Armstrong And Miller (Paramount Comedy, 1997, Channel 4, 1997-2001)
A while ago I looked back at The Armstrong And Miller Show, the BBC1 sketch comedy that featured double-act Alexander Armstrong (before he went off to host Pointless) and Ben Miller. Before this, they had a similar show on Channel 4, but I’m fairly sure that none of the characters in this transferred to the BBC1 version, so it’s a enough of a variation to be worthy of its own review.
The show actually started out on the Paramount Comedy channel, before moving to Channel 4 in 1997 in a late-night slot. Between the first and second series, Armstrong and Miller also had two shows on BBC Radio 4, a comedy sketch show, and Children’s Hour, featuring their pop music critic characters Craig Children and Martin Bain-Jones (these were later repeated on BBC7/Radio 4 Extra).
When watching the show, it becomes rather clear than Armstrong and Miller seemed to have no problem with taking their clothes off. The best example of this was Nude Practice, a parody of drama series Peak Practice, where everyone happened to be naked. Other highlights included costume drama Brunswicke House, the detectives Parsons and Lampkin, a rude teacher, references to “blatant tomatoes”, and of course, the Norwegian rock music sensations Strijka (who appeared on various other comedy shows throughout the 90s).
Every edition in the final series concluded with a visit to Bog Hose House (introduced with a Channel 4 ident and everything), which was a parody of Big Brother. Now there were about a million and one of these around at this time, but this has got to be one of the oddest, as the housemates were constantly sprayed with water inbetween talking about their experience (they began to crack up around Day 63 though).
They were also assisted by a decent support cast, including Charlie Condou, Tony Gardner, Sarah Alexander, and Jessica Hynes. Armstrong and Miller wrote most of the sketches, along with Mitchell and Webb, an up-and-coming double-act at the time who went on to have plenty of comedy sketch show success of their own. Their quirky style quickly won them a lot of fans.
Rather curiously, only the fourth and final series of the show has been released on DVD (which was actually the third series to be shown in full on Channel 4). This has an 18 rating, as it contains an edition that was considered to be “too hot for TV” (plenty of nudity again!). There were 27 editions that were filled with plenty of bizarre ideas that always made the show worth watching. And along with their later BBC1 series, Armstrong and Miller have also had success separately, including the sitcoms Beast and The Worst Week Of My Life.