Thursday, October 6, 2011

British TV Comedy: That Mitchell and Webb Look, Saxondale

I'm taking another side trip into the world of television for a quick sample of British television comedy streaming on Netflix Watch Instantly and Hulu.  This trip is inspired by watching all of the new episodes from season four of That Mitchell and Webb Look that were posted a few days ago on Netflix.  Season four is particularly strong, and highlights include the grammarian with a gun, the gift shop sketch, and the conspiracy to get rid of Princess Diana.

That Mitchell and Webb Look (2006-2010, 24 episodes)
Netflix: The tradition of award-winning, British sketch comedy is alive and well in the team of David Mitchell and Robert Webb, a raucous and razor-sharp duo who specialize in pop culture parodies, mockumentaries, game show spoofs and more. Among their recurring skits are "Numberwang," about an impossibly ridiculous game show; "Lazy Writers," which looks askance at the creative process; and "The Helivets," about heroes who rescue pets in danger.  Netflix link.

If 24 episodes of That Mitchell and Webb Look are not enough for you, Hulu is streaming all seven seasons of their sitcom, Peep Show. (Hulu is also streaming some episodes of That Mitchell and Webb Look.)

Peep Show (2003-2010, 42 episodes)
Hulu: Peep Show is a brand-new narrative comedy series seen through the eyes of the core characters. And in another inventive twist, each character’s inner thoughts can be heard – whether they be dark, stupid or embarrassingly overblown. At the centre of Peep Show are Mark and Jeremy, who have an unhealthy reliance on one another – a dependence that can turn to frustration. Mark – in his cack-handed way – is in pursuit of the love of his life, co-worker Sophie (Olivia Coleman), while Jeremy lives in awe of his idiotic and manipulative mate Superhans and their beautiful but brittle neighbour Toni.  Hulu link.

On television Steve Coogan is best known for his character Alan Partridge, but he has created another memorable self-delusional character in Tommy Saxondale, a former rock-and-roll roadie who is now an exterminator.  There are subtle changes in the costume, make-up and tone in the second season which fine-tunes the character and makes him a bit less of a buffoon, but overall both seasons are very funny and worth looking into while we wait for Coogan's latest project, The Trip, to come to Netflix.

Saxondale (2006-2007, 13 episodes)
Netflix:  This quirky Britcom profiles Tommy Saxondale (Steve Coogan), a former roadie stuck in his rockin' glory days who isn't afraid to speak his mind -- loudly and offensively -- despite the anger management sessions his friends hope will calm him. Tommy now has a sexually adventurous girlfriend, Magz (Ruth Jones), and his own pest control "empire," which consists of hesitant assistant Raymond (Rasmus Hardiker) and annoying receptionist Vicky.  Netflix link.

When I first saw Little Britain I had to get my own copy and show it to as many people as I could.  A lot of the first season still holds up to multiple viewings, but you do have to get familiar with the characters before you appreciate some of the humor.  The subsequent seasons are not as strong, but almost every episode has a memorable highlight.

Little Britain (2003-2004, 14 episodes)
Netflix: With an impressive lineup of quirky characters, including troubled teenager Vicky, clueless caregiver Lou, plus-sized female Bubbles and Scottish hotel manager Ray, this popular sketch comedy show cleverly pokes fun at all sectors of British society. Created by and starring Matt Lucas and David Walliams, this television series boldly tackles hot-button issues such as homosexuality, obesity, poverty and aging.  Netflix link.

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