Spitting Image

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Spitting Image
Spitting image title card.png
Opening titles from 1988 to 1991
Genre Adult puppeteering
Political satire
Black comedy
Voices of Chris Barrie
Harry Enfield
Jon Glover
Louise Gold
Steve Nallon
Kate Robbins
John Sessions
et al.
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series18
No. of episodes131
Production
Running time30 to 60 minutes
Production company(s)Spitting Image Productions
Central Independent Television
Distributor ITV Studios
Release
Original network ITV
Original release28 February 1984 (1984-02-28) 
18 February 1996 (1996-02-18)

Spitting Image is a British satirical television puppet show, created by Peter Fluck, Roger Law and Martin Lambie-Nairn. The series was produced by 'Spitting Image Productions' for Central Independent Television over 18 series which aired on the ITV network. The series was nominated and won numerous awards during its run including ten BAFTA Television Awards, one for editing in 1989 and two Emmy Awards in 1985 and 1986 in the Popular Arts Category. [1]

Satire Genre of arts and literature in the form of humor or ridicule

Satire is a genre of literature, and sometimes graphic and performing arts, in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government, or society itself into improvement. Although satire is usually meant to be humorous, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit to draw attention to both particular and wider issues in society.

Peter Nigel Fluck is a caricaturist and one half of the partnership known as Luck and Flaw, creators of the satirical TV puppet show Spitting Image.

Roger Law British caricaturist

Roger Law is a caricaturist and one half of Luck and Flaw, creators of the satirical TV puppet show Spitting Image.

Contents

The series features puppet caricatures of celebrities prominent during the 1980s and 1990s, including British Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major and other politicians, US president Ronald Reagan, and the British Royal Family; the series was the first to caricature Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother (as an elderly gin-drinker with a Beryl Reid voice). [2]

Caricature

A caricature is a rendered image showing the features of its subject in a simplified or exaggerated way through sketching, pencil strokes, or through other artistic drawings.

Margaret Thatcher Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990

Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was a British stateswoman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990 and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990. She was the longest-serving British prime minister of the 20th century and the first woman to hold that office. A Soviet journalist dubbed her "The 'Iron Lady'", a nickname that became associated with her uncompromising politics and leadership style. As Prime Minister, she implemented policies known as Thatcherism.

John Major former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Sir John Major is a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1990 to 1997. He served as Foreign Secretary and then Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Thatcher Government from 1989 to 1990, and was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Huntingdon from 1979 until his retirement in 2001. Since the death of Margaret Thatcher in 2013, Major has been the oldest living former Prime Minister.

One of the most-watched shows of the 1980s and early 1990s, the series is a satire of politics, entertainment, sport and British culture of the era, and at its peak it was watched by 15 million people. [3] The series was cancelled in 1996, after viewing figures declined. ITV had plans for a new series in 2006, but these were scrapped after a dispute over Ant & Dec puppets used to host Best Ever Spitting Image, which were created against Roger Law's wishes. [4] In 2018, Law donated his entire archive – including original scripts, puppet moulds, drawings and recordings – to Cambridge University. [5]

Ant & Dec British TV presenting duo

Ant & Dec are an English TV presenting duo, consisting of Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly, from Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Formed after their meeting as actors on CBBC's drama, Byker Grove, they performed together as pop musicians PJ & Duncan, the names of their characters from Byker Grove. The duo have since led successful careers as television presenters, best-known for currently hosting Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway, I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!, and Britain's Got Talent. Previous hosting credits include SMTV Live, CD:UK, Friends Like These, Pop Idol, PokerFace, Push the Button, Red or Black?, and Text Santa. They presented the annual Brit Awards in 2001, 2015 and 2016.

University of Cambridge University in Cambridge, United Kingdom

The University of Cambridge is a collegiate public research university in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Founded in 1209 and granted a Royal Charter by King Henry III in 1231, Cambridge is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world's fourth-oldest surviving university. The university grew out of an association of scholars who left the University of Oxford after a dispute with the townspeople. The two 'ancient universities' share many common features and are often referred to jointly as 'Oxbridge'. The history and influence of the University of Cambridge has made it one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

History

Puppet of Margaret Thatcher on display in Grantham Museum Grantham Museum Thatcher Spitting Image.jpg
Puppet of Margaret Thatcher on display in Grantham Museum

Martin Lambie-Nairn proposed a satirical television show featuring caricature puppets created by Peter Fluck and Roger Law. Fluck and Law, who had both attended the Cambridge School of Art, had no previous television experience, but had, for several years, constructed plasticine caricatures in order to illustrate articles in The Sunday Times Magazine.

