It might hard to imagine a bunch of puppets having the power to take on the political establishment now, but there was a point during the Tory rule of the 80s and 90s when Spitting Image formed a central part of the political and cultural conversation of the day. At its peak, the satirical puppet show drew in as many as 15 million viewers a week, who tuned in to watch a suit-donning Margaret Thatcher smashing her cabinet members over the head with her handbag, or John Major painted grey as a reminder of just how boring he was.
The original ITV series, which helped to launch the careers of a young Ian Hislop and Steve Coogan, among others, was co-created by Roger Law and and Peter Fluck after they got fed up of creating plasticine caricatures for printed newspapers, and decided to take advantage of the legal grey area of pillorying politicians with puppets on broadcast television. They brought in Martin Lambie-Nairn of creative agency Lambie-Nairn and legendary comedy producer John Lloyd to help bring the show to life, and the rest is history.
A lot may have changed in the political and TV landscape during the two decades since the programme last aired in 1996, but the scale of our current political crisis has clearly been enough to tempt Law, now 80, out of retirement. Produced by Avalon and launching on streaming service BritBox, Spitting Image 2.0 is bigger, better and more controversial than ever – so much so that television network NBC has just pulled out of screening the programme in the US for fear of offending ‘powerful people’, according to The Times.