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Internet Commentary: The League of Gentlemen Christmas Special

After last year's rousing and arousing success with our Shaun of the Dead internet commentary, Mr. Philip Reed and I decided to continue the tradition. We had many great and exciting plans. What film would we watch? And how did we end up watching a Christmas special of a television show? The answers (and Reece Shearsmith's genital cluster) are included herein!

Austin: What movie are we going to do? Because I've just realized that I don't own Ghostbusters, and Donnie Darko is in my brother's dorm room, and he is out.
Phil: So that leaves us with...what?
Austin: We could have done the original Dawn of the Dead, but I doubt that you've even seen it, you great big ploppy shit.
Phil: Sorry Charles.
Austin: We could do a few episodes of The League of Gentlemen, but that's not the greatest solution.
Phil: Maybe the Christmas special? That's Halloweeny.
Austin: I was going to mention that, but thought you would point out the fact that it's a Christmas special.
Phil: I thought you'd do the same thing, and then I'd just reply by saying, "Well fuck you too, Ross," and you'd cry, and I'd do the internet commentary alone, and win an award.
Phil: Any other options before we decide?
Austin: Not really.
Phil: And you don't have the League movie, correct?
Austin: You mean the most recent one? The Apocalypse, or something..
Phil: Yeah. Also known as THE ONLY ONE.
Austin: But what about the 1933 King Kong? I thought that was theirs.
Phil: Oh, well, yes, THAT. And Barry Lyndon. But otherwise it's just Apocalypse. And the TV version of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, starring Oprah.
Phil: *loads up xmas special*
Austin: *butters scrotal sack*
Phil: Are you ready? Let's commentate this mother.
Phil: 5
Phil: 4
Phil: 3
Phil: 2
Phil: 1


Austin: Right. Let me just start off by saying that I love The League of Gentlemen so much it gets me sexually excited just to think about it. Especially this opening.
Phil: Yeah, this is a really brilliant beginning. It's funny and extremely's got a vague menace and holiday spirit about it both, and a woman making a piss snowball. I think part of the reason the film disappointed a lot of people is that the series was already so cinematic...they expected so much more from the film.
Austin: Also, I want to have sex with Joby Talbot. I want to have his kids and have sex with THEM.
Phil: God bless us every one.
Phil: The acting is such top-notch stuff here. It's's just amazing how much emotion they invest into what basically amount to sketch characters.
Austin: Exactly. They started off as sketch characters, but they're so much more now.


Phil: The whole Charlie / Stella dynamic is as rich and layered as any classic dysfunctional film couple.

CHARLIE: Tell her it's too late, Julie. It's been in the freezer too long.

Phil: See, that's what I mean. It's a funny moment, but it's so well-delivered. They play these characters straight, which is so much more affecting.
Phil: So how guilty should I feel about wanting to bone Liza Tarbuck?
Austin: I'm interested in why you brought this up during the scene when they're sitting on the toilet.
Phil: Barbara is the only character who has been in every TV incarnation of League. Boring fact end.


Phil: I'll be honest, this scene is far scarier than the actual film upon which it's based.
Austin: And far more arousing.
Phil: It's also amazing how easy it is to distinguish these characters considering you can't see any of the faces. It's a testament to how well-realized they are. It's far beyond just sight recognition.

PAM DOOVE: A bockle of oran joove!
VAL DENTON: That will not be necessary.

Phil: I think they stole that exchange from It's a Wonderful Life.
Austin: Zuzu's bockle of oran joove.

DONNA: Why do you call him Pinky?
STELLA: Because he's a pig and stinks of shit.

Phil: I love it when they stop being clever and just become abusive. It's so...real. And it always falls so naturally.


