20 April 2008 | davideo-2
An alternative, old-fashioned sort of comedy for discerning audiences
STAR RATING: ***** Saturday Night **** Friday Night *** Friday Morning ** Sunday Night * Monday Morning
In terms of mainstream success, Walliams and Lucas are the uncrowned kings of TV sketch show comedy. Little Britain has enjoyed a phenomenal success, that has branched out into TV specials, merchandising and overseas success, in places like Australia. But, while it can undoubtedly be a very funny show, it has been accused by many of relying on vulgarity and one-joke character catch-phrases to get by, and, sad as it is to say (being a big fan myself), this is very much true. Certainly, it has set a trend for modern comedy.
So what's needed is an alternative, which we get in the shape of That Mitchell and Webb Look. Their best work, it is said, is Peep Show, which I must confess I have yet to see (will have to tune in when the new series begins on May 2nd.) With so many people saying it, it is most likely true, but we'll have to see...But this sketch show, despite containing a lot of duff stuff, certainly shows a neat sense of comic talent. It all feels very old fashioned, a throw-back to the likes of Fry and Laurie and Monty Python. Stepping back isn't as much progress as stepping forward, of course, but humour of their day certainly relied more on a genuine sense of comic talent than by being as gross out as possible. Both Mitchell and Webb are obviously well educated men of the Cambridge/Oxford set and some apparently feel the show is a bit snobby unless you're of the middle class persuasion but then what were...well, Fry and Laurie and Monty Python? A fair bit of the humour is very subtle and sophisticated and you do have to pay attention to the gags to get the most out of them. Being of the sort who likes my humour very silly, some of my favourite sketches include The Incredibly Posh People Who Are Still Unaccountably Waiters/Vicars/Tailors...,The Green Clarinet and Numberwang. The Snooker Commentators I find to be rather boring, and Angel Summoner and BMX Bandit was a bit of a wasted opportunity. And then there's the surreal/post modern sort of humour, including the camera cutting into Mitchell and Webb supposedly chilling out between shoots, not to mention The Surprsing Adventures of Sir Digby Chicken Ceaser, a re-imagining of Sherlock Holmes and Professor Watson as homeless winos/drug addicts who prowl the streets robbing and pillaging.
As a comedy duo, Mitchell and Webb are rather different. Webb is far less restrained than Mitchell, very in your face with his humour with whacky, wild characters such as Raymond Terrific from Big Talk and The Green Clarinet Man. Mitchell relies more on subtlety and sophistication, a reserved English gent from the old school of comedy.
The most surprising thing is how low budget it all looks, with some rather modest production values through-out. It doesn't seem to have as many fans as it could have, either, with the few comments here on the IMDb site, and a modest time slot on BBC 2 Thursday nights. But then this is old fashioned humour all the way, an alternative to those tired of constant crassness and vulgarity, so it's fate was sadly sealed anyway. ****