Sunday, 13 April 2008


From the recent media coverage, I am forced to assume that I am the only person in the country who wasn't sent a preview tape of ITV's new impressions show, Headcases. As such, I had to watch it on my actual television, on the actual day it was on (although I was still allowed to skip the adverts).

Because you don't actually see the impressionists, this show is being compared to Spitting Image and 2DTV. ITV have said that the clever CGI methods used allow them to make new sketches very close to broadcast if need be (although this week it appears they chose not to). I'm not certain what it is about pointing a camera at Rory Bremner which makes this impossible but apparently he is a very busy man. To be honest, I don't see how it makes the slightest bit of difference if the show is live-action, CGI, animated, latex puppets, stop-motion, marionettes, sock-puppets, or shot with crap cameras in the dark so we can't see who's who, like that ridiculous impressions show a few years ago that used the Barenaked Ladies' Humour Of The Situation for its title music, this being the best part of the show.

I did quite like Headcases. I laughed in a few places. I liked the political stuff best, because I follow politics more than gossip and because I think there's a richer vein of humour there -- plus the opportunity to make a point (which Headcases did exactly once, possibly by accident). That said, the fact that David Cameron had essentially the same character device as princes William and Harry did mean that about half the show was given over to just one gag. I was impressed by the credits. The show had two pages of performers and one of writers, and most of the names I associate more with the BBC and Channel 4 than with ITV. One or two I associate with BBC Four. That's unnerving. It's the sort of thing that just cannot happen. It's like finding out Alan Titchmarsh has written raunchy novels, or seeing the Prime Minister on Football Focus, or something.

It was a fun diversion, and it got the tone about right. But I don't think it had clever enough writing to make me want to watch it every week. The risk with impression shows is that the writers develop their characters into something quite other than the person they're based on, and then they become just regular dodgy sketch shows. I'm not sure Headcases didn't do that before it started. I guess the test will be how well it manages to stay current and interesting in the coming weeks. (You know, because David And Victoria In America and Northern Rock Has No Money! are bost such up-to-date stories.)

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