TV to See

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Comic Relief/AP
British comedians Matt Lucas, left, and David Walliams, right, are joined by British singer
Robbie Williams; all are dressed as "Ladies," a sketch from the popular television program
"Little Britain."

TV to See: Little Britain USA

September 29, 2008
by Christopher Coats
Leaving no one in the U.K. unscathed, “Little Britain” takes aim at a new target—the United States of America.

Crossing the Pond

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After three enormously successful seasons on the BBC, “Little Britain” is arriving stateside with a series on the one of the few channels that could legally host the unique, pleasantly offensive humor of Matt Lucas and David Walliams—HBO.

Making up virtually the entire cast of the short sketch show, the two comedians follow in the footsteps of “Monty Python” with rapid-fire skits and a host of recurring characters showcasing the best of Britain.

Beginning life as a radio show, “Little Britain” made a quick jump to BBC2 before picking up steam in its second season and landing on BBC1 and launching Lucas and Walliams to stardom in England.

With fame and popularity came scrutiny, as some critics found fault with the duo’s attempt to lampoon just about every aspect of British society, leaving any inkling of political correctness at the door.

Much like other British television successes, “Little Britain” decided to call it quits after only a few years and have now set their sights on America.

With about four-dozen characters in the lineup for the U.S. version, debuting on HBO this month, “Little Britain” is taking a trip through the states, lampooning the North, South, East and West the same way the original did in its U.K. counterpart.

Instead of following the lead of other European remakes like “The Office,” “Little Britain” is sticking with their team for an American version, even going so far as to bring some of their most popular characters over for the ride.

New Faces

HBO’s official “Little Britain” Web site hosts a series of character introduction videos of not only some old favorites, like Vicky Pollard, Lou and Andy, and Daffyd, but also a slew of new faces for the Americanized version.

Like the original, “Little Britain USA” has a host of guests scheduled for the first season, including Rosie O’Donnell, Sting, Paul Rudd and Vivica A. Fox.

Constant Critics

While Lucas and Walliams are sure to be concerned about the possibility of repeating their success in America, they might also be wary of a repeat of the media and critical scrutiny that dogged them much of their time on the BBC. From a schoolteacher who called for an outright ban after her students began mimicking their characters in the schoolyard, to the Independent’s Johann Hari who penned the less-than-subtle column, “Why I Hate Little Britain,” those opposed to the duo’s singular brand of humor kept up the attack throughout its three seasons. Pulling no punches, Hari branded the show as mean-spirited, calling it a “sadistic, unfunny piece of spite [that] has captured the public imagination.”

The Fans Await

Whatever the reaction from detractors, “Little Britain” has the benefit of having a ready-made legion of fans eagerly awaiting another batch of episodes. With three years and numerous live and special appearances already under their belts, Walliams and Lucas have garnered a devoted following. While the BBC has largely removed older episodes from their TV and radio Web sites, YouTube is awash with clips drawn from the series’ British version.
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