“ Genre: Comedy / Author: David Mitchell / Published 2009-10-02 by BBC Audiobooks Ltd „
I will quite openly admit that I love Mitchell and Webb. Yes, a lot of That Mitchell and Webb Look was hit and miss, but in general I thought it was a brilliant sketch show. They are hilarious together in Peep Show as well as separately on panel shows and other TV appearances, with David Mitchell doing particularly well on programmes such as 10 O'clock Live, Would I Lie to You and his video podcast, David Mitchell's Soap Box. Not all of their sketches are genius but most of them are, to me, laugh out loud funny and I often find myself going back to watch them time and again.
More recently I've really gotten into their radio show, That Mitchell and Webb Sound, which they started several years ago before the TV series was made. Ever since I became a fan of the pair I'd known that That Mitchell and Webb Look was based on their radio series but it wasn't till last year that I got the chance to listen to it, when some of the episodes from the last series appeared on BBC iPlayer. I thought it was every bit as good as the television version if not better, and when I came to looking for a comedy sketch to translate for a translation class in Spain, one from That Mitchell and Webb Sound seemed like a perfect choice. I therefore downloaded one of the series off iTunes and after loving it so much, it wasn't long before I'd downloaded the other three as well and now own all four series.
That Mitchell and Webb Sound Series One wasn't the first one that I bought or listened to, but it is unsurprisingly the first one that David Mitchell and Robert Webb made. Like the other three series it consists of six episodes of roughly 30 minutes each, so around 3 hours of comedy. It stars Mitchell and Webb as well as Olivia Colman (who played Sophie alongside them in Peep Show) and James Bachman (who featured in the TV show), although later series also feature one or two extra actors.
Each episode contains several sketches, which either stand alone or are one of several related sketches which play throughout the episode or throughout the series in general. Recurring characters include the two men who are organising a party but are unsure who to invite, worrying that if they invite their friend Moneypenny then the cocky James bond will tag along, or that Maid Marion will bring along the annoying Robin Hood; the snooker commentators; and the stars of radio show 'Imagine That', in which panellists have to imagine new and strange objects or sounds on a particular topic.
The majority of the sketches, however, are unrelated to the rest of the series and in my opinion these work better. Out of the recurring sketches, the only one that I really enjoyed was the Party Planners, as their parodying of famous real people or fictional characters by looking at them in a new light was continuously laugh out loud funny. The snooker commentators, however, I could just not get away with at all. Their sketches were one of those to be ported to the TV show and since I didn't particularly like them there, it was unlikely that I would like the radio version any better. I do regularly find myself skipping past these sketches when I am listening to this series and feel that the programme would have been a lot better without them, although I have heard friends say that they find these to be some of the best in the series, so that is certainly a matter of personal preference.
Most of the independent sketches, on the other hand, are excellent: the Harry Potter based sketch, where Mitchell addresses the students who have been sorted into Hufflepuff, being one that I find to be particularly hilarious and laugh at every time I hear it. Other particularly noteworthy sketches are 'Interpersonal Skills from History: Volume 5', a conversation between large, flightless birds on an island and advice for how to get over a break up. Many of the sketches are well thought out and don't employ obvious jokes or techniques, instead creating humour in a more original way. They are acted with good comic timing and the actors do very well.
That said, the success of the show is undoubtedly down to the writing. It would be easy to praise David Mitchell and Robert Webb for this, as since their name is in the title and they are the main stars, one would assume that they did most of the writing of the sketches alone. Listening to the credits following each episode, however, tells us that they were accompanied by a further seven writers, and so were likely to have written a relatively small amount of the sketches themselves. The other writers are Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain, James Bachman, Mark Evans, David Quantick, Jonathan Dryden Taylor, Toby Davies, Simon Kane and John Finnemore, and since they don't get nearly as much credit as David and Robert do, I thought it important to include their names in this review.
In conclusion, I found That Mitchell and Webb Sound Series One to be a very enjoyable CD, and it is one that I listen to very regularly. I would say, however, that some of the recurring sketches are not quite up to scratch, although most of the independent sketches are excellent, and also that the three subsequent series are arguably better than this one. In any case I highly recommend this disc for anyone who enjoys comedy. It is available for download from iTunes for £6.99 though costs considerably more at £15.52 on Amazon for a physical copy of the CD. I'd say it's worth it at the iTunes price, but I'd shop around if you want a hard copy.