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Series / Spitting Image

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"Following complaints from the Conservative Party that the BBC is biased against the government, we here on ITV, in the interests of political balance, would like to say: we hate the bastards too. Thank you."

Spitting Image is a British satirical puppet show which ran on ITV from 1984–96, with a revival airing on BritBox as of 2020. The series could possibly be one of the most influential programmes in British television history, as by virtue of using puppets, they could get away with things that other shows could not.

For the entirety of the original run, the United Kingdom was ruled by the Conservative Party, so the government (and especially Margaret Thatcher) was the show's favourite target. However, it did not spare the opposition parties, the royal family, other countries' leaders, or celebrity figures outside of politics. Probably the most acerbically targeted country was South Africa during The Apartheid Era.

The series was nominated for ten BAFTA Awards, winning only one, for editing, in 1989.

The show ended its original run after 18 seasons, due mostly to the fact that they couldn't afford the new puppets they would need for a change of government; that, and the relatively bland composition of the John Major government, which lacked the epic grandeur of the Thatcher years and — with the notable exception of Major himself — almost defied satire. However, a revival premiered in late 2020 on the streaming service BritBox, with prime minister Boris Johnson, then-U.S. president Donald Trump, the 2020 American election cycle, the COVID-19 Pandemic, and prominent billionaires and celebrities like Kanye West, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos all providing ample opportunities for satire and parody. A 20th season premiered in late 2021. The showrunners have put all episodes of the reboot, and are currently attempting to upload the original show, onto YouTube for free here.

The show has had several spiritual successors such as the traditional animation 2DTV, CGI series Headcases and part-CGI, part-puppet Newzoids but none have ever matched its popularity. The concept was brought overseas and foreign remakes have been made in France, Germany, the USA,note  Portugal, India, Italy, Serbia, Norway, Russia, the Netherlands and Israel among others, with varying degrees of popularity — some bombed, others have outlasted the British original.

The show's team is also responsible for the famous video for "Land of Confusion" by Genesis, which features puppets of noted personalities (and the three members of the band) similar to those featured on the show.

A character page is currently under construction.

Famous sketches/themes include:

  • invoked The Chicken Song: A parody of annoyingly catchy summer hits like Agadoo, which naturally underwent Defictionalization and itself became a number one single.
    • I've Never Met A Nice South African: Musical number about the apartheid regime's abuses (and the West cosying up to it). The B side of The Chicken Song.
    • Go Now: A cover of The Moody Blues hit, sung by the entire House of Commons, The Queen and eventually the entire country to Margaret Thatcher to tell her that she should resign in the middle of a deep recession. It wasn't long before the real Thatcher did because of said recession.
    • Every Bomb You Make, to the tune of Every Breath You Take from Synchronicity by The Police (and actually featuring Sting on vocals) served as a massive "The Reason You Suck" Speech to the major political figures of the era.
  • Thatcher's Cabinet at the Restaurant: Mrs Thatcher's cabinet eat at a restaurant; she orders a raw steak, and when asked "What about the vegetables?" replies "They'll have the same as I'm having." (This line entered her legend, and people later thought she had really said it.)
  • The President's Brain is Missing: A series in which Ronald Reagan's tiny brain makes a bid for freedom, at one point crawling into the dead Premier Chernenko's head and reanimating him to try and run the Soviet Union on American Republican lines. Half the jokes it coined were later lazily recycled by Spiritual Successor 2DTV for George W. Bush.
  • John Major and the Peas: Captured the public vision of John Major as dull and boring by literally giving him grey skin and having him indulge in inane conversations over peas with his wife Norma. It was also suggested that he had a crush on Virginia Bottomley, the writers proceeding to kick themselves for not choosing Edwina Currie instead.
  • The Two Davids: The Liberal-SDP Alliance was portrayed as an unequal partnership between the dominating SDP leader David Owen and the shy, literally smaller Liberal leader David Steel. Steel later blamed his depiction for ruining his career- Steel was taller!
    • In fact, this was subverted in real life as most historical sources confirm Steel was the more influential of the two (he also maintained a longer career in the House).
    • David Owen was also portrayed as a cynical opportunist, to the extent that he was sometimes seen on both sides of the House of Commons at the same time.
  • Herr von Willcox: Margaret Thatcher's neighbour is an aged Adolf Hitler who lives under the alias "Herr von Willcox" and gasses insects in his garden. He gives her advice on governance.
    "Wiz you zere, I feel like I already run ze place."
    "von Willcox": "First you need ze SS."
    Thatcher: "Don't you mean SAS?"
    "von Willcox": "I know vat I mean."
  • Home for Retired PMs: All the living retired Prime Ministers (such as Edward Heath, Harold Macmillan and Harold Wilson) live in a retirement home which they view as a prison camp and plot to escape from.
  • Paul Daniels: "One Man and His Wig".
  • Mary Whitehouse: often seen in early episodes watching the show and simultaneously writing in to complain, overtly disgusted and yet secretly fascinated by it.
  • The Royal Family: Portrayed as a dysfunctional and yet somehow very relatable family:
    • The Queen: seemed to be the most "normal" one of the bunch. Wore a rainmate and a tiara. Enjoys winding up Thatcher. Experiences occasional bouts of absentmindedness e.g forgetting to Troop the Colour or rifling through dustbins.
    • Prince Philip: Prone to public gaffes. Perpetually in uniform and loves hunting. It appears that he and the Queen are quite Happily Married - he helps her to fake her own death and Troops the Colour for her in exchange for kebabs for breakfast.
    • Prince Charles: Unpopular with the public and fond of New-Age. Seen talking to his vegetables at dinner.
    • Princess Diana: The celebrity of the Royal Family, but slow-witted and invoked hungry for publicity. Thought at one point her life was a soap opera in the most literal sense.
    • Prince Andrew: A womanizer, often seen winding up Charles.
    • Princess Anne: Rarely seen - generally a bit down in the mouth. Likes her horses.
    • Prince Edward: A wimpy student.
    • Princess Margaret: Constantly completely sloshed.
    • The Queen Mother: A stereotypical drunken grandma with a Birmingham accent. Also fond of the horses, but more on the Ladbrokes side of things.

