Spitting Image‘s fourth episode saw an increased emphasis on the doings of Michael Gove, pop star Adele, and Ivanka Trump. It was about as focused as last week’s episode in this regard (which also focused on a few main characters, mainly Prince Harry and Megan Markle), there thankfully being no return to the chaotic scatter gun approach of Episode Two.
However, there was nonetheless a notable drop in quality from last week. Many of the jokes weren’t relatable (I still find the “Priti Patel is a vampire” thing unintelligible, only now it’s unintelligible and tedious) and many of the others have been well and truly overdone by only the fourth episode (I’m thinking Emmanuel Macron’s overly long lascivious tongue). The joke about Adele’s weight loss and everyone’s fixation on it was mildly amusing the first time it was told in this episode, but not the second time — let alone the fourteenth. We get it, we get it already! Here comes another joke for the umpteenth time: Ivanka Trump is a vacuous person. Okay, okay. Stop it, please, stop the “joke” already. My God, stop. On the up side, Jurgen Klopp was, once again, amusing, although not quite as “funny” as he was in Episode Two. And the “The dress is blue and black… I heard ‘laurel’” joke was admittedly funny, albeit five years out of date. When your best joke in a twenty-four minute sociopolitical satire relates to a five year old viral meme about the colour of a dress, you need to ask yourselves some serious questions.
The main “joke” about Gove seems to be that his cheeks look like two giant bollocks. Heady satire indeed(!) Speaking of which, however, the puppets are wonderful. We get a long look at Piers Morgan, and it’s truly delightful. The puppets really are magnificent. A shame the episode wasn’t. Another tawdry song number rounded off what was a pretty poor, if not totally worthless, fourth instalment. It has made me YouTube the songs from Not the Nine O’Clock News; now that was how to write a funny comedy song!
I haven’t given up hope yet, but I’m getting the feeling that Season One might end up being best viewed in a single twenty minute “Best Bits” compendium.
The third episode of BritBox’s Spitting Image was a bit less random than last week’s outing, focusing more on a few key characters. This was necessary as it gave us a bit of time to develop the jokes, insofar as the jokes are developable and not just the same gag repeated and reheated.
We see a massive increase in the presence of Prince Harry and Megan Markle. The jokes were mostly obvious — Harry is a bit of an idiot, he’s posh, he thinks he’s run away to freedom but is actually more under-the-thumb than ever — but these punches nonetheless landed and were funny. The line involving “chukka” made me laugh, encapsulating in a few words Harry’s total detachment from reality like never before in his life.
We started to see significant time committed to ridiculing the totally ridiculous Labour front bench. This was nice, and it’s unclear why the Shadow Cabinet hasn’t been featured that much already; perhaps it’s fear of offending the left, or perhaps it’s just that this ridiculous Labour frontbench is beyond satire. In any case, Starmer was portrayed as the only competent one, all his team presented as incompetent toddlers in need of direction. I’m not sure if this is particularly on the nose, however, as his team is generally seen (by critics) as an example of positive discrimination gone awry with incompetents being overpromoted due to having ticked the right boxes.
Episode Three did just enough to nudge a good rating, but it’s still marginally weaker than the season opener. Spitting Image still seems to be finding its way. It’s a show that the world needs, and it’s a show with a great weight of history behind it. Therefore, I’m willing to give it time to come of age. But it’s still not hitting the right notes.
Let’s just get straight to it: Spitting Image Episode Two was much weaker than the season opener. No amount of new regular characters can save it. And boy were there a bunch of new characters! We were absolutely pelted with them. Sadly, the scattergun approach usually leaves the viewer grimacing rather than grinning, and this episode did not break that pattern.
It seems they have made the microscopic coronavirus a regular character; it’s boring and pointless. Boris was as underwhelming as last week. Cummings is still good, his reptilian shtick not yet boring although not as funny as last week. Thunberg is amusing, and it’s nice to see them lampooning a person with a learning difficulty. Not because I enjoy mocking disabled people, but because we live in an age where lampooning a person like Thunberg is considered haram due to her autism; satire is there to expose the ridiculous in everyone and everything, and it cannot have sacred cows or else it is toothless. Her autism itself was not mocked, and that is the key.
Stand out stuff was Jurgen Klopp finding the positive in everything including bricks through the window. Very funny and helped me just about get through what was, otherwise, a mostly boring 24 minutes. Frankly, the Klopp stuff were the only parts where I actually laughed out loud as opposed to merely smiling — that is, where I smiled at all.
Generally forgettable stuff, but some shoots of hope remain for this series.
Spitting Image is the legendary satire-with-puppets show that helped define an era (the ’80s-90s Conservative governments) and which was internationally syndicated and remade in dozens of countries. It has gone down in TV legend, so much so that there have been several tries at rebooting it or copying it. But October 2020 is when the show was finally rebooted, exclusive for the BBC-ITV joint delusion venture to rival Netflix: BritBox. But can reality ever live up to the memory of this now fabled show?
Episode one was surprisingly on point in terms of style and gags; you would never have thought the show had been off air for around 25 years. However, just like the good old days, many of the gags fell flat. And just like the good old days, many other gags had an inspired insanity about them (I’m thinking an extra-terrestrial, insectoid, baby-eating Dominic Cummings… if that doesn’t get you interested, I don’t know what will).
There was some lampooning of the right, as you would expect, but thankfully the left wasn’t immune, either, Lewis Hamilton and Greta “Magical Autist” Thunberg coming in for fire.
One bizarre weak point left me scratching my head. The guy doing Boris Johnson just wasn’t that good. He was weirdly restrained. Boris Johnson himself makes a better parody of Boris Johnson than this Boris Johnson parody did. Quite odd, and a bit of a flat note.
All in all, this wasn’t the sharpest satire I’ve ever seen. However, it was much better than the knock-off Newzoids (2015-2016). Many jokes landed. It seems to be taking swipes at all. And the trademark mix of heady satire and toilet humour has continued. Worth watching, although I’m not sure if it’ll be good enough to help make BritBox a success.
Film and Writing Festival for Comedy. Showcasing best of comedy short films at the FEEDBACK Film Festival. Plus, showcasing best of comedy novels, short stories, poems, screenplays (TV, short, feature) at the festival performed by professional actors.