The Mitchell And Webb Situation (UK Play, 2001)
Back in the early days of digital TV one of my favourite channels was UK Play/Play UK, and indeed so eager was I to share my memories of this great channel that it was one of the first things that I wrote about on here. As well as repeating lots of great comedies, they also had a go at making some of their own, and surprisingly The Mitchell And Webb Situation has been released on DVD, seemingly to cash in on Mitchell and Webb’s subsequent success in more recent years in comedies such as the award-winning Peep Show.
In October 2001 Play UK launched The Mitchell And Webb Situation, a six-part comedy sketch show starring and written by the up-and-coming double-act David Mitchell and Robert Webb. This wasn’t the first sketch show that they had appeared in, they were also in BBC2’s Bruiser that was made about a couple of years earlier, and they would later go on to star in radio’s That Mitchell And Webb Sound and TV’s That Mitchell And Webb Look.
There were no recurring characters in the show which was clearly low-budget, and there were a few supporting cast members who helped out including long-time Mitchell and Webb collaborator Olivia Colman (whose name is spelt wrong on the back of the DVD box) who would also go on to bigger things, just a wide variety of sketches. Of course the quality can vary in sketch shows wildly but overall the ideas were rather good.
One of my favourite sketches is The Early 1990s House, a parody of The 1900 House that was spoofed a lot at the time (The Adam And Joe Show also did a great parody as The 1980s House). In this one the guy is sat there in a Global Hypercolour T-shirt looking at his computer with its very slow internet dial-up modem and saying “I just don’t know how people managed”.
There was also a regular sketch where Mitchell And Webb supposedly appeared as themselves trying to think of some ideas to put into the show. On the DVD commentary they admitted that this was the point in their career that they tried to make Mitchell appear as the “clever” one in the double-act (always wearing a suit and tie and acting pompous), and Webb was the “dumb” one (wearing loud shirts, making silly comments and wearing an earring).
The DVD also features a funny interview with Mitchell And Webb where they talk about how the show was made and some of their comedy influences. Although I didn’t see The Mitchell And Webb Situation the first time round and the ratings must have been very small, I do remember the show being promoted by UK Play to the point that when Peep Show launched on Channel 4 in 2003 when I first saw the trail for that show I recognised the two main cast members as the double-act who were on UK Play.
UK Play was definitely a great place for new talent to be nurtured, and probably only BBC3 comes close to an equivalent channel nowadays. Although the channel has long since left the screen, The Mitchell And Webb Situation was somewhat surprisingly repeated on BBC2 in 2008, some seven years after it was made, making the show alongside Lucas and Walliams’ Rock Profile the most successful original comedy from that channel which is great. And ooh, they both look so young, don’t they!