Arena: Whatever Happened To Spitting Image?. Copyright: BBC.

Arena: Whatever Happened To Spitting Image?

BBC Four documentary. 1 episode in 2014. Features Peter Fluck, Roger Law, John Lloyd, Marcus Prince, Dick Fiddy, Jon Blair, Charles Denton and others.

Press Clippings

I never knew how much I missed Spitting Image until I watched Arena: Whatever Happened To Spitting Image (BBC Four). Imagine, 15million people a week used to tune into a bunch of puppets savaging politicians. We actually cared enough about what was going on to do that.

True, puppeteers Peter Fluck and Roger Law and the rest of the Spitting Image team struck satirical gold in the form of Margaret Thatcher and her Conservative cabinet but are things really so much better now? Just because we're adrift in the politics of the bland, does that mean they should be spared the comedic water cannon?

My guess is if someone brought back Spitting Image now, it could be an enormous hit. But has anyone got the latex balls to try it? Would they be hit with law suits the minute they went on air? Those questions won't be bothering the creators, who cheerily admitted their programme was the product of angry, youthful loins.

"I don't throw my dinner at the television any more," said Fluck (or it might have been Law). "That's a good sign."

It turned out the only people who survived the high-intensity Spitting Image workload had high energy or were on drugs. Or quite probably both.

Now settled back in middle age, Law (or it might have been Fluck) ruefully recognised that where once they thought they'd change the world, now they knew "it doesn't change anything". However, someone really should be trying.

Keith Watson, Metro, 21st March 2014

Could a show as cutting as Spitting Image be made today

Some people say that Spitting Image wouldn't work today because our politicians are too bland and samey, but I don't think that's true, says producer John Lloyd.

John Lloyd, Radio Times, 20th March 2014

Spitting Image: essential satire for a generation

As an Arena documentary about Spitting Image airs on BBC Four, Dominic Cavendish argues that we should be fighting to get the latex puppets back.

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph, 20th March 2014

Radio Times review

During the 1980s, you hadn't truly made it until you'd been immortalised in latex by the Spitting Image team. A complete one-off, the show's grotesque netherworld of freakish caricatures connected young people with politics like nothing before or since. Nobody was more savagely satirised than the Thatcher cabinet, but when that enemy was no longer a threat, the show's appeal gradually waned.

In this deadpan Arena film, its creators and contributors chronicle the series, from the embryonic commissioning stage to its decline in popularity during the 90s. At its peak, Spitting Image was getting 15 million viewers but, "If we did it [now]," says co-creator Roger Law, "we'd be a cult thing, probably on the net". And you can't help thinking he's right. They'd never get away with such vicious satire on TV today.

Gary Rose, Radio Times, 20th March 2014

Latex doesn't age well. Yet at 30, Spitting Image is a better-looking corpse than you might imagine, as this fascinating documentary makes clear. Pulling in 15 million viewers at its peak ("More people than it took to elect the Tories," notes former producer John Lloyd), its detractors weren't so much politicians, who welcomed the publicity, as fellow satirists. Sneered Evening Standard cartoonist Jak of its early efforts: "They should take one in 10 of its scriptwriters out and shoot them."

Ali Catterall, The Guardian, 20th March 2014

Arena to focus on Spitting Image 30th anniversary

The BBC has announced it is preparing an in-depth look at satirical puppet show Spitting Image as part of its Arena documentary strand.

British Comedy Guide, 7th January 2014