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Proper Gander: Puppets and Politics

Proper Gander

THE RUN-UP to a general election is as good a time as any to launch a puppet-based satirical sketch show. Featuring caricatures of  politicians, royalty and celebs, Newzoids (ITV) inevitably draws comparisons with Spitting Image, which set the template back in the ’80s. Some sketches are made only a day or so before broadcast, so the show reflects what’s in the news, hence its title.

Newzoids has inherited its predecessor’s puerile tastelessness, but sadly the puppets are less detailed and expressive, even with the addition of CGI mouths. Technology has moved on since Spitting Image’s day, so these puppets have been computer-designed and 3D-printed. Caricatures are more effective – and funnier – the more exaggerated they are, and Newzoids’ puppets don’t quite go far enough.

The same can be said for the programme’s sketches, which don’t always make the most of their set-ups. So, Newzoids might take a while to find its own voice and style; it took Spitting Image a few years to establish itself as one of those programmes which gets talked about the following morning. Memorable skits from the first episode include David Cameron being carried in a sedan chair to a drive-thru burger bar, and Ed Miliband as a dim-witted and goofy contestant on ‘I’m A Catastrophe, Get Me Out Of Here’. Nigel Farage is turned into a downmarket stand-up comic with a routine of ‘plain old patriotic foreigner-bashing’, while Clegg and Cameron become a dysfunctional couple picked apart by Jeremy Kyle. Lampooning our leaders – and wannabe leaders – should make us question why we expect them to represent us or have our best interests at heart. Sending something up is supposed to undermine confidence in it, so satire has a useful role in highlighting society’s shaky beliefs, such as faith in leaders.

MIKE FOSTER