‘The Mighty Boosh’ has shifted location, from Vince and Howard’s flat to Naboo’s shop, the wonderfully monikered Nabootique, this season. Of more consequence is a shift in tone.
It’s seems ridiculous to describe the rambling stoner comedy of the Boosh as ‘becoming darker’ but that’s really what’s happened here. Part of it is a matter of characterisation. Fielding’s Vince (now a dark haired would be Goth, not a blond ponce, interestingly) is less about childlike wonder and enthusiasm and more about unbridled selfishness.
The delusions of grandeur and feelings of bitterness one would previously have associated with Barrett’s Howard are now evident in Vince as well, whereas Howard seems more reasonable and grounded than before. Maybe I’m just getting old and sympathising with the older, less cool character but I find it difficult to imagine the Vince of Series One, nevermind the radio series, selling Howard down the river for a shiny cape.
Maybe it’s the absence of a strong comic antagonist, like Bob Fossil (who cameoed in ‘Party’) from the radio series/series one or odious explorer Dixon Bambridge, which means the characters are under less pressure, and therefore less likely to attract sympathy? I don’t know.
This shift also carries over to the kind of people the Boosh encounter, and the world they encounter them in. The Crack Fox is a terrifying creation, while the admission of the broadly sympathetic tramp character that he had planned on raping Vince and then leaving him in a bin to die is more than slightly jarring even in the Boosh’s (largely accurate) presentation of Camden as a dark and dull world of grim canalside tunnels and pathetic, yet threatening, children roaming the streets pretending to be Scarface. (The rubbish Al Pacino one, naturally.)
It’s still extremely funny stuff, with brilliantly nuanced performances from the two leads and fantastically broad ones from Richard Ayoade (all hail!), Michael Fielding and Rich Fulcher. Bollo the Ape (who is not played by an actor but is a real trained ape really called Bollo, so there) remains one of the great comic creations of the last decade.
The sheer imagination involved in creating, and then displaying, this world is to be saluted, as is the sometime astonishing production design. The difference in scale between series one (where a porpoise race was achieved offscreen) and series three (where Howard and Cornflake are shrunk down along with a submarine to fantastically voyage into Vince’s bloodstream) is staggering, if you take a moment to think about.
More ambitious, more impressive, equally funny but a little less lovable, that’s where the Boosh are now. I wonder where they’ll go next?