Sunday, September 17, 2006

That Mitchell & Webb Look

David Mitchell and Robert Webb have been doing sketch comedy for years, in a whole range of shows that people mostly don't remember. They were in Bruiser, apparently. No, I don't remember it either. They had a show on UK Play a good few years back, which was perfectly decent by that channel's erratic and low-budget standards (they even commissioned a Mark Radcliffe & Lard sketch show, for god's sake), but understandably languished in obscurity until their recent success led to a DVD release.

In fact, Mitchell and Webb's transfer to a mainstream audience came on the back of Peep Show, a Channel 4 sitcom which they didn't actually write. Peep Show is the classic example of a cult hit - the viewing figures have always been shaky, but reviewers love it and it seems to stick around in large part because it's the sort of thing Channel 4 ought to be seen to be doing. But at least it's introduced them to a more mainstream audience, and it's given David Mitchell in particular the opportunity to do the rounds on the UK's panel game circuit ensuring that as many people as possible know who he is. Peep Show is one of those sitcoms based primarily on excruciating embarrassment, and to be honest, it's always been something I admire rather than particularly enjoy.

Now, after a successful run on Radio 4, the BBC has given them another shot with a sketch show of their own. That Mitchell & Webb Look is perhaps the most traditional sketch show I've seen on BBC2 in some time. And that's not a criticism. They're just doing a straight down the line comedy programme which, given the choice, would clearly prefer to be Alas Smith & Jones for the 21st century rather than a cult show for students.

Perhaps it takes a cult following from something like Peep Show to persuade the BBC to make something like this - intelligent, but still unapologetically mainstream. You get a lot of this sort of comedy on Radio 4 and at live revue shows on the Edinburgh Festival, but it's a nice change to see somebody doing it properly on TV.

Besides, this is the most entertaining thing involving superheroes I've seen all week...