Newzoids debuted on ITV on Wednesday 15 April and brought with it the return of puppetry to our screens. In place of latex, Newzoids has marionettes, kind of satirical Thunderbirds, albeit with additional sophisticated animation from co-producers, Factory. Along with Citrus Television, who co-produced the award winning Horrible Histories, they've created something with the familiar irreverence of the CBBC show.
It opens with a short skit featuring a not quite convincing Russell Brand as the first in a series of Top Gear auditions. The Ant and Dec impressions are spot on however, as is Ed Miliband's bumbling Jungle contestant. Voiced by Jon Culshaw, Debra Stephenson, Lewis Macleod and Simon Greenall, by and large the impersonations hit the mark.
A highlight for me was Nigel Farage as a stand-up comic in a working men's club, with suitably witty hecklers throwing in good one-liners; quite prescient after seeing his performance on the BBC debate on Thursday. And baby Prince George as a chav, sounding like a cross between Philip Glennister and Ray Winstone was a hoot although it's hard to see where else the show can go with a gag like that. This came as part of a running joke in the form of Mrs. Crown's Boys, with the Royals aping the popular and divisive sitcom. The target of the satire seemed to be aimed squarely at the show rather than the Royals to me but it has legs, at least for this series.
The Broadchurch sketch missed a trick in not satirising the show at all and instead favouring an obvious Doctor Who joke, but the crying Olivia Coleman puppet was funny.
The burning question that always rears its head is, 'is it as good as Spitting Image?' This is the problem that every satirical show on ITV faces. Spitting Image was such a winning formula that its shadow hangs over any attempt by show makers to produce something with the same potency. Newzoids was funny in places, but it lacked teeth. This could also be said of Spitting Image when it started.
In the early days of Spitting Image it came close to being cancelled, until Red Dwarf writers, Rob Grant and Doug Naylor were brought in to save the falling ratings.
Newzoids has a mix of established and new writers including Spitting Image's own Pete Sinclair and Tom Neenan, who started writing for the open door radio show Newsjack. It has the potential to be a great show, I only hope in today's cut-throat business it is given the chance to learn from its mistakes.