“There are more fat people in American than there are people.” That’s the dry wit of Tom Baker, Little Britain USA’s narrator, introducing a sketch about “Fat Fighter” Marjorie Dawes. If the series stuck with that brand of humor, I’d have enjoyed it thoroughly. Instead, it goes places so crude I was continually startled by its outrageous comedy. I’m of the opinion that blue humor is a love-it-or-hate-it genre. If you enjoy the nasty stuff, Little Britain USA : the complete first season is definitely up your alley. Mine? Not so much.
The series is yet another British invasion, having begun as a program in the U.K. before crossing over the Atlantic to reach American audiences, like The Office, Life on Mars and many others. Of course, this time it’s still helmed and starred in by its original creators, which should alleviate the concerns of fans of the British version. And in this case, I wasn’t familiar with the original series, so Little Britain USA was my introduction to the talents of show creators and stars Matt Lucas and David Walliams. They play most, but not all, of the regular sketch characters, which include the above-mentioned Fat Fighter, horny prime minister Sebastian Love, grossly obese seductress Bubbles Devere, over-muscled homoerotic gym buddies Mark and Tom, eighth man on the moon Bing Gordyn and many others. They’re joined in the six episodes of this first season by guest stars like Rosie O’Donnell, Paul Rudd, Sting and Vivica A. Fox.
The bright points? Lucas and Walliams are clearly gifted comedians, and the show’s sketch premises are often highly amusing and insightful. The sketches are also nice and short, so even if one doesn’t turn your crank, it’ll be over and onto something different before you lost interest. And this is an HBO program, so the scripts aren’t constrained by the content regulations of network shows. Unfortunately for me, that opens the door to gags like a gun instructor so turned on by his weapons that he shoots his own load right in front of his class. Or a grown man breastfeeding in front of his relatives, with all the sights and sounds you’ll wish you could forget.
If you don’t mind crude humor that crosses lines to places most sketch shows won’t, or can’t, go, Little Britain USA might be your new go-to series when you need a good laugh. if that’s the case, you’re in luck, because the show is scheduled to return for at least one more season in 2009.
Little Britain USA is presented on two discs, with each of the six episodes in 16:9 widescreen format. With plenty of breathing room for these half-hour episodes, it’s no surprise that the show looks great on DVD. This is what modern TV-on-DVD should be, with clean picture, sharp details, great colours and contrast, and no apparent issues with compression or source artifacts. Of course, you might wish otherwise when you find yourself seeing all the naked details of Bubbles Devere’s atrocious fat suit.
The main audio presentation is Dolby Digital 5.1. Full surround certainly isn’t necessary for a sketch comedy show, but it doesn’t hurt. Every line of dialogue, including gems like “In America, a child is born every eight seconds…oh, that poor woman must be exhausted,” sounds perfectly clear from the center channel. The show’s music fills in the rest, along with an obnoxious laugh track.
Audio is also available in Spanish in Dolby Digital 2.0, while subtitles are offered in English, French and Spanish.
Little Britain USA lives large in the bonus materials department, with a solid collection of extras:
- The Making of Little Britain USA: running about 13 minutes, this featurette offers the usual interviews with cast and crew, and a behind-the-scenes perspective on the series.
- Audio commentary on all six episodes: in these six tracks, Lucas and Walliams keep things interesting with insights into their new show, and are at least as entertaining as you’d expect from an intelligent comic duo.
- Deleted scenes: nine in all, with optional commentary, and including at least one character concept that didn’t make the cut; definitely worth watching for fans of the show.
- Bloopers: you’d expect lots of outtakes from a series like this, and that’s what you’ll get — eight full minutes of zaniness, at least double as on the typical DVD.
This kind of humor isn’t my bag, but that won’t stop me from suggesting this two-disc set is a must-buy for fans of Little Britain USA. With solid audio, video and extras, HBO has offered up a quality introduction to its new comedy series. If you’re not sure about the content itself, I’d recommending catching a clip or two online before you invest any cash in the outrageous talents of Matt Lucas and David Walliams.