That Mitchell and Webb Look - Series 1 Review
David Mitchell and Robert Webb take some time in between series of Peep Show on Channel 4 to bring us this mixed bag of a BBC2 sketch show, featuring characters and ideas that are mostly original (although Harry Enfield might have something to say about the old-time BBC skits), always inventive (the green clarinet of truth is a gem, with an outstanding punchline) and regularly very funny indeed.
Part of the appeal is the good deal of variety between individual sketches. Some are satirical, like a take on the inanities of daytime telly that sees people buying a house and then living in it (“What’s that like?” “It’s alright.”). Some are often very clever (caveman CSI or the Nazi soldiers who gradually begin to realise that they might be the bad guys) and some are surreal or just downright daft – how about the guy with telekinetic powers that are limited only to biscuits (but not Jaffa Cakes, obviously)?
Also of great value are the between-sketch bits that see David and Rob sitting around supposedly resting or waiting for the next scene to be set up. They’ll maybe discuss the previous sketch or talk about something topical, but it inevitably descends into Rob looking or behaving like an idiot. Mitchell and Webb are a fine pair of performers, bringing a wide range of personas and voices, and Olivia Colman offers terrific support.
Mind you, it’s far from consistently brilliant, but it manages to be funny much more often than it bombs. The experimental ‘hammers’ hospital treatment sketch dies on its arse and the heavy drinking, sexy-young-player-loving snooker commentators (“Ooh and that’s a bad miss” being the far-too-oft repeated catchphrase) feature far too often. There’s some fun to be had with them, but not nearly enough mileage. Numberwang, the bizarre game show, even though it makes more sense than some actual TV quiz shows, tests the patience a little with its repetitiveness, but they do still manage to pull something out of the hat most times.
It may have been a mistake trying to fit all six episodes plus an hour of extras onto one disc as overall picture quality is a wee bit on the rough side. It’s clean enough, but soft and not particularly sharp and there is occasional grain and edge enhancement. Lots of flashing lights during the likes of Numberwang don’t cause any issues but some other scenes are very bright and shiny and lacking in depth.
The stereo track is functional and perfectly acceptable, with no real causes for complaint, but nothing to make it stand out either. Dialogue is strong and clear and the theme music is chirpy enough, although audience laughter can sound a little hollow at times.
Outtakes (5 mins): Not really bloopers as you might expect, and therefore not really that funny. This is just two or three alternate takes, almost all featuring the snooker commentators, which get slightly messed up and have to be shot again.
Unseen Sketches (20 mins): Some of these feature regular characters and some are just random one-offs, but very few are all that funny, although “It turns out Gandhi doesn’t like Phil Collins” is a brilliant line.
Making Of (32 mins): This is actually far funnier than the first two extras put together. It’s filmed by actor and co-writer James Bachman and has a nice fly-on-the-wall spontaneity to it as he hovers around the set filming folk as they make the show. It starts with a quick rundown of Mitchell and Webb’s early career leading up to this show and features nice interview clips with the pair plus director David Kerr and producer Gareth Edwards. Everyone is keen to discuss the writing, how the programme is made and how ideas come and go and it’s a good insight into the working process.