The League of Gentlemen
Series 3

Starring: Reece Shearsmith, Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Jeremy Dyson
BBC Video
RRP 14.99
BBCV 7298
Certificate: 15
Available now

The third series of the BAFTA Award-winning comedy finds a terrible, tragic accident bringing a conclusion to the stories of some of the strange inhabitants of Royston Vasey...

When the third season of The League of Gentlemen was first show on television it received very mixed reviews - most bad. I have to admit that I was not a huge fan of the third series. I missed a few episodes, something I couldn't do with the first two series, and wasn't really that bothered. I remember thinking that it wasn't as subtle, not as well written and the jokes were too few.

So, it was with some apprehension that I agreed to review this video. I was expecting to come out all guns blazing and tear it to pieces. But time has a funny way of distorting memories. I watched the first episode and was surprised at how well it was scripted, how well acted and how funny the jokes were. The music has been jazzed up and the laughter track has vanished. Series three is a totally different vehicle from the previous two series. Gone are the quick, short sketches and in comes some complex storytelling. Each episode takes one of the familiar characters from Royston Vasey and puts them at the centre of a tall tale.

It was while watching this series again that I realised how brave the writers had been to take a much loved series and turn it on its head. But the changes were necessary to keep the series fresh and at the forefront of comedy. Something that they have achieved, and better than could have been expected. It would have been so easy for them to have been lazy and churn out another collection of gags (ALA The Fast Show) with the same punchlines time and time again. Tubbs and Edwards: "Are you local?"; Doctor Chinnery's :"I'm afraid I have some rather depressing news!"; or Peter Papa Lazarou's: "Hello Dave!" (Okay there is a little bit of that last one in season three).

The first epsiode sees Edward and Tubbs brought back to life. "A Swizz!" I hear you cry. But worry not. There is a very legitimate reason for bringing them back, and it makes for an excellent opening.

The six episodes bring back familiar characters. There is Pauline and her new love; Lance, the local one armed joke shop proprietor and his desire to be perfect; Injection blow moulding engineer Geoff and his dream to make people laugh; And a three way love triangle between three of Royston Vasey's familiar residents.

All six episodes are tried together with the same ending, but from a different perspective - an ending that in the final episode neatly wraps everything up. This season also sees the introduction of some new characters, a few deaths (actually a lot of deaths), some bizarre sexual revelations and the truth behind why all the Royston Vasey women have been disappearing.

There are also excellent cameos by Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen (who really takes the Mickey out of himself) and Christopher Eccleston. New characters include teenage street magician Dean Tavalouris; Doctor Carlton who indulges in strange practices with his patients; The local dog cinema owner; A crime fighting 20-something and his talking car - of sorts; and Debt collectors Glen and Barry.

The conclusion will have you all misty eyed - although unless you've got a good memory you will wonder where on earth the two babies materialised from.

While it is advisable that you purchase this on DVD for the amount of quality extras included, the video still represents value for money of a much under rated third series.

Darren Rea

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