Spitting Image Season One (2020) Review #BritBox @BritBox_UK

Episode One
Episode Two
Episode Three
Episode Four
Episode Five
Episode Six
Episode Seven
Episode Eight
Episode Nine
Episode Ten

Spitting Image is the legendary satire-with-puppets show from the 80s and 90s. Crude, surreal, and always biting. This show helped define the era itself whilst commentating on it. And in a world seemingly gone mad — Brexit, Trump, Covid-19 — it seems the perfect moment to awaken the kraken. We’ve seen false dawns before (Newzoids 2015-2016), but this is the real deal, the return of the king.

Spitting Image Season One was a mixed bag, to be blunt. The structure of an episode started out a bit chaotic, but then gradually got stronger, until the last few episodes when it was generally good: satirical takes on the news events of the week were interspersed with running sketches. The show definitely grew in self-confidence throughout its run, and hopefully this rhythm will give the show the exit velocity required to launch a more consistent second season.

The puppets were absolutely magnificent (with the bizarre exception of one, Nicola Sturgeon, read here for more details). Even better than the original run’s puppets, whilst totally in keeping with the style. Of course, the puppets would be nothing without the puppeteering, which was splendid.

The biggest problem with Spitting Image Season One, and it’s quite a big problem for a weekly satire, is that it often lacked bite, edge, or even good jokes. Worst of all, it was frequently very lazily written. Prince Andrew getting hit in the head, James Corden getting killed in almost every episode, Trump’s hands are small: no amount of repetition can render these “jokes” funny.

A show this well-funded and with a team of 16 + writers, many of whom are veterans (David X. Cohen, Al Murray, Patric Verrone), with some of the best voice talent around (Billy West, John DiMaggio, Phil LaMarr), and frankly genius caricatures and puppeteering, just cannot be this badly scripted. Okay, they are responding to moving events, which is hard, but that should be bread and butter for the talented team behind this show, many of whom are stand-up comedians or with a background in improv. And just look at South Park, they are able to create hilarious and highly contemporary stories and jokes. Furthermore, Spitting Image often barely mentions current new events (see ep 7): a real clanger was the US Election Special Part II which was extremely light on US Election Special stuff.

In short, everything about this show was magnificent — apart from the writing. There were many highly memorable moments, but Season One is best watched in 24 minute compilation format; there simply isn’t enough funny stuff to fill ten episodes. But this is a show we need. So I look forward to season two despite Season One being, on balance, poor.

2/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://i.inews.co.uk/content/uploads/2020/09/PRI_144981546.jpg

BritBox Review: Spitting Image S1E9 #BritBox @BritBox_UK

originally posted at www.moviereviewsblog.com

Spitting Image Episode 9 continues with the rhythm it found in the last outing, running sketches interspersed with satirical takes on the news of the week, and it was characterised by the same growing confidence in its own material.

As for the “news of the week” stuff, we saw Cummings get sacked. This was a diverting if not totally amusing section. There was also a return of Trump and his launch of Trump TV. Again, hardly side-splitting, but it was good to see the best character in the show back again. We also also saw Matt Hancock give an interview on Good Morning Britain, an event whose significance, such as it was, has already been forgotten by society. None-the-less, vaguely interesting but hardly amusing.

The episode was characterised, as so often during this first season, by frankly unforgivably lazy writing. The Mars stuff, where we see Bezos, Musk, and Branson trapped on the Red Planet and passing the time by blazing the days away, is as unfunny and pointless as ever. The addition of Oprah showing up as she “has houses everywhere… even on Mars” was not in the slightest funny. Joe Wicks rears his head again only to be (once again) splatted by a frying pan. This running sketch is so forgettable that I have no idea why the writers keep doing them. But the pièce de la resistance of awful and lazy writing was the treatment of Nicola Sturgeon. I am no fan of Sturgeon or the SNP, so I was yearning for some good quality satire here, but this was truly dire stuff. The accent and mannerism was all off, the jokes was bizarrely lazy. I mean, “Glasgow kiss”? Seriously. But the worst sin of all, the puppet was really poor. This show has phenomenal puppets, and it is a puppet show, so this was just shocking in its general direness. The worst part of this sketch? It has actually made me take the SNP’s side in a debate: this was lazy and vaguely racist, poor quality nonsense from the Spitting Image team.

But it wasn’t all boring or lazy or unfunny. Jurgen Klopp once again amuses, starring opposite Idris Elba in a new section called “Good Klopp Bad Cop”. I didn’t need to reach for the needle and thread, but despite the lack of split sides I did at least smile along. The life of the modern rock star mockumentary sketch was overlong, but still quite snort-worthy if not full-on laugh-worthy. The joke was summarised, “Modern pop stars: focused, middle class, and tedious”. David Attenborough’s further tech fails did actually make me laugh, as did a scene with Ronaldo as a fat pub landlord: the line “Mini Frazzles… but enough about your dick” made me chuckle. And Ru Paul’s Pope Race was actually very funny, I can’t deny. To top it off, there was another “comedy” song which, although not funny, was for the first time this season not totally awful.

Despite some good moments, Episode 9 was still fairly poor quality. I’m even more convinced of what I said in my Episode 4 reviewSpitting Image Season One will be best viewed as a 24 minute viral video compilation of its best bits.

