Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Spitting Image (1984-96)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Spitting Image (1984-96)
Central for ITV, 26/02/1984 - 18/12/1996
137 x 30 mins + 4 specials, colour
Created byPeter Fluck
 Roger Law
 Martin Lambie-Nairn
Producers includeDavid Frost
 John Lloyd

Voices: Chris Barrie; Rory Bremner; Steve Coogan; Hugh Dennis; Harry Enfield; Jon Glover; Alistair McGowan; Jessica Martin; Steve Nallon; Jan Ravens; Enn Reitel; Kate Robbins; John Sessions; Pamela Stephenson; Cliff Taylor

Show full cast and credits

Topical satire enacted in latex, featuring a grotesque cast of politicians, royals and assorted public figures.

Show full synopsis

After the end of Britain's first satire boom, initiated in the late-1950s/early-1960s by the stage revue Beyond the Fringe, the BBC show That Was the Week That Was (1962-63) and the birth of Private Eye magazine, the 1970s was a relatively quiet time for satire. However, the aggressively right-wing Thatcher governments of the 1980s, and the weakness of the Labour opposition, created a vacuum for political dissent which a new generation of comedians arose to fill. The Not the Nine O'Clock News (BBC, 1979-82) team were the first of the breed to make an impact, but the decade's most popular satirical television show was Spitting Image (ITV, 1984-96).

Peter Fluck and Roger Law met at art school in Cambridge, where they also met the young Peter Cook; Law subsequently produced cartoons for Cook's Private Eye. In the mid-1970s, the pair began producing puppet caricatures for magazines like Time, Germany's Stern and The Sunday Times, which eventually led to the creation of Spitting Image.

The satire of the '60s had succeeded in undermining Britain's traditional deference for the political classes, allowing the 1980s variant to be much more vicious. Fluck and Law took no prisoners, cruelly lampooning politicians of all parties but reserving special venom for Thatcher and her ministers, notably a bovver-boy Norman Tebbit, a bumbling Geoffrey Howe and a wild, gung-ho Michael Heseltine (one proposed puppet, the 'Leon Brittan turd', was vetoed by producers as too offensive). Still more remarkable was the show's targetting of the royal family, previously victim to only the gentlest satire. Charles was shown as a blundering crackpot, Diana a vain airhead and the Queen Mother a horseracing-obsessed alcoholic.

Unfortunately, the savagery of the puppets was all too frequently let down by the quality of the scripts, and as the political content gradually gave way to a softer-edged mockery of celebrities, the show began to feel tame. Its impact on its main targets was negligible, although Liberal leader David Steel rued the damage caused by his depiction as a squeeky-voiced midget, literally in the pocket of his SDP counterpart David Owen. Perhaps the ultimate insult to Fluck and Law's political intent was the revelation, after the show folded in 1996, that many of their victims, including Michael Heseltine, had offered to buy their effigies. The show's has spawned several imitators, including France's Les Guignols de l'info, Russia's Kukli and Israel's Hahartzufim.

Mark Duguid

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. Royal breakfast (1:50)
2. Mad Mac 3 (1:12)
3. Your BBC (1:14)
4. President Reagan (1:42)
Opening titles (0:25)
Not the Nine O'Clock News (1979-82)
That Was the Week That Was (1962-63)
Coogan, Steve (1965-)
Enfield, Harry (1961-)
Central Independent Television
TV Satire