Martin Lambie-Nairn British graphic designer, filmmaker and animator

Martin Lambie-Nairn is an English designer. He was the founder of his eponymous branding agency Lambie-Nairn and is currently the creative director of branding agency ML-N. Martin Lambie-Nairn is acknowledged for having redefined television brand identity design, being the first to embrace computer technologies to apply branding to screen-based media.

Anglia Ruskin University public university in the East of England, United Kingdom

Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) is a public university in East Anglia, United Kingdom. It has 39,400 students worldwide and has campuses in Cambridge, Chelmsford, Peterborough and London. It also shares campuses with the College of West Anglia in King's Lynn, Wisbech and Cambridge.

<i>The Sunday Times</i> British weekly newspaper

The Sunday Times is the largest-selling British national newspaper in the "quality press" market category. It is published by Times Newspapers Ltd, a subsidiary of News UK, which is in turn owned by News Corp. Times Newspapers also publishes The Times. The two papers were founded independently and have been under common ownership only since 1966. They were bought by News International in 1981.

The idea for the series was rejected by many in the industry, who thought it would only be suitable for children, but the series was finally accepted for development and first broadcast in 1984. [6]

English comedy writer and National Lampoon editor Tony Hendra, was brought in as a writer; Fluck and Law had met him while they were working in the US. Hendra brought in John Lloyd, producer of Not The Nine O'Clock News . They were joined by Jon Blair, a documentary producer. They then hired Muppet puppeteer Louise Gold. Development was funded by Clive Sinclair.

<i>National Lampoon</i> (magazine) magazine

National Lampoon was an American humor magazine which ran from 1970 to 1998. The magazine started out as a spinoff from the Harvard Lampoon. National Lampoon magazine reached its height of popularity and critical acclaim during the 1970s, when it had a far-reaching effect on American humor and comedy. The magazine spawned films, radio, live theatre, various sound recordings, and print products including books. Many members of the creative staff from the magazine subsequently went on to contribute creatively to successful media of all types.

Tony Hendra British actor

Tony Hendra is an English satirist, actor and writer who has worked mostly in the United States. Educated at St Albans School and at St John's College, Cambridge, he was a member of the Cambridge University Footlights revue in 1962, alongside John Cleese, Graham Chapman and Tim Brooke-Taylor.

John Lloyd (producer) British television producer, and writer

John Hardress Wilfred Lloyd is an English television producer and writer best known for his work on comedy television programmes, including Not the Nine O'Clock News, Spitting Image, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Blackadder and QI.

The puppets, based on public figures, were designed by Fluck and Law, assisted by caricaturists that included David Stoten, Pablo Bach, Steve Bendelack and Tim Watts. The episodes included musical parodies by Philip Pope (former member of Who Dares Wins and The Hee Bee Gee Bees) and later Steve Brown.

The first episode of Spitting Image, in 1984, aired with a laugh track, apparently at the insistence of Central Television. This episode was shown to a preview audience before transmission. [7]

In the early years of the show, Spitting Image was filmed and based in the enterprise zone at London Docklands at the Limehouse Studios, where scriptwriters convened and puppets were manufactured. [8] [9] Impressionist Steve Nallon recalls that "they were able to get away with no health and safety, so all of the building of the puppets with all the toxic waste from the foam was just in a warehouse. There were no extractor fans; it was quite Dickensian." [10]

In later series, Spitting Image was recorded at Central's studios in Nottingham with last minute additions being recorded at the Limehouse Studios at Canary Wharf, London.

Reception

Before the first episode was broadcast, the parodies of the Royal Family were cut, as a courtesy to the Duke of Edinburgh, who opened the East Midlands television centre a few days later. The scenes were however all reinstated in later episodes. [11]

The first episode had an audience of 7.9 million, but numbers rapidly dropped, which meant economies had to be introduced since the series cost £2.6 million, which was nearly double the price of other prime time series. [12]

The series had been scheduled to have 13 episodes [11] but was cut back to 12, after the series was nearly cancelled. Rob Grant and Doug Naylor were then brought in as head writers to save the show.