Tropes of Spitting Image:

Tropes of the original run:

  • The Alcoholic: Boris Yeltsin.
  • Ambiguous Syntax: The "What about the vegetables? They'll have the same" joke.
  • Ambivalent Anglican:
    • The song "The Atheist Tabernacle Choir", a Gospel Revival Number about the tenets of atheism, is in fact a drawn-out setup for a joke that if you don't believe in God, you can join the Church of England.
    • When the royal family receives their bill for the Poll Tax, the form says that members of a religious community can claim an exemption. The Queen thinks this should get them out of it since she's Supreme Governor of the Church of England, but Prince Philip doesn't think that counts.
  • Amusing Injuries: Since puppets are central to the show: it features a lot of slapping and punching around.
  • Anachronism Stew: The show mostly centered around events that were topical in the 1980s and 1990s, but some sketches put the celebrities in a historical context. Also, sometimes celebrities who had already passed away years before the show debuted were featured on the show, like The Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby, Winston Churchill, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Queen Victoria,...
  • And You Thought It Was Real: One season’s mini-arc in the original series called “Some of Our Puppets are Missing” involved the puppets of David Steel, Leonard Nimoy, and an anteater escaping into the real world and getting into various misadventures. The last part revealed that the three were actually in the studio the whole time and their adventures were all part of the show.
  • Anti-Christmas Song: The singles "Santa Claus Is on the Dole" (1986) and "The Christmas Singles" (1990).
  • Artistic License – Biology: Naturally, since all the puppets were meant to be caricatures, but sometimes the makers added extra gags without any basis in reality. For instance, Rod Stewart had a penis for a nose, Barry Norman had a huge fictional wart, certain puppets were depicted as dwarfs ten times smaller than the other characters, Mikhail Gorbachev's birth mark was shaped into the Communist hammer and sickle,...
  • Art Shift: After Series 4, the show would feature Once per Episode claymation sketch.
  • Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop: If you replace the words 'cop' with 'politician', you have the show's general portrayal of the Conservatives and Labour. To be exact, they portray the conservatives as evil money-hungry people with Victorian values (and the period-appropriate Lack of Empathy), but point out that Labour was too incompetent to be worth voting for, so no-one did.
  • Bigger Is Better: Subverted with Arnold Schwarzenegger whose willie is tiny.
  • Big Ol' Eyebrows: Leonid Breznhev, Khomeini, Norman Lamont,...
  • Bilingual Bonus: You can hear President Mitterrand call Margaret a cow at one point. Plus the other puppet in the Ian Paisley Night Thoughts sketch is actually doing proper sign language.
    • In the Derek Jameson sketch about German television, Chris Barrie is speaking real German.
  • Blackface: Parodied with the "The White & White Minstrel Show". Black people with whitefaces singing about Apartheid South Africa where "blackfaces don't belong with blacks".
  • Bland-Name Product: Fauna Lo-cal Spread anyone?
    • Reptiles Bland Blend Coffee, tastes more like Donald Sinden than ever before!
  • The Blank: Faceless bureaucrats? Literally.
  • British Stuffiness: In the "British Revolution" arc, the "people power" revolutions that brought down communism in Eastern Europe finally reach Britain — but are carried out in a far more... refined manner.
    Newsreader: Elsewhere, there are sporadic clashes between the army and the police...
    Policeman: (pointing at tank): Excuse me sir, is this your vehicle?
    Soldier: Look, I can explain, there's been a revolution!
    Policeman: I can't help that sir. You're on a double yellow.
  • British Teeth: Certain British celebrities had their teeth exaggerated enormously: Kenneth Williams, Cilla Black, Enoch Powell, David Mellor, Richard Branson, Mark Thatcher, Freddie Mercury,...
  • Butt-Monkey: Sir Geoffrey Howe for the Conservatives. Neil Kinnock and Gerald Kaufman for the Labour Party. David Steel for the Liberal Party. Prince Charles within the Royal Family. Dan Quayle when Bush took over as president.
  • Call-Back: After John Major became Prime Minister, Major takes his cabinet out to dinner a la the "Thatcher's Cabinet at the Restaurant" sketch. When the waitress asks Major about the vegetables, the entire cast save Major anxiously awaits the classic punchline, only for Major to respond "Carrots and peas, I think."
    • Murder Most Fowler has a Spiritual Successor in the shape of The Return of Parkenstein.
    • Series 4 opens with Maggie watching the end of the 1987 Election Special on a television in the cabinet room.
    • The trailer for the 2020 revival shows a crate rising from a swamp - in which puppet corpses of Thatcher and Reagan can be seen floating. The Number 10 interior set also features a large portrait of the old Thatcher puppet glaring down on the scene, shown here.
  • Catchphrase: Several characters had a Verbal Tic, sometimes derived from the real-life counterparts, other times invented or popularized by the show itself.
