Friday night saw the return of the infamous Comic Strip Presents crew, for a one-off special titled The Hunt for Tony Blair… and it was strangely reassuring to see that they haven’t bothered buffing up their opening title sequence for the new millennium, although they have lured several younger comedians into their satirical web.
For those who don’t know, this 50s-style film noir pastiche starred Stephen Mangan as former British Prime Minister (and eternal tosspot) Tony Blair, who is forced to go on the lam after being accused of murder. I don’t think it’s made clear exactly who he’s accused of killing the first time around, but he leaves a trail of dead bodies in his wake, as he desperately dodges the police, and reaches out to his former friends and cronies for succour. Through it all he remains utterly unrepentant, reassuring the viewer via voice-over that every innocent death was probably for the best, because… well, because they got in his way, I guess. And God told him to do it, so that’s all right then. Overall I enjoyed the caper, and found a lot to laugh at, even while I was simultaneously seething over the many crimes (either literal or rhetorical, depending on your leanings) that Blair actually did commit while he was in office. I was rather hoping the story might end with a prolonged Saw-style torture and execution scene, but sadly the writers let him off relatively lightly here.
I thought Jennifer Saunders did a great job of channelling Norma Desmond and Baby Jane through Margaret Thatcher, although I do wish people would stop casting such attractive actresses as “The Iron Lady”… it just makes me feel dirty and wrong for fancying them. As for her peculiar portrayal, Saunders explained: “Peter [Richardson, the writer/director] has given me a bit of a difficult remit here – ‘so it’s Bette Davis but watch Sunset Boulevard but also be Margaret Thatcher’… I’ve been watching YouTube videos of her but I find it very difficult to do real dialogue as her voice as it’s such a particular sort of voice, it’s very strange because it’s very soft, then very strident so it’s difficult.” Most of the other plum roles went to male actors, but I thought Ronni Ancona did a bang-up job as Barbara Windsor, and Morgana Robinson gave a very entertaining performance as Carole Caplin. I didn’t get to see very much of Morgana’s eponymous sketch show when it debuted last year, but her slap-happy impression of Fearne Cotton has always stuck with me… and according to the internet rumour machine, she’s the half-sister of Distillers/Spinnerette’s lead singer Brody Dalle… so clearly I should have paid more attention!