New article for Horrified Magazine!
Horrified is a new kid on the block but is producing some fine work in the realm of British horror, both in terms of analysis and original fiction, so I was delighted when the editor was keen on my pitch for a recurring series called ‘Horror in the Britcom’, unpicking the intersection between horror and comedy in British sitcoms…
For this third piece, I’m talking about the terrifying Christmas special of the nightmarish comic horror series The League of Gentlemen…
This piece explores the many cinematic horror references within this exceptional piece of television, to my mind the apex of the entire League of Gentlemen lexicon, which deeply pays homage to portmanteau cinema while using it as a framework to explore the deeper series mythology and turn the unnatural into the supernatural. It was huge fun to revisit this episode, which I’ve revered for many years, and continue to.
Next year, I plan to write more Horrified pieces in this series including a look at zombies, consumerism and Father Ted; fatal attraction and psychotic obsession within I’m Alan Partridge; and how The Prisoner serves as an homage to explore the central existential quandary within 2 Point 4 Children. Look out for them in 2021.
You can find the article below, but here’s a short snippet:
What do you traditionally associate with Christmas? Chestnuts roasting on an open fire? Jack Frost nipping at your nose? Or if you’re British, rain on Christmas Day and, probably, television that produces one or more special, seasonally devoted episodes of your favourite shows.
Without strolling too heavily into ‘the good old days’, the reality is that they just don’t make Christmas TV like they used to anymore. Call the Midwife, Mrs Brown’s Boys and Gavin & Stacey can’t hold a candle to Only Fools and Horses & Morecambe & Wise. Even Doctor Who has been given the boot to New Year’s Day. The Christmas Special is becoming an artefact of a different era before satellite television evolved into streaming and catch-up services which now indulge our every demand. The days we would crowd around the TV after Christmas lunch and endless calorie-counting snacks to share a funny or moving experience with our favourite or beloved characters.
One Christmas special, which aired at 10pm on December 27th, twenty years ago today in the year 2000, bucked that warm, cosy trend. The League of Gentlemen, by this point well-established as a bizarre combination of sketch show, sitcom and updated Hammer horror series, brought us their skewed take on the Christmas Special with Yule Never Leave, forty minutes of the most terrifying, and often hilarious, Christmas fodder ever aired on British television. Yule Never Leave is the apex of a beautifully unique example of horror in the Britcom and a masterful expression of how to weave terror and rib-ticking mundanity together in a near-perfect package. Two decades on, it still resonates. It remains haunting, unique, chilling and clever. Nor does it ever depreciate in value.
Finish that mince pie. Grab a hearty bottle of port. Turn out the lights and stoke the fire until it’s roaring. And let’s head to the darkest corner of Royston Vasey as snow falls, an icy wind chills the air, and a local Vicar prepares to lock up her church on Christmas night…