Little Britain

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Little Britain is an award winning character-based comedy sketch show first appearing on BBC radio and then television. It was written by stars Matt Lucas and David Walliams. Its title is an amalgamation of the terms 'Little England' and 'Great Britain', and is also the name of a Victorian neighbourhood and modern street in London.[1]

The show comprises sketches involving exaggerated parodies of British people from all walks of life in various situations familiar to the British. These sketches are presented to the viewer together with narration in a manner which suggests 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.

An American version of the show, entitled Little Britain USA was created in 2008. This series is shown on HBO in the USA, and also in Canada. It is shown on the BBC in the UK, and is shown in Australia on Network Ten.

Many of the characters on the show have their own often-repeated catchphrases. Many have become well known in the United Kingdom, and the show has gained a mainstream following.


Radio Show

Little Britain initially appeared as a radio show on BBC Radio 4.

Radio 4 began a rerun of all nine episodes in February 2004. 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.

Television series

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

As a result of its success, the first television series was repeated on the more mainstream channel BBC Two. Although reactions were mixed, many critics were enthusiastic, and the show was commissioned for another run. Paul W S Finlay starred in 5 episodes

Series Two, 2004

The second TV series, featuring several new characters, began on BBC Three 19 October 2004. Because of its popularity, the scheduled repeats were "promoted" to BBC One, starting 3 December 2004, which guaranteed higher ratings. However, the episodes were edited for their BBC One run, as the material was deemed too offensive for the BBC One audience.

Series Three, 2005

A third series began on 17 November 2005 on BBC One, and ended six weeks later. After its transmission, it was unclear whether there would be another, as so 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, two Christmasspecials were released. In each, characters from the show were depicted as visiting other countries.

Little Britain Live

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.

Little Britain USA

In 2007, Matt Lucas and David Walliams announced that the British Little Britain will no longer continue, however they have filmed an American version of the show entitled Little Britain USA, which will feature both returning characters from the British series as well as new American ones.[2] According to David Walliams, the new show is "effectively Little Britain season four."[3] The show debuted on HBO at 10:30 pm EST Sunday 28 September 2008, then the following week on BBC One in Britain.


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. The Russian series Nasha Russia is inspired by Little Britain (without having purchased the rights).[4][5]


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.

Guest appearances

Since its debut on television, Little Britain has featured many guest appearances from celebrities and television personalities playing characters. These include Imelda Staunton as Andy's substitute carer, Rob Brydon as Bubbles DeVere's ex-husband Roman, Jamie Theakston as Prime Minister's old friend, Dawn French as Vicky Pollard's mother Shelly, Kate Moss as Vicky Pollard's sister Kate, Nigel Havers as the Leader of the Opposition, Patricia Kane as an elderly resident of Llandewi Breffi, Peter Kay as Ting Tong Macadangdang's brother Les, Sally Hawkins as stage hypnotist Kenny Craig's girlfriend, Ruth Madoc as Daffyd Thomas's mother, Christian Coulson as a drama student and Wesley as the "bitty monster".

Many have also appeared as themselves including: Russell Brand, David Baddiel, Jennie Bond, Ronnie Corbett, Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee (deleted scenes, they were too funny reportedly), Cat Deeley, Vanessa Feltz, Trisha Goddard, Keith Harris (in deleted scenes Orville defecated on Matt Lucas), Elton John, Derek Martin, Paul McKenna, George Michael, Richard Madeley, Judy Finnigan, David Soul, Les McKeown, Mollie Sugden, and Robbie Williams. Paul Rudd

Main characters

As a sketch show, Little Britain features many characters; most are played by Lucas and Walliams with varying degrees of costume and makeup.


As of December 2006, charity specials, and a two part Christmas special known as Little Britain Abroad, which was broadcast in December 2006. This makes a total of 25 episodes to date. There has also been the Little Britain Live show.


The series, and in particular its second and third season, have been criticised for their perceived treatment of minority groups. For example, Johann Hari, writing in The Independent, stated:

“ "Little Britain has been a vehicle for two rich kids to make themselves into multi-millionaires by mocking the weakest people in Britain. Their targets are almost invariably the easiest, cheapest groups to mock: the disabled, poor, elderly, gay or fat. In one fell swoop, they have demolished protections against mocking the weak that took decades to build up."[6] ”

Similarly, Fergus Sheppard wrote in The Scotsman:

“ "The latest series of the hit BBC comedy Little Britain may be hauling in record viewing figures, but it has also sparked a previously unthinkable chorus of criticism, with claims that the show has lost its way, trading early ingenuity for swelling amounts of toilet humour in the search for cheap laughs, and becoming increasingly offensive."[7] ”

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.[8]


The song, "I'm Gay", that Matt Lucas' character Daffyd Thomas sang at the end of the Little Britain Live shows was released as a single and is available to download on iTunes.

Worldwide broadcast

Region Channel
Peru, Argentina, Chile I.Sat
Australia Nine Network, ABC1, UK.TV, Showcase, Network Ten
Austria ORF1
Belgium Canvas, Be TV
Bulgaria Diema 2
Canada BBC Canada, Showcase Television, BBC Kids, The Movie Network
Continental Europe BBC Prime
Czech Republic HBO
Denmark TV 2 Zulu, TV 2
Finland SubTV
France TPS Star, Canal+ (English Week special)
Germany Sat. 1, Comedy Central Germany
Hungary Cool TV
Iceland Sjónvarpið, Stöð 2
India Star World, BBC Entertainment
Republic of Ireland RTÉ Two
Israel BBC Prime, yes stars Comedy
Italy Jimmy, MTV Italia, BBC Prime
Latvia TV6 Latvia
Malaysia Star World, BBC Entertainment (censored version)
Malta BBC Prime
Mexico BBC Mexico
Netherlands Nederland 3, VPRO
New Zealand TV2, C4, UKTV, (previously by Prime Television New Zealand])
Norway Norsk Rikskringkasting
Philippines Star World
Poland TVP2 (censored version), and BBC Prime(uncensored)
Portugal RTP2, SIC Radical
Qatar Showtime Arabia
Romania TVR 2, HBO
Russia MTV Russia
Singapore Arts Central(MediaCorp TV12 Central) (rebranded MediaCorp TV12 okto) (censored version), Star World
South Africa BBC Prime]]
Spain Canal+ Spain
Sweden Sveriges Television
Switzerland SF zwei
Thailand Star World BBC Entertainment
United Arab Emirates Star World
United Kingdom BBC One, BBC Three, G.O.L.D., Dave, Watch
United States BBC America[9], H.B.O


Further reading

  • Julia Snell (2006). "Schema theory and the humour of Little Britain". English Today 22: 59–64. Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/S0266078406001118.
  • Carol Szabolcs (2008). Little Britain in America. Minorities under subverted scrutiny. Grin Verlag. ISBN 978-3-640-30153-9.

External links


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