Spitting Image: Then and Now

Today Britbox puts the spit back into comedy.

The original Spitting Image in production at Central Television in Birmingham.

“The original was in a world without ‘instant moaning’ aka Twitter and Facebook, will the new Spitting Image survive the instant complaints it’ll get, if its going to be full on ‘anyone is open to be insulted like the original? I hope it lasts.” – TV Critic Vivian Summers

The uncompromising, fast-turnaround and uniquely British satirical take on global events, Spitting Image is back. The show returns today to a smaller and more turbulent world exclusively on BritBox in the UK.  It was announced earlier this year that celebrated Spitting Image co-creator Roger Law returned to head up the show’s creative team, while multi-award-winner Jeff Westbrook (The Simpsons, Futurama) is the Showrunner, leading the writing team.

The iconic show was produced by Central Television from 1984 to 1996, airing across the ITV network. However, the glory days of a major studio centre in Birmingham have long gone with the latest version of the puppet comedy produced by Avalon.

Now: Donald Trump, POTUS will feature in the show.

Now: Meghan and Harry, stateside royals.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, over 100 puppets have already been developed by socially distanced teams of artists ready for launch, including: Adele, Angela Merkel, Baby Yoda, Barack Obama, Beyoncé, Billie Eilish, Boris Johnson, Boris Baby, The Johnson Dog, Brad Pitt, Camilla Duchess of Cornwall, Chrissy Teigen, Covid-19, Cristiano Ronaldo, Dominic Cummings, Dominic Raab, Donald Trump, Dwayne Johnson, Ed Sheeran, Elon Musk, Elton John, Emmanuel Macron and Greta Thunberg.

But the list doesn’t end there, the creators have also puppetised up Grimes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Harry Styles, Idris Elba, Ivanka Trump, Jacinda Ardern, James Corden, Jeff Bezos, Joe Biden, Jürgen Klopp, Kanye West, Keir Starmer, Kim Kardashian, Lewis Hamilton, Mark Zuckerberg, Matt Hancock, Meghan Duchess of Sussex, Melania Trump, Michael Gove, Michelle Obama, Narendra Modi, Oprah Winfrey, Piers Morgan, The Pope, Prince Andrew, Prince Charles, Prince Harry, Prince William, Priti Patel, The Queen, Richard Branson, Rishi Sunak, RuPaul, Taylor Swift, Tiger Woods, Tyson Fury, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, all falling under the show’s legendary gaze.

Then: The Tory Party was at the butt of many Spitting Image jokes.

Then: Dot Cotton from EastEnders and dictator Saddam Hussein with a camel. The show ranged from entertainment stars to serious world issues.

A next-generation of satirical writers and voice artists are working with established talent to drive a new wave of ‘public service satire’.  The show is ultra-topical with scripts being written and new puppets made as close to each episode as possible.

The original series of Spitting Image saw the puppets created at creators Peter Fluck and Roger Law’s workshop in London with the on-screen talent transported by truck to Central TV in Birmingham every week. During its initial run, it struck controversy from the off by featuring caricatures of the Royal Family. Notably some royalists especially unimpressed by The Queen Mother sounding like Beryl Reid and in 1992, ITV received 341 complaints about a depiction of God in the show.

Now: Politically incorrect, Michael Gove and Dominic Raab.

Now: Camilla and Charles.

Other personalities who became big on Spitting Image included former PM Margaret Thatcher who was depicted as an insane dictator, comedian and magician Paul Daniels who was portrayed as a cheesy has-been with a spinning wig and dubious Jimmy Savile was, seemingly accurately, deemed mentally unbalanced and locked in an asylum.

“Everything the team have done on the new Spitting Image shows, the caricatures, puppets and satirical gags have all been done in the public interest, as Boris might say ‘Pro bono publico’. It’s time to come off furlough!  The people have spoken and the puppets are oven ready. We’re going to take back control!” – Roger Law

Spitting Image, launches tomorrow, Saturday 3rd October, on Britbox.

Then: The Royal Family 1980s style.

Then: A mix of 1990s celebrity. Including Barbara Cartland, Niomi Campbell, George Cole, Paul McCartney and Maddona.

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