Rob Gilroy

Rob Gilroy: Making A Stand #42

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So, did we all watch Inside No. 9?

I do hope so, because if you didn’t then boy did you miss out! Go watch it now. Go on, iPlayer it. It’s fine, I can wait…

Done? Great.

Yes, I’m afraid that this week’s column is going to be another one of those where I fawn over a much-loved comedy in a style that is 10 parts sycophantic and 0 parts interesting.

With Inside No. 9, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith returned to our TV for the first time in what feels like far too long.

The show was everything you have come to expect from the duo – funny, terrifying, deeply unnerving and perfectly realised. It was, quite simply, a beautifully crafted bit of television. The sort of which you don’t get that often.

Like Psychoville and The League of Gentlemen before it, it was brilliant.

Between Inside No. 9, Sherlock and Psychobitches ­­­- Jeremy Dyson, Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith are behind some of the best TV currently on our screens and yet the show that started it all – The League of Gentlemen, remains an unappreciated gem.

Loved by a great many people, no doubt, but not one that is mentioned as much as it should be. So here I am, mentioning it.

I’ve talked briefly before about my love of The League of Gentlemen Christmas Special and how it is one of my must-watch bits of festive telly.

With that and The League of Gentlemen Are Behind You, they have created two Yuletide viewing traditions in my house – up there with sticking money in a Christmas pudding. A tradition that is becoming harder to keep up in this economic environment. We just stuck an I.O.U in it this time round.

What’s incredible about The League, is that over a relatively short period of time they were able to create a huge body of work which stands the test of time.

Three television series, a radio series, two live shows, three books and a film – in ten years! Ten years!

I know God created heaven and earth in a week, but let’s face it, he wasn’t doing that whilst guest-starring in Catterick, Blackpool and Nighty Night and creating work such as the camp capers of Lucifer Box, the chilling Never Trust a Rabbit and the also woefully underrated (anyone else noticing a theme here?) Funland.

Yeah, heaven and earth are looking a bit shit now aren’t they?

I can’t claim to have been a fan of the League from day one. Once upon a time they were just ‘those funny looking up-turned nose people’ on VHS boxes at my local HMV. I didn’t start watching until the beginning of series 3.

I didn’t understand it and huge swathes of recurring characters were lost of me (a missing vicar? Mr Foot? Gender bending?) – yet I was transfixed.

It was one of the most engaging TV shows I had ever seen. So much so that by the time episode 6 had aired, I had bought and consumed series one and two and was firmly steeped in the Gentlemen lore (I can, I can’t).

For any established and much-loved show to change the format so drastically, as they did in series 3, would have been a huge risk –  if El Dorado had done something similar maybe it would have been recommissioned – but the fact that it made the show funnier, cleverer and only deepened your love for the characters is quite astonishing.

Like Run Lola Run in Rotherham.

To say series 3 was a triumph is not only an incredible understatement but it also does a disservice to series one and two. Two of the funniest, weirdest and yet utterly transfixing series ever.

Series one to my mind; is perfect from start to finish. Series two ups the ante like you wouldn’t believe and, as mentioned, the Christmas Special takes things to a whole new level with a series of dark, morality tales (you’d never get gay vampires in Just So Stories) set against the backdrop of Rev Bernice Woodall’s festive redemption.

It’s a Wonderful Life for the line-dancing, bugger-biting, rabbit-blinding generation, if you will.

And so this brings us to The League of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse. By now you will be aware that I am not hiding my bias, more wearing it as a garish broach on the lapel of my dignity, but I love that film.

The gents have talked before about how it didn’t quite end up as the film they intended but it does everything a League of Gentlemen film should do – it’s very, very funny (“They put me in a box with my coat on”), it’s packed full of great characters (Dr. Pea), the horror moments are genuinely scary (p*ssy eyes!) and it is incredibly ambitious (an homunculus).

In an age where films tend to be knocked out quickly and comedy films in general feel as though little effort has been exerted, Apocalypse is, like the stop motion monster, a lovingly rendered tribute to film. And it has a great joke about ASDA.

A quick shout out the brilliantly overlooked Steve Bendelack who was with the League from day one of the TV series and who helps them realise their brand of cinematic bleakness.

So there, I’ve been quite devastatingly open about my love for The League of Gentlemen and it’s only because I feel they should truly be treasured as not only great comedians but genuinely exciting creators.

Every sketch show knocking around these days claims to have ‘grotesque characters’ and ‘twisted stories’ but they owe it all to the gents.

With completely rounded and believable characters that are at once incredibly funny and deeply sad, a blend of comedy and horror that has never been as potent and an authenticity and intensity that has rarely been seen since; they came from obscurity and landed fully-formed in Royston Vasey (via Spent).

If you haven’t seen Inside No. 9 please do. And if you haven’t seen The League of Gentlemen then you really need to sort it out.

Thank you for your time, it’s been a fucking pleasure.

  • Rob Gilroy can be heard tonight on Drystone Radio at 11pm tonight as part of The Ramblers.
  • Rob can be seen next at Bradford Uni Sports Bar for Sh*ts and G*ggles on Saturday 8 Feb, The Stand in Newcastle on Wednesday 12 Feb and at Prestwich Comedy on Thursday 13 Feb.