    • And why not? - Barry Norman.
    • Do they mean us? - Derek Jameson, in reference to a TV show he presented.
    • Err Yesssssss.... - Jeremy Paxman.
    • Interesting. - Steve Davis.
    • Yah... - Princess Diana
    • Let's talk rutt (...) Woof! Woof! (...) Sausages, sausages! - The dog in the Let's Talk Rutt segments.
    • [...] said the young succesful journalist, British Conservative MP [...] - Jeffrey Archer.
    • Those turkeys - Ronald Reagan.
    • I'm 90, you know? - The Queen Mum.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Whenever a celebrity died or disappeared from the public eye, he/she was usually removed from appearing in the show.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Ronald Reagan thanks to senility.
  • Dartboard of Hate: In the occasional sketch, Thatcher has one for Michael Heseltine.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The Marx Brothers were always shown in black-and-white skin colors.
  • Demoted to Extra: As mentioned, many puppets were fazed out of limelight when their real counterparts were no longer the hot topic, though would still make the odd return if the gag served well enough. Thatcher and Reagan in particular lost main character status when their tenure in power ended, though still made a few reappearances here and there.
  • The Dividual: Robert DeNiro, Dustin Hoffman, and Al Pacino in the movie awards special. Their first scene even features them unsure of who is who.
  • Dodgy Toupee: The toupees of Bruce Forsyth and illusionist Paul Daniels were mocked mercilessly on the show.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Given Thatcher had been exaggerated into such a comedically over-the-top tyrant by this point in the show, it adapts her fall from grace as this trope, with most of her abused ministry finally ditching her or using her dwindling popularity to blackmail her.
  • Dominance Through Furniture: Played for Laughs in its "Never Met a Nice South African" skit. P.W. Botha, then-president of South Africa, was entertaining a British diplomat, and claimed he employed several "kaffirs"note  in his mansion. When the diplomat remarks that he hadn't seen a single black since he got in, Botha bellows:
    "You haven't? By God, man, what do you think you wiped your feet on when you came in?!"
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The first season pales compared to later seasons. The pilot episode had a laugh track (which was abandoned quickly from the next episode on). Certain puppets sound different because the voice actors didn't always comically exaggerate the voices of the lampooned celebrities in the first season. Many episodes in the first season follow plot lines that are continued like a chronological series, while later seasons were always stand alone episodes. And certain puppets went through consideral makeovers throughout the seasons. For example: Queen Elizabeth's hair was made grey as her real life counterpart got older too. In the same way the black Michael Jackson was sprayed white over the seasons. Margaret Thatcher's puppet also became more grotesque each season.
    • The revival mostly stays true to the post-Growing the Beard run, at least in style, but keeps some plot lines running through the season (such as the billionaire’s race to Mars).
  • Enfant Terrible: Prince William in the early series.
  • Expressive Ears: Leonard Nimoy's ears were able to wiggle.
  • Eyes Always Shut: Nelson Mandela, Clint Eastwood, Cilla Black, Walter Matthau, Prince Philip, David Bailey, Charles Bronson, Boris Yeltsin, Pope John Paul II, Ian Paisley, John Hurt, Dustin Hoffman, Jimmy Greaves, Geoffrey Howe, Lester Piggot,...
  • Fan Disservice: A surprising amount of sketches depict Maggie with her shirt off.
  • Fat Comic Relief: The obesity of Nigel Lawson, Luciano Pavarotti, Bernard Manning, Cyril Smith, Cilla Black,... was played up for laughs.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: One sketch, parodying American cop drama, has a guy arrested for not cleaning his shoes, taking leaflets from a bank with no intention of opening an account and breaking the spines of books he borrows.
  • Flanderization: Arguably, as the years progressed the show became less about political satire per se, and more about the antics of absurdist caricatures of politicians, which had evolved in rather extreme ways. Thatcher, for instance, increasingly became a run-of-the-mill tyrant, whose extreme brand of supervillian evil stopped being much of a commentary on British conservatism. Many other politicians similarly evolved into various stock characters that eclipsed their original politicized roots, for example Norman Tebbit as a skinhead, Cecil Parkinson as the Cabinet's resident Casanova, John Major as a dullard, and Kenneth Baker, originally depicted as an oozing sycophant, who literally became a slug in later episodes.
  • Funny Background Event: Lots of funny stuff is happening in the background of many scenes. Characters beating each other up or appearing in a weird context.
  • Gag Lips: Tina Turner, Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Mick Jagger, Ringo Starr, Yasser Arafat...
