No sooner had Little Britain’s creators complained that nobody complains about Little Britain, than Barbara Ellen picks them off in the Observer, but certainly not in the way they’d hoped. While Matt Lucas and David Walliams have gone well across the line that usually gets Mary Whitehouse’s old crew up in arms, Little Britain’s passed them by. But perhaps that not such a surprise, it’s a cultish series that flies well under the old folks’ radar: they’re not likely to come across it by accident. And so they’re not obliging with the outraged PR, no matter how far it goes.
But Ellen’s criticism’s more biting – ‘too much of their comedy is ill-conceived and spiteful, and mainly aimed at the working class in a self-satisfied chattering class manner’ – and likely to genuinely hurt. It’s true that Little Britain, unlike Peter Kay say, is snarling. But it spits at everyone and the fuss Lucas made about coming out implies a surprising degree of autobiography in Dafydd, ‘the only gay in the village’.
On the other hand, it seems working class Bolton lad Peter Kay could probably do with a bit of creative struggle. He’s enjoyed a truly meteoric rise, going from guy in an armchair shouting ‘I can do that’ at the TV, to hottest stand-up in the business in next to know time. It’s hard to believe the comedy circuit could be so open, but friends tell me it is, with open mike sessions giving plenty of opportunity to be seen.
Yet ease of access strikes me as Kay’s threatened undoing with new series Max and Paddy’s Road to Nowhere. It’s all funny enough, but the series hasn’t been hardened by criticism. A road trip should be a metaphor for some other journey the characters are making, yet Max and Paddy are the same from one episode to the next. Even the surprise of being father to a twelve year old is instantly forgotten; episodes could come in any order. And there’s no scope to develop an army of supporting characters. It should have been sent back for a re-draft: ‘How will Max and Paddy grow beyond the simple doorman caricatures and become people we can believe in…? Let’s have a narrative thread that links it all together…’