Before this DVD landed on my doormat I had a very limited knowledge of Mitchell and Webb. I had seen the latter in BBC3's excellent ”The Smoking Room” comedy, and was aware of both of them from the Mac adverts. However, I had not seen any of their work together.
After appearing on Radio and Satellite TV channels the duo got their big break in Peep Show on Channel Four. This led to this, their first BBC series That Mitchell and Webb look
The show is quite old fashioned in it's outlook, taking the form of a sketch show. However, the pair have created a stable of regular characters who appear regularly across episodes, and even in multiple sketches within the same show.
Thus, many characters that first appeared in That Mitchell and Webb sound appear visually here. We have The Angel Summoner and BMX Bandit, a crime fighting duo, a pair of rather confused Nazis, and a couple of sozzled Snooker commentators amongst others.
One thing you certainly do get with this duo is variety. You never quite know what to expect next, with a mixture of the surreal, the satirical, and the downright ridiculous. The problem with these wildly differing styles is the result can be very hit and miss. When funny, it can be very very good indeed - but sadly I found these hits were very much outweighed by the misses.
Even when they do come up with a clever idea, the episodic nature of the format means that there is not much space for the sketch to truly breathe and develop. No sooner has the idea of the sketch been developed than we get a bad case of “punchline interruptus” and we are moved on to the next sketch. Only to return later. A prime example of this is the Nazis who very slowly but surely begin to realise that they might actually be the bad guys “Do you see those skulls or our caps? Does that mean we are not the good guys???”. An excellent idea but would definitely have benefited from more time devoted to it.
Other ideas are also sound on paper, even if they lack a bit in execution. The snooker commentators are an example of this - a great idea but rather obvious in its execution. And then there are ideas that are quite simply not funny - like Number Wang. This is a game show which features contestants shouting out numbers at random. This seems to have attracted rather a cult following - but I am afraid it completely passed me by and I failed to raise a smile.
In addition to the sketches, we also have slightly surreal moments where Mitchell and Webb sit around chatting. They might be discussing the last sketch, or simply exchanging banter. It is these moments that perhaps show the pair at their most talented - revealing a pair of very talented performers. These parts of the show also reminded me very much of Webb's character in The Smoking Room. More moments like this would have been very much appreciated.
At the end of the day, what we have here is a mixed bag of sketches that despite the performances of the lead characters fail more often than they succeed. It is hardly, in the words of the snooker commentators, a “bad miss”. But it is hardly an unqualified hit either.
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