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  • What on earth went wrong? From its start in 1984 through to 1993 this was the best satire series on TV, but when Giles Pilbrow took over as producer in 1994 things went from bad to worse. The witty humor turned into spiteful name-calling and the whole thing adopted a very down-market, tacky feel to it. Though the first 1994 series shows promise to begin with, before long it descends into childish, playground-style sniping at people. Satire is much more effective if it's subtle, but 'subtle' is a word which is obviously missing from Pilbrow's dictionary. By the 1996 (final) series, things were at an all-time low. The comical, imaginative voices were replaced by the same smug, self-satisfied tones which cropped up time and time again, the series seemed to center more on pop groups rather than politicians and public figures and most of the songs had become dire. Though the 1996 series had a few good ideas, rather than humorous sketches there was an insufferably smug voice relating political facts and lists of statistics. More of a documentary than a satire show. This approach also displays a very lazy, interest-lacking attitude.

    The older Spitting Image series are unmissable - hilarious, well-made, well-thought-out. But Pilbrow ought to be ashamed for running this great series into the ground. The only good he ever did the show was stopping it in 1996 rather than dragging it to even more ignoble depths.
  • So how did a Yank who has never visited England get addicted to this show? One evening in the 1986, my parents were howling at something with puppets called "The Ronnie and Nancy Show", which was being broadcast on an American network (I forget which) and was never shown again. Although I didn't get all of the jokes (I was eight at the time), I remember laughing at President Reagan putting Slick 50 motor oil in his hair, and falling out of his bedroom window at the show's conclusion. The routine has always stuck with me, but I could never figure out where it came from! Then a few months ago, desperate to see if anyone else had heard about it, I did a keyword search and found out about a British television show called "Spitting Image". Of course; the British have ALWAYS been superior to Americans when it comes to satire on TV, and this show is no different. I purchased some videos of it on Ebay, had them converted to NTSC format, and laughed my head off. Although I could only get about half of the jokes that dealt with British politicians (I guess I need to brush up on history!), this is still one of the best comedy sketch shows I have ever seen, and the puppet format makes it that much better! If you love seeing politicians and celebrities getting attacked with as sharp a sword as possible, then check this show out! A warning though: Some of the routines contain material that is not appropriate for children, as BBC standards are different than American Networks.
  • All satire bites. Of course this series was vituperative. Most, if not all humour is at the expense of somebody else. So what better targets can there be for humour than the rich, famous and powerful? The other reviewer who expressed his disgust at a programme that could mock a certain baby should take this into consideration: any child born into the family of Windsor will be one of the most privileged and pampered people in the world from the very first day of its life. "Spitting Image" was not evil. It didn't stigmatize the large numbers unemployed, force the poll tax on people, starve public services of cash. It didn't widen the gulf between the rich and the poor. It simply provided satire. If one doesn't like "Spitting Image" then one won't like any good satire at all. The series also launched the careers of many of this country's most popular comic actors. The puppets, mannerisms and voices were spot on. The 80s and early 90s were a very difficult time for a lot of people in the UK. "Spitting Image" was a fine example of how we were able to laugh at ourselves and this crazy world we live in.
  • In the 80s no celebrity was off limits to the Spitting Image team which lampooned contemporary celebrities using latex puppets with exaggerated features. Regulars included the street smart Pope with his shades and cellphone, or Ronald Reagan in the infamous "the President's brain is missing" (with two dangerously arranged "nurse" and "nuke" bedside buttons). Other common appearances included the British royal family, Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet.

    Every Sunday night at 10pm Brits would be sure to watch the latest satirical sketches penned by now famous celebrities such as David Baddiel. Voices were also from comedians who went onto greater things including Steve Coogan (Around the World in 80 Days), Rory Bremner (has his own impressionist show on British TV), Harry Enfield and Adrian Edmonson.

    Over time it deteriorated. The great news is that there is talk the show will return in 2005.
  • Alex-37229 September 2004
    This was a hugely welcomed relief for the pressure of almost two decades of Conservative government worldwide (the Tories in the UK, and the Republicans in the US). Remember that this series started only 5 years before the Berlin Wall fell.

