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maryann johanson | takeaway only

Big Train: Seasons One and Two (review)

God bless the Brits: they know how to limit a TV show to just the right number of episodes. Even if it’s only 12, and even if they’re spread across two seasons separated by four years. Some stuff — like the outrageously surreal Monty Python-esque comedy of this wonderfully demented series — just can’t be rushed. Constantly surprising and endlessly inventive, this is sketch comedy at its wild best: aggressively silly, unafraid to take chances, and deliciously absurd and nonlinear; even the recurring motifs (riffs on horse-racing jockeys make multiple appearances) manage to be unexpected again and again. Season One dates from 1998, Season Two from 2002, but the timeless quality of Big Train’s askew viewpoint lends a cohesiveness to the show as a single entity, not to mention the kind of sturdy durability that could see this earn the same kind of long-term cult following that the Pythons continue to enjoy. (It’s hardly a shock to discover, among a cast mostly unknown in the United States, Simon Pegg of the new offbeat faves Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, But it is a delight.) Extras include deleted scenes, cast and crew commentaries, and some of the most entertaining menus I’ve ever seen; and, joy of joys, you can jump around on a sketch-by-sketch basis. Very cool. [buy at Amazon]

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MPAA: not rated

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