The Mighty Boosh: Series One Review

When Chris Morris put together his six-part exercise in self-loathing, Nathan Barley, he chose to utilise a new burst of comic talent rather than his usual troupe of Kevin Eldon, Rebecca Front, et al. Many could be forgiven for not recognising any of these faces, especially Julian Barratt who occupied the role of Dan Ashcroft, arch nemesis of the eponymous Barley. For whilst he and comic partner Noel Fielding (who played a smaller role for Morris) has established a minor cult with their TV series, The Mighty Boosh, it has only appeared on minority channel BBC3 before receiving a belated, unannounced and slightly trimmed evening showing on BBC2. All the more reason then to celebrate this two-disc DVD release which gathers all eight episodes of the first series, adorns them with a hefty dose of extras and even, for those who welcome such things, features some superbly psychedelic menu designs.

Yet there’s little in The Mighty Boosh which puts one in mind of Nathan Barley, rather it harks back to a more innocent era. We have a comedy double act fronting the show, blatant studio sets and little of the edge which distinguishes much of modern British comedy; there’s no mean streak, no sardonic sneer, no taboo breaking and most importantly, no bowing down to current trends. What this produces is a work of surprising charm and innocence (the 15 certificate, incidentally, is the result of a couple of ‘f’ words during the outtakes included amongst the special features) and one which is more likely to find favour with fans of The Goodies than it is those of, say, Nighty Night. Indeed, The Mighty Boosh has much in common with that show, most prominently through the wayward surrealism of its plotting. During the eight episodes we find, amongst other things, a kangaroo-human boxing match set up because of some naked photographs; the grim reaper mistaking Barratt for a gorilla; an electro/jazz retelling of the Robert Johnson myth; and a bubblegum hoover which fires bullets made from frozen Eskimos.

The great thing about all this is that the series feels like Barratt’s and Fielding’s, and as such it’s difficult to truly criticise. There’s no sense of compromise, just two comedians letting their imaginations run wild and then willingly going wherever that may take them. Of course, given the various absurdities that this produces, The Mighty Boosh is an acquired taste and you do need to be receptive towards it. It’s all incredibly indulgent, yet as there’s nothing for all of this to hang onto it still feels completely coherent. The plotting and the pacing are never the important aspects of each episode – it’s simply the pair’s gags and comic dialogues which truly matter. Of course, what this means is that the series is wholly dependent on the hit-to-miss ratio of the comedy and, as said, that is likely to be down to the individual. Certainly, there are flaws to be had – Fielding, for example, is clearly a weaker performer than Barratt (hence the smaller role in Nathan Barley?) – but if you’re in the mood for a bit of odd humour, some silliness and a few song and dance numbers, then The Mighty Boosh should prove satisfactory.

The Disc

The Mighty Boosh comes to Region 2 DVD as a two-disc set. The first houses six episodes and two commentaries, the second the remaining two episodes and the bulk of the extras. In all cases the presentation is absolutely fine. We get anamorphic presentations for each at a ratio of 1.78:1 and a stereo soundtrack as per original transmissions. Indeed, owing to the complete lack of technical flaws or print/soundtrack damage, The Mighty Boosh on disc is easily the equal of, perhaps even superior to, its TV incarnation.

In addition the BBC have also provided a healthy roster of extras to bulk out the discs. The major pieces are perhaps the commentaries (which appear on four of the episodes), but sadly these are noisy, in-jokey and extremely difficult to enjoy. Indeed, to hear Fielding, Barratt and various co-stars messing about in a recording booth only goes to show how much effort actually goes into the shows. Had the series been as indulgent and out of control as these chat tracks, no doubt it would have been pretty much unwatchable.

Thankfully, the situation improves elsewhere with two superb featurettes. The first, entitled ‘Welcome to the Zooniverse’, takes on a guided tour around The Mighty Boosh’s various elements. Thus we get a discussion of the characters and their origins, the musical numbers, the special effects, the animation, etc. etc. And whilst the piece isn’t exactly serious in its outlook, it does at least go into some depth.

Much the same is true of the second piece, ‘The Might Boosh: A History’, which (as can be discerned from the title) gives us some background on Barratt and Fielding. Over its brisk, but informative nine-minute duration we learn of their start alongside Stewart Lee (co-creator of Jerry Springer: The Opera) and origins of The Mighty Boosh as it moved from the pub circuit to the Edinburgh Festival to television. More importantly, however, it also allows us to view some archive footage from the pair, including the pilot (which sadly doesn’t feature on the disc) and, for fans of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, footage of Matthew Holness and Richard Ayoade, who didn’t make it to final series.

Elsewhere we find some less important pieces, though they’re still worth a look. These include the ability to view the various musical numbers as individual pieces, a photo gallery of production stills and six minutes worth of outtakes.

All extras, with the exception of the commentaries, come with optional English subtitles.

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Last updated: 19/04/2018 08:03:03

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