  • Gag Nose: Several characters have one: Margaret Thatcher, Kenneth Williams,Dustin Hoffman, Prince Charles, Prince Philip, Neil Kinnock, Bob Dylan, Barbra Streisand, Eric Cantona, Lester Piggott, Jonathan Miller, Arthur Scargill, Yasser Arafat, Ringo Starr,...
  • God: One of the most controversial puppets on the show.
  • Guttural Growler: Bruce Springsteen.
  • Holier Than Thou: Cliff Richard.
  • Hollywood Board Games: In one episode of The Original Series, the Cabinet members all bring board games to enjoy their last day in charge, particularly, Trivial Pursuit, although there's also Scrabble, Monopoly, and Game of Life on the table. This is meant to show that these politicians are knowledgeable in the silliest things and are rather childlike, not taking their jobs seriously at all.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: Politicians David Owen and David Steel, whose parties merged into one. They were often depicted as gay lovers, Played for Laughs.
  • Hurricane of Euphemisms: Heseltine and Thatcher's discussion of Belgrano.
  • I Am Not Spock: In-Universe. One sketch has Leonard Nimoy at an audition, complaining about how he is not Spock and that he can play other roles. He then proceeds to directly quote Star Trek in his audition.
    • This is averted in the 1987 where he only refers to himself as Spock. This is used for a joke at the end where Nimoy does not recognize he won an award because they don't call him Spock.
  • I Have This Friend: Mikhail Gorbachev has a friend who runs a large communist country and has a nuclear reactor spewing radiation all over most of Europe.
  • Insult Backfire: After a few seasons some celebrities started to take pride in their puppets. Because: if you weren't spoofed on the show, you really were a nobody.
    • Author and politician Jeffrey Archer liked his puppet so much that the makers eventually avoided using him for a few episodes. He even wanted to buy his own puppet when they were auctioned off, but he didn't get it.
    • TV presenter Chris Evans even wanted to be included as a puppet, and when it finally happened he even sent letters asking if he could voice the puppet himself, to which the makers naturally declined.
    • Politician Norman Tebbit reportedly enjoyed his portrayal as a leather-clad bovver boy. Although according to John Lloyd, the show's producer, Mrs Tebbit once told him "Norman's always wanted a leather jacket, and now he feels he can't have one."
    • Michael Heseltine also seemed to love his manic portrayal enough to make multiple bids for the puppet. Reportedly the creators said: “Get Cruise missiles out of Britain and it’s yours...for free.”
    • Nick Newman and Ian Hislop speculated that the show's depiction of Thatcher might have ended up making her Real Life counterpart appear stronger and "more Iron Ladyish".
    • Minister of Health Edwina Currie, who was depicted being something of an evil vampire, actually got more notable as a politician and rose in stature. She even liked her puppet.
    • Mick Jagger was a big fan of the show, and they made fun of him a lot.
  • Kent Brockman News: Rubber News.
  • Kick the Dog: Thatcher's seen pulling the wings off a bowl's worth of butterflies when Hurd interrupts her to tell her there's been a bomb in Oxford Street.
  • Knocking on Heathens' Door: A couple of Mormons chap on Cliff Richard's door and instantly regret it.
  • Lantern Jaw of Justice: The puppets of Benito Mussolini, Quentin Tarantino, John Cleese, Prince Philip, Bruce Forsyth, Brian Mulroney and Sarah Ferguson were all depicted with large chins.
  • Large Ham: John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier.
    • Donald Sinden. For example, a sketch features Sinden going into a restaurant and asking, in his plummiest tones, if they serve a ham salad. "Yes sir", replies the waiter. "We serve salad to anyone".
  • Leitmotif: Meetings of the shadow cabinet usually have a bit of "The Red Flag" being played on a tuba in the background.
  • Luvvies: Sir Richard Attenborough.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "What a Wonderful World" becomes "We've Ruined the World."
    • The show did this a lot, though, from a cheerful Paul McCartney-esque folk song about murdering estate agents (complete with violent, bloody non-slapstick visuals), the Four Horsemen singing about how "every silver lining has a cloud, and it won't be alright on the night" and General Pinochet singing a Chas-&-Dave style number about the joys of nuclear war. Probably freaked out a few kids.
  • Medal of Dishonor: Being portrayed in Spitting Image wasn't always something to be proud of, especially if your puppet was ugly. Some celebrities really hated their portrayals, like the Royal Family. Though, as time went others started to see their appearance in the show as a badge of honor, because at least it meant that you really were important enough to be spoofed. Chris Evans and Jeffrey Archer actually liked the attention and tried to make the puppeteers and actors imitate their voices more clearly. Evans even wanted to play the part himself! Some people even became more famous as a result of being portrayed in the show, like Minister of Public Health Edwina Currie.
  • Messy Hair: Ken Dodd, Bob Dylan...
