Shiny Shelf

That Mitchell and Webb Look

By Jim Smith on 17 September 2006

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

‘That Mitchell and Webb Look’ is a TV version of the radio sketch comedy series from the team behind Channel 4’s skin-crawlingly excellent ‘Peep Show’. It draws on both seasons of the radio show for material but there’s also some new stuff here, including some excellent visual comedy that obviously wouldn’t have worked in the show’s previous incarnation. (That said, the the radio series’ best material (such as the sketch wherein two SS Officers realize they’re ‘the baddies’ or a series of sketches featuring snooker commentators that extends into one epic, almost Beckett-like, narrative of human misery and grubby despair) works just as well on television as it did on the radio.)

Something that the radio show’s audience couldn’t possibly have grasped is how physically versatile they (and their co-star Olivia Coleman) are. All three actors are capable of portraying an astonishing range of ages and physicalities with what appears to be minimal make-up. The sneaking suspicion is that Webb is the better actor (even his caricatures retain a hint of humanity) but that Mitchell is very slightly funnier when portraying the truly grotesque. These two complementary strengths work to the sketch’s advantage and the two men have an excellent rapport, as seemingly intuitive in its own way as that of Fry and Laurie. Coleman for her part is capable of portraying (and clearly sufficiently confident to be content being) anything from an utterly desirable ingénue to a picky old crone.

Shiny Shelf has had a sneak preview of later episodes of the show and can promise more of the fabulous Sir Digby Chicken-Caesar, further exploits of the emotionally battered snooker commentators, a sketch with an editor that every writer will howl at, some inspired cliff-jumping and a Sherlock Holmes sketch that has to be seen to be believed. Awesome stuff. Expect crude renditions of the best bits of these shows to be doing the rounds of the nation’s playgrounds by the middle of next week.

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