Bruiser (BBC2, 2000)
This is another comedy that I don’t remember watching first time round, but I eventually saw it when there was a repeat run on the great digital channel Play UK and it was another show that I enjoyed. Bruiser was an offbeat comedy sketch show which was written by and starring David Mitchell and Robert Webb long before Peep Show and even The Mitchell and Webb Situation in what must have been some of their earliest TV appearances.
The other main cast members making up the sextet of performers were Olivia Colman, Martin Freeman, Matthew Holness and Charlotte Hudson, and among the other writers were Richard Ayoade and Ricky Gervais. The fairly unknown cast and writers at the time would go on to much bigger things including appearing in various films and award-winning TV shows such as Peep Show, The Office, Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace and, er, Topranko!
One of the memorable things about Bruiser was the unusual title sequence where the whole cast did a dance which had nothing to do with the rest of the programme. Again as is always the way with sketch shows the quality of the ideas on offer did vary but I felt that it wasn’t too bad and there were some memorable recurring characters.
Among the sketches that stuck in my mind were an annoying TV executive (played by Mitchell) who seemed to be obsessed with Alan Titchmarsh and wouldn’t commission any of the programmes pitched to him unless Titchmarsh was involved in them. There was also Outdoor Wee, a chat show parody where a celebrity was interviewed about their career by the host of the show while they both had a wee in public.
Among my favourites were the sillier sketches including an overweight man who liked to shout “all pile on!” and then jump on top of people, and two young useless TV presenters in a parody of those GCSE Bitesize education-type programmes who instead of giving useful advice to people taking their exams just kept offering incorrect information on various subjects and simply advising “remember – don’t panic!”.
Bruiser was scheduled rather erratically, turning up on various weekday nights on BBC2 in a post-Newsnight slot in early-2000 (the show was copyrighted 1999) so very few viewers saw it at the time and there was little newspaper and magazine coverage of the show, it was clearly made on a small budget, and it hasn’t been seen on TV since the Play UK repeat run. However, because the majority of the cast have since gone on to much bigger things the show was finally released on DVD in 2007 to let people know where it all began for this era of comedy talents.