Friday, April 09, 2010

Spitting Image

Spitting Image was a satirical puppet show which ran from 1984 to 1996 in the UK. In all, 18 seasons were screened containing 141 episodes. Each episode lasted between 30 and 60 minutes. The show depicted puppet caricatures of many famous people during the 1980s and the 1990s. Spitting Image was created by Martin Lambie-Naim but was not very successful at first. However, by 1986 it had become very popular and even produced a Number 1 his single ("The Chicken Song"). The show was not only famous in the UK, but also in many other countries and influenced many similar series such as "Les guignols de l'info".

People enjoyed it especially because of the recognisable and more likable presentation of politicians, who were often parodied. Their favourite target was Margaret Thatcher, the then Prime Minister. She was portrayed as a bullying, fascist tyrant and transvestite - she wore suits, used the urinals, etc. Thus, the show's beginning of the end was marked in November 1990, when John Major succeeded Thatcher in office. He was described as a boring and all-grey character, who was constantly mocked by Humphrey, the Downing Street cat. Other characters were also depicted as a vampire or as Hannibal Lecter. Moreover, the British Royal Family was also frequently present in the show. As for foreign politicians, Spitting Image devoted some time to them as well, among which Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev and Reagan's successor George Bush senior. Even religion did not stop the creators: Pope John Paul II did not believe in God and spoke with a Texan accent. Musicians and actors were parodied too, even though they often didn't like their puppets. Indeed, Mike Jagger looked perpetually high, Michael Jackson's skin became lighter and lighter (from African American to Albino) and Arnold Schwarzenegger was very insecure about his genitals' size.

Spitting Image also wrote and parodied songs. For example, The Police's "Every Breath You Take" was changed into "Every Bomb You Make" and sung by Sting himself. The song was accompanied by a video, depicting the puppets of world leaders and politicians, usually with the figure matching the lyrics "Every wall you build, Every one you've killed, Every grave you've filled, Al the blood you've spilled, I'll be watching you". Other musical parodies featured Michael Jackson, Kylie Minogue, Oasis, ZZ Top, Prince and Barbara Streisand.

In addition, there was a recurring news programme called "Rubber news". It lasted only a few minutes and involved two puppets presenting invented headlines, where sometimes they even got in a fight.

In short, the series was hilarious with a strong bitingly sharp humour, usually acknowledged as the rudest and funniest show on British television. Threfore, it was nominated for 10 BAFTA Awards and won one of them.
By Aliénor, Louisa and Abigail