Judge Adam Arseneau is about as edgy as a satsuma.
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A surrealist adventure through British comedy, common sense, and the very pejorative definition of the word "humor," The Mighty Boosh is a strange and wonderful experience, or a maddeningly annoying waste of time, depending on how your brain is wired. For many, it is a combination of both, and therein lays its brilliance.
Facts of the Case
Zookeepers Howard Moon (Julian Barrett) and Vince Noir (Noel Fielding) work at the Zooniverse, a low-quality, dilapidated zoo. Howard is a poet, an explorer, a thinker, a philosopher, even a fighter—at least he fancies himself these things. It usually falls to his co-worker Vince (who is more worried about the height and circumference of his hair than existential issues) to set him straight. Also in the Zooniverse are manager Bob Fossil (Rich Fulcher), Naboo the resident shaman/kiosk vendor, and Bollo the gorilla, who enjoys a large vocabulary for a primate. Welcome to the world of The Mighty Boosh.
The Mighty Boosh: The Complete Season 1 contains all eight episodes from the first series:
Based on standup performances, stage acts, and radio plays by stars Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding, The Mighty Boosh is a bizarre spectacle of traditional back-and-forth British banter, ludicrous situational comedy, and narcotic overload. Moments of brilliance give way to long, awkward jokes with little or no punch line, punctuated machine gun-style by surrealist jumps and constant anthropomorphization of zoo animals. It is nonsensical, ridiculous, pointless, and inane—so it makes perfect sense for it to find a surprisingly voracious fan base on Adult Swim in the United States. It is, after all, something of a live-action cartoon at times. It certainly matches the sensibilities of the demographic.
The setup, such as it is, is in the Zooniverse, a ridiculously understaffed and maligned zoo with mistreated (and often nonexistent) animals tended by staff barely trained to feed themselves, let alone tend to wildlife. Episodes receive all but the most tenuous of frameworks before audiences are off on a wild and often zany adventure—Monkey Hell, an electro-pop concert, the Arctic by way of Gary Numan's private jet, a boxing match between a zookeeper and a kangaroo, a genetic laboratory splicing humans and animals together into horrific mutants, et al. Forget rhyme and reason; it is unlikely Barratt and Fielding can even spell the words, let alone adhere to a common-sense approach to their comedy. Wherever their drug-addled brains imagine us, we are there, with the most endearing of cheap B-movie special effects along the way.
Every episode spontaneously breaks into song and dance for no particularly reason. The fourth wall is constantly broken, in addition to five or six other walls audiences hadn't even been aware of. Common sense is an abstract term here, for every joke has the subtle yet omnipresent ability to manifest unexpectedly into surrealist degradations of logic and tomfoolery, like Monty Python logic set in the world of slackers and stoners. It is madcap and zany, unpredictable and totally irreverent, dangerous close to genius at times, while finger-tappingly frustrating in others. Some episodes flow like a fast-moving river, from zany situation to zany situation with nary a wasted effort, while others languish in tepid waters, mired in murky jokes that go nowhere and plotlines that flop into the mud.
One thing that The Mighty Boosh represents is an innocent kind of comedic dystopia, a weird and subversive experience into deranged mental head spaces without the use of sex, profanity, or cultural shock to evoke laughter. For a show so off-the-wall, it is surprisingly tender and humane, never descending into raunchiness or perversion, always opting for a stoic moral high road in the most proper of British comedic styling. If you can believe it or not, The Mighty Boosh: The Complete Season 1 is a lot more restrained and sense-making than following seasons, so if you can't handle the weirdness now, you'd best depart for saner waters.
A particularly unfortunate and ugly transfer, The Mighty Boosh: The Complete Season 1 does the job, but not very well. Flesh tones are muddled, detail levels are soft and hazy, and black levels are washed out. Edges are jagged like the teeth of a shark; all sharp corners and screen doors. Audio comes in stereo only, with a largely balanced mix. Some of the dialogue is a bit muddled, but the subtitles help. It is quite a letdown in the technical department.
Partially compensating, extras are quite reasonable for a two-disc set; we get commentary tracks on four of the eight episodes ("Bollo," "Tundra," "Electro," and "Hitcher") with creators Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding and actor Rich Fulcher. A featurette, "Inside the Zooniverse," goes behind the scenes with cast and crew with expected zany results, "History of The Boosh," a timeline to collaborations between Fielding and Barratt, and "Boosh Music," a collection of musical numbers as well as expected photo galleries and outtake footage are also included.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The Mighty Boosh isn't for everyone. If I were to write this sentence in gigantic stone letters painted neon pink, it might still be understated. When the show works, it is among the funniest and freshest comedy shows in recent memory. Other times, in its constant attempt to be surreal and outlandish, the humor can feel slightly forced or even nonexistent.
An awkward comedy whose brilliance is matched only by its spotty growing pains in this first season, The Mighty Boosh grows on your brain like a tumor. It is a show that must be seen to be believed, and only then will you understand—or perhaps not. Future installments only get stranger, so if you can't wrap your head around the glory that is the Boosh, best get out of the pool.
Weird, but not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
• Episode Commentaries
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