Right off the bat, let me say that I blame daasgrrl
and her fantastic Sherlock
Mycroft/John/Sherlock threesome crossover with League of Gentlemen
, No Place Like Home (or, Return to Royston Vasey)
for everything that happened next. In that story, Mycroft and Sherlock are originally from Royston Vasey and take John on a very surprising (and sexy!) trip home for Mummy’s birthday, where they interact with all sorts of strange characters.
Curious about the in-jokes in the story that I’d missed, I decided to check out the show League of Gentlemen
, quickly devoured it all, and became a bit obsessed with the creators, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith (and Mark Gatiss, obviously). (Jeremy Dyson is also one of the League but is a writer instead of a writer/performer, so I don’t feel like I know him as well.)
How to describe shows these men produce? To quote daasgrrl
, “While notionally a comedy, The League of Gentlemen
is dark, twisted, and frequently tasteless…” Psychoville
, which just stars Pemberton and Reece, is very similar. At its most basic, The League of Gentlemen
reminded me frequently of Monty Python’s Flying Circus
, except with more of an emphasis on the horrific than the comedic, though it is supernatural horror-comedy with three actors playing recurring characters, frequently in drag. There are a lot of LGBTQ themes, as well, which I enjoyed—though, warning: like all their themes, they are handled deliberately tastelessly. I originally enjoyed this because of Mark Gatiss’ involvement, but I ended up staying because once you can get over a knee-jerk reaction to the grotesque characters, I found their stories addicting. So here are some reviews:League of Gentlemen
—Royston Vasey is a small British town populated, it seems, almost entirely with people who are insane or sociopathic, and generally who have very bad personal hygiene standards. But something happened as I continued to watch: for some of those characters I initially found despicable, by the end of the third season, I was actually starting to be on their side and actively rooting for their happiness. It’s like the writers turned the tables on me every time.Psychoville
—This show is quite similar to League of Gentlemen
, except with more of an overarching storyline. I suppose it’s most similar to the third season of LoG
. Mark Gatiss even has a lovely Sherlock Holmes-themed cameo in episode 4! Also, for you Sherlock
fans playing along, Amanda Abbington has a cameo (I think in episode 2?) as a mother trying to organize a fun birthday party who has to deal with a mentally disturbed clown.Inside No. 9
—the newest series written by Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith, each of these twelve 30-minute episodes is an unsettling standalone story with a twist at the end, each taking place in a location called No. 9 (a house, an apartment, a dressing room, etc.). Unlike LoG
, there is less comedy in these stories, as well as much less drag or LGBTQ themes (except for one notable episode!). Some episodes are much better than others—I like “Sardines” and “Tom & Gerri” best. The quality ranges from mildly distressing to flat-out disturbing, but all had me thinking about them for days afterwards. I’d say of all of them, I liked this series (two seasons) the best because of its sheer capacity to surprise me.
If you like this sort of British comedy, I enjoyed the work of another comedy troupe, the people who made Little Britain
(though on my first try, I couldn’t get into that one), Matt Lucas and David Williams. Their sitcom Come Fly With Me
, about the hapless employees of an airport, reminded me very much of Cabin Pressure
. Lots of tastelessness and characters in drag.
I also liked the creepy seven-episode series Black Mirror
, which has standalone stories that reminded me of Inside No. 9
. If you want to watch that one, people suggest skipping the first episode and coming back to it later since it has an implied scene in which the Prime Minister is coerced into bestiality to appease terrorists. I found this episode to be one of the most harrowing of the series, though. But of them all, by far the best is the seventh episode, the Christmas special “White Christmas,” starring Jon Hamm. There are so many twists and turns and shocking developments, all leading to a profound message.