About Christmas TV History

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The League of Gentlemen Christmas (2000)

The League of Gentlemen TV series (1999-2002)

 Do you watch and enjoy British television?  I do.  There are some British shows that do quite well over here in the States and then...there are some shows that don't seem to quite catch on.  The strange and dark comedy series The League of Gentlemen is one of those TV series.  But if you watch alot of British comedies, you have a better chance of understanding and enjoying this style of humor.  The members of The League of Gentlemen are Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith, Jeremy Dyson and Mark Gatiss.  The TV series is a collection of sketches about the bizarre residents of the fictional town of Royston Vasey.  Words fail to capture the weirdness of the series except to say that it's definitely not for everyone.  However, I actually like The League of Gentlemen and the 2000 Christmas special entitled "Yule Never Leave" makes a great cross-over for Halloween.

This Christmas special brilliantly takes its inspiration from anthology horror films for this most unusual holiday show.  (Think 1945's Dead of Night and 1972's Tales From the Crypt movies).  These funny men weave three vignettes into one story, as the characters from the small village of Royston Vasey confide in the vicar on Christmas Eve.  The first vignette is about a woman seeking revenge against her line-dancing obsessed husband.  However, her revenge may cost her more than she intended to pay.  The second vignette is a hilariously perverted story with a twist--a German choir director stands accused by the new boy in the group of being a vampire.  The third segment concerns itself with a nineteenth-century veterinarian who is cursed by a magical spell to bring harm to the animals he treats.  Additionally, the irreverent vulgar vicar herself is visited by a terrifying vision of Santa Claus from her own Christmas past.

Youtube has a few clips from the Christmas special, but the videos disappointingly don't capture the essence of the story.  Luckily, Netflix has The League of Gentlemen Christmas special.  I feel safe in saying you've probably never seen anything like it.  But that's also why I'm a fan.

Stella approaches the mysterious masked committee to ask for revenge on her husband 

The choir master Herr Lipp welcomes a new member to his singing group

Spirists fill the air in the 2005 episode "The Unquiet Dead" on Doctor Who
Even if you don't appreciate The League of Gentlemen, you may already be familiar with actor/writer Mark Gatiss' work.  He has since become the writer for Sherlock, the hit mystery series from last year (2010) from the BBC--which ran here in the States on PBS.  Gatiss has also written for the latest Doctor Who series--including the 2005 episode "The Unquiet Dead" in which the Doctor and his companion Rose arrive in London on Christmas Eve 1869 where they follow a walking corpse from a funeral parlor to a public reading of the book A Christmas Carol by author Charles Dickens.  It is a fun Christmas episode if you haven't seen it!

Actor Simon Callow as Charles Dickens in "The Unquiet Dead."


  1. 'League of Gentlemen' is one of my all time favorite shows. By the third and final season, it had reached the point where it wasn't really funny in any traditional sort of way, just delightfully twisted. It's obvious that the writers had a genuine love of classic British horror, and that really comes through in this Christmas episode.

  2. Twisted it right. That's why I like it. I'm always surprised by how few people have heard of it.