Back in 1984 the idea of an animated show aimed primarily at adults would have been quite a hard sell to most television networks, let alone one which was made using puppets, so the fact that one of the most popular and hard hitting comedy shows of the late Eighties and early Nineties featured a cast made from latex is perhaps surprising.
Spitting Image was the show in question, and it made household names of its creators Peter Fluck and Roger Law, better known simply as Fluck and Law. The duo had previously been best known for providing topical illustrations, often used plasticene figures, for newspapers and magazines.
The premise was simple enough. It took well known figures of the day, mostly from the world of politics, turned them into grotesque looking caricatures, and plonked them into situations which would make their real life counterparts squirm, quite often because what started as a joke somehow often ended up being closer to the truth that was perhaps first thought.
Whilst many of the politicians and celebrities portrayed in the programme would publicly say how disgusted they were with the appearance and escapades of their rubber doppelgangers, many also realised that appearing on the show was something of a badge of honour, and quite often could possibly help rather than hinder their perception with the general public.
There were very many puppets made, but there were a few who formed the real backbone of the show. Margaret Thatcher’s puppet is probably the best known, being portrayed as a tyrant who quite literally “wore the trousers”, but a close second has to be that of Ronald Reagan, who starred in a little series of sketches called “The President’s Brain Is Missing”.
Other notables include the Queen, Prince Philip, and John Major, who was famed for being deemed boring so his puppet was completely grey in colour from clothes to skin tone.
The show also helped the careers of many well known comedy names. Rob Grant and Doug Naylor of Red Dwarf fame were lead writers for many years (and also penned the so dreadful its brilliant Chicken Song for Spitting Image) and famous people to have provided voices for the puppets include Chris Barrie, Steve Coogan, Hugh Dennis, Harry Enfield and Rory Bremner.