‘Little Britain’ Is Returning To Freeview After 20 Years

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Twenty years after its debut, Little Britain is making a grand re-entry into the world of linear television, bringing with it a mix of nostalgia and renewed scrutiny.

This Christmas, That’s TV is bringing back the acclaimed British comedy series, once a staple of the BBC, alongside a curated selection of classic shows for its festive lineup.

The return of Little Britain to a linear Freeview / Freesat channel is not just a trip down memory lane – it’s a reflection of how the television landscape continues to evolve in addressing contemporary societal values.

However, Little Britain’s journey back to the small screen is not without its complexities.

The show, celebrated for its satirical portrayal of British life, also faced significant controversy, particularly for its depiction of race and ethnicity.

In an era increasingly conscious of media’s impact on social norms, the revival includes a censored version of the show, edited in response to past criticisms and Ofcom’s findings on potentially offensive content.

Little Britain Matt Lucas David Walliam ladies BBC
Photo: BBC

Furthermore, That’s TV’s festive lineup isn’t just about Little Britain – it also includes other beloved series like No Place Like Home, The League of Gentlemen Christmas Special, and The Brittas Empire Christmas Special (See the full list below).

Little Britain’s Success – And Controversy

Little Britain, a mockumentary-style show narrated by Tom Baker, garnered immediate success upon its release.

The series, created by Matt Lucas and David Walliams, won the BAFTA award for best comedy in 2004 and 2005. Its unique blend of humour and character-driven sketches drew critical acclaim, epitomizing the absurdities of British suburbia.

Following its debut on BBC Three, the show’s popularity soared, attracting over nine million viewers when it moved to BBC One in 2005.

Controversies and Cuts

The return of Little Britain to linear television is enveloped in a history of controversy, particularly surrounding its depiction of race and ethnicity.

This issue came to a head in 2020, amidst a broader societal reckoning on racial sensitivities.

The show was removed from prominent streaming platforms such as BBC iPlayer, Netflix, and Sky’s NOW, primarily due to its use of blackface in several sketches.

This decision was a direct response to the growing criticism and heightened awareness of racial insensitivity in media representations.

Following the removal, creators Matt Lucas and David Walliams issued a joint statement apologizing for the use of blackface in the show.

Little Britain Matt Lucas
Photo: BBC

Adding to this complexity, Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, recently conducted audience research which labelled a Little Britain sketch as “explicitly racist and outdated.”

This particular sketch, featuring David Walliams using racist language, was part of a study examining audience expectations on potentially offensive content.

The feedback from participants echoed concerns about the show’s content being out of step with modern societal values. Some participants found the humour appealing yet recognized its potential offensiveness, highlighting a divide in perceptions of such content.

Little Britain’s Return

Eventually, the BBC, in response to the controversy, reinstated Little Britain on its iPlayer service but with notable changes.

Little Britain BBC iPlayer
Little Britain on BBC iPlayer

The re-edited version saw the removal of blackface characters and other racially insensitive elements. This move was a part of the BBC’s effort to align its content with contemporary values of inclusivity and cultural sensitivity​​​​​​​​​.

That’s TV, in bringing Little Britain back to linear TV, is also adhering to these revised standards.

The broadcast includes all three seasons of Little Britain and the 2006 Christmas Specials, Little Britain Abroad, as part of the channel’s festive Christmas and New Year line-up.

However, That’s TV confirmed to us that the version set to air on the channel is the censored one, mirroring the edits made for its iPlayer reintroduction.

This version omits scenes and characters that were deemed racially insensitive, including the character of Desiree Devere, known for perpetuating racial stereotypes. 

Moreover, in a move to address potential viewer concerns and provide context, That’s TV has decided to run a content warning before the broadcast of each Little Britain episode (BBC iPlayer also carries a similar warning).

That’s TV head of programming, Kris Vaiksalu said: “There is a great tradition of British TV comedy being used to expose and ridicule prejudice.

“I am absolutely clear that Little Britain sets out to lampoon all forms of prejudice, the clue being in the name. We carefully consider the expectations of our audience and the episodes of Little Britain we are showing have been edited in collaboration with Matt and David.

We’ve studied Ofcom’s research and are confident that all of our shows this Christmas comply with all Ofcom rules.”

That’s TV: Bringing More Nostalgia This Christmas

That’s TV, known for its focus on nostalgia and entertainment, is set to broadcast an array of classic shows this festive season:

  • No Place Like Home
  • Bread Christmas Specials (1998, 1999 and 1990)
  • The League of Gentlemen Christmas Special (2000)
  • Steptoe and Son Christmas Specials (1973 and 1974)
  • Play for Today: Abigail’s Party starring Alison Steadman (1977)
  • The Brittas Empire Christmas special (1994)
  • Black Mirror: White Christmas (2014)
  • Fresh Fields Christmas Special (1985)
  • After Henry Christmas Special (1988)
  • Never the Twain Christmas Special (1989)
  • Shelly Christmas Special (1980)
  • Robin’s Nest Christmas Special (1979)
  • The Best of Mr Bean (1995)
  • Kenny Everett New Year specials (1978, 1979 and 1980)
  • Carry on Christmas Specials (1969, 1970, 1972 and 1973)

That’s TV Channel Availability

That’s TV, including the Christmas broadcasts, can be accessed on various platforms:

  • Freeview: Channel 56
  • Sky: Channel 171
  • Freesat: Channel 178
  • Virgin Media: Channel 150
  • Local versions in 20 locations on Freeview: Channels 7/8

During the festive season, viewers can also enjoy That’s Christmas, a dedicated holiday channel from That’s TV.

That's Christmas TV mockup

This channel, replacing the ‘That’s 70s’ channel on some platforms, promises a delightful array of Christmas movies, music, and special programming, perfectly capturing the magic and spirit of the holiday season​​

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