Spitting Image

Spitting Image

Spitting Image was a satirical puppet show that ran on Britain's ITV television network from 1984 to 1996. The programme was produced by Spitting Image Productions for Central. The puppets, caricaturing public figures often including British and American politicians and celebrities, were designed by the cartoonists Peter Fluck and Roger Law (who sometimes spoonerised their names as 'Luck and Flaw'). They were assisted by various young caricaturists including David Stoten, Steve Bendelack, Tim Watts, Pablo Bach, Christopher Sharrock (who coined the internal name for the show: "Splitting Headache") and Oscar da Costa and virtually every successful British impressionist of the time. Musical parodies were provided by Philip Pope, and later Steve Brown. The first series was not as vicious with the writing and songs more similar to the tone of established comedy revue shows such as Weekending. As the Thatcher administration became less popular through 1985 the characterisations became harsher and the show grew in popularity. Despite this, many politicians had an ambivalent attitude to the show, realising that to be caricatured on it was a form of recognition which was perhaps preferable to total obscurity. It was said that while many of those who were viciously lampooned would kill to get off the show, there were others who would kill to get on it. Ultimately, many political figures accepted the show had a purpose and a benefit – Currie, Hattersley and Michael Portillo were among its biggest fans, even though they were frequently treated without kindness by it.

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. To this day, if most Americans know of Spitting Image at all, it is due to that Genesis video; however, in an attempt to crack the American market, a feature-length special entitled Spitting Image : Down And Out In The White House was produced in 1986 by Central for NBC. Introduced by David Frost, it departed from the sketch-based format in favour of an overall storyline involving the upcoming (at that time) Presidential election. It was not successful with its target audience, possibly because its humour was still very British and it was so irreverent about Ronald Reagan at a time when he was enormously popular with the American public. The American puppeteers Sid and Marty Krofft later had a degree of success with a vaguely satirical show called DC Follies which ran from 1987 to 1989, was clearly inspired by Spitting Image and utilised Muppet-style foam puppets rather than rubbery caricatures, but it didn't come anywhere close to being as savage and vitriolic as Spitting Image.

Former producer John Lloyd was in talks with ITV in the spring of 2005 to bring Spitting Image back to the screen, but the attempt failed, reportedly over the cost of its revival and the non-involvement of Roger Law, one of the show's original creators.

Episode Info

Final: 12x07 -- #132 (Feb/18/1996)


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