tue 18/06/2024

Newzoids / Thunderbirds Are Go, ITV | reviews, news & interviews

Newzoids / Thunderbirds Are Go, ITV

Newzoids / Thunderbirds Are Go, ITV

New puppet satire can barely drag itself to the finishing line

Ant and Dec, as depicted in 'Newzoids'

Who says satire is dead? After this, I would imagine just about everybody. According to Jon Culshaw, one of the prime movers in ITV's new puppet-CGI farrago Newzoids [*], this isn't just Spitting Image revisited because "the puppets have got more of a spikiness, more of an edgy exaggeration to them." You think? One other difference he forgot to mention was that Spitting Image was often really rather good.

Where did it all go wrong? Of course, Spitting Image profited hugely from being the product of the Thatcher era, when the political battle lines were starkly drawn and the whiff of anarchy and grapeshot was in the air. Now we've entered an insipid (yet disturbing) era in which politicians posture, bluster and say anything that might nudge the all-powerful opinion polls half a percentage point in their direction. Conviction is dead, and everybody has fired off their personal opinions all over Twitter before the Newzoid scriptwriters have managed to pull the caps off their biros. And besides, doesn't the EU make all the big decisions for us anyway?

Take out the ads and Newzoids only last about 23 minutes, but even so it could hardly drag itself to the finishing tape. The team had laboured hard to draw up a checklist of likely targets, but then couldn't think of anything satirical to say about them. Ed Miliband appeared as a gormless geek with Ant and Dec (or perhaps it was vice versa). A barely-recognisable David Cameron was carried around like Nero in a sedan chair, talking like Ken Clarke impersonating the Duke of Kent. And why have him saying "get me to a hospital, a private one obvs" when his use of the NHS is well documented?

There was a sketch called "Mrs Crown's Boys", in which the Queen and Prince Philip kept saying "feck", and we had a pantomimic Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond singing "sod the English". It looked as if there might be a daring moment coming up when we saw a Muslim couple worrying about their son joining Isis, but it stopped before anything controversial happened. Nigel Farage was depicted as a stand-up comic with a fag and a pint of beer (pictured above). Then Gary Barlow sang a song about not paying tax. It was like Anti-Pointless, where you had to find the laziest, most obvious answers that everyone else had already thought of.

Nor has ITV covered itself in glory with Thunderbirds Are Go [*], where the jerky, clunking charm of Gerry Anderson's puppets has been replaced with sleek and utterly non-atmospheric computer technology. It's not so bad for the action sequences, where the Tracy family put their fleet of bespoke spacecraft through all manner of mankind-saving aerobatics, but it's fatal for the characters. True, the original Virgil, Scott, Alan & co weren't exactly nuanced or complex, but at least they had different voices and facial characteristics. This new-look bunch (pictured above) resemble a pre-pubescent boy band designed by committee and subjected to round-the-clock botox and plastic surgery. As for Lady Penelope, voiced by an unrecognisable Rosamund Pike, her coquettish hauteur has all gone, and she looks as though her hair has been melted into a solid lump with a blowtorch. It's a crime.

'Newzoids' was like 'Anti-Pointless', where you had to find the laziest, most obvious answers that everyone else had already thought of

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