The League of Gentlemen Review – Series 4 Episode 1: Return to Royston Vasey

Two decades on from their creation, The League are back and just as twisted and hilarious as ever.

★★★★★

Welcome back to Royston Vasey – A local town for local people. 15 Years after the series finished on BBC and 12 years after the feature length film, Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton and Jeremy Dyson reunite for three specials. But what has happened since we last found ourselves in among the oddballs and outcasts of the worlds strangest town? Well, Barbara the transsexual taxi-driver is up to date with the modern language used to describe the LGBT community, using it as a weapon to attack Benjamin for using the wrong pro-noun when addressing them (gender neutral only please). Benjamin is back for the funeral of Harvey Denton, but things have gone horribly downhill in his absence – although his twin daughters Chloe and Radclyffe are still haunting his every step. And Royston Vasey itself is full of shuttered up shops, with a packed food bank and derelict high rise flats.

With any program returning for a special, or series of specials, there is clearly a temptation on the behalf of the creators to phone it in. To just trot out the same characters and the same punchlines as before. Luckily, the creators of this cult classic black comedy have updated the context and the characters in bleakly humorous ways. While the characters remain the same, the writers haven’t rested on their laurels. In many ways, Britain in 2017 is more like Royston Vasey now than it was when the show originally aired. Austerity Britain has contributed to the victimization of those on benefits and a huge increase in food bank usage, while in many parts of the country the local economy has never really recovered from the financial crash of 2007/8. And so as the society we live in has become progressively bleaker, so the comedy used to reflect and satirize it must become darker to still feel relevant.

Since The League of Gentlemen was last on our screens, the creators of the show have all become household names. From Mark Gatiss’ involvement in Sherlock and Doctor Who, to Steve Pemberton in ITV’s Benidorm, the creators of the show have appeared in a wide array of comedy and drama in the intervening years. It is clear that none of them have decided to reunite purely for commercial benefit, but for the love of the show, the characters, and for the fans. For those coming into this show cold for the first time, some of the comedy relies on prior knowledge or at least familiarity with the characters. Yes the show is funny regardless, but an additional layer of its surreal strand of humour does depend on and understanding of the original TV series or film. If however you are a fan of The League of Gentlemen’s style of  bleak and disturbing humour, it is fantastic to be back in Royston Vasey – here’s to hoping we never have to leave.

This episode of The League of Gentleman is now available on BBC iPlayer here.

Episode 2 of this series is reviewed here

Episode 3 of this series is reviewed here

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