Since the days of empire, British expats have spluttered into their pink gins and complained that other countries simply don't "get" our sense of humour. Into this great tradition we now welcome Matt Lucas and David Walliams, whose Little Britain USA, an Americanised version of the original, is off to a shakier start than your average Dow Jones trading session.
The show – which puts Vicky Pollard at a Utah boot camp and Daffyd Thomas, only gay in the village, at a politically-correct Carolina university – debuted two weeks ago on HBO, after an expensive promotional campaign.
Yet so far, it's bombed. Yesterday, media tracking agency Nielsen revealed that 540,000 tuned in for the first episode and 657,000 for the second. Those are paltry figures, even on a cable channel, for a country of 300 million telly addicts – and a particular flop given its prime slot after Entourage, which pulls 1.5 million.
The big question, of course, is now whether the apparent failure of Little Britain USA represents an isolated aberration, or is part of a wider trend. If you want to argue the latter, then it is worth noting that Britain's other comic exports haven't exactly set America on fire lately. Hamlet 2, Steve Coogan's umpteenth effort to star in a hit US movie, fell flat. Ghost Town, starring Ricky Gervais, has taken only $11m in its opening fortnight. To support the former argument, you'll have to subscribe to the theory that Little Britain has always been dreary, repetitive, and dreadfully overrated.
Believe that (and many people do) and you can understand why a country that prefers its comedy sugar-coated might deem Lucas and Walliams – together with their endless sketches mocking the elderly, gay, fat and socially-disadvantaged – tired, redundant, and a little bit cruel.
Scandal on the boulevard
Full of laughs, by comparison, is The Legs are the Last to Go, a new autobiography of Diahann Carroll, one of Hollywood's first black leading ladies. It portrays Sidney Poitier as a love rat, the late Richard Rodgers as an incurable racist and, in a hilarious opening chapter, recalls how she abruptly walked out of an audition with Lord Lloyd-Webber in the mid-1990s, following a delightfully petty argument over what key Sunset Boulevard should be sung in.
Carroll, 72, isn't the only old stager preparing to publish a dirt-dishing memoir. Roger Moore's book My Word is My Bond comes out this autumn, along with American Prince, by Tony Curtis, and Don't Mind if I Do, by George Hamilton. For the sake of the reputation of Hollywood's senior generation, I hope they are a little more discreet.Reuse content