This year marks the 20th anniversary of The League of Gentleman, with the original radio series being broadcast in 1997. Its BBC2 TV debut came in 1999, and since the final instalment – the movie, The League of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse – fans have been clamouring for any sign of a reunion.
The cast have been hinting at a reunion for a while, and in August the BBC confirmed that three special episodes will be broadcast later this year, and recent on-set photos have given fans a glimpse of what’s in store.
Created by writers Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith, Mark Gatiss and Jeremy Dyson, The League of Gentleman takes place in the fictional English town of Royston Vasey. It tells the darkly comic stories of the town’s strange inhabitants, the majority of whom are portrayed on screen by Pemberton, Shearsmith and Gatiss. The host of oddball characters include the morbidly incompetent vet, Mr Chinnery; Hilary Driss, “The Demon Butcher of Royston Vasey,” who sells his sinister “special meat” under the counter; the bizarre circus ringmaster, Papa Lazarou; and perhaps most famously Tubbs and Edward Tattsyrup, the pig-nosed owners of the local shop, who are terrified of anything and anyone that isn’t local.
Photos captured on set this week suggest that at least some of the original characters will return, with Mark Gatiss being spotted in costume as Mr Chinnery.
The photos also suggest that Royston Vasey might be experiencing an economic downturn, with prop ‘For Sale’ signs spotted on some of the set exteriors.
Mark Gatiss has expressed a desire to explore some modern British themes via the setting of Royston Vasey, including the UK’s exit from the European Union.
“Increasingly we have become a local country for local people and I wonder if there is something Brexity in us that we can do,” said Gatiss.
Looking back at the original three series, there are a lot of characters who could be brought very easily into 2017, and fans will be desperate for a glimpse of some of the most iconic faces. Some of the others, such as Barbara Dixon, the transsexual taxi driver, have not dated quite so well, and it’s difficult to imagine how they would fit into the 2017 special episodes.
Mark Gatiss may have branched out into more mainstream projects such as Doctor Who and Sherlock, but Pemberton and Shearsmith have continued in the same vein as The League of Gentlemen, producing two series of the horror comedy Psychoville, which featured a cast of characters every bit as strange as the inhabitants of Royston Vasey. After Psychoville came the award-winning Inside No.9, a darkly comic anthology series which featured a brand new story and cast each week. Psychoville and Inside No.9 would suggest that Pemberton and Shearsmith aren’t close to running out of inspiration for more bizarre characters and gruesome stories.
“We are thrilled to bits to be returning to Royston Vasey in celebration of our 20 years at the BBC (with time off for bad behaviour),” said The League of Gentleman, in a statement released earlier this year.
“We look forward to digging up the old characters – some of them literally – and seeing how life has treated them. It’s been great fun to write these Specials, and we’ve saved money on the make-up budget by kindly growing ancient ourselves. Like the sign says: You’ll Never Leave.”