By 1986, under their supervision, Spitting Image had become popular, producing a number one song on the UK Singles Chart ("The Chicken Song"). However, Grant and Naylor subsequently left to create Red Dwarf for BBC2. Spitting Image had a short-running dispute with the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) in 1985, over the use of subliminal images.

Evolution

When Margaret Thatcher resigned as both Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party in November 1990, her successor was Chancellor of the Exchequer John Major. This marked a shift in the show's style, with the writers moving from the Punch and Judy style to more subtle and atmospheric sketches, notably a series in which an awkward Major and wife Norma ate peas for dinner. The producers dressed Major, skin and all, in shades of grey, and invented an affair between him and Virginia Bottomley.

The show added animated sketches from 1989 and again from 1994 (with short, animated segments before 1989). For the 1992 Election Special, a studio audience was used; this format was revisited for two episodes in late 1993. A spoof Question Time took questions from the audience. The 1992 show was fronted by a puppet Robin Day, a puppet Jeremy Paxman filling the role in the episodes broadcast on 14 November 1993 and 12 December 1993.

Decline

Puppets of a Court Flunkey and Osama Bin Laden. The face of the court Flunkey is a caricature of 18th century cartoonist James Gillray, intended as a homage to the fact that he is the father of British political cartooning. Flunkey and Osama.jpg
Puppets of a Court Flunkey and Osama Bin Laden. The face of the court Flunkey is a caricature of 18th century cartoonist James Gillray, intended as a homage to the fact that he is the father of British political cartooning.

The writers, Mark Burton, John O'Farrell, Pete Sinclair, Stuart Silver, and Ray Harris quit the show in 1993 and in 1995, and with viewing figures in decline, production was cancelled. The final series was in January and February 1996, with the final episode featuring "The Last Prophecies of Spitting Image" in which Labour moved into Number 10.

A few years later, most of the puppets were sold at an auction hosted by Sotheby's, [14] including a puppet of Osama Bin Laden never used in the series. [15]

During 2004, the idea of the series coming back started to appear after John Lloyd held talks with ITV executives about the show's return. John Lloyd also held talks with a number of people who voiced the Spitting Image puppets, including John Sessions, Harry Enfield and Rory Bremner, with all responding positively.

Mr Lloyd commented, "There's enormous enthusiasm from ITV to do it. We're just trying to work out how it would be affordable. The budget is about to go off to ITV," he said. "Everybody seems to have residual affection for Spitting Image. It could be scrappy and uneven, but it's rather like a newspaper. You don't expect it to be brilliant every time, but there's something delicious in every edition," Mr Lloyd said. [16] [17]

By early 2006, ITV were producing a documentary celebrating the series and if the audience figures were good a full series might have been produced. [18] On 25 June 2006, ITV transmitted Best Ever Spitting Image [19] as a one-off special of Spitting Image which took a nostalgic look back at the programme's highlights. This special actually prevented ITV directly resurrecting the famous satire as they had planned, because it featured new puppets of Ant and Dec a move which was against the wishes of Roger Law, who owns the rights to the Spitting Image brand. [4] [20]

Spitting Image, as ITV's primary satirical programme, was succeeded by 2DTV , a cartoon format that had five series between 2001 and 2004. In 2008 ITV created a CGI version to caricature and lampoon the famous, called Headcases , [21] but it only aired for one series. Satirical puppets finally returned to ITV in 2015, in Newzoids . [22]

Revival

In April 2017, it was reported that US broadcaster HBO was set to revive the series in light of the presidency of Donald Trump. As of the report, no official confirmation or announcement was made. [23]

Archive donated to Cambridge University

In 2018, Spitting Image co-creator Roger Law donated his entire archive – which includes original scripts, puppet moulds, drawings and recordings – to Cambridge University. The collection is located in the university library, with its librarian Dr Jessica Gardner describing the collection as a "national treasure". [5] She added, "Spitting Image was anarchic, it was creative, it entered the public imagination like nothing else from that era. It is an extraordinary political and historical record. Great satire holds up a mirror, it questions and challenges." [5]

