‘Spads’, or ‘Special Advisors’, are the media, political or economic advisors that political parties of varying stripes have adopted in recent decades in increasing numbers. Partly this is to fill knowledge gaps with specialist expertise, though often it is a much criticised career stage for the rich and well connected. Witness David Cameron’s well publicised stint at the treasury during the events of Black Wednesday – or the starts of careers for the likes of Ed Balls or the Miliband brothers – for a few of the more well publicised in recent years.
So then, ‘Spads’, a potential rich vein of comedy political gold then, perhaps? So thinks director Nick Hilton and producer Ben Kent, who have produced the new YouTube comedy series which focuses on the ubiquitous and shadowy teams of government advisors with an eye on the chuckles and a tongue in the cheek.
Set in the near future, which is notable only for its sadly non-dystopian nature and lack of robot police telling you to ‘freeze, creep’, the Spads of the series are a group of Labour and Tory advisors contemplating the upcoming General election of 2020. Assorted political heads and news establishment types also surface to chuck their tuppence in to the goings on in the battle for your vote.
With only two five minute episodes thus far, there’s barely enough time to make a bowl of super noodles before both episodes have been completed and, bound by such format restrictions, the episodes have the feeling of being a touch rushed, but also oddly paced.
The first episode races through both teams of Spads, political talking heads and sets the scene and then it’s over – though it’s still managed to introduce everyone and whet the appetite for more, precisely, as I presume, it was meant to do. The odd pacing is more noticeable in the second episode, with a nice intro setting out a play of sleeping-with-the-enemy and the subsequent plot, but then spends a big chunk of the admittedly short run time focusing on the weakest scene of the series so far, which fails to generate much more than a wry smirk.
The actors are themselves well cast, with one of the Labour team, Ash Collins, being particularly convincing and enjoyable as a despicable bearded hipster city slicker type. The characters seem surprisingly well developed and distinct given the short format and I hope some space will be found somehow over the remaining 8 episodes to be released to allow a little time to focus on one or two of them in particular. That they’re characters are almost uniformly not the type of people you would wish to see making policy is perhaps the point also, and they are well formed to achieve this.
The technical production of sound, lighting, filming and editing cannot be faulted – barring the aforementioned odd and unfunny slow-down in pacing in episode two – so the production team must be congratulated on that regards. Being an independently produced series may have been what lead to the 5 minute format choice, but I can’t help but wish that perhaps the team had given themselves just a bit more breathing space to allow some of the subtler nods and winks to come to the fore a little more.
Having said that ‘Spads’ is worth watching, especially if you’ve only got time for a quick dip into YouTube while you’re cooking your noodles, but, as with most things, more time and money would have allowed the best aspects of the show to shine brighter.