Power Monkeys, without too much difficulty to calculate, comes from the same team as last year’s Ballot Monkeys, a superb satirical side-swipe at the general election written by Guy Jenkin and Andy Hamilton, the content so fresh that it’s written on the day and edited so close to transmission that I think, for one episode last time, they were finishing off part two while part one was still being broadcast!
This time round, the focus is on the EU referendum. Should we vote to remain in Europe or leave? One way, you’ll put a smile on David Cameron’s face. The other, you’ll make Boris grin like the Cheshire cat. Neither are positive outcomes. However, that’s also a choice faced by the US, as they’ll have to pick between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump – one’s an idiot with a bunch of dodgy emails and a philandering husband, while the other’s an idiot who’s also a massive rac -ist. Can you guess which one?
However, while it started off well with Andy Nyman‘s Vote Leave battlebus (a stalwart device of the last election and on which most scenes too place for all the parties), it then faltered as it went to Trump’s spin doctors on a plane (Amelia Bullmore and Robert Wilfort) sporting dodgy American accents, then to two men working in Putin’s offices in the Kremlin (Alec Utgoff and Ben Willbond). Okay, I can understand Trump – although a lack of the same for Hillary Clinton was a mis-step, but Putin? Even though they were talking about the referendum (“The government have made the mistake of giving the people what they want”, “And what do they want?”, “They want it to be over(!)”, Where does he figure in all this?? I know Obama shoved his unwanted oar into the debate, at one point, but I don’t recall Putin getting involved. Finally, we had the Conservative offices where Jack Dee looked bored to be there (yes, that’s his schtick but he used to be funny with it), Claire Skinner looked like a spare part and for Liz Kingsman‘s ditzy intern, Ruby, her lines just felt forced.
References included the previous night’s ITV debate with David Cameron and Nigel Farage – albeit not discussing anything specific about it, Hillary securing the Democrat nomination, Jack Dee stating Cameron’s unleashed a team of ‘Vote Leave’ campaigners he refers to as “mental defectives”, Mike Ashley’s mishandling of Sports Direct, Noel Edmonds claiming “negative thoughts” are the cause of cancer, the ‘register to vote’ website crashing two hours before it was due to close – and the registration period being extended by two days, and a very poor joke about mistaking the phrase ‘a broad church’ for the TV drama Broadchurch. In fact, even classing it as a joke is to do the concept of jokes a disservice.
So, amongst all the above, there was nothing in the way of biting satire. Or *much* in the way of satire. If anything. A lot of these mentions were just passing references and nothing else. We need a lot more than that, and they delivered the goods last year, so why has it fallen so flat this time?
Using the same theme as last year’s show (Philip Pope‘s guitar-based cover of Hit The Road Jack, along with occasional riffs inbetween sketches), I tried to enjoy this, with goodwill following the success that was Ballot Monkeys, but Power Monkeys left us only with Monkeys and no Power.
Power Monkeys continues next Wednesday on Channel 4 at 10pm. There’s no release date yet known for a Blu-ray or DVD, but don’t expect one as there wasn’t one for Ballot Monkeys. You can watch the first episode on All 4. Also, click on the cast image for the full-size version.
Episode 1 Score: 2/10
Directors: Andy Hamilton, Guy Jenkin, Neil Pearson and Paul Schlesinger
Executive Producer: Jimmy Mulville
Writers: Guy Jenkin, Andy Hamilton, Mark Burton, Lucy Guy, Pete Sinclair, Colin Swash
Music: Philip Pope
Jackie: Gwyneth Keyworth
Spencer: Kevin McNally
Gerry: Andy Nyman
Preeya: Archie Panjabi
Volunteer: Leila Hoffman
Alec: Alec Utgoff
Oleg: Ben Willbond
Lauren: Amelia Bullmore
Bea: Ayda Field
Brett: Robert Wilfort
Tony: Anthony Calf
Oliver: Jack Dee
Ruby: Liz Kingsman
Sara: Claire Skinner
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.