The League of Gentlemen-Series 1 (1999)
Main Menu Audio
|Year Of Production||1999|
|Running Time||176:35 (Case: 174)|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Steve Bendelack|
Roadshow Home Entertainment
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (256Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.78:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The League of Gentlemen - Series 1 is the most outrageous, black, and hilarious stroke of comedy genius I have witnessed in years. Quite simply, this is British humour at its most inventive and is utterly excellent. Let me just say that within minutes of watching the first episode I was hopelessly hooked. I cannot enthuse enough about this work - I adore this series!
What...you want more details? Alright then. This innovative series almost invents a comedy genre of its own. Rather than the more mundane sketch show which is becoming the norm nowadays, it takes a series of the most repulsive, inept, twisted and depraved characters and melds them into a near sit-com format. Each episode forms a story in its own right, yet the main plot lines and the character developments continue throughout the series, lending a continuity to proceedings and a depth to the main characters which is rarely seen in comedy shows. Amazingly all of the major roles are played by Steve Pemberton, Mark Gatiss and Reece Shearsmith, but the characters are so varied it is hard to detect at first. (Postscript - writer Jeremy Dyson doesn't actually play any of the characters - Thanks for the correction Terry).
The basic premise is the life of the denizens of a small (fictitious) Derbyshire town, known as Royston Vasey. The residents are not your normal folk. The characters are hugely varied and each of them has something truly unique to offer. Almost all of them are twisted monsters, either terminally stupid, verging on psychopathic or plain old pathetic. I am sure that every fan will select his or her own favourite (mine happens to be Mr. Chinnery - the world's most benevolent, yet lethal, veterinarian). There are numerous characters to barrack for, but to whet your appetite here are a few of the main contenders. How about Barbara - the transsexual cabby? Maybe the video geeks Henry and Ally will be more your cup of tea? Who could resist the anally retentive Dentons, with their unnatural fondness for urine consumption and toad breeding? Maybe you will fall in love with the depraved monsters Tubbs and Edward Tattsyrup who run the LOCAL shop.
The disc presents all six episodes of the first series:
The League of Gentlemen - Series 1 is pants-wettingly funny. If you like your humour dark, surreal and outrageous this will become one of your favourite shows in no time flat. Alternatively, if you prefer the less visceral humour of Frasier or Veronica's Closet, then this will probably be offensive and possibly even leave you scratching your head. Personally, I love it. I have rarely seen a television comedy which had me laughing out loud at several points in every single episode - this one does it without fail. From the opening seconds of the first episode I knew I was in for a treat of the highest comedic order. I cannot recommend this show highly enough - it is utterly superb. If you consider Monty Python funny, like slightly off-kilter movies such as Donnie Darko, and enjoy the odd bit of gross-out humour, then run - don't walk - and buy this DVD immediately. One point to note however, is that some of the references are very British and may not be totally familiar to an Australian audience (these are unlikely to cloud your understanding of the joke however). I cannot wait to watch the second series. This is comedic brilliance!
The video quality of this transfer is reasonable, but not brilliant, and it does suffer from one significant flaw.
The series is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced. I am not sure if this is the original televised aspect ratio, but it looks fine to me. The video transfer is fairly soft, and nowhere near as sharp as current Australian digital television broadcasts, but is surely better than VHS quality. There is a fairly significant amount of grain present in many shots, but I understand this was deliberately added to provide a "filmic" feel to the series. Interestingly, the deleted scenes are noticeably sharper and cleaner.
Colours are generally well rendered although skin tones sometimes look a little unnatural due to the heavy use of make-up. Colour bleeding is not a problem. Black levels vary a little, but are generally good with minimal low level noise and satisfactory shadow detail.
The transfer is generally free from major MPEG artefacts. There is, however, some truly horrible aliasing present from time to time, and whilst it is not always present, it does distract and is the biggest single flaw with the transfer. Significant examples can be seen on Harvey's glasses at 19:53 in Episode 1 or on the cross at 14:58 in Episode 4. Lesser but still distracting instances crop up on spectacle frames, clipboards, road markings, car chrome and many horizontal edges such as window frames or table tops throughout the series. This aliasing occurred whether I watched the series interlaced or in progressive scan, and whether I used my PC or standalone DVD player. Edge enhancement is not noticeable and telecine wobble is absent.
The transfer is generally free from significant film artefacts, and this is overall a clean transfer.
The English subtitles (for the Hard of Hearing) are legible, well timed and true to the on-screen dialogue, albeit with minor edits for brevity.
This is an RSDL formatted disc, with the noticeable layer change cropping up during one of the early episodes. On subsequent viewings however, I was unable to pinpoint the change.
The overall audio transfer is as would be expected for a television comedy show and is without major defect.
The sole English audio track is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo encoded at 256 kbps. The surround flag is not enabled.
Dialogue is always clear and there are no problems with audio sync.
The musical score is credited to Joby Talbot, and is serviceable; by the end of the series you will probably be able to remember it - but only just. Music plays a very minor role in the proceedings and is generally limited to the title sequences.
As might be expected for a television comedy series, the surrounds are unused. Pro Logic will obviously direct some sound to the surround speakers, but this adds little to the viewing experience.
The subwoofer is not used as there is (unsurprisingly) no LFE track present.
|Surround Channel Use|
Most encouragingly for a BBC television release there are several genuine extras provided on this DVD.
The menu consists of a photograph of the LOCAL shop and the wind from the moors whistling through the speakers. It comes complete with its own little in-joke. Each episode can be selected independently, or they can be played in sequence. Chapter stops can be selected from any episode and subtitles can be turned on or off. Finally, by selecting Precious Things, the following extras can be enjoyed:
A series of silent text-based screens providing an hilarious summary of the major characters seen in Series 1.
Divided into two sections (Stage & Radio and Television), a text-based, silent potted history of the fabulous ensemble known as The League of Gentlemen.
An extensive collection of deleted and extended scenes from Series 1. They are presented with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 256 kbps and in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 16x9 enhanced. All are available with English subtitles. A brief introductory screen explains the scene you are about to see, and the reasons for its editing or exclusion from the main feature:
Despite its understated title, this is actually a fairly major and very unusual extra for a television comedy series. The League (along with director Steve Bendelack) provide an informative and entertaining commentary track for every episode. Unfortunately, as there are frequently several people talking at once, and because the main soundtrack is insufficiently muted, it can be difficult to hear the commentary clearly on occasion.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region 1 release of this series appears to be the same as our own (however www.amazon.com does list "A virtual tour of Royston Vasey" which is not present on the Region 4 release, and about which I can find no other verification). The Region 2 version appears identical to the Region 4. Overall, I would suggest buying whichever you can get your hands on quickest.
The League of Gentlemen - Series 1 is marvellously funny. It is without a doubt the best British comedy show I have seen in the past five years. To paraphrase Ripping Yarns, "this is the blackest black comedy I have ever seen. It is so black even the white bits are black". Beg, buy, borrow or steal a copy - this is a comedy experience without equal.
The video quality is a little patchy in places, but acceptable overall. There are some occasionally annoying problems with aliasing, but this must not deter you from watching the show. If this was presented as a series of Powerpoint slides, I would still buy it. This is simply too good to miss.
The audio transfer is as would be expected for a television comedy series - serviceable and with no real defects.
There are some surprisingly extensive extras on the disc. Gidonya BBC.
|DVD||Harmony DVD Video/Audio PAL Progressive, using Component output|
|Display||Panasonic TX-47P500H 47" Widescreen RPTV. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Amplification||Onkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES|
|Speakers||JensenSPX-9 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 Centre, Jensen SPX-5 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer|