That Mitchell and Webb Sound
Series One

Starring: David Mitchell and Robert Webb
BBC Audio
RRP: 15.99
ISBN-13: 978 1 4056 7680 9
ISBN-10: 1 4056 7680 9
Available 02 October 2006

In Mitchell and Webb's peculiar world you can listen to the Alpine Archers on Radio Switzerland or Imagine That, in which the panel tries to imagine the biggest baked potato possible. You could hear Rabbit Newsnight or tune in to Jason from daytime TV broadcasting live from Makeover City, where you can get a complete sock or handbag makeover. Including tips for dealing with a relationship break-up and a fresh look at 21st-century marriage vows, Mitchell and Webb's take on the world is brilliantly skewed with misfits, eccentrics and a few stray Radio 4 presenters...

Those wacky folks at BBC Audiobooks have decided to release the first series of Mitchell and Webb's Radio 4 series after the second one. Goodness knows why. It isn't because the first series is weaker than the second. In fact, it's every bit as hilarious.

Fortunately, it doesn't really matter in which order you listen to these series. Very few characters from the first one are repeated in the second, and, unlike Little Britain, you don't need to be familiar with the likes of snooker commentators Peter and Ted or the excitable talk-show presenter Raymond Terrific in order to fully appreciate the humour.

What do become familiar are the themes that the comedians like to explore. As in the second radio series and their previous television show, The Mitchell and Webb Situation, much time is spent spoofing TV programmes, particularly discussion shows and daytime TV. Charity advertising campaigns again come in for some stick in the sketch Just 3 a Month. So do telephone call centres, but, unlike the Milk Helpline skit in the second series, this time our sympathies are with the call centre staff as the Understanding Man sketches challenge the logic of choosing to speak to a real person rather than an efficient automated service, and youngsters are exploited in the Child Call Centre sketch. Those of you who enjoyed the Fox and Badger routine in the second series will be glad to hear that there are more anthropomorphised animals here, including a couple of luckless pit ponies, a hopeless flock of flightless birds, Mowgli's parents and - a personal favourite of mine - Rabbit Newsnight. I just can't imagine these zoological sketches working nearly as well on television with the actors in animal costumes (though perhaps the panel on Imagine That can).

Talking of television, viewers of the comedians' recent BBC TWO series, That Mitchell and Webb Look will recognise several scenes here, including the memorable Now We Know and Touching Cloth sketches, the lazy writers of a hospital drama, Friends of Moneypenny and The Surprising Adventures of Sir Digby Chicken-Caesar (here known as Sir Digby Caesar-Salad).

Meanwhile, science fiction/fantasy fans should appreciate the numerous genre-based gags, which include Friends of Darth Vader and of Freddy, Daphne and Velma; a Middle Earth Dinner Party; three different sketches on the theme of secret agents; and a challenging look at the dubious selection process employed at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

For those of you who, like me, really enjoyed the second series of That Mitchell and Webb Sound and wanted to hear what the original one was like, now we know. Oh yes, now we know. Now we know...

Richard McGinlay

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