By FIONA RAE
Last of the Summer Wine meets Psycho in The League of Gentlemen, which starts a second season today on TV One (11pm).
An extraordinarily black comedy set in a strange and remote town called Royston Vasey, The League is the brainchild of a comedy sketch group of the same name, which spent four years on the stage and then made a series for Radio 4 before turning to television.
Amazingly, and wonderfully, the three actors in The League, Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith, play about three-quarters of the programme's 60 characters.
According to Gatiss, the BBC's makeup department leapt at the chance to turn them into everything from spotty teenagers to middle-aged women.
"They were getting bored just making Jeremy Paxman look orange," he told The Guardian.
The characters include Val and Harvey Denton, a pair of obsessive-compulsive toad breeders; Pauline the unemployment officer who learned everything she needs to know about people from pens ("If they don't work you shake them"); and Edward and Tubbs, the paranoid shopkeepers who don't want strangers touching their goods.
Makeup for Edward and Tubbs presented a challenge, as the pair have noses so pushed up that, apart from making them look unsettlingly inbred, there's a view right up their nostrils. On stage, the actors had used Sellotape, but the makeup department settled on wig gauze and glue for the TV version after having tried everything else, including pasta up their noses.
Royston Vasey "sounds like an ordinary town but with something wrong", says Gatiss, which pretty much sums up this macabre horror-comedy.
TV3 launches a new comedy tonight also, although of a much more benign nature. According to Jim (8 o'clock)) stars Jim Belushi, a family man with slightly crazy relatives (of course) who plays blues in his garage with his mates.
In the US the show has defied the critics ("Our worst dumb sitcom" said Entertainment Weekly) and become a minor hit.
The fantastically titled Walking with Beasts will be fun for all the family tomorrow (TV One, 7.30pm). None of your Ice Age-style anthropomorphism here (and fewer gags) as we follow a day in the life of the mammal leptictidium. Kenneth Branagh again narrates.
On Sunday, TV3's 20/20 (7.30pm) has a story about South Aucklander Kelvyn Alp, a disaffected former soldier who claims he has his own army and is prepared to go into battle with the Government.
On TV One, Sunday (7.35pm) asks why the Government hasn't sued the tobacco companies, and meets a lawyer who thinks it has lost its nerve; goes inside the West Wing; and covers Tom Scott's play about growing up with an alcoholic father.
The Sunday Theatre on TV One is The Swap, another of those psychological thrillers the British keep churning out (well, it can't be Shackleton every week, can it?).
It concerns an English family that does a holiday home-swap with an Australian family. But while Jen (Gemma Redgrave) tries to get hubby Tom (Michael Maloney) to relax in Australia, there are sinister goings-on back home in Highgate.
Finally, from our How Times Have Changed file: Star Trek's Sunday episode (Prime, 10.20pm) is "Mudd's Women", in which Kirk trades three beauteous babes (the "cargo" of infamous criminal Harry Mudd) for dilithium crystals.
By FIONA RAE