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Spitting Image

From Academic Kids

Spitting Image was a satirical puppet-show that ran on Britain's ITV Network from 1984 to 1996. The program was produced by Spitting Image Productions for Central. The series marked a high point of the of the 1980s Satire Bubble.

Contents

Introduction

As the title (a colloquial phrase meaning a person closely resembling another) suggests, the show was not afraid to offend its viewers, or its targets. The puppets, caricaturing public figures, were designed by the cartoonists Peter Fluck and Roger Law (who sometimes spoonerized their names as 'Luck and Flaw'). They were assisted by various young caricaturists including David Stoten, Steve Bendelack, Tim Watts, Pablo Bach and Oscar da Costa and virtually every successful British impressionist of the time. Musical parodies were provided by Philip Pope (former member of Who Dares Wins and the Hee Bee Gee Bees team) and later Steve Brown (Glen Ponder in Knowing Me, Knowing You).

The stars of the show, though, were the latex puppets. Centre stage (as only to be expected from a topical satire show) were the politicians, in particular Mrs. Thatcher, who was portrayed as a bullying, fascist, bald male tyrant, and Ronald Reagan (a bumbling, nuke-obsessed fool with a (literally) missing brain). Providing admirable support were Bovver boy Norman Tebbit, bland-as-sand Geoffrey Howe, raving loony Michael Heseltine, scandalous Cecil Parkinson, Leon Brittan, Nigel Lawson, Norman Fowler, Douglas Hurd (he of the Mr. Whippy hair-do), slug-like Kenneth Baker and, on the other side of the House, the verbally unstoppable Neil Kinnock and the actually spitting Roy Hattersley. As these 'characters' left the public eye it was generally felt that the show tended to miss more often than it hit. Thatcher was replaced with an all grey John Major who enjoyed nothing better than a nice meal of peas with his wife Norma. Tony Blair appeared in the last few series as a grinning puppet 'puppet' hypnotised by a Peter Mandelson snake. The show ended in 1996 never having been made under a Labour government.

A mainstay of Spitting Image was, of course, The Royal Family. The Queen always seemed ever so slightly mad, Prince Phillip was a blunderbuss-toting loon, Prince Charles a bit of an out-of-touch old hippy and Diana a publicity-hungry Sloane Ranger. There was also randy Prince Andrew, horsey Princess Anne, petulant thicko teenager Prince Edward, tipsy Princess Margaret, truffle-snuffling Fergie and a totally dotty Queen Mum complete with bottle of Gordons Gin, copy of the Racing Post and a Beryl Reid voice.

Other popular puppets included a crying Gazza, a smarmy Jeremy Paxman, Donald Sinden (forever seeking a knighthood), Leonard Nimoy (desperate to shake off his Spock image despite the fact he has pointed ears that flap constantly), hip and swinging Gorby, election-losing David Owen complete with whining, bed-wetting David Steel in his pocket, Sir John Gielgud (who always fell asleep and had to be prodded awake with a stick), bonkers to bits Anneka Rice, blooper-friendly David Coleman, Paul Daniels and his pet wig, John Cole (always being hit on the head outside parliament), fawning Sir Alistair Burnet, Ian McCaskill (he of the huge flip-back glasses), Madonna (with singing bellybutton), vamp-like Edwina Currie and a truly rock-n-roll Pope John Paul II.

The first series was not as vicious with the writing and songs more similar to the tone of established comedy review shows such as "Weekending". As the Thatcher Administration became less popular through 1985 the characterisations became harsher and the show grew in popularity.

In 1986, the Spitting Image puppets had a number one hit in the UK charts with "The Chicken Song", parodying "Agadoo" by Black Lace - one of several parodies to have featured in the programme. They also appeared in the video for "Land Of Confusion" by Genesis, a song which implied that Thatcher and Reagan were about to bring the world to a nuclear war. The video was depicted as a nightmare Reagan was having, which left him completely immersed in sweat from worrying.

Most of the puppet caricatures were later sold by auction at Sotheby's.

More recently 2DTV satirised celebrities in a very similar style to Spitting Image, but used cartoons rather than puppets.

Producer John Lloyd is in talks with ITV to bring Spitting Image back, and if successful, the series could be on TV again from Autumn 2005.

Voices

The voices were provided by some of the best British impressionists, including:

Writers

Writers included:

Producers

Producers included:

Notable Sketches

The Thatcher cabinet are sitting in a restaurant. The waiter asks Margaret Thatcher for her order and she replies "Raw Meat". The waiter then asks "And for the vegetables?" to which Thatcher replies "Oh, they'll have the same".

Geoffrey Howe and Leon Brittan are standing at the men's urinal in a single sex toilet and Margaret Thatcher walks in and goes to the toilet next to them standing up. After she leaves Howe turns to Brittan and confides 'I can never go when she's in here'.

As pressure on Thatcher to resign grew in 1989 in one sketch the House of Commons bursts into a rendition of "Go Now" by The Moody Blues".

Similar shows elsewhere

United States

There were some attempts to produce a U.S. version of the show, but it never really caught on. DC Follies had a passing resemblance to Spitting Image, but was not considered as funny. See also List of British TV shows remade for the American market

However there are shows still similar,

Mexico

Hechos de Peluche (TV Azteca)

Chile

31 Minutos (TVN)

France

Les Guignols de l'Info (Canal Plus)

Germany

Hurra Deutschland (ARD, RTL 2)

Ireland

Bull Island (RTÉ)

Israel

HaHartzufim (Channel 2)

Russia

Kookli

Portugal

Contra Informação (Radio Televisão Portuguesa)

Spain

Las noticias del guiñol (Canal Plus), Txokolatex (Euskal Telebista)

Sweden

Riksorganet (SVT)

External link

  • The chicken song (http://www.mikefs.co.uk/chickensong.ram) - RealAudio from the web page of lead vocalist Michael Fenton Stevens

fr:Spitting Image

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