Headcases, ITV1, Imitation is sincerest form of mockery

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The Independent Culture

Headcases follows on from where Spitting Images left off, except that latex puppets are so yesterday. Last night, we were treated to high-class computer animation normally only seen in children's films, turned out at twice the speed at which Hollywood works.

The first episode, on ITV1, took television where it has never been before. In one sequence, an animated Steven Spielberg was so desperate to escape from Posh Spice, who was inveigling him for a part in a film, that he swallowed a plateful of ice cream in one gulp. There is no gag that the scriptwriters can dream up that the animators cannot put on screen.

The quality was dazzling; the only thing in short supply was good jokes. So Posh Spice has ambitions beyond the range of her talents. It is not what you call breaking new ground in satirical humour. Dead Ringers did it better by slowing the dialogue down and giving Posh an air of desperation that made you feel almost sorry for her. The Headcases Posh was a spoilt brat with a sharp tongue.

The observation that Pete Doherty and Amy Winehouse drink a lot is also hardly a first. Someone at Headcases should think about how much humour can be extracted from human casualties.

The political jokes were only slightly better. Recasting Gordon Brown as a modern-day Scrooge is promising, but the writers decided to tick the most obvious box of all, by constructing around the idea that Brown would like to be as cool as Tony Blair, but does not know how. Spitting Images did a similar joke at the expense of Mikhail Gorbachev just after he had become President of the Soviet Union, but they did it better.

Perhaps in the end Headcases scriptwriters will work out how to extract original humour from Brown's workaholic dourness and his inability to cope with David Cameron's posh boy humour.

The voices were also top quality, featuring some of the nation's funniest impersonators. Old hands such as Rory Bremner and Jon Culshaw have been drafted in to do turns, but most of the work was done by the prolific Scottish voice actor Lewis Macleod, whose characters range from Gordon Brown to Pete Doherty, and a young newcomer, Jess Robinson, who takes off Jacqui Smith, Amy Winehouse and many more.

There was one skit that was sheer joy throughout. This was princes William and Harry ringing out for a pizza, in an attempt to be down with the council estate kids. "Great bit of down to earth banter, bro," one prince told the other. Great bit of writing, too.