Broadcast dates

All episodes and specials were broadcast on Sunday, usually at 10pm. The programme was also picked up overseas. It aired on Canada's CBC Television on Sunday nights in the late 1980s. The American network NBC aired several prime-time specials in the same period. Austrian public broadcaster ORF broadcast Spitting Image in English with German subtitles late on Friday nights in approximately four-week intervals in the late 1980s and early 1990s, introducing it to the German-speaking world (where foreign programming is usually dubbed into German). Spitting Image was also briefly shown in France on the private TV channel M6 in English with French subtitles. The show was also aired in New Zealand on TVNZ in the 1980s.

Series

SeriesYearDatesNo. episodesTimes
Series 1198426 February – 17 June12 episodesMostly 10pm
Series 219856 January – 24 March11 episodesMostly 10pm
Series 319866 January – 2 November18 episodesMostly 10pm
Series 419871 November – 6 December6 episodesMostly 10pm
Series 519886 November – 11 December6 episodesMostly 10pm
Series 6198911 June – 9 July5 episodesMostly 9.30pm
Series 7198912 November – 17 December6 episodesMostly 10.05pm
Series 8199013 May - 24 June6 episodesMostly 10.05pm
Series 9199011 November – 16 December6 episodesMostly 10.05pm
Series 10199114 April - 19 May6 episodesMostly 10.05pm
Series 11199110 November – 15 December6 episodesMostly 10.05pm
Series 12199212 April - 17 May6 episodesMostly 10.05pm
Series 1319924 October – 8 November6 episodes10.05pm
Series 14199316 May - 20 June6 episodes10.45pm
Series 1519937 November – 12 December6 episodes10pm
Series 1619941 May - 5 June6 episodes10pm
Series 1719946 November – 18 December7 episodes10pm
Series 18199614 January – 18 February6 episodesMostly 11.15pm

Specials

TitleYearDateTimesDuration
Down And Out In The White House198614 September9.45pm45 minutes
The Spitting Image 1987 Movie Awards1987Saturday 4 April10.45pm30 minutes
Election Special1987Thursday 11 June10pm45 minutes
A Non-Denominational Spitting Image Holiday Special198727 December10pm30 minutes
The Ronnie And Nancy Show198817 April9.30pm30 minutes
Bumbledown - The Life and Times of Ronald Reagan1988Saturday 29 October10.15pm45 minutes
The Sound Of Maggie1989Saturday 6 May10.10pm45 minutes
Election Special1992Wednesday 8 April10.40pm30 minutes
The Spitting Image Pantomime199326 December10pm30 minutes
Ye Olde Spitting Image19951 January10.45pm30 minutes
Spitting Image at 30201428 February9.30pm30 minutes

Repeats

From October 1996 to September 1998, Spitting Image Series 1-11 were on UK Gold, until September 1998. Edited episodes from Series 1-3 and 7 were on Granada Plus from 2001-2003.

In February 2008, Comedy Central Extra started showing regular repeats of Spitting Image from 9pm on Tuesday evenings, with a whole weekend's worth of evenings devoted to the first two series. It reappeared in a late night slot in November 2010, through to 18 December 2010 and has not been aired since then. From 2001 to 2004 the ITV series 2DTV had a similar style, but using computer animation instead of puppets.

The programme is rebroadcast on the digital network "PuppeTV" as a part of its "Puppets After Dark" post - watershed slot. In 2011, the network dedicated an entire month to broadcasting all episodes of the show, from 10:00pm until 6:00am, including the 2006 clipshow special and the American specials, which they called "Spitting Image 24/7".

United States version

In an attempt to crack the American market, there were some attempts to produce a US version of the show. A 45-minute 'made for market' show by the original Spitting Image team, titled Spitting Image: Down and Out in the White House was produced in 1986 by Central for the NBC network.

