That Mitchell and Webb Sound
Series Three

Starring: David Mitchell and Robert Webb
BBC Audio
RRP: £15.99
ISBN: 978 1 405 67771 4
Available 02 July 2007

David Mitchell and Robert Webb return to their radio roots with this third fantastic series, which finds them in their finest ever sketch-show form. Meet the Stone Age flint-chipper who reckons bronze is just a fad; the very unpleasant man who wants to take you out on a little date; another thrilling adventure with Sir Digby Chicken-Caesar; the world’s most mismatched rally-driving couple; Zombie Poppins, the undead nanny; and Asbo, the naughty baby seal who offers dubious advice about text messaging. Whether sniping at “citizen journalism”, predictable radio plays, reality TV or football fans, here are lots of silly and clever sketches, with laugh-out-loud humour and painfully funny dialogue...

Thank goodness Mitchell and Webb haven’t turned their backs on their radio series. Amusing though it was, the television version of this show, That Mitchell and Webb Look wasn’t quite up to the standard of the Sony Award-winning radio version.

I’m also pleased to report that this third series is not merely a testing ground for potential television material. Indeed, many of the more surreal ideas are defiantly unfilmable, including the reality TV spoof Celebrity Fame Zeppelin, the morbid Zombie Poppins, and - my personal favourite - Asbo Zaprudder (Robert Webb), the talking baby seal who offers very dodgy texting advice. The duo’s tradition for anthropomorphising animals continues: in addition to Asbo, there’s also a fox (Webb again) who, since the hunting ban came into effect, cunningly sells his services like a prostitute (“Of course I’m cunning - I’m a fox”).

The one and only concession to the success of the recent BBC TWO series is an appearance by Sir Digby Chicken-Caesar (Webb), who had previously been known as Sir Digby Caesar-Salad on the radio. Snooker commentators Peter and Ted are absent this time around, though instead we get a new recurring character: an insulting man (Webb) who reduces women (always Olivia Colman) to tears as a way of encouraging them to go out with him on “a little date”. The panellists on Imagine That return, imagining themselves being teenagers again - but this time with proper pubic hair and the ability to actually talk to members of the opposite sex.

As usual, there are more recurrences of theme than of character. For instance, the comedians pour scorn on pointless news coverage, as presenters urge viewers and listeners to email their ill-informed opinions (during the three-part Over to You skit); we realise how it’s always either too early or too late to speculate on facts (in Speculate to Accumulate); and Webb plays an interviewer who is anything but hard-hitting. The pair also ridicule football supporters for their inability to separate their team’s accomplishments from their own (in We) and football managers for their inability to see anything beyond the score (in The Main Thing is the Three Points). They also seem to hold a fascination for tour guides, with no fewer than five sketches dealing with embittered and lonely or mischievous guides, the former type played by David Mitchell, the latter played by Webb.

Mitchell’s rapid-fire and/or verbose delivery is particularly impressive during this series, in enthusiastic routines such as Celebrity Fame Zeppelin and spoof adverts for useless periodicals and partworks such as Buy Me!, Car-Hate Cheese-Love magazine, Chicken-Ambivalence Tap-Ambivalence (“You don’t actually need to buy it”) and the complete works of Charles Dickens, at a rate of one page per week (“Heritage Masterpieces - helping you to make us richer”). He reminds me of the great Robbie Barker at times.

As ever, there’s material here that will appeal particularly to we fans of sci-fi, with references to invading aliens in Over to You Part 3; Raiders of the Lost Ark in We; Zombie Poppins; and a sketch involving He-Man’s bad back.

Love Mitchell and love Webb? Then you need That Mitchell and Webb Sound: Series Three! Buy it!

Richard McGinlay

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