Bruiser: You’ll like this; not a lot, but you’ll like it

With Magicians quickly sinking without a trace, it's worth looking back at an early Mitchell & Webb project that featured a brilliant ensemble cast. Shame it was so darned awful


The cast of Bruiser have gone on to some pretty darned impressive things. There was not just Mitchell & Webb of Peep Show fame, but their erstwhile companion and Green Wing bright point, Olivia Coleman. There was Martin Freeman, before The Office immortalized him as a living Lego man, plus Ricky Gervais as a writer. Matt Holness showed that he can do comedy with a smile on his face. And there was some other woman who has gone on to present Brainiac: History Abuse.

So, Jon Tickle’s friend aside, why isn’t this on heavy rotation on UKTV G2? Put simply, it wasn’t very good. There were chronic sketch show problems of having to constantly recycle sketches far beyond their shelf life, something that can trip up comic talent as decent as that on show in Man Stroke Woman.

It was also painfully clear that this was the first TV show for the comedians on display, often putting in one-stop performances across sketches. (If Bruiser was commissioned now, it would be a one-off special on comedy slag heap BBC Three).

Robert Webb and Martin Freeman are the most obvious pair to come on leaps and bounds since basing an entire range of sketches on a TV producer who’ll only go for programme ideas that involve Alan Titchmarsh. The change in Matt Holness from identicomic to Garth Merenghi has been enormous. Only Olivia Coleman hasn’t changed enormously, and that’s largely because she’s always been darned hilarious, and always played second fiddle.

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It’s worth having a gander at the old publicity shots, just to see the various folks looking disturbingly thin. Olivia Coleman definitely looks better for having eaten a bit of chub, although Matt Holness has gone from matinee idol to borderline manatee. It is also pretty safe to say that Robert Webb was a late bloomer, given the shift in his usual casting from weirdo to charismatic El Dude.

Makeovers aside, here’s a radical thought: are Mitchell and Webb actually funny? Set the admittedly awesome Peep Show aside as the exception. That Mitchell & Webb Look was excruciating. There are the Mac ads, for which the less said the better. Magicians is just plain dull. Bruiser was dull, The Smoking Room and Confetti are both a little too desperate for laughs, although David Mitchell can at least do panel shows well.

We perhaps shouldn’t be surprised if their post-Peep Show lives turn out to not be very funny.