David Cook says the rubber-faced puppets have stood the test of time better than the channel which created them
It says a lot about the state of weekend telly that the best thing on was a talking heads highlight show about Spitting Image. Yes, the oddly-titled The Best Ever Spitting Image (ITV, 10.30pm, Sunday) was the only real highlight of the last couple of days – given that Dr Who was a bit, well, gash on Saturday – and it gave rise to four interesting points.
1) Even now, the people it lampooned don’t seem to have quite grasped the point of what Spitting Image was actually for. Cue Edwina Currie: “All MPs used to watch Spitting Image and hope they’d be in it, and be portrayed in a positive light.” A positive light? It’s Spitting Image, you daft tart. It never portrayed anyone in a positive light, because what would be the point in that? There, people, is a mere glimpse of the heavyweight intellect that seduced John Major. Then there was Paul Daniels, still sulking to this day that he didn’t feel his puppet was realistic enough, saying “I like credibility”. This from a man who humiliated himself on national TV mere weeks ago, massacring the already quite-massacred Let Me Entertain You.
2) John Culshaw’s quality of work has dipped in direct proportion to the stratospheric rise of his ego. Spitting Image: sharp, hilarious satire. Dead Ringers: the lamest, laziest impressions show ever, seemingly reliant on Culshaw dressing as Ozzy Osbourne and howling ‘Shaaaa-ronnnn!’ for half an hour. And yet his ego continues to go through the roof, to the effect that he seems to sweat smugness. You could probably draw quite a nice graph to display this phenomenon, if you could be arsed. He also looks a bit like Mr Toad from Wind In The Willows.
3) It would have been much better to just show a couple of the best episodes of Spitting Image itself, rather than this docu-lite. Which is, in fact, what ITV actually did (or thought they did) directly afterwards. Except they showed them on ITV4, which precisely no-one watches. And they chose the first and last editions, which were far from the best ever Spits. Cripes.
4) This will, despite point three, be the best show ITV broadcasts this decade. Up next week: Club Reps Go Wild On Celebrity Love Island – From Hell! Well, probably.