Spitting Image was for many years one of the sharpest, funniest, and smartest pieces of satire that the UK has ever produced, until it went a bit shit and lazy right towards the end of its run. But now twenty four years on from the last episode it’s making a heavily promoted come back on the Britbox streaming service, though I have to confess that given the current state of UK satire and the trailers released prior to the first episode I wasn’t optimistic that it would be worth watching.
After having sat through the first episode to be honest I’m still not, I want to like it, I’m fond of a lot of the talent behind the show (and the list of writers is an impressive one indeed), and about 30% of it is very funny. But another 40% is just okay, not terrible but not that funny, leaving a final 30% that I really struggled to get on with and thought was lazy, predictable or just plain unfunny.
Starting with the sketches that made me laugh, Trump being shrunk down Fantasy Voyage style to try to come to an agreement with the virus was a great idea, and they capture his idiocy well in the other sketches he featured in. Dominic Cummings as a weird space alien was a strong gag too, I’ve issues with how lightly they go on Boris, portraying him as a bumbling idiot rather than the cold hearted sociopath he clearly is, but the first sketch with Cummings wanting to eat a baby and taunting Boris to fire him was filled with some very funny lines.
On to the 40% which was okay were the Prince Harry parts, the scene with him in his nazi costume was damn funny, but the rest were very average, and the sketch based around idea that you can be in groups larger than seven if you start hunting was a decent enough joke but spoilt by the fact that I’d seen it made on social media by others several times prior to watching the show. That’s one of the dangers of this kind of topical series of course, but perhaps the best way to avoid it is to keep an eye on what is being jokes about online by a sod load of people and then not doing a similar sketch. Still, also mildly amusing were the Bizney sketch, Boris briefly attempting to fit in with student life and Louis Hamilton’s hypocritical ways, all of which elicited a smile, were the kind of joke you might smirk at, but nothing more than that.
On the downside the Weather with Greta Thunberg was an idea which didn’t work at all, the Presidential Debate was painfully bland given the insanity of the real thing, Michael Gove hanging out with Priti Patel as a dominatrix attempted but failed to shock, Dominic Raab and his fighting moves made me wish I had an old style remote control so I could have hit fast forward, the Rock endorsing Joe Biden was plain rubbish, and during the sketch featuring Elton John giving Keir Stammer advice I kept on waiting for something funny to happen only to that not occur at all. Having this number of poor sketches is a definite problem, if it was one or two I’d be more optimistic about the show’s future, but right now I’m convinced it’ll see the show regain it’s reputation as the very best of British satire.
That said, I’m glad the series is back, it has a unique look and the puppets are undoubtedly beautifully designed, and hopefully over time it’ll find its footing. The odder or more unpredictable it can be, as with Dominic Cummings as the weird alien type, seems to be the way forward, that or just be full of very smart, sharp satire, which is quite the ask I’m aware but given the amount of people involved in making the show I don’t think it’s too unfair to wish for it.