That Mitchell and Webb Sound
The Complete Second Radio Series

Starring: David Mitchell and Robert Webb
BBC Audio
RRP: 15.99
ISBN 1 8460 7071 6
Available 03 April 2006

Meet soporific late-night DJ Adrian Locket; Peter and Ted, commentators who reveal the murky underside of snooker; and crime fighter Angel Summoner and his redundant sidekick, the BMX Bandit. In addition, there's Numberwang!, the incomprehensible maths quiz, plus thrilling coverage of people buying houses and then living in them. And, for some reason, a milk helpline...

This radio sketch show is quite possibly the best thing that David Mitchell and Robert Webb have done to date. Though the Channel 4 sitcom Peep Show comes in a close second, its third series was a disappointingly uneven affair.

Not so the second series of That Mitchell and Webb Sound, which gets off to a cracking start with a practically flawless opening episode. The remaining five instalments don't quite match the first one, but the next laugh-out-loud moment is never far away. My personal favourites include the fox (Mitchell) and the badger (Webb), the irate man (Mitchell) who calls a milk helpline, the Nazis (Mitchell and Webb) who realise that they are the bad guys (after all, they do have skulls on their uniforms), the campaign to save the mad bears, and a newly single man (Webb) who's so helpless that he can't even hang a painting.

As with UK play's The Mitchell and Webb Situation, many of the sketches are one-offs, though some, such as Mad Bears, Angel Summoner and the BMX Bandit, and Daytime Coverage of Things, are reprised during the course of a particular episode. Very few characters or situations are carried across the entire series, apart from the snooker commentators (Mitchell and Webb), who exhibit a different obsession every week and who, notably, do become a little tiresome by the end.

With the exception of their snooker commentator characters, the performers tend not to go in for impersonations or anything much in the way of vocal diversification, instead sticking to their own recognisable voice patterns and personality traits, applying them to characters as diverse as anthropomorphised wild animals and the Devil.

Common personality traits are anger, phoney coolness and sadness. As in Peep Show, David Mitchell all but corners the market in being irate, usually with a generous side order of snobbery. However, Webb also gets in on the act with his Raymond Terrific, overwrought presenter of Big Talk, while both comedians are equally embittered in the sketch Unity of Purpose, as two people who don't see why mobile phones should have cameras in them, microwave ovens should have clocks on them, or cars should have heaters.

Robert Webb's characters tend to be laidback, or at least they pretend to be laidback, though Mitchell also has a go with his depressing late-night DJ Adrian Locket (shades of Alan Partridge here).

Which brings us to sadness, which both performers do equally well, whether in the guise of Webb's Solo Man or shopper tormented by a caricaturist (Mitchell), or Mitchell's man with a pathological aversion to other people's kids.

Sci-fi fans should particularly enjoy the sketch Lazy Writers - Space, which depicts a space opera by numbers featuring such edifying lines as: "Put on the special motorcycle helmets for breathing with. We're humans - we breathe air, not space!"

With preparations currently under way for That Mitchell and Webb Look, a television version of That Mitchell and Webb Sound, it sounds like the perfect time to get hold of this brilliant triple-CD set.

(That's Numberwang!)

Richard McGinlay

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