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. The plot involved a conspiracy to replace Ronald Reagan with a double (actually actor Dustin Hoffman in disguise). This plan was hatched by the Famous Corporation, a cabal of the ultra-rich headed by Johnny Carson's foil Ed McMahon (in the show, Carson was his ineffectual left-hand man) who met in a secret cavern hollowed out behind the façade of Mount Rushmore. Eventually, their plot foiled, the famous corporation activated their escape pod Abraham Lincoln's nose and left Earth for another planet, but (in a homage to the beginning of the Star Wars movies) were destroyed during a collision with 'a nonsensical prologue in gigantic lettering'.

The show was not very 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. It did, however, receive great praise from critics and it was followed by several more television specials: The Ronnie & Nancy Show (also satirising the Reagans), The 1987 Movie Awards (sending up the Academy Awards), Bumbledown: The Life and Times of Ronald Reagan (a quasi-documentary about the President), and The Sound of Maggie (satirising Thatcher and parodying several musicals such as Oliver! , West Side Story and many others).

Characters

Politicians

Many British politicians in parliament during Margaret Thatcher's tenure were parodied. [5] By far the most prominent was Thatcher herself, portrayed as an abusive tyrant and cross-dresser (she wore suits, shaved, used the urinals, was portrayed as a cigar-chomper and addressed by her Cabinet as "Sir"). The Thatcher puppet had a strong dislike of anything French (agreeing with Hitler about 'teaching those Frenchies where to go' and throwing an apple out of the window because it was French).

In the first series, Thatcher sought advice from her enraptured neighbour Herr Jeremy Von Wilcox (who is actually an elderly Adolf Hitler, living at 9 Downing Street) about the unions and the unemployed. Mr. Wilcox/Hitler compares the Trade unions with the Soviet Union and advises not to attack in winter. Regarding unemployment, he says that people out of work should be put in the army, and tells Thatcher that he thinks the SS (meaning SAS) are a "great bunch of guys". [24]

Alongside Thatcher were her Cabinet, which included:

Thatcher's Cabinet were often depicted as bickering schoolchildren, with Thatcher acting as teacher.

Thatcher's successor John Major was portrayed as a dull, boring grey character who enjoyed a meal of peas with his wife Norma and was constantly mocked by Humphrey, the Downing Street cat. Before Thatcher's resignation, Major had been portrayed as wearing a leopard print suit and swinging in on a trapeze, referencing his background as the son of a circus acrobat (which he would frequently remind everyone about). Upon his appointment to Prime Minister, Major was initially portrayed as robotic with a spinning antenna on his head (it was explained in a sketch that Thatcher used it to control Major, standing behind Thatcher in the crowd of sycophantic cabinet members, eager to repeat whatever the Thatcher puppet screeched).

The Opposition (Labour Party) politicians included:

Arthur Scargill, who was a member of the Labour Party until 1997, appeared as head of the National Union of Mineworkers, and was portrayed as a big-nosed egotist who was ignorant about mining.

In 1994, a puppet of Tony Blair made his appearance. He was originally a public school boy, wearing grey shorts, blazer and cap. His catchphrase was "I'M THE LEADER" in reference to his attempt to lead the Labour Party. When Blair did become Labour leader, the puppet changed and he was portrayed with his grin replaced with an even bigger smile if he said something of importance. The deputy leader, John Prescott, was portrayed as a fat bumbling assistant, along with a squeaky voiced Robin Cook, and an enormous glasses-wearing Jack Straw.

The SDP-Liberal Alliance was portrayed by the election-losing, populist, arrogant and undecided David Owen, with whining, bedwetting David Steel in his pocket. They were soon replaced by Paddy Ashdown, whose "equidistance" from the larger parties was satirised by his frequent appearance at the side of the screen during unrelated sketches, saying: "I am neither in this sketch nor not in it, but somewhere in-between". This running gag was used when Ashdown's extramarital affair was revealed, and his puppet commented that "I didn't touch her on the left leg, or the right leg, but somewhere in-between." Former liberal MP Cyril Smith also made a few appearances depicted as a morbidly obese giant.

In the first series, Former Prime Ministers Harold Wilson, James Callaghan, Harold Macmillan and Alec Douglas-Home were depicted as living in a highly restrictive retirement home named Exchequers, where they were frequently abused by Queen Victoria. Wilson constantly attempted escape, whilst Callaghan took delight in tormenting him. Edward Heath was also said to have resided there, but he was not seen on screen, later he would appear as a naked piano player.

