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Saturday, 4 October 2008

Little Britain USA, BBC1



Did we like it?
It’s not a case of building something up to knock it down, or hating it when our friends become successful, Little Britain USA is an exemplar of something that was once sporadically twisted and frequently funny metamorphosing into utter rubbish.

What was good about it?
• We do feel a cultural affinity with Little Britain; it’s unquestionable that both Walliams and Lucas are wonderfully talented writers and performers, but the whole Little Britain premise is desiccated like a corpse even the vultures won’t touch.
• Our affection meant that for the single sketch which had potential we were mentally egging it on to deliver a glorious punch-line. A man sits in a restaurant, giving a running commentary on what he is doing while his wife sits gazing at him like an impassive slab of scorn. Slowly you can feel emanating from the TV screen the man shedding his dignity like flakes of psoriasis-afflicted skin, blistered by his wife’s unyielding incandescent glare and, while uncomfortable, it reminds you of the classic characters from the first two series.
• Sadly, the sketch ends with the man losing patience with his wife’s silence and bellowing: “Help me out, you boring old cow!” Perhaps it’s rose-tinted, but we imagine in the first two series his wife would have been revealed to have been a grandmother clock or a fleshy bird cage with which the man was trying to get his birds served in a restaurant, or something.
• While the third series did decline, the further comedic catastrophe could be attributed more for a need to communicate and amuse a brand new audience, which begs the question: why did the BBC buy it? Why not show the first series? Or show Pulling, oh no that’s been given the chop.
• One or two of Marjorie Dawes’s mordant insults still raised a smile, but the rest of the sketch was far too smug.
• It might improve when it’s trying less hard to be shocking (read dull) or vulgar.

What was bad about it?
• The whole show was absolutely rotten from start to finish, and if the Pilgrim Fathers had set sail for America in a vessel of such advanced decomposition it would have sunk before they’d left sight of the Hoe.
• Judging from the third series it was in decline any way, but the transfer to America has ripped the heart and soul from its chest, a commercialised remix to rival Kraftwerk’s Robots for misguided meddling.
• Andy and Lou played out exactly the same scenario as they do very episode, but was bereft of the recurrent witty twist and replaced with the enervating vulgarity of Andy pissing into a swimming pool while Lou chatted to the hotel receptionist.
• Every sketch was accompanied by the sort of canned laughter that doesn’t sweep you up in a bouquet of mirth but instead impels you to think, “Why I am watching this show with those morons?”
• The saccharine, nauseating love between schoolgirl Ellie Grace and her mother, which is undermined by Ellie spouting some ‘innocent’ quip that shows she’s become corrupted by the internet – “I love you more than blow jobs!” – is a decade out of date.
• Nauseating for another reason was the majority of the Marjorie Dawes sketch as she takes Fat Fighters to America. American personality Rosie O’Donnell appeared as herself in a sketch akin to when Vanessa Feltz did the same thing in the original. But there were essential differences – Feltz guested only after Marjorie had been built into a monstrosity over the period of a series or two, and was therefore ripe for retribution; but even that retribution was tepid as it was delivered by one of the most repellent women in the media.
• As O’Donnell punctured Marjorie’s pomposity in the first episode of the first series, this damages her potency to inflict malice on others later on. And far worse, it came across as one of those complacent, smug sketches in which a paper-thin pantomime villain is given a good verbal kicking by a mouthpiece cipher for the facile pleasures of conceited liberal viewers who believe that through their agreeing and laughing along with the villain’s annihilation under the onslaught from the outraged cipher that somehow they have contributed to dispelling the ills of bigotry and intolerance of the world, when in fact all they have achieved is to make themselves less furious and less likely to do something that is actually useful.
• Perhaps the most disappointing element was that Tom Baker’s wonderful links have joined the rest of the show in a shambling zombie strut towards the abyss of mediocrity. Even when the sketch was unfunny they could always be relied upon to approach something from the same perspective as Reeves and Mortimer, but in LB USA, they come across as nasty little quips composed to annoy Americans, or to blithely amuse Americans who like mocking their own nation.
• “In America, a child is born every eight seconds – oh, the poor woman!”, “The most popular animal in America is the dog – which is popular with people who like picking up animal excrement”, “You joined us for the last few minutes of the second world war!” – what has gone wrong? The worst was: “In America, Britons enjoy the food, the weather and the fact the dollar is now worthless!” This is not only unfunny but also an anachronism.
• But maybe the most distressing and despondent sight was that of Simon Fuller as ‘executive producer’ – a man who is, after Simon Cowell, the single most destructive and malignant force on British culture since Oliver Cromwell. He has blitzed us with the toxic vulgarities of the Spice Girls – a product that transformed a generation of teenage girls into delusional schizophrenics, and Pop Idol – which had the same effect on British music charts as the asp’s venom on the veins of Cleopatra. And now he’s plunged the stake through the heart of Little Britain. Well done, now go off and join the rest of your obscenely wealthy friends by partaking in charity work to ‘buy’ the affection of the world and assuage your guilt over a fortune that couldn’t be more ill-deserved had you earned it dealing in post-World War Two art treasures.

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