Headcases: The Lingering Death Of British Satire

Mark doesn't like ITV's new Spitting Image-style show, but wonders if it's part of a deeper issue.

I’d like to say I’m proud of the long tradition of British satire, which goes back at least to newspaper cartoons of the 1800s. There’s something inherently satisfying about seeing the rich, famous and self-promotional being lampooned. People who stick their heads above the parapet should get them shot off on a regular basis, especially if they’ve got anything to do with religion or politics.

So what’s the latest contribution to carry the Olympic torch for satire, following such greats as Punch, Private Eye and Spitting Image? Headcases, a CGI version of Spit that promises much. According to Henry Naylor, creator and director of Headcases, “It’s very, very funny and has real bite. There’s nothing like it on television anywhere in the world which is a real tribute to the skill of the team.”

Well Henry, I’ve seen two episodes and in that entire time I only laughed once, which is hardly my definition of ‘very, very funny’. Not only do some of the CGI puppets not remotely look like who they’re supposed to be, but some of the voices aren’t even close. Which considering they’ve got Rory Bremner and John Culshaw on the team is a major surprise.

You know they’re struggling when they have to tell you the name of the person they’re lampooning, as in ‘look who’s at the door…it’s…’, and employ other subtle writing tricks as borrowed directly from Shakespeare. So far the biting satire we’re promised appears to be some off target swipes at Heather McCartney, Robert Mugabe (like he gives a shit what anyone thinks!), Sarkozy andthe thicker-than-they’re-high Beckam’s.

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I don’t see much bite here, or even a good gumming. But it’s actually more about who’s not in there as those they’ve attempted to poke fun at. Given the current climate I’d have expected to see Max Mosely, but he’s not been extracted from his cellar for a pasting. Which makes me wonder if the new climate where celebs litigate if they don’t like your attitude has seen off the likes of Spitting Image forever.

So is that the problem? Is ITV’s legal council vetoing the real satire in preference for those people that don’t care or won’t be offended? Given all the juicyopportunities for bubble bursting out there, is this the best they can come up with?

Over the twelve years it graced our screens Spitting Image could miss the mark, but when it struck the target it did so with such acerbic wit that it could make you gasp. Headcases isn’t funny, satirical or even clever. It’s like a pale imitation risen from the grave of ritish satire to remind us that we could do this once by demonstrating the sad place we’ve come to now.

The only Headcases I’ve seen here are those at ITV Entertainment (surely an oxymoron?) that green-lit this garbage.