Deep Fake Neighbour Wars, review: mind-boggling technology, mind-numbing jokes

ITVX's deep-faked Idris Elba and Kim Kardashian - Tiger Aspect/ITV
ITVX's deep-faked Idris Elba and Kim Kardashian - Tiger Aspect/ITV

Deep fake technology has been used by foreign powers to undermine democracy, and now by ITVX in its new comedy show. I’m not sure which is the bigger crime.

Deep Fake Neighbour Wars is a series of extended comedy sketches in which the faces of celebrities are digitally grafted onto actors doing impressions. Think of it as Spitting Image, but using AI instead of latex. The main joke is that these celebrities are living in suburbia and doing mundane jobs. For about five minutes, that is amusing. Idris Elba is a mild-mannered handyman from Catford who just wants a quiet life, but finds his peace shattered when bus driver Kim Kardashian starts sunbathing in their shared garden. Greta Thunberg is a single mother raising a baby called Algae in Southend-on-Sea. Olivia Colman lives with her husband Jay-Z on the Isle of Wight.

It is a sort of mockumentary, spoofing ITV documentaries about neighbourly disputes. Every celebrity has an equally famous person living next door and causing them grief. Thunberg hates the fact that Conor McGregor and Ariana Grande light up the street with gaudy Christmas decorations. Colman and Jay-Z think that estate agent Tom Hiddleston is trying to steal their cat.

As an idea, it has potential, but is let down by a crashingly unfunny script. The writers clearly think that the concept is enough, so have declined to write any jokes. Some of the impressionists are good (whoever plays Colman has the voice just right) but many are not (whoever is doing Phoebe Waller-Bridge, featured here as the new girlfriend of Usain Bolt, just does "generic posh person"). The character traits of the real celebrities come into play sometimes – Thunberg reacts to everything with righteous fury; Kardashian says: “Have you ever tried stepping over a Flymo? It’s harder than breaking the internet.” But elsewhere the programme goes for the opposite effect, hence UFC champ McGregor is a florist, and Elba is uncool. There is no internal logic.

The technology is fairly mind-boggling – if you switched to this channel without knowing you were watching deep fakes, you could easily mistake them for the real thing. Just a shame about the content.

All episodes of Deep Fake Neighbour Wars are available now on ITVX