Phil: The only negative thing I can say about this special is that they put the cleverest story on first. They're all great, but this is definitely the "brainiest" of the bunch.
Austin: It's probably the best written, but I think the others might be better at establishing atmosphere. I love the Dr. Chinnery story.
Phil: I'll have more to say on that one when it comes let me just enjoy Charlie's pot-bellied line dancing.
Austin: Reminds me of our first date.
Phil: And by the way, do you not feel fucking AWFUL for him in this story? II think it's clear he means well...and he's sort of a slave to this relationship more than he is any kind of direct perpetrator.
Austin: Oh, it's awful. I want to cry every time I see it, just because it establishes that he's not the worst of the two. I can also imagine how the two of them got together initially.
Phil: Being trapped in a relationship like this is my worst nightmare. Because there's no real villain and there's no way out. It's just this horrible cycle that ends with your feet catching on fire during a line-dancing competition.
Austin: Every time.
Phil: Ugh, this clapping. It's brutal. It's as bad as the response to Brent's comedy routine for the Swindon lot.

STELLA: You? You're a big fat sperm whale.

Austin: Possibly the most disgusting line in the special.
Phil: Another theft from It's a Wonderful Life. These guys are shameless.


STELLA: What's this?
DONNA: This is the price.

Phil: Fucking, fucking excellent.
Austin: Fantastic delivery.
Phil: I wonder which League actor "dies" most often. It might well be Gatiss.

BERNICE: A cheese dream, a dream brought about by eating cheese!

Austin: Wasn't that from the original A Christmas Carol?
Phil: And now Charlie leaves...and I must admit, I miss him. He's one of my favorite characters...and his episode in series III is one of the finest half-hours of television in the world.
Phil: It's amazing how well Bernice is used in this special...even though she really didn't bring much at all to the series. Shame she ends up in an elephant just as she gets interesting.


Phil: Herr Lipp is such a great character, too. Steve Pemberton really knows how to make a horrible person win your sympathy. Pauline, Lipp, Tubbs, Charlie...he's a master.
Austin: Yes, he's possibly the best actor in this series. He just fits the characters so well. Not that Shearsmith and Gatiss are slackers.
Phil: I used to think Gatiss was the best of them...because he plays Les McQueen and Chinnery, both of whom you just want to weep for every time they're on screen
Austin: I don't know if there is a best character or actor, actually, because every time I think I've settled on a favorite, I think of a different moment with some other character.
Phil: There's something about this being a Christmas special that actually makes it far, far more disturbing than a Halloween special could ever be.
Austin: This is true. Because you'd expect this sort of thing from a Halloween special.
Phil: Right. Especially from the League of Gentlemen. If they'd branded it a Halloween special people would be on their toes. But Christmas implies a certain set of themes and conventions, and they can sort of catch you emotionally unaware.
Austin: And you know, Steve Bendelack is as much a driving force behind the greatness of this series. Because let's face it, the direction is so good it makes me hard in all sorts of places.
Phil: I find it interesting that you said that during a close-up of Matthew's blue underpants.
Austin: It's a little known fact, but Steve Bendelack is actually Reece Shearsmith's penis.
Phil: Bendelack and Edgar Wright are just too brilliant for television. We're really blessed to have either of them working in such a disposable medium
Austin: And Edgar Wright is Steve Bendelack's penis.
Phil: And Reece Shearsmith is Edgar Wright's penis, which means...I hate you for starting us down this road.
Phil: You know, I have a whole theory that Herr Lipp is not actually gay at all.
Austin: You should definitely tell me about that some time.
Phil: It's just that he yearns so strongly for children of his own but has no other way to express it. The film fleshes my theory out a bit...I should do that essay I keep promising on the subject.


Austin: I love how Gatiss's character has practically metallic tits. I like it, and I'm not going to deny that fact.
Phil: They're MetalliTits. They're trademarked, Ross.
Austin: I thought that was a band. Ozzy Osbourne and the MetalliTits.


HERR LIPP: Sometimes the inside of something can be beautiful, even if the package isn't...well...isn't.

Phil: This scene is heartbreaking in such a strange way.

MATTHEW: Leave me alone.
HERR LIPP: I will try.

Austin: I love it when they write lines you just don't expect.
Phil: From a comedy aspect, Herr Lipp only exists so they can make cock jokes. And yet...and yet...Pemberton finds a real human being in there. It's such a great example for writers. I'm thoroughly impressed by this show. It's also interesting to note that of all the strange relationships in the show, the Lipp marriage is really the only one that's entirely loveless.
Austin: And we end by entering Herr Lipp's mouth. Fitting.

