A Promising but Inexperienced Debut from Mitchell and Webb
Bruiser was Mitchell and Webb's first series as lead writers and actors, having earlier written for Jack Doherty and Armstrong & Miller in the late nineties. They were aided by additional writer Ricky Gervais and actor Martin Freeman, as well as Olivia Coleman and Charlotte Hudson, all still in the first stretch of their careers.
Though never rising above good, and quite often charting far below, Bruiser had some of the hallmarks of a successful series with some memorable recurring characters, such as an American TV producer, played by David Mitchell, who is obsessed with Alan Titchmarsh, only he pronounces it 'TITS-MARCH GET ME TITSMARCH!', and an excellent spoof of spurious, 'down with the kids', TV schools programmes, funky, high on so-called entertainment, but light on education. One of these 'school programmes', ostensibly about the Romans in Bath, was basically an excuse for a romp between Robert Webb and Charlotte Hudson in a bath.
The sketch show is undeniably an extremely tricky format. The basic problem with Bruiser was that it had far too many dud sketches, and not enough good staple sketches in order to cohere into a classic series. Mitchell and Webb's unquestionable comic energy therefore seemed wayward and led in too many unfunny directions. They also didn't give Olivia Coleman or Charlotte Hudson much to do. This might have been OK for Charlotte Hudson, but Olivia Coleman, one of Britain's best comic actors, was wasted.
All of the above betrays Mitchell and Webb's inexperience at the time. Having said that, I still can't quite see why it wasn't given the chance of a second series as there was potential there. Still, Bruiser did point the way upwards for Mitchell and Webb on their ascendant trajectory towards the brilliance of Peep Show, which is a great series, and That Mitchell and Webb Look, which isn't great but still very good.
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