That Mitchell and Webb Look



9:20 p.m. Friday, Feb. 8
BBC America

Primetime TV comedy isn't dead; it has just moved across the Atlantic.

"That Mitchell and Webb Look" is an uproarious sketch series from the fine folks at BBC America that, unlike most of its ilk, hits far more home runs than groundouts. Written and performed primarily by the comedic duo of Robert Webb and David Mitchell, it's a cleverly cheeky pastiche of offbeat characters and biting wit that's rife with dead-on social commentary.

The boys claim influences ranging from Monty Python to Peter Cook to Spike Milligan, and their reverence for the giants of the past is evident throughout the first couple of episodes. It's deadpan yet agreeably outlandish, and unlike much of British humor, it translates surprisingly well to these shores. You don't emerge scratching your head at the U.K. in-jokes or fractured syntax endemic to the native culture. It's far different from, say, the Ricky Gervais school, yet every bit as inspired.

I'm not sure the wit will translate terribly effectively when described herein, but let's give it a shot. Mitchell, Webb and their talented troupemates introduce several recurring bits with distinctively fleshed-out characters. They include the crime-fighting duo Angel Summoner and BMX Bandit (one's a celestial wizard, while the other rides a bike); the cigarette-sucking, booze-imbibing snooker commentators Ted and Peter; participants in the fashion reality extravaganza "How What Not to Look Like" (in the opener, they plan a makeover for a woman wearing a burka); and the utterly incomprehensible game show "Numberwang!" which appears to involve calculus and/or mathematical formulas yet to be invented.

One of the highlights of the opener was the introduction of an abusive waiter who wears his arrogance on his sleeve and must be seen to be appreciated. Not everything clicks in the 12-episode "Mitchell and Webb," like a strained recurring Nazi bit, but it delivers big laughs far more often than not.