SPITTING Image returns to TV tomorrow night – and Al Murray reckons it’s just what we need in an age of everyone “wanting to be upset”.
The latest reincarnation of the satirical show, nearly a quarter of a century since its last full run, has already caused controversy over its puppets, with critics saying it focuses too much on right-wing politicians and not the left.
But comedian Al, 52, who wrote for both the new series and the original run, insists that’s just because the right are in power — and no one could point out a Labour MP in a line-up.
He said: “Everyone is universally upset. It’s not like you’re offending the right or the left, you just offend everyone. That’s the point.
“We haven’t even broadcast yet and everyone has been upset about it, and that’s fantastic. That’s a win for the production.
“When the first set of puppets came out, all the stuff was from people who are angry about left-wing comedy. ‘Oh look, it’s all Tory puppets. Where are the left-wing puppets?’
“Well if you want Labour puppets, then you’re going to have to vote them in. The reason there isn’t a Dawn Butler puppet is because she’s irrelevant. They don’t want puppets of Labour politicians that badly.”
One of the brilliant new puppets is teenage climate change activist Greta Thunberg. When the trailer for the series dropped, people were quick to jump to her defence, even though she liked the image on Twitter.
Al said: “When the Greta puppet came out, all the people who get offended by things on other people’s behalf were so upset about it.
“It shows the moment is right for Spitting Image, because people want to get upset. You might as well have a programme that upsets people.
“One of the other things about these puppets is that they are grotesque — that is a signal. It constitutes a trigger warning — this is a satire programme.”
When Al and I speak, it is just 48 hours before the first episode airs, but even at this point there is still much work to be done.
Much of the writing, and then filming, is done at the last minute to make the show as up-to-date and newsworthy as possible.
When The Sun first revealed in March that the series was returning, the indication was that it would be on the main ITV channel in primetime.
But in an unexpected twist, it is instead airing on subscription service Britbox, presumably in a bid to recoup the huge costs of making the puppets.
Al added: “I honestly don’t know the ins and outs of how it ended up where it has. To be honest, it’s an expensive programme to make, which was always a problem. It’s really expensive.
“We are so used to watching comedy shows, panel shows, which, God love them, it’s because they’re cheap. You need one set, they use it for 15 years, whereas this is like a sketch show, basically.
“You’d think they’d have it on a big channel. But as my accountant once said to me, ‘You write the jokes, I’ll do the numbers’.”
The show’s co-creator Roger Law has once again been instrumental in creating the over-the-top caricatures.
Here he offers some pithy one-liners on each of the show’s most high-profile puppets.
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
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