Spitting Image is a satirical television program broadcast on the British ITV network from February 26, 1984 to February 18, 1996, and briefly in France on M6 from December 19, 1987 in its original version with subtitles.
The series was nominated and won numerous awards during its broadcast, including ten BAFTA Television Awards, one for editing in 1989, and two Emmy Awards in 1985 and 1986.
Spitting Image featured puppet caricatures of well-known celebrities from the 1980s and 1990s, including British Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major, as well as other politicians, US President Ronald Reagan and the British Royal Family; the series was the first to caricature the Queen Mother (as an elderly gin drinker with a Beryl Reid-like voice) 1.
One of the most-watched series of the 1980s and early 1990s, Spitting Image satirized the world of politics, entertainment, sport and British culture of the time and, in its heyday, was watched by 15 million people 2. The series ended in 1996, after the audience declined.
ITV had planned a new series in 2006, but these were dropped following a dispute over the Ant & Dec puppets used to present Best Ever Spitting Image and which were created against Roger’s wishes. Law3.
In 2018, Law donated his entire archive, including original scripts, puppet molds, drawings and recordings to Cambridge University4.
The show strongly influenced the creators of the French satirical show Les Guignols de l’Info, initiated by Alain De Greef
In popular culture
The music video for the song Land of Confusion by the group Genesis uses the show’s puppets, including those of Ronald and Nancy Reagan, as well as Silvester Stallone (in Rambo), various stars and characters of American show business (Prince, Madonna, Leonard Nimoy en Mr Spock, etc.), personalities from the English-speaking world (Princess Lady Di, Queen Elizabeth II, etc.) or international politics (Pope John Paul II, Mikhail Gorbachev, Colonel Gaddafi , Ayatollah Khomeini, etc.) in addition to the puppets of the members of the group Genesis, in particular that of the singer Phil Collins.
“Spitting Image”, big brother of the “Guignols de l’info”, signs its return twenty-four years later
Extremely popular across the Channel in the 1980s, the show has long symbolized the end of postwar deference to the political class. Can she repeat the same success today, at a time when satire is flooding social networks and television?
“On February 26, 1984, eight months after the start of Margaret Thatcher’s second term, ITV viewers saw their Prime Minister appear as a misshapen and somewhat grotesque puppet.” The British discover, on a beautiful winter Sunday, Spitting Image. For twelve years, the show established itself as a “monster of satire,” writes The Daily Telegraph. Every politician, from the obscure MP to the head of government to the leader of the opposition, takes their rank. At its peak, “Spitting Portrait” attracted 15 million viewers per week. And leads, on the other side of the Channel, to the birth of a little brother: Les Guignols de l’info.
“Caustic and hyper-responsive, the show has come to symbolize the end of postwar deference,” the conservative newspaper continued. Spitting Image reported the twists and turns of Westminster political life to millions of viewers who would not normally have followed them. ” Same analysis, in the columns of the Guardian: “The show has stared political figures. Many of the MPs tirelessly ridiculed in the first Spitting Image are remembered more for their caricatures than for their record. ”
Shock and offend as much as in the 1980s
And now, at the end of a twenty-four year hiatus, the program is making its comeback, this Saturday, October 3, on Britbox. “It is unlikely to attract as many viewers as it did back in the day,” the Financial Times said. The television landscape is much more fragmented.