  • My Country Tis of Thee That I Sting: The show spared no one, including the United Kingdom itself!
  • Multi-National Shows: Three "Spitting Image" specials produced for the American Market and aired on NBC, one taking aim at the White House, one at Hollywood, and one at Ronnie Reagan in a parody of 50s sitcoms. Spitting Image has also inspired many international equivalents: the USA's DC Follies, France's Les Guignols de l'Info, Germany's Hurra Deutschland, Italy's Gommapiuma in The '90s as well as Gli Sgommati in The New '10s, and Israel's Ha'Charzufim.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: The majority of the puppets are all based and named on real life celebrities.
  • National Stereotypes: The French will always wear a beret, a striped shirt, have a cigarette between their lips, and onions hanging around their neck.
    • Most foreigners on the show speak with thick accents.
  • Nerd Glasses: Michael Caine, Elton John, Robin Day, weather forecaster Ian Mccaskell, reporter John Cole, Douglas Hurd, Geoffrey Howe, Trevor Macdonald, Woody Allen, Ben Elton,...
  • Network Sign Off: One episode shows a Soviet television network closing down by having one of the techies hold up black card in front of the camera and making a whistling sound to simulate the high-pitched noise of an old CRT television being switched off.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Leonard Nimoy's attempt at ruining the 1987 movie awards by rigging the ballots actually ends up making it better for everyone involved.
  • Nightmare Face: Most of the puppets fall into this category!
  • No Budget: Invoked. The USSR broadcaster shown in the Chernobyl episode. The introduction to the news flash that interrupts Potato World consists of one of the generic Soviet puppets holding a title card in front of the camera while singing "Crazy Hi-Tech Quantel!" to the tune of the News At Ten theme. For closedown, he holds up a black card with a white dot in the middle and whistles.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Subverted, oh, so much subverted!
    • Despite most characters being based on celebrities, some puppets were just general stand-ins whenever the shows' creators needed youngsters, children, women, secretaries, blacks, Asians, Hispanics,... Some viewers often wondered who they were supposed to be, though.
  • No Indoor Voice:
    • Ian Paisley in the Night Thoughts sketch.
  • Of Corpse He's Alive: The Soviets try to pretend Premier Chernenko is still alive and prop up his corpse at the negotiating table with Ronald Reagan. Reagan finds him 'a tough negotiator' and calls for Henry Kissinger, who also fails at the negotiations, before Reagan finally resorts to Bonzo the chimpanzee.
  • Oireland: Ahead of Ronald Reagan's state visit to Ireland, Sir Robin Day tracks down the president's closest Irish relative - a potato.
  • Overly-Long Tongue: Prince, Alistair Burnett whenever he's near the royals...
  • Parody Assistance: Sting contributed vocals to Spitting Image's parody of "Every Breath You Take" by The Police, entitled "Every Bomb You Make".
  • Pig Man: Journalists on this show were literally depicted as being pigs.
  • Pointy Ears: Leonard Nimoy's puppet, in reference to his Star Trek character Spock.
  • Product Placement: The introduction of TV cameras into the House of Commons results in a slew of these.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: This was the nature of this series, with all the sketches directly inspired by (inter)national events that happened that week.
  • Recognition Failure: Some celebrities lampooned on the show weren't always A-class famous people. Some were only famous in the United Kingdom and even those could be people you wonder about why the makers would bother to make a puppet out of them, because they would predictably only be famous for a short while and therefore quite obscure if you re-watch the episodes a few decades later, like The Bros (who were a generally popular boy band back in the late 80s but are now solely remembered for "When Will I Be Famous?") and Andrew Strong (lead singer in The Commitments).
    • In a different meaning of this trope some of the more famous celebrities weren't always recognizably good caricatures. The only reason the audience might recognize those would be because the others referred to them by name. Examples of particularly badly manufactured puppets were Barry Norman (who had a huge fictional wart on his face that even the real Norman complained about), Tom Cruise, Sigourney Weaver...
  • Reference Overdosed: Where to start? Several references to 1980s and 1990s society in general, yet also to everything that was in the media that week. From news reports over TV commercials. If you wanted to understand every reference you really had to read, listen and watch to every report. And most of it references British culture in particular. This also explains why the show was so difficult to export to other countries. The stuff dated rapidly and a lot of it was incomprehensible to foreign viewers. When broadcasted on Dutch TV the translators even added some extra subtitles on top of the screen to give some explanations about certain politicians or TV stars that only the English would immediately recognize.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Frequently, but most notably Thatcher taking advice from an elderly Hitler and the entire Conservative cabinet singing Tomorrow Belongs To Me.
