ITV’s Newzoids has been billed as the 21st Century’s answer to Spitting Image. Sadly, it’s more like 2DTV. In fact, it IS 2DTV – the same “topical” gags (read as: “written quickly”) and mish-mash of celebs and ‘satire’. I wanted to love it because it could have been great, but I didn’t and it really, really wasn’t.
First, let me talk about what IS good about the show, because some things are. For example, the puppets are superb. I hope that, when the series eventually gets the chop, that they sell them for an embarrassingly small sum. I’d buy Ed Miliband for a week’s wages. And some (not all) of the impressions are great too! I’m no fan of Jon Culshaw; to me his impressions always just sound like Jon Culshaw doing an impression. If you can’t do the voice, don’t do the character. Surely that’s the sensible option? Though even many of his voices hit their mark here.
I think what’s missing here, more than anything, are the jokes. It’s all well and good to call yourself a topical show and derive skits from things that have happened that week, but it needs to be funny, too! Relying on the old fall-back of Ed’s Bacon Sandwich, the Royals swearing and The-Proclaimers-as-sung-by-the-SNP with the lyrics “sod the English” or something similar (I forget) is weak satire. The whole show relies on stereotypes: Cameron is posh, Pickles is greedy, Ed is hapless, Charles is randy, Clarkson is homophobic and rude, baby Prince George has “commoners’ blood” and so spends his time on-screen singing football chants, swearing and spitting. It’s all just a bit weak.
And then there’s the “edgy” material they have used. One sketch re-imagines a domestic abuse encounter on Jeremy Kyle with Nick Clegg as the abused spouse. It’s a little bit offensive and not in an “edgy” way. See also the sketch where an Asian teenager goes to Syria to fight with ISIS, unaware that his parents are watching his every move on hidden cameras, in Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents: Syria! I’m never one to call “too soon” but it seems no care at all has been taken whether they SHOULD do it, let alone HOW. The answer is “with care” and it seems that nothing in this show is given any at all.
Topical must mean more than just “happening now”. It has to mean “relevant” too. Sadly, there’s little in Newzoids that feels like it’s relevant. Tired clips of Russell Brand verbosely flowering his way through an interview for Top Gear presenter smacks of desperation. I sat through the whole of episode one and cringed. Will I watch episode two? Maybe. I had a chuckle at the puppets at least; Nigel Farage’s swivelling eye was lovely, even if the material his puppet was spouting was the same old same old.