Ambassadors: Not laugh a minute but still a good comedy

Ambassadors_CastDEFINITELY a source of entertainment for those in International Politics last term, Ambassadors respectfully graced our screens with its presence in late October to early November on BBC 2. Generally nitpicked by some critics for being half drama-half comedy, it definitely did not find its feet solely as a comedy, which is definitely what it is meant to be. Despite this, it is still funny and enjoyable to watch, perhaps not for the reasons you would watch a comedy.

Staring comedians David Mitchell and Robert Webb, the series is set in a semi-significant embassy in the fictional Tazbekistan, a former Soviet republic with all the stereotypes of corruption, human rights abuse and poverty. Mitchell plays the new British Ambassador while Webb plays his deputy, guiding him through this strange country. There is also an ensemble of decent British actors as the embassy staff and the characters they interact with, the highlight being Tom Hollander as Prince Mark of Bath.

Whilst it is not a dedicated comedy, I would definitely not say that it wasn’t funny. The events portrayed in the series certainly depict all the incidents you would expect a British embassy to react to. From human rights activists and trade deals to a Royal visit and a ‘Tazbek spring’, all these situations are presented in a serious manner and hilarity ensues when things do not go to plan.

Highlights include a parent style telling-off to a human rights activist, a discussion regarding the Four Seasons Hotel and a visit from a vetting officer who just came from Guantanamo Bay. Another great discussion occurring in snippets throughout the show is what happened to the ambassador’s predecessor, whom Mitchell replaces. The competitiveness between other nations ambassadors, including the Americans and especially the French is another reason to go and watch it.

Such a comedic portrayal of UK politics certainly may remind some of the highly popular The Thick of It. However, where The Thick of It may have the advantage is that its episodes were far shorter (half an hour compared to a whole hour), making for much more compelling viewing. Whereas things are filmed in a quick paced documentary style in the Westminster-orientated sit-com to match the ambience, things are a lot more laid back in a much more standard style of filming to match the calm(ish) and long winded nature of being abroad. While some of us may wish for a crossover between the two, realistically, this isn’t going to happen, especially since Malcolm Tucker has a new job as the Time Lord.

Though the program is no longer currently on iPlayer, this is definitely something worth watching when it comes on as a re-run over Christmas, or by other means. I for one would very much look forward to this show returning, even if only for another three episodes or special.