WHO WILL BE THE SPITTING IMAGES ?
by Norman Warwick
Spitting Images was famous throughout its eighteen previous series for its mockery of various famous figures. Recently, new puppets of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (left) and others have been revealed as a ´teaser´ for a new series (the first since 1996) of Spitting images, scheduled to be screened later this year. The puppet of Boris Johnson includes the iconic blonde hair and slightly askew tie.
The new version of the series will be produced by Avalon, with Roger Law, co-creator of the original show, as executive producer.
Britbox UK said on Twitter: Spitting Image is back this Autumn, with Boris Johnson, Prince Andrew and Dominic Cummings among those receiving the classic caricature treatment´.
Dominic Cummings is also being recreated for the new series after he hit headlines earlier in 2020. He has served as the chief adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson since 2019 and became a household name during the coronavirus pandemic, and not always for the right reasons. Cummings made the news after it was reported he travelled to his parents’ farm in Durham during lockdown.
His puppet will be sporting a blue hoodie with a black gilet in the satirical show.
Of these new puppets, one fan said on Twitter: ´These are brilliant, especially Cummings. The show should never have left television. It does a better job of holding politicians to account than by any official means´.
Politicians from around the world will also feature in the new series, including US President Donald Trump. He has been topical for many years, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, so fans will be excited to see his character later this year.
One fan said on Twitter: ´Love to see Mr Trump on Spitting Image.´
When the news of the new series was revealed back in September 2019, a the producers admitted to The Guardian that satirising President Trump offered a challenge ´because he’s a satire in himself´, but said ´puppets allowed the show to go further than actors could.”´
Russian leader Vladimir Putin will also star in the 2020 series and his puppet includes a tattoo saying “thug life” across his torso.
The puppet is also wearing a leather spiked collar and matching wrist cuffs.
Putin has served as President of Russia since 2012 and he was also a KGB officer.
Fans cannot wait to see the new puppet designs, and they are waiting for an official release date for the new series.
Hopefully viewers will get to see the new characters in the autumn, so they will not be waiting for much longer.
The programme, though, never focussed solely on politicians, and in the new season Prince Andrew will also be featuring as one of the puppets.
The show´s Executive Producer has said the new show will be ´more outrageous, audacious and salacious than the previous incarnation´.
Caricature puppet designer Adrian Teal tweeted: “Well, it’s official!
´It’s been my privilege over the last few weeks to work on several of the caricature puppet designs (including Trump) for the mission to bring the TV satire juggernaut Spitting Image back to the screen´.
The show was originally airing on ITV from 1984 until 1996, when it was cancelled due to a decline in viewer numbers.
The series was nominated for nine BAFTA awards, two of which it won, as well as four Emmy Awards.
About 15 million viewers tuned in to the original series when viewer numbers were at their peak.
In the autumn of 2020 whole new generations will tune in to see just what all the fuss was about !
So, returning in such ´ínteresting times´ offering the satirists so much to poke and prod at opportunities to roll things over and show them as they really are. we might expect Spitting Image to invoke louder cheers than ever and pour terror into the hearts of those who might be deserving of such wrath.
It is, surely, good news that Spitting Image, the satirical puppet show that lampooned politicians and celebrities, is back on our screens this autumn. The bad news is that the current climate of fear around causing offence means the new show could be a politically cowardly imitation of the original, which gloried in pushing the boundaries of the acceptable.
The early signs are not good. Senior ITV executives have already held meetings to discuss how high-profile figures such as the Megan, Duchess of Sussex, Beyoncé and Kanye West should be portrayed amid concern that puppet caricatures could prompt accusations of racism. Kevin Lygo, ITV’s director of television, said that the conversations covered “What’s OK, what’s not OK?”.
Jawad Iqbal is visiting senior fellow in the Institute of Global Affairs at the London School of Economics.
His main interests are foreign policy and politics. He has an extensive background in policy analysis developed over the course of a thirty-year career with BBC News.
Jawad started as a trainee in radio, before going on to work as a producer and editor on a number of flagship news and current affairs programmes.
During his career in television, Jawad has worked across news shows, including Breakfast and Newsnight, as well as editing the One, Six and Ten O’Clock News.
He has been a senior editor on BBC World and the BBC News Channel. He served as the multi-media editor for the BBC Newsroom, chairing the daily editorial conference, with overall editorial responsibility for sensitive and complex editorial decisions across the entire range of BBC News programming.
In his last role before leaving the BBC, Jawad served as editor of insight and analysis, with responsibility for commissioning explanatory journalism of major news events for the BBC website.
Since leaving the BBC, his work has been published in newspapers like The Financial Times.
A recent piece,, in the Times, was headlined as ´Politically Correct Spitting Image Could Be A Turn Off´. Jawad´s column spoke of how ´today´s current climate of fear of causing offence´ could lead to the new series being a pale, and ´cowardly´ imitation of the successes of the past, when the programme revelled in pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable.
It is slightly disconcerting to know that ´executives´ have been holding talks about how puppeteers, scriptwriters and vocal mimics should handle the portrayal of figures such as The Duchess Of Sussex, Beyonce and Kanya West. All are people some might find hard to take seriously in their new or prospective, but invariably self-appointed, roles as spokespersons on social behaviour.
Jawad Iqbal quoted some who had attended meetings about this, telling him that the discussion was largely about ´what´s OK and what´s not OK´ in the current social climate.
The very question seems almost so self-aware, even narcissistic, perhaps, that it might make us think some of those involved with the show have forgotten, or have changed, the attitude that helped them make the show in the first place. In those days, no public figure escaped any deserved humiliation, and while grotesque caricature might have seemed unfair it was very rare that the so-called grotesqueness rendered unrecognisable the characters who were merely being hoisted by their own petard. Margaret Thatcher, Norman Tebbett and John Major might have been ´writ large´ but sometimes news clips of them live in debate on such programmes as Question Time, or even in times when were told to ´rejoice´, were as laugh out loud funny as the comedy series.
For the new series, Jawad Iqbal says, there is already talk of ´getting it right´ by committee.´ This, he suggests, could mean a monitoring of jokes for Political Correctness and, worse, an avoidance of issues deemed too sensitive to confront.
This might include debate about whether only a Black actor can voice a Black character, that would surely have to answer the question of whether a Black actor can imitate a white politician. If imitation is the most sincere form of flattery then let the best imitator win, we might think. This should then lead to further debate about whether it would these days be labelled as some sort of hate crime if a male voice took the role of female character, as Margaret Thatcher was spoken (brilliantly) by a male impersonator back in the day.
Iqbal argues that no public figure should be immune from criticism or mockery because of their ethnic background. If the show´s producers cannot choose where to fire their bullets then the show will be weakened, he implies.
Someone will have to make the choice whether to deliver the unfunny but politically correct or the hilarious but potentially unfunny.
The right decision could see Spitting Images reflecting and shaping the state of the nation as it did for so many years, but the wrong one could add another link to the chains that are threatening to stifle democratic discussion.
Spitting Images at its best, vitriolic but just, would add much needed colour to the pallet and vibrancy to the dialogue of social debate.
The People´s March through London, In October 2019 was to held to protest at government policy and it was interesting to note how many carnival-esque characatures added to the occasion. Perhaps the return of Spitting Image to our tv screens is perfectly timesd.