    I can only hope and pray that in these times when "news" is just another corporate commodity, someone will revive this series. I keep imagining John Kerry donning a bandana, smearing on the greasepaint and taking an M60 to the Republican team - Dick Cheney trying to scuttle away in vain, Dubya having his satisfied smirk wiped of his face by a 7.62mm round and John Kerry screaming his head off and curling his lip like Johnny Rambo. Is that just me? Or is that a terroristic threat nowadays?

    I think an American Spitting Image should be a lot more violent than this British version. But let there be no mistake - the venom in this series was incredibly potent. Margaret Thatcher was a favorite target.

    Thatcher sits in a restaurant with the rest of her cabinet (Howe, Tebbit, etc.). The waiter comes over and asks: "Would you like to order meat, ma'am?" Thatcher: "Yes. Rare." Waiter: "Vegetables?" Thatcher, making a broad arm movement to the boys: "Oh, they'll have the same".

    Tebbit in jackboots and leather who always salutes Thatcher with "Yes, Leader". Thatcher peeing standing up in the men's room.

    Anyway, even if you don't know every detail of the British political scene 20 years ago (neither do I), still get a hold of this gem and see how real political satire is made.

    There was a Russian version of Spitting Image that was very popular too.
  • screenman9 January 2011
    Warning: Spoilers
    Before 'Spitting Image' there was Mike Yarwood.

    'Nuff said. He was great as impersonators go. But in the clearer light of the 1980's, nowhere near cynical or cruel enough. By then; we were beginning to see just what creepy, crooked liars our politicians really were, and what shallow, vain-glorious humbugs our celebrities. Cheerful lampooning was not enough.

    And latex was the answer. Puppets could accomplish something that human impersonators could not. Oddly, it was something that our ancestors knew all along, and was practiced in the old Punch & Judy shows. Unlike impersonators, puppets have no intrinsic personality. Instead they are original mockeries, and can get away with the kind of ruthless abuse that would undermine the career of any human impersonator.

    Margaret Thatcher's term in office was an ideal time. Politicians had become outrageously arrogant. Two of her tribe (Archer & Aitken) were ultimately sent to prison, whilst celebs thought they could do as they pleased. 'Spitting Image' changed all that. The puppets and script-writers took no prisoners. From the spittle-fountain of Hattersley and the semi-senile Reagan, to the neo-fascist Tebbit and the pocket-pet of David Owen; if you were visible on the spitting-radar prepare to squirm.

    Some actually liked their puppet - or at least, claimed to. But then there was nothing else they could do except lump it, if they didn't. Others genuinely hated theirs, and it is a matter of record that careers were affected by this uncompromising satire.

    There is no better proof here that a good puppet is better than human impersonators, cartoons or even CGI. Tony Blair's entire crooked regime escaped the well-deserved lambasting that the 'Spitting Image' team could have provided. No regime was more image conscious that his, nor indeed ultimately more arrogant. In this regard he far exceeded even Margaret Thatcher. And because his gang were composed mostly of lawyers, they knew how to be crooked and yet circumvent accountability. Who knows; if 'Spitting Image' had been around in the late 1990's, to worthy effect, we might have been spared 2 disastrous, costly and illegal wars.

    A class act, sadly missed by the public, and gratefully avoided by the over-weening creeps of this world.
  • Spitting Image was an extremely funny show. It stopped at nothing & ridiculed everyone, from politicians to royal rivalry. It is a pity it ended & didn't get the chance to parody Blair, Prescott & Buyers, i am sure they would have had a great time coming up with sketches as good as the thatcher era. as for de_niro_2001 from Scotland, i guess he can't appreciate humor or lacks one, or maybe because the show made fun of Scotland one time, when they showed a list of some things that Scotland brought the world: Dr Finlay, Lulu, English tourists, wee wee on the floors of trains,that really horrible Dundee cake, a monster that doesn't exist & lots of silly dancing. Scotland, not far from London.....not far enough! that was a classic!
  • I was just reaching my teens , didn't half stuff but learned of the fly. This was funny and the best thing that used to be on during this season on a Sunday. ( i think that's life was probably on during another season) 3 channel UK TV back then with closedown around 12:30am T.V. used to just be so very poor on a Sunday except for a couple of gems. This was one of the greatest of the 80s .

    Will be way out of date , but if you know history and pop culture give it a go
  • Warning: Spoilers
    When, many moons ago, I first heard of 'Spitting Image', I thought it would be at best a one-season wonder. The novelty of having puppets doing satire would in my view wear off quickly, leaving the show nowhere to go. As we now know, 'Image' ran for over a decade.