  • Reused Character Design: Some of the older puppets, usually celebrities who weren't much in the news anymore, were re-used if they resembled some of the newer or more media-prominent celebrities. An example is Ringo Starr who was later sprayed in a browner skin color, re-clothed and thus became Yasser Arafat.
  • Running Gag:
    • Lord Lucan showing up in multiple roles.
    • John Cole getting hit in the head with a golf club or a stick. In one episode's ending he finally manages to dodge it.
    • Thatcher's alleged baldness.
    • Reagan's senility
    • "South Bank Show" presenter Melvyn Bragg was always seen snorting milk from a baby bottle.
    • The Queen Mum always excusing herself by saying: "I'm 90, you know."
    • One that ran within one episode was the host of various programmes fighting over who had took the BBC sweater.
    • The Pope always spoke with an American accent and used hip 'slang'.
    • Cliff Richard, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Mary Whitehouse were usually featured together and often in situations they would find offensive or blasphemous.
  • Scatterbrained Senior: Ronald Reagan was often portrayed as being senile, confused and always drawing the wrong conclusions. The Queen Mum was another puppet who wasn't always aware what was going on around her. And, of course, sports journalist David Coleman's confusion during live broadcasts was also a frequent target. John Gielgud was often unaware of his surroundings and often fell asleep.
  • Sermonette: One sketch was a direct parody of Thames Television's regular sermonette, Night Thoughts, with this version being hosted by Ian Paisley.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Any sketch with Jonathan Miller.
  • Song Parody: Several, including "Da Doo Ron Ron" (about Reagan) and "Walk on By" (following Thatcher's resignation).
  • Sour Prudes: Mary Whitehouse, Cliff Richard and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, were often depicted as such. John Mortimer is another censor-crazed prude.
  • Sphere Eyes: Jimmy Savile had googly eyes.
  • Spiritual Successor: The successor to Not the Nine O'Clock News. The spiritual successors to Spitting Image itself were the traditionally animated TwoDTV, the live action Dead Ringers and the CGI Headcases (the latter was the only one which was actually advertised as a successor to Spitting Image, but it was probably the least successful).
  • Spoonerism: The puppets were by Fluck and Law, the gag wrote itself.
  • Squee: Diana's reaction to meeting Simon Le Bon.
  • Stepford Smiler: Some puppets were featured with a permanent smile on their face, like Michael Jackson, Jimmy Tarbuck, Bruce Forsythe, Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro, Mel Brooks, Esther Rantzen, Bette Midler, Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, Pope John Paul II.,...
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: "Every Bomb You Make".
  • Take That!: Journalists are portrayed as pigs, vultures and wolverines.
  • Teeny Weenie: Arnold Schwarzenegger has a song in which he complains his willie is tiny.
  • This Is a Song: "The Chicken Song" is about an annoying song that you hear on holiday and which seems to follow you everywhere:
    And now you've heard it once,
    Your brain will spring a leak,
    And, though you hate this song,
    You'll be humming it for weeks!
  • Too Dumb to Live: Ronald Reagan, Frank Bruno, Laurel and Hardy,...
  • Transatlantic Equivalent: The US's much less biting DC Follies.
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change: Parodied to death in "The Chicken Song."
  • Truth Serums: Sir Robin Day jags Kenneth Baker and Norman Fowler with some truth serum in an effort to relieve the boredom of hosting an election night programme.
  • Unusual Euphemism: "Mr. Wobble Hides his Helmet".
  • Vocal Dissonance: Obviously, of course, since all the voices are impressions of real-life celebrities. Though some received a different treatment.
    • Pope John Paul II also sounded more like the real pope in earlier seasons. However, in a master stroke of Rule of Funny he was given a hip American accent to fit with his rock 'n' roll image on the show.
    • Most of the non-English speaking celebrities were given stereotypical accents matching their country of origin rather than their real life voices.
  • The Voice Less: Harpo Marx.
  • Washy Watchy: In a U.S. election special, an aide informs Ronald Reagan that he's not watching TV but the washing machine. Reagan turns a dial on it and continues watching.
    Aide: Mr. President, that's still the washing machine.
    Reagan: What, on both channels?
  • Wild Mass Guessing: The content of Criminal Libel.
  • Wins by Doing Absolutely Nothing: One sketch features Len Murray winning on The Price Is Right due to the correct answer being "keeping your mouth shut".
  • Yet Another Baby Panda: On one occasion, Sir Alastair Burnet begs John Craven for a happy story to finish off the "grown-up" news.

