Is Headcases the satire the Noughties deserves?
The son of ‘Spitting Image’ is finally here. Was it worth the wait, asks Colin Bostock-Smith
When my name appeared in the writing credits for Spitting Image in the Eighties, prim old ladies shouted at me in the streets. No-one's going to be shouting too loudly this morning about ITV1's Headcases, which was touted as the son of Spitting Image. It's a rather disappointing offspring.
The problem isn't in the script. The show's creator, Henry Naylor, and a large giggle of writers have seen to that. But somehow the modernisation - the use of CGI instead of latex puppets - gets in the way of the jokes.
It's all very wonderful, of course - smooth gleaming images of the personalities and politicians, gurning frantically at the camera. But the rubbery physicality of Spitting Image was part of its appeal. The humanity leaked through the puppetry. When the Freudian nightmare Mrs Thatcher smashed her son's head against the table, you felt the impact. And when the puppet Roy Hattersley spoke, anyone standing close got soaked.
Nonetheless Headcases managed to raise a few smiles. It was wonderful to witness a well-deserved trashing of those Grand Theatrical Dames Mirren and Dench. Madonna closed the show with a painfully realistic song and dance. And a moment of true darkness was achieved when Farmer Bob Mugabe told us, with a nudge and wink, how he fertilised his fields with bonemeal, kindly supplied by his political opponents.
But, while it will probably settle down in weeks to come, last night there was a certain lack of confidence in the writing. Everything went on a bit too long. And rather in the way bad ventriloquists say who they're going to do before they do them, the characters tended to shout each others' names insistently so we knew who they were.
Though I'm glad the producers put a name caption under the Heather Mills appearance. I'd never have got her. ·
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