BERNICE: You think you're the only person that's ever had a shit Christmas?

Phil: I stole that line. It's almost depressing how easy it is to work into conversation.


Phil: The only thing I don't like about this story is that it implies that Chinnery never has a surviving patient, which is slightly unbelievable. I always assumed we were just seeing the failures...of which, admittedly, there were more than there should have been. Of course, it could just mean that he will EVENTUALLY cause the death of his patients...which does leave room for several successful procedures before that actually ends up happening.
Phil: Did I just put you to sleep?
Austin: Wha' happen!!!1
Phil: ahem


Austin: I love this story. I love stories told in this period of history. As cliche as some of the tropes are, I genuinely love them. And the bear is great.
Phil: I love that it actually does end on a moment of redemption. We leave the character with the possibility, at least, that he's going to turn his fortunes around. It also implies that part of the reason Chinnery is one of the few truly good-hearted people in Royston Vasey is that his family did not originate there.
Austin: And this music on the train is so good.
Phil: The music for the whole special is excellent. But nothing--NOTHING--beats the end theme of series III.
Austin: And the old man mooning the kids? Best part of the episode. Not really, but I love it anyway.
Phil: You haven't read the story in the Local Book for Local People, have you? There's a Victorian lit version of this tale in there.
Austin: I LOVE this scene with the bicycle.


BOOTHBY: Quicker to cycle, I'd say?

Phil: It's so well-shot. I also imagine it must be really hard to act while riding a bicycle in a continuous tight circle.
Austin: He reminds me of a Muppet when he falls off the bicycle.
Phil: He reminds me of a Muppet when he sings Rainbow Connection.

BOOTHBY: All my doors are open to you, Chinnery...except for the ones...that are closed.

Phil: The fact that they bother to deliver lines like that with conviction is just fantastic. This special could have easily just been a string of little skits about Christmas...but instead, it really is a genuine work of art.


PURBLIND: You wouldn't think to look at me now, Chinnery, but once I was a young and handsome fellow.

Phil: I still can't tell if that's an intentional joke.
Austin: And the monkey? Best prop ever.


Phil: It took me many viewings to realize how long this story's far more time than most shows would devote to what is basically a single conversation.
Austin: I want to be able to tell stories like that.
Phil: You should tell this story to your grandkids one day. If only so that you can teach them the phrase "genital cluster."
Austin: It sounds like a breakfast cereal. A DELICIOUS breakfast cereal.
Phil: With milk that magically turns to cream.

PURBLIND: Feel them. Feel the knackers.

Austin: And then Chinnery goes all out and just grabs them.
Phil: I love the hesitation though...and then the terror in his eyes...who else would invest so much creative energy into a scene about cupping severed monkey nuts?
Austin: Purblind, Boothby and Canker. You just don't see those names anymore.
Phil: Someone I watched this with raised a good point: Why didn't they just forget the old man and take Chinnery on as the third partner? If he's already SuperVet...why curse him for the sake of some bed-ridden old geezer?
Austin: That is a good point. But then we wouldn't have Chinnery. And I know which I'd rather have.


Phil: I like that the whole sequence here happens off-screen, and you just end up with a zebra head crashing through the window. I'm sure they COULD have shot it...but it's so much better if you see it all at once, at the end, rather than piece by piece.


Phil: Papa Lazarou has the honor of being the only sketch comedy character to appear repeatedly in my nightmares.
Austin: He's such a memorable character. He would be a memorable character if he never said a word.
Phil: He's the kind of character who works so well because you're not really sure exactly who he is, even. There's just enough mystery to make him sincerely terrifying.
Phil: Also, if you listen, you can hear somebody say, "Alright, throw her in," when they load Bernice into the sleigh...and it's clearly not Reece.
Phil: So that's it. I can no longer sleep on either Halloween or Christmas Eve, thanks to this one television special.
Austin: Now let's cuddle.
Phil: What would you say is the moral of this Christmas story?
Austin: Whatever you do, don't go around grabbing monkey testicles. As fun as it might seem at the time, it will just bring misery and pain.
Phil: I'd say it's "Never go to church."
Austin: So our combined moral is, "Don't grab monkey testicles at church?"
Phil: Or maybe the moral is that you should have bi-monthly Papa Lazarou drills, so you'll always know the optimum exit depending upon his point of entry.
Austin: And there are many points of entry.
Phil: I can't wait until I have kids. I'll show them this and then they'll never want Santa Claus to visit. I'll save a lot of Christmas shopping that way.
Austin: You know, you could just not have kids. You could show it to other people's kids.
Phil: Define "it."

