Spitting Image

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Spitting Image

There’s not much we can say about Spitting Image that isn’t in the history books, but here’s a little detail about the shows we did.

The Sound Of Maggie!
This was a spoof musical special to mark the ten years of Margaret Thatcher being in power, or some similar reason that we all thought was a good enough excuse at the time. It had more than a passing nod to "Oliver!", with highlights included Maggie selling off British industry in "Who Will Buy?", Neil Kinnock as Fagin "reviewing the situation" of Labour Party policy, finishing every verse with "I think I'd better think it out again..." and the two-headed LibDem Pushmi-pullyu with the head of David Owen at one end and David Steel at the other...

It was released on video as a double bill with "Bumbledown - The Life & Times Of Ronald Reagan" and won - apparently - some award in some TV Festival in Banff. In Canada. Yep.

This was also the swansong of the combination of core writers Ian Hislop and Nick Newman and producer Geoffrey Perkins.

Series 6
A new writing team consisting of (amongst others) Mark Burton, John O'Farrell (“Things Can Only Get Better”), Steve Punt & Pete Sinclair (“Lead Balloon”) took over, together with two new directors, Central TV’s Richard Bradley, and a rising star from the Spitting Image workshop called Steve Bendelack, later to become one of the country’s top comedy directors, with many shows to his name including “The League Of Gentlemen”.

Unseen highlights include the now infamous "We Like The Ayatollah" song created after the issuing of the fatwa or death sentence on Salman Rushdie. Ostensibly a love song to the Ayatollah consisting of all the puppets, puppeteers, cast and crew of Spitting Image saying what a great and reasonable guy he was, it was, of course, highly satirical and very risky. Alas, with the song all scheduled to close the first show of the new series (and quite possibly Central Television at the same time) on the morning of transmission, the Ayatollah died. Leading to much wailing and gnashing of teeth, both in Tehran and in the Birmingham studios. Eventually, we hustled together a quickie about reading the Ayatollah’s will, but the song has never been seen.

New puppets in this series included Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson and John Sessions, in a mini sitcom called “At Home With the Branaghs. Sample dialogue:

Ken:    Em, where are you?
Em:     (OUT OF VISION) I’m in the kitchen!
Ken:    Ooh, can I be in it too?

Notable in this series too was the additional of a young keen voices man called Steve Coogan.

Series 7
This series ran later on the same year, and suffered from the tragic loss of one Ronald Reagan, to be replaced by the cosmically unfunny former head of the CIA, George Bush Snr. Not nearly as funny as his son was to become, the show never quite got to grips with the loss. We did, however, get the rise of John Major in return, plus a tall and willowy Stephen Fry training Neil Kinnock in the art of the joke.

A notable song was the one sung by Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney , Pete Townsend, Roger Daltrey et al, called “Keep On Rocking”. Written by Steve Brown (bandleader Glenn Ponder in "I'm Alan Partridge"), it bemoaned the fate of ageing rock stars who could only carry on doing what they’d known all their lives.

The Christmas special ended up with God blowing up Margaret Thatcher; a piece of climactic visual trickery requiring a small dynamite charge set inside a watermelon covered in latex. Messy, but worthwhile.

Spitting Image

Series 6

Series 7

Spitting Image

Buy the VHS of "Bumbledown/The Sound Of Maggie [1989]" by clicking here

- and here's how to get to the search page for all the Spitting Image videos, although to be honest, we've rather lost track of which bit is on which

This is a pretty good info page...

...and here is Roger Law's autobiography - it's really excellent 

Other shows in GEOFF & DAVID ...