What is a Mighty Boosh? Well, having viewed several episodes of the hot new BBC transplant, I can confidently tell you I have no idea.
Following MTV’s lead of no longer showing music videos and Sci Fi Channel’s growing distaste for science fiction, Cartoon Network has been airing more and more shows with a notable lack of animation. Joining the live-action ranks of “Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace,” “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!,” “Fat Guy Stuck in Internet,” “Look Around You” and “Delocated” on CN’s Adult Swim block is the surreal British sitcom “The Mighty Boosh.” The show is the work of a London-based sketch comedy troupe made up primarily of founders/writers Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding. “The Boosh,” as they are colloquially known, hooked up in 1998 and created a string of weird characters that came alive in three stage shows, a six-episode radio series and a total of 20 television episodes of the eponymous sitcom, “The Mighty Boosh.”
At the heart of “The Mighty Boosh” are inept zookeepers Howard Moon (Barratt) and Vince Noir (Fielding). Moon is an aspiring artist with delusions of grandeur. Noir is the often naive voice of reason to Howard’s grandiose plans—plans like becoming “Britain's leading cream poet” and attracting the attentions of a hermaphrodite merman. (Bear with me, it gets weirder.) Howard and Vince work at a low-rent zoo called Zooniverse (at least for the first season of “Mighty Boosh,” anyway) alongside a talking ape, a daffy fortune teller, a suave adventurer and other assorted oddball characters. In the second season, they all leave the zoo to form a band.
“The Mighty Boosh” is hard to get a handle on, at least initially. Freely mixing influences as diverse as Monty Python, Ziggy Stardust, “The Young Ones,” “Little Britain” and “Pee-wee’s Playhouse,” “The Mighty Boosh” is sure to fry a few brain cells. Though the show is more or less centered around the dilapidated zoo in which Howard and Vince unhappily work, stories are free to spin off in a great many strange directions. One episode, the characters might find themselves trudging through the Arctic. In the next, they may be lost in Limbo. Or kidnapped by that above-mentioned hermaphrodite merman. Linking all these locations are The Boosh’s absurd sense of humor and bargain-basement production values. Ridiculously chintzy costumes and cardboard sets are the order of the day.
For all its alternative, Fringe Festival humor and Flight of the Conchords-like musical interludes, “The Mighty Boosh” plays out like a typical, cheaply produced BBC Three sitcom, complete with boisterous laugh track and hard-to-navigate accents. And a talking ape. It’s the kind of show that will create ardent fans or vocal detractors. There’s not a lot of middle ground. If you’ve got a taste for offbeat British humor, though, give it a couple episodes and see which side of the fence you’re on. It might just grow on you.