It was announced last week that one of my favourite television programmes when growing up is to make a return. To people of a certain age, Spitting Image was an unmissable programme with up to 15 million people tuning in to watch the current affairs of the week being re-enacted by large rubber puppets.
By using puppets, things good be said or depicted that would have been totally impossible to do in any other way. An average sketch would be biting and raw but when they put their mind to it, some could be savage and even in a sense, cruel. However they were nearly always based on personal behaviour and characteristics and were generally what the general public thought about people but were perhaps a little afraid to say.
Britain has a special history of castigating its own figures and using satire but this re-awakening of the show is expected to be aired in foreign markets such as the USA too. In fact a pilot show was made for NBC executives in the 1980’s when they saw just how successful it was in the U.K. but it was deemed that America wasn’t ready for the level of humour at the time.
Spitting Image famously featured Margaret Thatcher in a man’s suit treating her cabinet – “the vegetables” to a meal in a restaurant.
Prime Minister John Major as a grey puppet and the Queen Mother drinking copiously from a gin bottle. Slimy government minister Kenneth Baker was fantastically portrayed as having a human head and the body of a snail.
David Steel never got over being depicted as a miniaturised figure in the breast pocket of his ally David Owen. In fact it is said that some people only knew they had made it in life when Spitting Image poked fun at them.
It wasn’t just British figures who were lampooned, Ronald Reagan was featured in bed with two red call buttons, one marked Nurse, the other Nuke whilst being obsessed with jelly beans and Mikhail Gorbachev featured with his prominent birthmark as a hammer and sickle.
Whilst it was mainly concerned with political figures, social and celebrity figures were also poked fun at with Mick Jagger and his big lips being an easy example.
Surely there has never been a better time to bring back the bitingly sharp political programme with a whole host of figures that are almost satirical figures in themselves; Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Meghan and Harry, Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-Un just for starters before even getting down to the levels of Nicola Sturgeon, Hilary Clinton, Greta Thunberg, Macron, and a whole host of less well known European and global figures.
I’m pretty sure some figures in Britain at least would never have reached positions of importance if Spitting Image had been around in the last 20 years. What it would have made of Diane Abbott or Nigel Farage is anyones guess.
I’m sure that weird individuals and air-headed celebrities such as Elon Musk and Kim Kardashian will get a good old mauling.