Spitting Image hit our TV screens 30 years ago this week. Is it ripe for a comeback in today’s political climate? Who would be its best targets?
If you want to remind yourself of what Spitting Image was like (or if you’re too young to remember), there’s a terrific exhibition of original drawings, puppets and video clips at the Cartoon Museum in Little Russell Street. I bumped into the cartoonist Martin Rowson there, who pointed out that David Cameron is the first prime minister in his lifetime who is not regularly lampooned on television. Why on earth not? Something should be done. Ordinary hard-working families deserve puppets of Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Alex Salmond, right now.
You have said that there is not enough proper satire in modern Britain. What has changed since the 1980s?
Actually, there’s some excellent satire on television. Aside from the perennially entertaining Have I Got News for You, we’ve had the brilliant The Thick of It, and my personal favourite Twenty Twelve. The difference is that these last two shows don’t reach 15 million people every week, as Spitting Image once did. Of course, the way people watch television has changed in the interim, but so has the way television is made. Broadcasters consider themselves different from “ordinary people”, so whole areas of programming – including satire – are consigned to niche slots where only awards juries see them.
Are original musicals such as the soon-to-close Stephen Ward being driven out by shows based on music we are already familiar with, as Tim Rice claims?
I haven’t seen either Stephen Ward, or Tim Rice’s latest oeuvre, From Here to Eternity (due to close on the same day), but they both seem rather unappealing subjects for musicals, which is one of the reasons I (and many people like me) didn’t go. Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber have had massive hits in the past (severally and together) and they’ve also had total flops. There’s never been a year in the past three decades when someone hasn’t asked me, “When are you going to bring back Blackadder or Spitting Image?” My answer is “never” – “quit while you’re ahead” is my motto.
Does Angela Merkel warrant the red-carpet, tea-with-the-Queen treatment that she was given on her visit this week?
This really takes the biscuit – two German women having tea together in the heart of London in the anniversary year of the First World War? Who allowed this to happen? Has Michael Gove been told?
RBS has just announced another round of massive losses. Should it be paying out millions in bonuses?
All you need to know about this issue can be stated in the words of the great economist John Kenneth Galbraith: “The salary of the chief executive of the large corporation is not a market award for achievement. It is frequently in the nature of a warm personal gesture by the individual to himself.”
Standard Life’s warning that it might have to relocate to England in the event of a “Yes” is the latest blow to Scottish independence. Can Scotland survive alone? And should it want to?
I have two Scottish grannies so I consider myself half-Scots. My wife is a Wallace and a proper Scot. We holiday in Scotland every year. My favourite tie is Wallace dress tartan. I like haggis, bagpipes and Edinburgh rock. I even have a romantic attachment to the notion of Scottish independence that I can’t shake off. Having said that, I worry that Scotland will be stitched up if the “Yes” campaign wins. Standard Life is likely to be the first of dozens of major companies that will pull out. RBS will become Alex Salmond’s problem, and France and Spain (fearful of their own independence movements) will veto EU membership.
The Government is looking to your long-time associate Stephen Fry to retweet its policies. Does this make Fry more powerful than David Cameron?
Twitter is an extraordinary medium. There’s nothing like it for producing instant news from dangerous, out-of-the-way places in a crisis. But its power as an advertising medium, or to do good for charitable causes, is woefully overrated. I know this because QI also has a Twitter account @qikipedia. Stephen has 6.62 million followers and is tirelessly generous in his efforts to help people, but most of his appeals get barely more than 100 retweets. Unless the Government’s policies include funny pictures of cats, I doubt he’ll be much use to them.
Nasa has just announced the discovery of 715 new planets, four of which could theoretically support life. If there are aliens out there, what should we say to them?
The evidence for the existence of exoplanets is, in my view, still inferential and not yet proven. If true, the theoretical ability to support life by no means necessarily implies that it will have evolved to the same degree, or in the same way. Although the statistical likelihood of Earth being alone in the universe is minuscule, the likelihood of the staggering diversity we find ourselves in the midst of having arisen by natural selection for a second time is no less so. How one addresses intelligent methane I have no idea.
John Lloyd is a television producer whose credits include ‘Spitting Image’ and ‘QI’. His ‘1,339 QI Facts to Make Your Jaw Drop’, co-authored with John Mitchinson, is published by Faber. ‘Spitting Image’ is at the Cartoon Museum, 35 Little Russell Street, London WC1A 2HH until 1 June