About this entry


It's an amazing episode of television, perfectly crafted. It's probably still their finest moment. The film, while being great, kind of stepped a little to the side of what they do best, maybe in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience (shame no-one saw it then!). For me they are always at their best when they go as dark as they can get away with, and bump the film references and influences up to the max. The Christmas Special is fair teeming with meaty goodness. Papa's appearance at the end is possibly the most shocked, thrilled, horrified all at the same time I've been when watching anything like this! Of course, if you're not a big fan I suppose him turning up like that doesn't mean much. It's amazing that Papa Lazarous has only been in 3 episodes of television (and the film, although it's only really a cameo) and yet he's a character so etched on your consciousness.

I just got, today actually, The League Of Gentlemen's Book of Precious Things in which each member of the League introduces some of their favourite influences. It includes script extracts, book chapters, TV sketches reproduced and the like. It's really rather excellent (although it's a shame there's hardly any pictures in it). It's great to read that Reece and Steve used to watch The Wicker Man on May 1st every year and there was one point where they kept watching certain scenes every day and absorbing them. If they did that it's no wonder they ended up writing some of the stuff they did!

And their influences are so varied too, from Noel Coward to Alan Bennett (the excellent A Chip In The Sugar is in the book) to Rumplestiltskin! Of course, Mark Gatiss chooses Who as one of his influences (he actually says that his obsession with Who is so well-documented that it's in danger of becoming boring!). Part of the brilliant Talons of Weng-Chiang is printed here.

I hope they do something similar to the Christmas Special again one day. Although it doesn't look like they'll be working together again anytime soon.

By performingmonkey
October 31, 2007 @ 2:02 am

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>Phil: So how guilty should I feel about wanting to bone Liza Tarbuck?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Ahem. I enjoyed reading the commentary.

By Tanya Jones
October 31, 2007 @ 5:43 pm

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The “When?” “A long time ago…” “Well, we all get old! :D” (probably paraphrasing) is one of the first things I think of about TLoG and I don’t know why.

Phil: The music for the whole special is excellent. But nothing—NOTHING—beats the end theme of series III.

It’s also on the movie soundtrack “End Titles” if you didn’t know, Phil.

And since the only person who’ll read this post is an admin (that you, Mr. Hoare?), could you keep the red on black site motiff? ‘Tis spiffier than the white background.

By Ridley
October 31, 2008 @ 8:23 pm

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>It’s also on the movie soundtrack “End Titles” if you didn’t know, Phil.

I didn’t know! Is it the same mix or an extended version? The fullest version I have I pulled from the series III DVD menus…did they use that unaltered on the End Titles soundtrack?

Phil Reed's picture

By Phil Reed
November 01, 2008 @ 2:50 am

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I believe it’s the original (3:25). Got it on the PC if you have an address I can send it to.

By Ridley
November 01, 2008 @ 10:57 pm

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“you should have bi-monthly Papa Lazarou drills”

Phil, I’m afraid that this has just gone straight onto the hallowed list of remarks which I have etched onto the inside of my skull, along with “Bats don’t exist” and “That belgian chocolate that you keep shutting up about”.

By Julian Hazeldine
November 02, 2008 @ 1:46 pm

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And since the only person who’ll read this post is an admin (that you, Mr. Hoare?), could you keep the red on black site motiff? ‘Tis spiffier than the white background.

I much prefer the white, but a few people have said they really like the red/black!

The site will go back to normal next week, but I’ll try and make it available for users as an optional theme shortly after.

John Hoare's picture

By John Hoare
November 02, 2008 @ 5:09 pm

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