Little Britain is a British character-based sketch show which was first broadcast on BBC radio and then turned into a television show. It was written and performed by comic duo David Walliams and Matt Lucas. The show's title is an amalgamation of the terms 'Little England' and 'Great Britain', and is also the name of a Victorian neighbourhood and a modern street in London.
The show comprised sketches involving exaggerated parodies of British people from all walks of life in various situations familiar to the British people. These sketches were presented to the viewer together with narration in a manner which suggested that the programme is a guide—aimed at non-British people—to the ways of life of various classes of British society. Despite the narrator's description of great British institutions, the comedy is derived from the British audience's self-deprecating understanding of either themselves or people known to them. The phrase "Little Britain" also refers to an uninterested and parochial mindset often displayed by many of show's subjects. The show was also a huge ratings success, receiving 9.5 million viewers after moving to BBC One in 2005.
Little Britain initially appeared as a radio show on BBC Radio 4, produced by Edward Flinn and ran from 2000 until 2002.
Radio 4 began a rerun of all nine episodes in February 2004 (which were slightly edited for content to suit the 6:30pm timeslot). Unusually, this overlapped with a rerun on digital radio channel BBC 7 of the first five, which began in mid-March. In June–July 2004, BBC 7 broadcast the remaining four.
Ronnie Corbett commented that the characters as portrayed in the radio series were "well drawn-out".
Like several other BBC comedy shows (such as Dead Ringers and The Mighty Boosh), Little Britain made the transition from radio to television. All the episodes for the series were filmed at Pinewood Studios. Much of the TV material was adapted from the radio version, but with more emphasis on recurring characters and catchphrases.Series One, 2003
The first TV series was one of the new programmes in the launch line-up for digital channel BBC Three, the replacement for BBC Choice, which launched in February 2003. As a result of its success, the first series was repeated on the more widely available BBC Two. Although reactions were mixed, many critics were enthusiastic, and the show was commissioned for another run. Part of the series was filmed in Kent at Herne Bay - Emily Howard the Lady and Lou and Andy sketches.Series Two, 2004
The second series, featuring several new characters, began on BBC Three on 19 October 2004. Its continued popularity meant the repeats moved to BBC One, starting on 3 December 2004. The episodes were edited for their BBC One run, to cut out any material that may be too offensive for the more mainstream BBC One audience.Series Three, 2005
A third series began on 17 November 2005, for the first time on BBC One and not BBC Three, and ended six weeks later. After its transmission, it was unclear whether there would be another, as many sketches were given dramatic twists and "wrapped up" — (see individual character articles). Lucas and Walliams were reportedly in talks for a fourth series with the BBC. Furthermore, they admitted in an interview they preferred to "kill off" certain characters in order to make way for new ones.Little, Little Britain, 2005
In 2005, to raise money for Comic Relief, Walliams and Lucas made a special edition of the show, dubbed Little, Little Britain. The episode included a variety of sketches with celebrities including George Michael, Robbie Williams and Sir Elton John. This was released on a limited edition DVD and was released in the United States as Little, Little Britain on the region 1 version of the Little Britain: Season 2 DVD.Little Britain Abroad, 2006
In 2006, a two-part Christmas special was released, in which characters from the show were depicted as visiting other countries.
As a success of the television series, Lucas and Walliams created a travelling stage show based upon their series.Comic Relief Does Little Britain Live, 2007
A special live version, featuring appearances from celebrities such as Russell Brand and Dennis Waterman was filmed in 2006 and appeared on 2007's Comic Relief show.
In 2007, Matt Lucas and David Walliams announced that there would be no more of the British Little Britain, but they taped an American continuation of the show entitled Little Britain USA, which featured both returning characters from the British series as well as new American characters. According to David Walliams, the new show is "effectively Little Britain season four". The show debuted on HBO at 10:30 pm EST Sunday 28 September 2008, then the following week on BBC One in Britain. It also started airing on The Comedy Network in Canada in January 2010.
As a sketch show, Little Britain features many characters with varying degrees of costume and makeup. Matt Lucas and David Walliams play all the main characters in the show. Tom Baker narrates and Paul Putner, Steve Furst, Sally Rogers, David Foxxe, Samantha Power, Yuki Kushida, and Stirling Gallacher regularly appear as several different characters.
Other regular cast include: Anthony Head as the Prime Minister, Ruth Jones as Myfanwy, Charu Bala Chokshi as Meera, and Joann Condon as Fat Pat.
A two-part Christmas special, Little Britain Abroad, was broadcast in December 2006 and January 2007. This makes a total of 25 episodes to date. There has also been the Little Britain Live show.
In the UK, the series was originally broadcast on BBC Three and BBC One and was aired in repeats on Dave, Gold (UK TV channel), and Watch. In the US and in Bermuda, the series airs on BBC America. BBC Canada aired the program from 3 March 2005 – present. UKTV broadcasts the program in Australia and New Zealand. Comedy Central India broadcast the program for Indian audiences.
The show, and in particular its second and third series, has been criticised for their perceived treatment of minority groups. For example, Fergus Sheppard wrote in The Scotsman:
Writer Owen Jones states in his book Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class that the way the character Vicky Pollard is portrayed in the series is an example of the current socially accepted marginalization and stereotyping of the working class.
The programme has become increasingly popular with children, despite being shown after the watershed. There has also been criticism from teachers that the programme leads to copycat behaviour in the playground.
"I'm Gay", the song that Matt Lucas's character Daffyd Thomas sang at the end of the Little Britain Live shows, was released as a CD single in Australia in March 2007.
Matt Lucas and Peter Kay, in the guise of their characters Andy Pipkin and Brian Potter, re-recorded the song "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" with its creators, The Proclaimers. This version was released as a charity single for Comic Relief on 19 March 2007.
Little Britain: The Video Game was released in February 2007. It featured a variety of characters in mini-games and received very negative reviews.
The Russian series Nasha Russia is inspired by Little Britain.
In 2010, characters returned for Nationwide Building Society adverts, including Lou and Andy, Vicky Pollard, Eddie (Emily) Howard and Bubbles DeVere.
Little Britain Productions is a production company set up by Lucas and Walliams, to produce their future television projects, for example, Come Fly with Me, Rock Profile and The One....