Tropes of the reboot:

  • Animal-Themed Superbeing: Foxman, Keir Starmer's superhero alter ego.
  • Artistic License – Politics: The reboot has a musical number where the leaders of Spain, France and Greece desparately beg Dominic Raab to not allow British tourists to visit following the lifting of COVID travel restrictions... only they went with Greece's President, Katerina Sakellaropoulou. Her job is purely ceremonial, and the real leader of Greece is the Prime Minister.
  • Big Guy, Little Guy: Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Dominic Cummings who's from Durham, England and not Epsilon V, drinks through his index finger, eats through his ears, and is deathly allergic to cilantro. Also for some peculiar reason his head inflates and deflates when he's using his Mind Control powers.
  • The Bore: The Running Gag about Keir Starmer is that he's just so... damn... dull.
  • Brick Joke: Future Elon Musk tells his past self to go to Mars and bring a bicycle pump. Musk understands the first, but not the second. Until he gets there and tries to blow up his house with no atmosphere.
  • The Bully: In one sketch, Priti Patel (Boris Johnson's Home State) is portrayed as one towards her fellow Cabinet members, satirising her very nasty reputation for bullying. Throughout the sketch, she physically and verbally assaults all of her coworkers, and Boris Johnson dismisses it as "harmless banter".
  • Butt-Monkey: James Corden, Prince Andrew, and Matt Hancock.
  • Canis Latinicus: Boris Johnson has a tendency to use fake-Latin phrases, likely as an attempt to invoke Smart People Know Latin to cover up the fact that he isn't actually all that intelligent.
  • Canon Foreigner: Most, if not all, of the puppets are real people. The sole major exception seems to be Lee, the apathetic friend of Greta Thunberg.
  • Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality: Tom Cruise regularly confuses the plots of his movies, and sometimes ones that are not his, with real life causing him to agree to do things like driving delivery trucks.
  • Care-Bear Stare: Rishi Sunak's perfume, which is described as "liquid kindness", ends up causing Priti Patel to melt.
  • Charity Motivation Song: Parodied by the Christmas special's "Celebrities stop Climate Change" song.
  • Chrome Dome Psi: Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson's bald-headed adviser, is portrayed as an alien with mind-control powers.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Joe Biden is portrayed as this due to his infamous gaffes.
  • Consulting Mister Puppet: Jared Kushner, Trump’s advisor and son-in-law, is portrayed as a static, mute mannequin.
  • Dance Sensation: One sketch has Xi Jinping trying to start one on TikTok, which is called "The Jinping Shuffle". Of course, since this is Xi Jinping, this "dance" is just a ploy to get peoples' personal information on the internet. Some of the dance's moves include zooming in on each of your retinas, typing the PIN for your bank account, and yelling out your name, address, and age.
  • Deadly Gaze: One sketch portrays Priti Patel as being able to curdle milk just by staring at it.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: Mike Pence.
  • Egomaniac Hunter: Prince William says in one sketch that the reason he wants to preserve Britain's countryside and natural beauty is so he and his kids could have a place to shoot grouse.
  • Exotic Entree: One sketch has Xi Jinping, who is portrayed throughout the show as a totalitarian Villain with Good Publicity, serving dinner to other world leaders, and one of the dishes on the menu is pangolin meat.
  • Female Monster Surprise: In one sketch, when Boris Johnson meets with a human-sized coronavirus face-to-face, he is surprised to hear a feminine voice coming out of its mouth. This causes him to fall in love with the virus and have sex with it.
  • Fractured Fairy Tale: The recurring "Mike Pence's Fairy Tales for White Folk" segment; retellings of classic fairy tales with a strongly conservative bent. For example, a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood where Little Red stops the wolf from attacking her by pulling a gun on him, which is sponsored by the NRA.
  • Gag Lips: Boris Johnson, Kim Kardashian...
  • Gag Nose: Michael Gove's nose resembles a Gag Penis, while his cheeks are a ballsack.