    It was originally produced by John Lloyd, one of the driving forces behind 'Not The Nine O'Clock News' so predictably it inherited that earlier show's healthy disrespect for authority and public figures. The voices of Chris Barrie ( magnificent as Ronald Reagan ), Harry Enfield, Jessica Martin, Kate Robbins and Steve Nallon ( more like Thatcher like she ever was ) were superbly matched to clever puppetry courtesy of Fluck & Law. Amongst the writers were Doug Naylor and Rob Grant ( later to create 'Red Dwarf' ), John O'Farrell and Mark Burton.

    The first few episodes were at best patchy, marred by canned laughter and some iffy material, but by the end of the first season the bugs had been ironed out. A regular item was 'The President's Brain Is Missing!' starring President Ronald Reagan. No-one then knew that Reagan had the first symptoms of Alzheimer's. The Reagan of 'Spitting Image' was gaffe-prone, frequently seen in bed with wife Nancy, read comics and loved Warner Brothers cartoons. In one episode, he authorised the use of Phantom jet fighters to assist Wile E.Coyote in the destruction of the Roadrunner. In another, he conducted a secret nuclear test up his own arse.

    British politicians also came in for a bashing; Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher dressed like Al Capone, smoked cigars, and was seen taking political advice from a 90-year old Hitler. The show ridiculed Labour leader Neil Kinnock's attempts to make his party electable ( it had been in opposition only five years when the show started ). In one sketch, he said to the Shadow Cabinet; "We must get rid of all the people who will be a liability at the next General Election.". At which point, the entire Shadow Cabinet left the room. Liberal leader David Steel later blamed 'Image' for his failure to become P.M., it caricatured him as a squeaky-voiced muppet living in the top pocket of David Owen.

    No review of the show can be complete without mentioning their treatment of The Royal Family. Though pro-monarchists wailed that it was insulting and unfair, I disagree. I thought the show gave them an unexpectedly human face, portraying them as ordinary people with normal fallacies. The Queen Mother, in particular, came across as a lovable Beryl Reid type fond of a flutter on the horses. When the Royals sang a parody of Queen's 'We Are The Champions' ( entitled 'We Are The Windsors' ), it sounded like a new National Anthem.

    'Image' was lucky enough to be around when Thatcher was dumped by the Tories and replaced by the ultra-grey John Major. The writers and performers succeeded in making the man more interesting than he really was.

    The show got into trouble on more than one occasion. For instance, a joke at the expense of gun collectors soon after the Hungerford massacre in 1987 provoked predictable self-righteous fury from the tabloids.

    'Image' also spoofed '80's and '90's pop culture, such as 'Rambo', 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' ( or Turds as they became ), pop groups like 'Wham!', 'Culture Club', and 'The Pet Shop Boys' ( their hit 'Go West' was guyed as 'How The Hell Do We Keep Getting Away With It?' ). No respect was shown for anyone or anything.

    It overstayed its welcome, unfortunately, ending the year before Labour's 1997 landslide victory. Despite many imitations, it remains unequalled.

    Perhaps the show's unsung heroes were the people inside the puppets, such as Louise Gold and the late Alistair Fullerton. Another underrated aspect was the songs. 'The Chicken Song' sent-up 'Agadoo' by Black Lace' and became a hit in its own right. 'We've Screwed Up The World' was a bleak parody of Louis Armstrong's 'Wonderful World' with Satchmo bemoaning our increasingly polluted planet. 'Every Job You Take', performed by Sting, rounded off the first series.

    'Image' provided I.T.V. with one of its last great comedy shows, and helped make the nightmare of the Thatcher/Reagan years partially bearable.
  • I watched most of these shows when they came out on ITV/Channel 4. I was relieved to find someone shining the light on current events. It was funnier than anything else on TV and years ahead of it's time. Britain and the world was suffering a new wave of greed and corruption by the USA and the corporations (many of whom the British Royals were only too happy to do business with) of the world who were accelerating the growth of today's problems. Unfortunately most people don't see the truth nowadays. It's necessary to be crude and vituperative (gosh, I had to look that one up - I'll be using that one at the next Conservative get-together!!!). I look forward to it being released on DVD.