Mongrels is a mixed breed

Hartley Pool on BBC Three's new comedy

The first episode of Mongrels, a new eight-parter which airs Tuesdays on BBC Three, proved exactly that, a mixed breed of sitcom, sickcom and, well, just a little bit of shitcom.

A group of X-rated puppet animals – yes, well done the BBC, now calm down and stop getting overexcited about how edgy you are – have various adventures and…oh yes, that’s about it. On balance, most of what they get involved in is, though sometimes obvious, amusing enough, with a few laugh-out-loud moments. The best of these, for me, comes at the beginning as the two cats sniff around their unfortunate owner. The worst is a ‘knowing’ nod to the brain-teaser about transporting a fox, a chicken and some grain across a river which I understand as a ‘knowing’ nod but still don’t quite understand. In any case, the gag-rate was high enough throughout the episode to keep me away from Booble for a whole thirty minutes.

There’s a liberal smattering of black humour, which occasionally works, but more often feels forced and unnecessary. A joke about 9/11 in particular feels shoved in.

Instead, the show is at its best when it relies on the characters, which are well delineated, and their reactions to all the mad incidents going on around them. While most of the animals are interesting enough to warrant further exploration, the central character appears to be a long-haired dog, who I really can’t be bothered with. My only suggestion would be that the cats, the headless homicidal chicken and the pigeons gang rape it in episode two, so it has to spend the rest of the series off-screen recovering.

By the way, this series marks the first use of ‘Russell Howard’ as an expletive. It won’t be the last…

It’s perhaps too early to say whether there will be an underlying story arc, though the info for episode two (‘Destiny meets a handsome dog called James who teaches her the art of the bottom sniff’) would suggest not. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that for a show like this, but I’m not sure the writing is quite strong enough to sustain a random series of incidents over eight episodes.

I guess it says something, though, that I’ll be tuning in to find out. Mind you, what it says might just be that there’s quite a lot of rubbish on these days, so that when compared with, say, Mary, Queen of Shops this comes off as genius.

Published: 25 Jun 2010

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