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

Reference: https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/entertainment/nicola-sturgeon-spitting-image-puppet-23061793

featured image from https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/entertainment/nicola-sturgeon-spitting-image-puppet-23061793

BritBox Review: Spitting Image S1E7 #BritBox @BritBox_UK

originally published at www.moviereviewsblog.com

Spitting Image Episode Seven was the first to come out after the US Presidential results. So it was sure to be heavy on the Biden-Trump satire, and Trump was certain to get a right marionetting. I was looking forward to it.

Trump’s distended arsehole (no, yes) is still as shockingly funny as ever, really inspired toilet humour. Other toilet humour, such as a piss-exploding corgi, was good, albeit a bit senseless. We saw more of Keir Starmer’s superhero alter ego Foxman, which amused, and Vladimir Putin definitely doesn’t give James Corden a plutonium-laced death kiss — which was satisfying. Glad to see I’m not the only one who seethes with hatred (and jealousy?) whenever Corden comes on the screen.

Sadly, these good moments were few and very far between in a rather arid outing.

Dominic Cummings began the series as one of the best characters, but now his alien schtick is getting very old. None-the-less, the “head pulse” is still hypnotic and amusing. The “New James Bond Auditions” sketch, which has become a runner, is a potentially great idea — such a shame that it hasn’t been particularly funny.

The satire, such as it is, goes downhill from this point on.

Trump talking about having a big penis, Prince Andrew getting hit around the head (again), and Her Majesty with a mouth like a Tommy in the Trenches (Why? How does this even make sense?) were particular lowlights. The whole foul-mouthed Queen stuff took up significant screen time, as well. But we hadn’t quite reached rock bottom yet. That was “achieved” with not one, but two very unfunny and painful to watch/listen to “comedy” song numbers: the first, based on the decades-old skit idea of coming up with a new Bond theme tune, the second, on the potentially fruitful topic of euthanasia. Potential for laughs, sure, but the numbers were atrocious. As I’ve said before, the writers either need to knock these so-called “comedy” songs on the head, or else hire someone who can actually write funny music. Awful stuff.

The worst thing about this episode, given it came out after the US Presidential Elections results came in, was that it was distinctly light on current news or satire or reference to the election. Very disappointing.

I’m not sure that this show is getting better as it goes on. Scrapes a two. Sad.

2/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://www.itv.com/presscentre/sites/default/files/20200905_spitting_image_3_05_prince_charles_camilla_0532.jpg

Netflix Film Review “Obsessed” (2009) #NetflixReview

Things couldn’t be better for Derek (Idris Elba). He’s got a beautiful, adoring wife Sharon (Beyoncé), a healthy, happy toddler, and has just received a massive promotion which has sent him stratospheric. However, his world comes under threat when femme fatale temp Lisa (Ali Larter) goes a-hunting in her new office and decides to put Derek between the crosshairs.

Obsessed is a very standard psycho-stalker thriller. It draws obvious comparisons with Fatal Attraction (1987). But where Fatal Attraction would still have been daring and bold in 2009, Obsessed would have been staid and trite for 1987. Obsessed was not only paint-by-number, it was rather restrained: Derek never allows temptation to spiral his life out of control. But that itself could have been an interesting angle. Elba, Beyoncé, and Larter all give convincing, characterful performances. Sadly for Larter, the script makes no attempt whatsoever to explain Lisa’s obsession nor her crazy behaviour. Not a hint. Nothing. She’s clearly attracted to him, he is friendly but doesn’t lead her on, she randomly tries to bang him in the toilet. And she doesn’t let up. The lack of any kind of motivation is bizarre. Did Derek lead her on? No. Was she bullied by Sharon at school and now wants to ruin her life? No. Does she have a crushing Faberge Egg habit to support that only a senior manager’s salary could enable? No.

Larter and co make the best of finding a throughline. And I must say that the final show-down was genuinely exciting and enjoyable. Sadly, the script is the big problem with this film, and that is a big problem with a film, indeed.

2/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://fanart.tv/fanart/movies/17335/movieposter/obsessed-57a5235987537.jpg

Netflix Film Review: No Good Deed (2014) @Netflix @thefilmreview @KermodeMovie @idriselba

check out my film review and Netflix blog at https://filmmovietvblog.wordpress.com

Idris Elba is Colin, a charismatic and violent sociopathic criminal on the lam and winner of the Most Unbefitting Name Ever Award. Whilst making his escape, he totals his car into a tree and legs it through the forest. The first house he stumbles upon is that of all-alone Terri (Taraji P. Henson) who is just putting her young kids down for the night. This charming stranger works his charisma, asks for help after his “accident”, and talks his way from the porch into the living room. Soon Terri is putty in his hands. But as they say, No Good Deed goes unpunished.

No Good Deed is a fairly standard crime thriller, but I mean that in the best way. It is gripping, entertaining, keeps us on the edge of our seats, but doesn’t really show us anything we haven’t seen before. Great performances from the small cast really sell this film and keep you engaged to the end.

There is one stand-out moment, however, an unexpected plot twist that made me choke on my coke and splutter, “Ohmigod, whuh!?”. The twist is really neat. But it isn’t so much clever, as the rest of the film is so run-of-the-mill, that you kind of don’t expect the twist at all. The twist is particularly effective as it isn’t done merely for the sake of it, as so often is the case, but actually has a punch which makes sense and gives an underlying logic which holds the picture together. I’ll stop there before I plot spoil.

All in all, a standard but very well-made and well-acted crime thriller which is a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend 84 minutes.

3/5

© 2018 Bryan A. J. Parry