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Airdate: 10:30-11 p.m. Sundays, Sept. 28 (HBO)
LOS ANGELES — It’s not that Americans can’t master the outlandish sketch comedy exemplified by “Little Britain USA.” It’s just that, from Monty Python to Borat to Eddie Izzard, the British invariably do it so much better.
“Little Britain,” a hit on the BBC and to a lesser extent on BBC America, reflects the genius of writer-performers Matt Lucas and David Walliams. They “adapted” the show for the U.S. mostly by taking the oddball characters they perfected in the U.K. and moving them to new settings across the Atlantic.
So, for example, hospital receptionist Carol Beer (Walliams) is as rude and condescending as ever, only now she’s employed in an American hospital. Marjorie Dawes (Lucas) is still a tactless, insulting leader of FatFighters meetings, only now her targets are overweight Americans. (In the premiere, one of the best bits has Marjorie leading a session with guest Rosie O’Donnell, who is a very good sport.)
In some instances, they created American characters just for this new six-episode series. The best of these is astronaut Bing Gordyn (Walliams), who gets no respect for being the eighth man to walk on the moon. Whether talking to Cub Scouts or a plumber called to his house, no amount of immodesty gets Gordyn the attention he craves.
Not everything works. Dog owner Phyllis (Walliams) is pathetically loony as she supplies the voice of her pet, which commands her to do embarrassing things. Long-suffering married couple Sandra and George are hilariously miserable after 40 years, but the gag loses its edge after several slight variations of the same theme.
In subsequent episodes, Lucas and Walliams, who play all the main characters, take aim at gun-crazy Americans, posing as hunters that gleefully bag a mouse and a bee. Also, be on the lookout for gay British prime minister Sebastian Love, who takes foreign relations to a new level.
HBO has slotted the series to follow “Entourage,” though there isn’t much connective tissue shared by the shows.
“Little Britain” should, nonetheless, attract a small but devoted following, including particularly those who once relished watching Tracey Ullman’s “TraceyTakes On … ”
Production: 19 Entertainment in association with MBST. Cast: Matt Lucas, David Walliams, Rosie O’Donnell, Harry Lennix, Ann Cusack. Announcer: Tom Baker. Writers: Matt Lucas, David Walliams. Executive producers: Matt Lucas, David Walliams, Simon Fuller, Larry Brezner, David Steinberg, Michael Patrick Jann. Producer: Stephanie Cone Laing. Director: Michael Patrick Jann. Live studio segment director: David Schwimmer; Director of photography: Joe Kessler; Production designer: Michael Wylie; Editor: David Codron; Music: David Arnold; Set decorators: James Ferrell, KC Fox; Casting: Jeanne McCarthy, Nicole Abellera.
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Walt Disney Animation Studios