The Mighty Boosh masterminds Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding followed a well-worn British comedy-career path, starting onstage before moving to radio and then to TV for three BBC series. The years spent honing their craft before they landed on television have resulted in 20 assured, distinctive episodes of The Mighty Boosh, each reflecting a sensibility that’s been refined in its own weird way. A typical Boosh installment begins with Barratt and Fielding hanging out, trading rapid-fire near non sequiturs like a stoner Abbott & Costello. (In the first season, the conversations happen at the cut-rate zoo where their characters “work”; in the second, they’re at the flat where they obsess over their go-nowhere music career; and in the third, they’re at the second-hand shop run by their drug-dealing shaman roommate.) Then, after a few minutes of half-hearted setup, Barratt and Fielding are off, having surreal adventures that involve ancient legends, talking animals, elaborate costumes, and a few snappy musical numbers. Even when a Mighty Boosh episode isn’t fall-down funny, there’s always something happening. Each half-hour is a journey into Barratt and Fielding’s peculiar headspace.
And when a Mighty Boosh episode really clicks, it can be convulsively funny, as weird imagery (such as a spaghetti Western villain made out of Betamax tape) and inspired lines (such as the introduction of an instant-musical-genius potion consisting of “the tears of Mozart… mixed with the urine of Mark Knopfler”) combine to soften viewers up, making them receptive to the comic potential in every reaction shot. Sometimes Barratt and Fielding disappear so far into their more outlandish premises that they forget the jokes, and by the third Mighty Boosh series, the duo fall into the trap of a lot of cult comedies and let the self-mythologizing get out of hand. But Fielding’s brilliance in particular becomes clearer with each series, as he takes on more and more offbeat characters, derived from folklore and his own psychedelic imagination. Sometimes the comedy in The Mighty Boosh is based on classic B-follows-A constructions, as when Barratt complains that “the wind’s my only friend” right before the wind whispers “Iiiii haaaate yoooouuu…” And sometimes the jokes leap off from “things undreamed of… like lesbian ham.”
Key features: Each set contains selected episode commentaries as delightfully droll as the show itself (sample comment: “What is improvising if it’s not remembering things that others have said before?”), as well as deleted scenes, outtakes, promotional material, and all manner of insight into how much set-building, animation, rear-projection, makeup, costuming, and improvising goes into an episode.
(Consumer alert: If Boosh fans can hold out until October, all three seasons will be available in one big set with even more bonus material, all for $10 less than the list price of these three sets combined.)