David Mitchell and Robert Webb’s ill-fated BBC comedy-drama from 2013 gets a DVD release. Ryan Pollard checks out the highs and lows…
First airing back in 2013, the show received generally positive responses even though mediocre ratings resulted in a second series not happening.
This is a shame considering the potential. What’s here is entertaining as we get to have Mitchell and Webb riffing off each other, and their banter and scenes together are the biggest highlight of the series, which goes to show why they are still one of the best comedy duos out there now and why it’s clear they enjoy working together so much. Mitchell gets to play the bumbler opposite Webb’s straight man, yet the ever-excellent Keeley Hawes as Mitchell’s character’s wife brilliantly mediates as the voice of reason and common sense. There are also solid supporting players with Amara Karan, Susan Lynch, Matthew Macfadyen and Natalia Tena, with both Lynch and Karan in particular being incredibly strong performers.
There are some great running gags such as a pair of central Asian surveillance agents listening in to everything that goes on in the episodes, the meetings with POD (Macfadyen) back in Blighty, and Keith’s language lessons. However, it’s understandable why this hasn’t attracted that big of an audience. A semi-comedy about a group of guys getting into all sorts of antics in the Middle-East is not the most acceptable of concepts at the best of times. Just look at what happened with The Interview. But maybe it’s more to do with the fact that this is more of a drama with jokes added to it. Plus, it does get very Borat-y with its displays of accents and moustaches.
Ambassadors didn’t blow me away as I was hoping, but it was a very admirable attempt by writers James Wood and Rupert Walters, as well as Mitchell and Webb. It does offer some element of truth as to what goes on with the diplomatic service, whilst also managing to be passably entertaining and having solid performances from the whole cast. There was plenty potential for improvement and creativity, but it’s a shame that we’ll probably never get that. Flawed, but admirably flawed nevertheless.