The Mighty Boosh (TV, 2008)


I loved this show. This is a review of the third and sadly the last season of the television show, broadcast in 2007 on BBC 3, although the troupe behind it are still going strong. From Death Ray 10.

FIVE STARS

Season 3

Director: Paul King

Writers/creators: Julian Barrett and Noel Fielding

Starring: Julian Barrett, Noel Fielding, Michael Fielding, Peter Elliott, Richard Ayoade, Rich Fulcher

The Mighty Boosh is the most fantastical thing on British telly right now: Two chancers, one supercool, the other a jazz-loving loser live with a shaman and his talking ape and have magical adventures, battling the likes of a malignant jazz virus, a “crack fox” and a cockney with a polo-mint eye. Do we need to mention that in a previous series they lived in a parallel universe before escaping to Dalston? That there’s a talking moon? That shaman Naboo is beholden to a magical council whose members include an electric pink talking head, with tentacles? Probably not. This is fantasy to the core.

The Mighty Boosh is the kind of show that is beloved by students, but that doesn’t mean to say the rest of us can’t love it too, as it straddles the barrier of things that are adored by the young but irritate the older (not old, just wiser, alright?). Past its occasional drug references and sharp hipness – something it mocks more than it celebrates –  it has a sweet-natured zaniness that makes it instantly endearing.

The set-up is thus: Vince Moon (Noel Fielding) is the trendy one, who sports a new and extreme look every episode. He’s beloved by all, and although he has the mental capacity of a peanut (we discover in the second episode that he has just one braincell), is generally trusted, even though it’s usually him who gets the duo into trouble. Howard Moon (Julian Barrett) is the jazz-loving loser, more clued up than Moon, he is nevertheless monumentally unfortunate. The banter between these two, full of frequently riffed-on insults (Moon’s small eyes being a favourite) forms the comic backbone of the show.

In this series the mismatched pair live above and work in Naboo’s second-hand shop, The Nabootique, their base of operations this year.

Like The League of Gentlemen‘s players, Fielding and Barrett are multi-handers, appearing as many of the show’s numerous secondary characters. Fielding plays evil cockney The Hitcher (one of many of the show’s characters who make a reappearance this series), the Moon, shaman Tony Harrison, the Jazz Virus, a mugger, Naboo’s shamanic drug dealer and more, Barrett plays the Head Shaman, and the frankly disturbing Crack Fox. Obviously this means that they’re often on screen with themselves, a difficult trick the series carries off effortlessly.

These minor characters give the show the rest of its comic zest. Particularly amusing is the interplay between Fielding as pink alien shaman Tony Harrison and Richard Ayoade, and that between Barrett as Moon and series regular American Rich Fulcher, who plays a blind jazz afficionado in several episodes.

Besides performing nearly everyone, the duo write the show’s songs, and do much of the design. To aid them, Fielding has roped in practically his entire family – his brother Michael plays Naboo, his mum and dad have been in it, and his young nephew plays notorious “erotic adventurer” Kirk. That’s it’s a labour love, tatty in patches, like a home-made Christmas card from your three-year-old kid, adds to its inclusive charm.

The show also scores highly on its sheer madcap inventiveness. This is so dazzling it friskily agitates the brain to pleasant effect, it’s like being rubbed unexpectedly in a delightful manner by a gorgeous lady made entirely of Lucozade. I can’t think of any other way to describe its effervescent pleasures, but it feels good. It’s a bit like Robert Rankin’s stuff, I suppose, but on the telly.

It’s in this blend of concept and comedy that makes The Mighty Boosh the spiritual heir to Red Dwarf. At its best, Red Dwarf combined SF with laughs to create a unique and long-lived show. There’s less conventional structure in Boosh, there’s a smidgen more stand-up and a tad less sitcom in its genetic make-up, but it does something similar with contemporary fantasy. Where else can you find an evil cockney with an ex-pie and eel shop owner imprisoned in his magical hat, forced to dance forever?

Did we mention it can be utterly terrifying too? The Crack Fox is quite the most disturbing character we’ve seen. Ever. And the Hitcher isn’t very nice either. There’s horror in the Boosh, and SF. It’s a tri-genre anthem. It’s so Death Ray it hurts. Long may it continue. [Note from 2013 — Ironically neither the show nor our magazine did so!]

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