Newzoids is a satirical impressionist show which features puppets, broadcast on ITV this week. It is a completely original idea – provided you ignore Spitting Image, which was a satirical impressionist show which features puppets, broadcast on ITV in the 1980s and 1990s.
Amongst the sketches and characters in Newzoids they include David Cameron (in full Bullingdon Club gear) being carried in a sedan chair by Eric Pickles and a seemingly grey George Osborne to a drive-thru; Mel and Sue being hired to break bad news; Kim Jong-un presenting his own take on The One Show called The Un Show (so they can do that pun too many times); Nigel Farage as a dodgy pub comic; and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge having to deal with the horror that Prince George is common.
There was nothing that really made me laugh in the opening episode. The closest was when the Duchess of Cambridge was outraged at being called “nouveau riche”, and a parody of “500 Miles” performed by Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon. There were some issues with one or two of the impressions themselves. I suspect that it was Simon Greenall doing Vladimir Putin; because the voice he used was very similar to the one he does for Aleksandr Orlov in the Compare the Market/Meerkat ads. There are also technical issues. One sketch features Cameron and Nick Clegg fighting on The Jeremy Kyle Show, but the problem there is that because the puppet fingers are fixed and cannot be moved, the puppets cannot clinch their fists and punch properly, like the ones on Spitting Image could. Plus the mouths seem to be CGI-ed on and don’t look as good as if they were just operated mechanically.
The big problem with this show however, is that no matter how good this show can be, it will always be judged against Spitting Image, and Spitting Image was such an iconic programme it’s hard to come up with an impression show that can be as good. It’s like someone today trying to make a sitcom set in a hotel, and trying to be as good as Fawlty Towers. The only other impression show which has been as successful in terms of longevity is BBC Radio 4’s Dead Ringers, which does not need to worry about such technical aspects, it just needs good voices. While a TV impressions show could be brilliant, Newzoids lacks originality (compare grey George Osborne to grey John Major for example).
Having said this however, it could be worse. During the adverts between Newzoids and The Delivery Man (another new ITV comedy, which was a lot more enjoyable), I was reminded there were worse puppets out there – I for one certainly have no Dolmio day.