Royal Family

The main characters were:

Other members who were parodied include: Prince Andrew, Duke of York, The Duchess of York, The Princess Royal, Prince Edward, Princess Michael of Kent and Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, who was always tipsy.

International politicians

Spitting Image lampooned US President Ronald Reagan as a bumbling, nuke-obsessed fool in comparison with his advisors Edwin Meese and Caspar Weinberger. Next to his bed were red buttons labelled 'Nuke' and 'Nurse'. His wife Nancy was the butt of cosmetic surgery jokes.

Mikhail Gorbachev had his forehead birthmark in the shape of hammer and sickle. All other Russians looked like Leonid Brezhnev, often said "da" ("yes") and talked about potatoes. In Russia it was snowing even indoors and the Soviet television had extremely low-tech visual effects. Yitzhak Shamir often appeared wearing a hard hat with the Star of David on it, holding a brick and referring to building on a 'legitimate Israeli Settlement' (referring to the practice of building houses on the West Bank for Israeli people). François Mitterrand was wearing a beret and a garlic wreath. P. W. Botha was shown as a racist cleverly disguising his views (once he had a badge "anti-anti-apartheid"). Adolf Hitler incognito had a house at 9 Downing Street. Some appearances were also made by Idi Amin, Robert Mugabe, Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, Ruhollah Khomeini, Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi.

Other international caricatures included Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger; George H. W. Bush and Dan Quayle; Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, Konstantin Chernenko, Raisa Gorbachova and Boris Yeltsin.

Sport

Puppet of Manchester United striker Eric Cantona Spitting Image Puppet of Eric Cantona (2956625432).jpg
Puppet of Manchester United striker Eric Cantona

England manager Bobby Robson was a senile worrier nicknamed 'Rubbisho'. Emlyn Hughes was portrayed with a high pitched and annoying voice. England midfielder Paul Gascoigne appeared, frequently crying – a parody of the 1990 World Cup semi-final against West Germany in which he famously cried after being booked, which would have ruled him out of the final had England won the game.

Ian Botham was a violent drug addict, while Mike Gatting spoke with a high voice. Lester Piggott had to be subtitled. Boxing characters included Frank Bruno with his trademark laugh and catchphrase "where's 'Arry?", and Chris Eubank, with his lisp. Snooker player Steve Davis was boring, upset because he had no nickname, but thought himself interesting.

Celebrities

News reporters were also depicted. Alastair Burnet was sycophantic towards the Royal Family and with a nose that inflated. Sandy Gall was effeminate, always worrying what coat he would wear. John Cole was incomprehensible and had to be dragged off-screen when he talked too long. Nicholas Witchell was always turning up during a strike to work rather than report. Kate Adie was a thrill-seeker, BBC Head of Bravery. Jeremy Paxman appeared as uninterested and self-loving. Trevor McDonald frequently lamented his lot after being paired with Ronnie Corbett as newscasters, with the latter always getting the punchlines. William Rees-Mogg was portrayed as a censorship-crazy person with eyes that would frequently pop out of the socket.

David Coleman had a very loud ear prompter and sometimes did not know what he was commentating on. Frank Bough was portrayed as being a drug user. Bruce Forsyth spoke every sentence as though it was a catchphrase. Celebrity chef Keith Floyd was always getting drunk on wine. Film critic Barry Norman was not a fan of his puppet, because it had a wart on its forehead. [26] Paul Daniels did not mind jokes about his toupée but took offence to a sketch depicting him nuzzling his assistant Debbie McGee's breasts. [26] [28]

Comedian Billy Connolly was portrayed as a jester, and Jimmy Tarbuck was said to use old jokes and always take part in Royal Variety Performance. Bernard Manning was an obese racist, Ben Elton was always shown with a microphone. Writer and MP Jeffrey Archer appeared as an annoying, self-commenting writer whose books were not read by anyone. Kenneth Williams was depicted with a large nose and big teeth. Harry Secombe was depicted as overly religious. Alan Bennett was shown at home as watching Spitting Image on TV.

