfect gift for someone who enjoys intelligent, raucous comedy who hasn't discovered them yet. The most amusing features on each disc containing the episodes have to be the "Local Gossip" audio commentary tracks made by the League, which sees them become more and more embittered as they detail sketches that don't work, discrepencies in the plots, various on-set travails and, most tellingly, orders from on high that limit what they can say and do (Shearsmith in particular gets incredibly rancourous). Other features include deleted sequences, behind-the-scenes documentaries, isolated score cues, music videos, trailers and character biographies. Not including series one (which probably had to suffer having all of its material posited on one disc), each menus is also beautifully designed with all kinds of animations, quirks and easter eggs, standout amongst equals being the Christmas Special (again!)
So, with its smackingly delicious blend of comedy, horror, referentialism and drama, the League of Gentlemen gave us a genuinely refreshing hit TV show that ducked easy categorisation at every turn to become of the BBC's finest comedy programs in recent years. That they proceeded to march to their own beat and treat hard-won fans with further flights of fancy as opposed to relying on cliches and catchphrases to keep the merchandise boards happy also makes them one of the more legitimate comedy troupes working today (excluding the panto tour, obviously!) Let's not forget, this is the outfit that turned a character with a raspy voice and a minstrel face into a national phenomenon, despite his having black urine and stealing women away from their homes to stuff them inside animals. Give credit where it's due, guys; Vicky Pollard would be ripped apart in seconds if she ventured into Royston Vasey, and it would probably be at least half as good as anything on these six discs of dark pleasure.
on 7 May 2014
Having been an admirer of "The League of Gentlemen" in past years I have never watched the series for at least the past 7 years when I gave my DVD collection of the series to a family friend. This was a revelation again of the unique and really 'off the wall' humour which is the dark and extreme world of the League. Nothing really prepares you for the series, it transcends 'normality' (whatever that is) and invites you to participate in the dark, black and perverted world of the resident's of Royston Vasey's existence, ever aware that this portrayal of a village mentality might not be that too far removed from some small community environments. I love it! I regard it by far as the best 'extreme' end of the absurd and bordering on a psychological nightmare that 'spooks' the consciousness and disallows sleep to come peacefully! For those readers whom have never watched the 'Leagues' exploits before, of even those of you whom have watched the series a long time ago, then refresh the data banks and feed yourself on this quality production which goes from strength to strength as the series progresses. I go into my 'local' butcher's now with a new awareness, thinking as I do "what is really in that freezer"?
on 2 March 2006
I am so very ashamed that it took me until last year to discover the sheer excellence of the League. I had to watch this box set all the way through before going to see the film and can honestly say that this box set was more than worth my hard earned cash!
From the bizarre insanities of the Denton family to bitchy vicar Bernice Woodall, teen horror fanatics Henry and Ally to the superb Legz Akimbo (There's no age limit on dealing with issues...), once you enter the macabre twisted world that is Royston Vasey, you really will never leave!
Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith are three outstanding actors,and with anyone else it wouldn't be nearly as good. And credit to the unseen Mr. Dyson, often forgotten by many as a member of the League!
Containing all three TV series and the Christmas special, what really makes this great is the extras. The commentaries are very funny, while the documentaries/behind-the -scenes give a die-hard League of Gentlemen fan everything they'd ever need to know.
It may have taken me 6 years too long, but I have pretty much everything they've ever done- and don't get sick of it! Have just seen them live too, so if you ever get the chance...go Johnny, go go go go!
on 26 May 2009
This is a superb collection of a fantastically funny and scary high point of British TV comedy. TLOG is an experimental collection of sketches in the form of character vignettes stringing through the life of a weird north country village called 'Royston Vasey' and the bizarre eccentrics it generates.
My personal favourite is a battle of wills between an unemployed young man called Ross and the spiteful, psychologically damaged 'Jobsearch Leader' Pauline in the first series that anyone trapped in the dismal labyrinth of the employment service will cringe at the authenticity of. The three writer/actors who created it have made someting of genius entirely in its own world - a world dangerous and screamingly (literally in the case of malevolent circus boss 'Papa Lazarou') funny by turns.
All three series and the characteristically dark Christmas Special ('Yule Never Leave') are all here in full. The extras are complete and cover a wide range of both behind the scenes, deleted takes and in-depth talks with the writers and performers on where their twisted visions and characterizations come from. All in all a collection that you won't easily leave - if at all...
on 5 September 2009
I was new to the league when I bought this box set. I had watched Psycoville and thought it was amazing (also staring and written by Reece Sheersmith and Steve Pemberton). I am now officially in love with the league, all four of them.
The humour is dark/bonkers, the characters range from insane, obscene, lovable, plain weird; to be honest I could go on all day about the different types. They are acted out beautifully.
The catch phrases are pure genius. To be honest initially I found the canned laughter irritating but after about 10 mins I didn't notice it anymore.
Give the boxset a try, well worth the money. The best buy I have made all year.