When The League of Gentlemen first ran on BBC Two, it was alienating to a lot of my fellow nine-year-olds. It was through pure virtue of my father’s high regard that its quotes sneakily entered my vocabulary. At that age, the horror mixed into the show by its creators was a lot more salient. It wasn’t an easy watch, but that’s exactly why its nightmarish characters made their way so carefully into my consciousness. However, its humour gave its terror a release valve. Oddly, even at that formative age, the accuracy of their characters to the England I knew was greater than that of anything else on television.
Set in the pokey town of Royston Vasey, The League of Gentlemen centres on a wide selection of its inhabitants. Across three seasons and a film, it weaved an intricate web of the town’s coming and goings. What made its variety all the more staggering was how beautifully it was brought to life by its principle performers. The League‘s Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton and Mark Gatiss were almost solely responsible for acting duties. Cumulatively, they would come to play close to one-hundred characters in the course of its run.
With Jeremy Dyson completing the team behind-the-scenes, the four of them have maintained a legacy for their innovative (yet downright hilarious) scripts. That the performing contingent of the League could afford it the weight it required on screen, and stage, made their collective unbelievably cohesive right out of the gate. For example, their first series remains as chilling as it ever was. Fortunately, it’s still very funny too. Their last foray into Royston Vasey, The League of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse*, dropped in the middle of 2005. Still an enjoyable watch, its mixed results probably left its creators wanting to shelve the project for a while.
Fans of British comedy have been waiting rabidly for a return. After all, their original collaboration still stands strong. Since, their individual works have only bolstered their reputation. Shearsmith and Pemberton in particular have kept the flame alive; Inside No. 9 may just be the best British show in years. Across all of their ongoing success, news of future League has been elusive at best. What made their potential reunion all the more intriguing was that it was never ruled out. In fact, members had made a couple of tantalising statements. It seemed something could come at any time. After years of waiting the announcement finally came quietly:
Hi @ManMadeMoon Thanks so much for your kind words Big fan. You may be pleased to know that we’re planning a ‘League’ anniversary special!
— Mark Gatiss (@Markgatiss) 22 April 2017
Which found itself confirmed by:
We are indeed. https://t.co/8TubPaHhkR
— Reece Shearsmith (@ReeceShearsmith) 22 April 2017
Now that each member of the League holds their own high-reputation, this is a reunion of intense anticipation. All four of them working together again is sure be a project of great integrity. What form it might take is the only remaining question. Since Gatiss used the word “special”, it can be fairly assumed that it will be a one-off. It’s highly unlikely that a full fourth series will make it to air. After all, all League members have unbelievably busy schedules. Would we even want a fourth series?
A well-made anniversary special may act as a beautiful cherry on the top. They’ve taken so long getting back together like this for a reason. It’s not just just busyness; they’d have had to have a good thread and idea to base it on. Stretching that across an entire series is probably ill-advised anyway, and I have to believe that the creatives have come up with something to match or even exceed the original material. I’ve come to expect the very best of television from The League of Gentlemen, both individually and as a unit. You can be almost assured that this special will tick boxes you didn’t even know were on the form. Royston Vasey’s road-sign claims, ‘You’ll never leave!’. When it comes to influence on British comedy, that much is resoundingly true.
*2005 also saw the release of The League of Gentlemen Are Behind You!, a parody of a traditional pantomime show.