A Mick Jagger character seemed perpetually high, and Keith Richards so old and haggard that he thought he was dead. Ringo Starr was a drunkard, and Paul McCartney was always releasing albums and films that flopped. Madonna changed her hair and clothes with every episode, and Michael Jackson's skin turned lighter. Kylie Minogue was depicted as a vain robot. Luciano Pavarotti was hugely overweight and ate everything he saw. Matt and Luke Goss of the band Bros were depicted as children wanting to grow up. Esther Rantzen always had a permanent grin. Cilla Black had large teeth and a thick Scouse accent.

Actor Dustin Hoffman spoke nasally and was parodied for his method acting. John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier were lamenting their friends, even their own death. Roger Moore was shown as an actor "with a wooden delivery" – only his eyebrows moved. Arnold Schwarzenegger was muscle-bound but insecure about the size of his genitals. Donald Sinden was parodied as also trying to become the greatest Shakespearian actor and get a knighthood. Clint Eastwood was frequently portrayed as a badass tough guy. Sylvester Stallone nearly always appeared dressed up as John Rambo.

Archbishop Robert Runcie, Mary Whitehouse and Cliff Richard were portrayed as Christian censors. Ian Paisley was always shouting and dressed in black. Archbishop David Jenkins was depicted as not believing in anything. Pope John Paul II was a banjo-playing womaniser who spoke with a Texan accent.

Media moguls Robert Maxwell and Rupert Murdoch were also on the show, the latter depicted as an extremely flatulent individual encouraging obscenity in his mass media.

Lord Lucan appeared in various background roles often as a bar tender.

The songs

Spitting Image album cover for "Da Do Run Ron" satirical parody of Ronald Reagan SpittingImage albumcover.jpg
Spitting Image album cover for "Da Do Run Ron" satirical parody of Ronald Reagan

The first single from Spitting Image, released in 1984, was a rework of the Crystals' "Da Doo Ron Ron". [29] The Spitting Image version, "Da Do Run Ron", was a spoof election campaign song for Ronald Reagan, featuring Nancy Reagan listing reasons why "you gotta re-elect him", with lyrics like "Yeah! He can really act, Yeah! He lowered income tax, Yeah! He hates the Warsaw Pact". The cover of the single featured Reagan as a biker with Nancy riding pillion.

The B-side of this single was entitled "Just A Prince Who Can't Say No" and poked fun at the sexual indiscretions of The Prince Andrew. The TV version of this song (featured in the second ever episode) was heavily censored by Central Television on broadcast but presented uncut on vinyl. [30] In the television series he was shown surrounded by various famous women including Joan Collins, Mary Whitehouse and Linda McCartney.

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, mimicking moronic holiday songs with an annoyingly unforgettable tune and completely nonsensical lyrics. The Chicken Song hit number 1 in the charts for 3 weeks from 17 May 1986 – 3 June 1986 and VH1 US named it as one of the worst number 1 nominations.

The other songs released by Spitting Image were "I've Never Met a Nice South African" (which was on the B-Side of "The Chicken Song" and was a savage indictment of the apartheid-ridden country), "We're Scared Of Bob" (a parody of "We Are The World") and "Hello You Must Be Going" (which mocked Phil Collins's divorce ballads and was on the 12" release of The Chicken Song), "Santa Claus Is On The Dole" (backed with "The Atheist Tabernacle Choir"), "The Christmas Singles" and "Cry Gazza Cry" (based on footballer Paul Gascoigne's tears in the 1990 World Cup), "Meat" (A parody of "Streets of London").

"The Chicken Song" was by far the most successful of all of their music and not-so-subtle references were made to it in subsequent sketches in the show itself. In 1986, a compilation LP "Spit In Your Ear" was produced, featuring some of their sketches over time along with a few of their songs, followed in 1990 by "20 Great Golden Gobs", a songs-only collection from the 1986-1990 series.

In 1986, the Spitting Image team experienced some real musical success when they created 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. Phil Collins saw a disfigured version of himself on the show and contacted the show's producers with the idea to produce the video. Three new puppets were created depicting all members of Genesis (including a less exaggerated version of Collins), which also appear on the sleeve of the 45 (and later CD) single. The video was depicted as a nightmare Reagan was having, which left him completely immersed in sweat from worrying. It won a 1987 Grammy Award.

