KROD MANDOON BBC2 MITCHELL & WEBB BBC2
AN EASY test to tell if you are the target audience for Krod Mandoon And The Flaming Sword Of Fire: is the following funny?
"I can't perform magic in a hostile work environment!"
"But we're a roving band of guerrilla warriors – all of our work environments are hostile!"
Actually, it's not quite that easy, because while this fantasy comedy is full of groaning puns (people praise the Emperor, Zainus, and the baddie's called Dongalor), strained anachronisms (talk of PR, cranberry juice and muffins, couples counselling) and creaky stereotypes (a wisecracking black guy, a mincing gay guy, a sexy wench who'll sleep with anyone), I confess I did chuckle a few times. Yes, it's obvious, yes, some of it borders on offensive, but the cast throw themselves into it and there is a pleasing panto-like silliness that almost makes it okay.
Mind you, it's hardly sillier than the BBC's own Robin Hood, which is supposed to be taken straight (or is it?) – at least here the modern slang and unlikely references are done for comic effect. The hapless hero is played by Sean Maguire, once of EastEnders and later of Hollywood spoof Meet The Spartans, here adopting an American accent – which makes perfect sense, of course, in this ragged abuse of medieval history. Maguire is admirably straight-faced, Leslie Nielsen-style, as the swashbuckler distracted by insecurities and girlfriend trouble.
Matt Lucas, who plays the baddie, meanwhile, is hammier than a sty at a factory farm and clearly modelled more on Alan Rickman in Prince Of Thieves, with a tendency to kill people for not appreciating his outfits enough. None of this is at all new – the subversively funny Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules mined virtually every nugget of humour out of these sword-and-sorcery clichs years ago and Krod Mandoon doesn't miss a chance to thrash its dopey jokes into the ground, killing half of them in the process. And the cringe-worthy portrayal of a gay man is a throwback to a nastier time (ironically, Matt Lucas's Little Britain has probably allowed homophobic humour back into the mainstream again).
Even so, I couldn't quite hate Krod Mandoon – it's just too daft and, with a script by two veterans of the American TV system, it's at least more polished than most British sitcoms. It's hardly worth going on a quest for, though.
Also rather a mixed bag is That Mitchell And Webb Look, back for a third series. Perhaps it's because Robert Webb and David Mitchell pack so much else in – Peep Show, films, panel shows, dancing to Flashdance in leotards – that it is so literally hit and miss; excellent sketches are followed by ones so lame you're surprised they got through rehearsal. Duff bits are inevitable in sketch shows, perhaps, but they weren't noticeably fewer last night than in previous series and it's hard to see that they're really progressing.
But when they're good, the pair are very good. Given unintentional extra bite by Sir Alan Sugar's governmental call-up, their parody of The Apprentice was deliciously cynical. Initially, it seems, the show featured talented business people competing for a prestigious job, but that was too boring. "How would it be," suggested Mitchell, as a producer, "if instead it was idiots competing for a relatively junior job… and everyone will think that they're the only ones to have noticed that they're idiots."