As I sit here typing this, I have a large framed photograph of an ibex hanging on the wall behind me. This isn’t a metaphor–they are my favorite animal. If I could have one in miniature to traipse about the house, my life would be complete. Knowing that, you’ll understand why I read the opening scene of Mitchell and Webb’s new show Ambassadors as a bad omen. We open on a hunting trip in Tazbekistan (fictional) where England’s ambassador Keith Davis (Mitchell) accidentally kills an ibex, the country’s national animal. This is a big deal. Imagine it like someone coming into Wisconsin and shooting a badger. Of course, he immediately blames it on the French ambassador.
The other end of the comedy duo is Neil Tilly (Webb), the Deputy Head, who loves living in this country and has fallen for a local woman. He is largely the responsible one. Keith Davis tries to be responsible, but he’s pretty new in this location, as his predecessor went missing in the mountains. Keith’s wife is physician Jennifer, played by the amazing Keeley Hawes, and has a better pull with the politicians than her husband. The goal of episode one is to land a helicopter deal with the local government, but the “Best of British” celebration they throw to win Tazbekistan politicians over is all but impressive, what with a pork pie demonstration, medieval music, and a botched one-man production of Frankenstein. As you can probably guess, things don’t go well for Keith.
Mitchell and Webb have been working together since they were in Footlights together at Cambridge University. After ten years of Peep Show, they should have this whole TV thing down. Granted, they didn’t write the episode, but they did produce it, which must mean they get some say. The pilot isn’t bad by any means, but I think it had potential to start it off on more of the bang. It moves kind of slow at first and the thing with the ibex would have been funny if we weren’t struggling for our footing in what on earth was going on and who these people with guns were. Maybe it would have made a better second scene and would have therefore been a little punchier.
I’m glad that Mitchell and Webb are doing a high brow comedy with less goofy sex jokes than Peep Show. There were some pretty good gags in there, such as the monitors listening in on their conversations, making bets on what they were going to serve for the big feast, but I’m not sure whether I’ll watch more. It does deserve another look, but it didn’t necessarily grab my attention so much that I’m chomping at the bit to watch another.
Decide for yourself. Ambassadors is available on Hulu Plus.
Ambassadors will not return for season 2, but it might be brought back as a drama.