The end of the 1987 election featured a young boy, dressed as a city banker, singing "Tomorrow Belongs To Me", a parody of the film Cabaret , when a member of the Hitler Youth starts singing the same song. In a series 5 episode, Labour leader Neil Kinnock is portrayed singing a self-parody to the tune "My eyes are fully open" from Gilbert and Sullivan's Ruddigore , supported by members of his shadow cabinet. [31]

In one instance Sting was persuaded to sing a re-worded version of "Every Breath You Take", titled "Every Bomb You Make" (series 1, episode 12), to accompany a video showing the Spitting Image puppets of world leaders and political figures of the day, usually with the figure matching the altered lyrics "Every bomb you make. Every job you take. Every heart you break, every Irish wake. I'll be watching you. Every wall you build, Every one you've killed, Every grave you've filled, all the blood you've spilled, I'll be watching you." The video ended with the grim reaper appearing in front of a sunset. This version was due to be resurrected by Sting at the Live 8 concert, and the parody lyrics were cleared with their writers Quentin Reynolds and James Glen, but plans were abandoned at the last minute.

The end theme of series 8 episode 3 all the characters performing the tribute song Jeremy Beadle and they sang about they hated him until his death in 2008. The end theme of series 9 episode 4 was "Why Can't Life Be Like Hello?", sung by June Brown (commonly known as the EastEnders character Dot Cotton). [32] The song pastiches Hello magazine, in satire of post-Big Bang UK consumerist culture.

Other musical parodies featured Mick Jagger, Michael Jackson, Kylie Minogue, The Monkees, Pulp, Brett Anderson of Suede, Pet Shop Boys, R.E.M., Björk, East 17, Elvis Presley, Oasis, ZZ Top, Prince and Barbra Streisand.

Staff

Spitting Image launched the careers of and featured many then-unknown British comedians and actors, most notably Hugh Dennis, Steve Coogan and Harry Enfield. [33]

Voices

The voices were provided by British (and one American) impressionists including:

Performers

The puppets were operated by British performers, including:

Writers

Producers

Video and DVD releases

The programme was first released on video in 1986 in a series of three collections, each a compilation of material from the first two series: Spit - With Polish!, A Floppy Mass Of Blubber & Rubber Thingies. All carried a 15 certificate and were reissued in 1988, also as a box set. 1989 saw the release by Central Video of two complete specials, Bumbledown: The Life & Times Of Ronald Reagan and The Sound Of Maggie. Next was a video containing a collection of the music videos from the programme, titled "The Klassik Music Video Vol 1", released in 1991 by Central Video under The Video Collection Ltd (VCI or 2entertain); there was never a Volume 2.

"Is Nothing Sacred?" was released in 1992 by Surprise Video, compiling material from 1990-1991. The free booklet was written by Stewart Lee and Richard Herring. Havin' It Off: The Bonker's Guide was released in 1993. In 1996 FA to Fairplay was released on VHS, later reissued on DVD in 2005. Made specially for video, it provided an alternative look at the 1996 European football championship held in England.

The Ronald Reagan song "Da Do Run Ron" featured in a straight to video release called Rockin' Ronnie (1986), an otherwise unrelated compilation of movie clips released by ATI Video.

The first twelve series including An 11-disc set (containing the first 7 series broadcast 1984-89) have been released by Network Distributing under licence by ITV Studios, so far. Series 1-7 individual releases are now deleted . [34] DVD releases do not include any of the specials made.

DVD release dates

DVDDiscsYearEp. #Release Date
Region 2
Complete Series 1219841228 January 2008 [35]
Complete Series 2219851128 July 2008 [36]
Complete Series 3319861829 September 2008 [37]
Complete Series 41198763 November 2008 [38]
Complete Series 511988623 March 2009 [39]
Complete Series 611989511 May 2009 [40]
Complete Series 711989617 August 2009 [41]
Complete Series 811990619 October 2009 [42]
Complete Series 91199068 July 2013 [43]
Complete Series 1011991614 October 2013 [44]
Complete Series 111199161 June 2015 [45]
Complete Series 1211992615 August 2016 [46]
Complete Series 1–7111984–1989642 November 2009 [47]

Media adaptations

The show was adapted into a video game: Spitting Image and a comics magazine.

See also

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