Comedy was once the new rock ‘n’ roll, now it’s the new pipe ‘n’ slippers. John talks double acts…
Double acts are great, aren’t they? Morecambe and Wise, Reeves and Mortimer – the joy of two familiar comedians bouncing off one another is that it reminds us of what we like most in our own personal relationships. The banter, the wit, and the bickering – the intimacy of two people who get on. Double acts can invite us into their personal world, but sometimes that invitation is the kind that you wish you hadn’t accepted as you learn that those nice people are just plain not worth knowing. Horne and Corden, I am talking about you.When Newman and Baddiel were praised as the new rock ‘n’ roll, I suppose that was as cutting edge and popular as a double act could get. They were the Jaggers and Richards of alternative comedy complete with scandalous behaviour and adoring groupies. David Mitchell and Robert Webb are nowhere near as glamorous. They are the chubby bitter one and the better looking one who’s a little less talented. They have made a movie, much like Horne and Corden, and it stank like John Prescott’s workout towel, much like Horne and Corden. On their own they have some deserved recognition, Mitchell is a kind of Stephen Fry lite addition to any panel game, and Robert Webb dances badly for charity.
Because, despite all their occasionally pythonesque and culturally literate charm, Mitchell and Webb are not rebels or dangerous critics of the establishment. They are as middle of the road as modern sketch shows get. They may swear and refer to rude things, but the only burning injustices that bother these two men are things like hyperbole at weddings. Their furious bourgeois rage is one of the few things that sets this double act apart from others, and in particular David Mitchell’s patented ability to sneer is often very entertaining.So in 2009, is relatively comfy humour from two nice young men who aren’t unhappy at the world good enough? Well, yes I suppose it is. When viewed alongside the talent free act I mentioned earlier, the virtues of comedians who can actually write and perform is obvious. That their show is conventional is forgivable because it is conventionally good. Sure, some sketches work and some don’t – a criticism that actually inspires a sketch here – and, sure, the best ideas are the surreal ones of writer Simon Kane. Still there is enough quality here to justify that what you are watching has been put together with ability and talent.
Despite being good enough, I believe that these two men want to achieve more. They grope for satire in the Hennimore sketches and criticise the creatives of modern TV regularly. They want to expose the homophobia of sport and the racism of seventies sitcoms. In fact, they basically want to be Fry and Laurie without the accompanying cleverness.Mitchell and Webb are youngish fogeys. They know their place and it’s a comfortable 9.30 on Thursdays on BBC2 with repeats on Dave in six months time. On one side of the schedule there’ll be something a little edgier and on the other there’ll be something less competent. They’re not radical but wry, they’re reliable and not rude. They are quite good and funny enough, and you won’t have to lock up either your daughters or the drinks cabinet when they visit.
Transfer and Sound
The audio offered here is a single stereo track recorded at 192Kbps. It’s steady and old fashioned like the series itself and whilst it is clear and well mastered, it seems that better options have been forsaken despite the series being broadcast with the option of HD. The anamorphic transfer is a little too light in the way of contrast, detail is ordinary and colours, outside of the top capture above, is sensibly balanced. The frame is not used at the sides and in fact the image is probably closer to 1.72:1 than 1.78:1. Again, it’s not over processed or artificially enhanced – it does exactly as you might expect. There is no blu-ray release so this is probably your lot in terms of A/V treatments.
Discs and Special Features
Each dual layer disc is encoded for regions 2 & 4 and carry three episodes apiece. Two of the episodes on each disc are further presented with picture in picture commentaries, with the series producer Gareth Edwards joining the duo as we watch them talk about what we would be watching if we weren’t watching them talk about it!Sat on a comfy sofa with toast and tea, Mitchell is in his element as he decries the lavish expenditure on the refreshments and the cataclysmic effect this will have on the license fee. he bounces off both off his colleagues which, given their lack of animation, at least proves that they are alive and awake. I have to say that I hate PinP commentaries, and despite Mitchell’s best efforts I imagine that these three feel the same.
The requisite deleted scenes and bloopers are included on the second disc, they have already been available on interactive channels, and you can quite see why the scenes were cut , and the outtakes are not particularly hilarious. Featurette-wise, you get interviews with the two men digging into their comedy roots where Mitchell loves Monty Python and hates Cannon and Ball, and Webb is far less picky. Both men seem genuinely happy with their success and are keen not to expect too much more.
The making of footage on the first disc introduces this series new director, Ben Fuller, and his method of shooting with two cameras throughout. Games are played with the producer’s names, we learn a few secrets about the CGI and stunts involved in this set of episodes. The final featurette looks at how the scene with doubles of each of the duo were shot.
Overall, a decent haul of extras with inventive menus.
A decent package of special features, a satisfactory if bare A/V treatment and comedy that is often funny. Mitchell and Webb may not be about sex and drugs and rock and roll, but they are competent and able comedians.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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