After making several series together for Channel 4, Armstrong and Miller went their separate ways for a number of years before reuniting to produce this sketch show for the BBC. There’s a sense that the pair have grown up a bit and are less willing to dabble in the more daring or risqué comedy evident in their earlier work. This series is safe and comfortable, slipping into its primetime BBC1 slot like donning a pair of old slippers. As a result, the comedy lacks the edge it once had and provokes a titter and the odd chortle rather than belly laughs.
There is a collection of regular characters that crop up throughout the series, such as the frank dad who tells his son brutally honest home truths, the Russian mafia football investor who takes a shine to the team’s coach and the inappropriate dentist who regales his clients with tales of swinging debauchery as he roots around in their mouths. As with many sketch shows, some of the recurring characters can become a little repetitive and occasionally there is a lot of build-up with little return when the punch line is finally delivered.
Of the regular characters, the chav pilots are by far the best. They are World War II fighter pilots with cut-glass English accents expressing themselves with the words of today’s “yoof” : “And he was like, ‘bang’ and I was like ‘bang bang��� and shit.” It’s a brilliant twist on the sketch show teenager; imagine Kevin and Perry, Vicky Pollard or Lauren Cooper in charge of a fighter jet.
The ingenuity of Armstrong and Miller is most apparent in their one-off sketches. In particular, Alexander Armstrong appearing as ‘himself’ in Who Do You Think You Are? takes a wonderful swipe at programmes featuring celebrities on a journey of self-discovery. Other highlights include a British builder pretending to be Polish in order to get work, Miller’s unnerving affair with a Barbie doll and a medieval banquet in which the guest of honour suffers from very modern conditions such as yeast intolerance.
Armstrong and Miller undoubtedly have the likeability factor and their warm-hearted daftness gently urges the viewer to pull their armchair in closer and wrap their hands around a mug of tea. And why not put a cheeky tot of whisky in that? Now you’re in the Armstrong and Miller spirit, so sit back and enjoy a soothing chuckle.
ExtrasNo frills here, just a brief interview and a handful of outtakes. The interview further demonstrates what amiable chaps Armstrong and Miller are and provides a little background on how they arrived at this point.
The Armstrong and Miller Show is out now.
14 Jaunary 2009