Call Judge Joel Pearce "Bubbles," dears. Everyone does.
Our reviews of Little Britain: The Complete First Series (published August 17th, 2005), Little Britain: The Complete Second Series (published July 26th, 2006), Little Britain Live (published June 6th, 2007), and Little Britain: The Complete Collection (published December 19th, 2007) are also available.
Computer says no…
Well, here I am, sitting down to review what may be the last season of Little Britain. A fourth season hasn't aired yet in Britain, and the final episodes of this season close off the characters quite nicely. So here is the big question: Is this season the swan song of one of the funniest shows of all time, or the moment at which it became painfully obvious that the show was already over? In truth, there's a little bit of both here, but it's thankfully more of the former
The third season remains best in small doses. As a critic, I don't normally get the chance to watch series in small doses, but with only six episodes in the series, Little Britain makes it more possible than most. The majority of the former characters are back for this outing, with a few notable absences. Stage hypnotist Kenny Craig is no longer with us, but there's no way they could have outdone his performance at the end of Series Two. Dennis Waterman is thankfully gone as well. There are not as many new characters this time around, either. The most significant additions are Dudley Punt and his mail-order bride Ting-Tong Macadangdang. They head up a particularly one-note set of sketches, which burn out at around the third episode. Sir Norman Fry, a member of Parliament who gets into compromising positions, is much funnier, as is the elderly and very incontinent Mrs. Avery.
For the most part, though, Series Three of Little Britain is just more of the same. There are few major changes to the previous story threads, with the notable exception of Bubbles DeVere, who is joined by her ex-husband and his new wife. Now, I'm certainly not complaining too much, as the core set of characters remain the best part of the show, but there comes a point in Series Three at which everything simply feels worn out. The Andy and Lou sketches have nowhere left to go, Vicky Pollard's story peaked during the original series, and Sebastian's relationship with the Prime Minister becomes tiresome. Even Maggie Blackamoor's skilled vomiting becomes bland after awhile.
I think David Walliams and Matt Lucas realized that they had returned to this comic well a few too many times, as things gradually start to shift towards the end of this season. Rather than simply repeating the same old jokes, each suddenly pushes towards a clear conclusion. This action brings new interest and excitement to the stories, yet, without ruining too much for you, most of the stories could still be carried on into a hypothetical fourth season. I'm not sure whether this is to prepare for more series or just to allow for a continuation of all the holiday specials, but it does add some excitement to the last two episodes here.
Ultimately, Little Britain still does what it needs to do. There are few sketches that don't elicit some sort of response, whether it's laughter or a groan. In a crowded room of British-comedy-loving friends, it's still a safe bet. It's simply that few of the jokes feel fresh now, and I found that I wasn't shocked by their boldness and brashness anymore. The creators have pushed the envelope as far as they can without changing the nature of the series, and it's now time to move on to something else. It pains me to say that, since I love the show so much, but I would rather see Little Britain end here than return in a tiresome fourth series that isn't funny anymore.
The DVD set certainly isn't a disappointment. We are once again treated to a strong transfer of all six episodes on the first disc (with commentaries), and a flurry of special features on the second disc. There are two episodes' worth of deleted scenes, with a commentary track by Walliams and Lucas. They talk warmly, and clearly remember what happened during filming. The deleted scenes vary in quality, but most are quite good. Beyond the deleted scenes, there are a number of television specials and live performances. This footage contains additional sketches, interviews, and behind-the-scenes footage, but shows it all in a more entertaining way.
While the flock of rabid Little Britain fans hardly need me to tell them what to do, I'd say this set is still worth picking up. Though I wasn't quite as blown away by the third series, I suspect it has more to do with my expectations than with the quality of the show. It hasn't topped what's come before, but it's still great sketch comedy. BBC sweetens the deal with a ton of great extras, making this a must-buy for British comedy fans everywhere.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
• Highlights from BBC's Little Britain Night
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