  • Gold Digger: Melania Trump is portrayed this way. One sketch portrays her as a vampire, except instead of draining blood from her victims, she drains money.
  • Hereditary Hairstyle: Nine months after an affair with a human-sized coronavirus, Boris Johnson goes into the maternity ward of a hospital and sees a coronavirus with his iconic messy blond hair. He, of course, denies that it's his.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: Mark Zuckerberg finds shooting boar in Hawaii is too boring, (seeing as they're literally kept so he can shoot them), so he decides to hunt ... Cristiano Ronaldo.
  • Immune to Mind Control: Dominic Cummings cannot thought control Boris Johnson because there's no thoughts to control.
  • King Incognito: Prince Harry trying to adjust to life as a commoner in Los Angeles.
  • Monstrous Germs: COVID-19 is a blue coronavirus with a mouth and eyes on sticks, which later gets enlarged to people-size after Trump invites it into his cabinet.
  • The Necrocracy: Priti Patel, Secretary of State in Boris Johnson's government, is depicted as a vampire.
  • Never Accepted in His Hometown: Despite being born and raised in New York City, one sketch shows Ivanka Trump as going to a fancy restaurant there and getting thrown out, because of the disdain most New Yorkers have for her father.
  • N-Word Privileges: Priti Patel has the unique ability to express "unpopular conservative opinions only [she] can get away with" because she's a woman of color.
  • Running Gag:
    • Dominic Cummings wanting to eat Boris Johnson's infant son.
    • Prince Andrew getting smacked in the back of the head with a wooden board whenever he appears, as a continuance of John Cole getting hit in the head in the original.
    • James Cordon dying, getting killed, getting hurt, in general nobody likes James Corden.
    • Olivia Colman showing up. She's in everything you see.
    • The Rock promoting anything he's slapped his name on.
    • David Attenborough being bad with technology.
    • A lion.
  • Scatterbrained Senior: Joe Biden is a senile, gaffe-prone crone just like Reagan in the original.
  • The Starscream: Series 2 features a song where Kamala Harris, Prince Charles, and James Corden fantasize about their superiors (Joe Biden, Queen Elizabeth, and Stephen Colbert respectively) dying of a heart attack so that they could take over their positions.
  • Shoddy Knockoff Product: One sketch parodies China's tendency to produce these, and centers around Kanye West complaining to Xi Jinping about how the Chinese are making bootleg Yeezys (which, as it turns out, cost just as much to make as genuine ones) and selling them at a lower price. Xi Jinping then reveals that he's made a bootleg version of Kanye West himself, named "Comye East", who then goes to the VMAs in Kanye's place.
  • Song Parody: Several, just like the original run. One of them being "Olden" by Harry Stiles wooing Angela Merkel, and another Elon Musk singing "Con man!" to the tune of David Bowie's Star man.
  • Speak of the Devil: After his resignation in Real Life, Dominic Cummings is summoned back to the show by Michael Gove chanting "Barnard Castle!" three times in front of a mirror.note 
  • Team Dad: One sketch portrays Keir Starmer as one to his shadow cabinet, and exaggeratedly so. Apparently, his shadow cabinet is so loyal to and dependent upon him that they all act like his children, complete with appropriately youthful clothing and high-pitched voices.
  • Technologically Blind Elders: The reboot has a series of sketches about David Attenborough trying and failing to use Instagram.
  • They Killed Kenny Again: James Corden is frequently killed off.
  • Trademark Favorite Food:
    • Donald Trump is portrayed as being obsessed with hamburgers.
    • Boris Johnson seems to be quite fond of sausages.
  • Virgin Sacrifice: When Boris Johnson gets possessed by Margaret Thatcher, his Cabinet members read in a spell book that the only way to stop it is with a blood sacrifice, which has to be a virgin. They, of course, pick Matt Hancock.
  • Yet Another Christmas Carol: Rishi Sunak goes through one in the Series 2 Christmas special.


Grim Reaper Airways

An airline that offers something else instead of great customer service.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / ExistentialHorror

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