Friday, 27 November 2009

Shaun Micallef’s His Generation (As Proper A Review As We Are Capable.) (Of.)

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Stealing an image directly from The Vine’s interview with Shaun Micallef to use at the start of this review probably wouldn’t be legal, would it? But what if we took a screenshot of part of The Vine’s website that happened to have a photo of Shaun Micallef on it? Surely that would just be classified as coincidental, wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t it? We’re pretty sure it would. (“Taxi!” – BrokenTV’s Legal Dept)

 

Well, we’ve been listening to My Generation, the debut album from one-man comedy renaissance Shaun Micallef, and guess what? It’s really good. As we’ve mentioned, it’s more of a traditional comedy album, taking in specially-written sketches and songs, as opposed to being Just Comedy Songs or Just Live Stand-Up, like other comedians would put out. Here’s a track by track breakdown, containing mild spoilers because copying out lines from the album is much easier than us coming up with ‘opinions’ and ‘being interesting’.

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Track One/Two: A Welcome / I Remember You

An introduction to the album, followed by a rendition of the Frank Ifield classic. The cover begins as a fairly straight version of the song, before trailing off into silly voices while the backing singers (well, a multi-tracked Susie Ahern) continue stoically with the ‘proper’ version. Interestingly (well, or inconsequentially, depending on whether you’re us or not) it’s a completely different take of the song than that lip-synced by Shaun on the Rove clip we linked to yesterday.

It’s A Bit Like: Vic Reeves, circa Big Night Out

Track Three: Treading The Boards

An second-division English thesp looks back over the career of himself and his top showbiz chums. The first outing on the disc for some of the splendid wordplay we’ve come to associate with Mr Micallef, which is always more than welcome. Plus, any comedy album released in 2009 that uses Kenneth Tynan as a reference is a welcome thing in our book, and not just because already knowing who Kenneth Tynan is makes us feel a bit superior for about three seconds (although after that our feeling of superiority is outweighed by our default setting of ‘self-loathing’, meaning the equilibrium is restored, not least because we’ve just realised we’re the sort of twats who’d use a word like ‘equilibrium’. But hey, this isn’t about us).

“O! If his mouth could talk, the stories it could tell…”

It’s A Bit Like: Peter Cook

Track Four/Five: An Announcement/Christopher Walken Sings David Bowie

Shaun does Bowie’s ‘Fashion’, in the voice of Chris Walken. Brief enough to avoid outstaying its welcome. Previously used as a gag on Micallef Tonight, of course.

Track Six/Seven: Women/Things That You Can Do

A postmodernly faux-sexist ditty about female heads of state around the world (including, as you might expect, multiple references to Ukraine’s Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko), followed about a harpsichord-backed tune from the 1950s about “The Things An Australian Wife Can Do”, performed in the style of Noel Coward. More delightful wordplay on offer, which works much more impressively when listened to, than when merely transcribed on the internet by idiots like us. But still:

“Clever things that you can do-oo / Clever things that you can do-oo / Just keep the lino polished /  your cares will be abolished / you’ll wonder where the daylight hours flew.”

It’s A Bit Like: Spitting Image, then Noel Coward

Track Eight/Nine: An Interview/Accident Medley

In a piece that could have been written then deemed not quite suitable for Newstopia, Shaun meets Neil Brady (played by Shaun), a schoolteacher who has written a heartfelt medley about the Death Of Princess Diana, and other tragedies.

”Oh, they chased her down a tunnel, but she couldn’t get away / if only they had dared to stop and think / But they went snap! Snap! Snap! The crazy pap- / -arazzi were to blame, and her driver who’d had too much to drink.”

It’s A Bit Like: Newstopia, like we just said

Track Ten: Medicine Man

Splendid. Micallef performs a monologue in the guise of an old-fashioned doctor from a Yorkshire village, who holds no truck with the modern ways of that fancy coroner from the Big Town.

It’s A Bit Like: Alan Bennett, or Stephen Fry

Track Eleven: They Whisper His Name

Sotto Voce!

It’s A Bit Like: The title theme to series three of Alexei Sayle’s Stuff, but taken in a different direction

Track Twelve: Charlton Heston Reads The Bible

One of our favourite things. Shaun gets another chance to do his brilliant Charlton Heston impersonation, previously heard in the reports by “Pilger Heston” on Newstopia. Charlton Heston is in a recording studio, trying to record a speaking book of The Bible, with amusingly splendid consequences.

”This God-damn Bible is taking forever!”

It’s A Bit Like: Newstopia, or Smith & Jones when they were at their peak

Track Thirteen: Love Theme From Roger Explosion

Performed by Susie Ahern, it’s a theme for the Roger Explosion sketches from Full Frontal (the 1990s Australian sketch show that we’re always mixing up with the similarly alliterative Fast Forward, even though Fast Forward was rubbish and Full Frontal was great and had Eric Bana as a cast member and everything).

It’s A Bit Like: They Might Be Giants’ theme for Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.

Track Fourteen: Slap On The Terrorist

Another sketch we presume was originally penned for Newstopia, Shaun interviews Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, the terrorist behind the failed 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Yousef clearly has long-held issues with the 9/11 bombers, who had clearly plagiarised his idea, and to compound matters, had carried it out with none of the panache and flair that he’d had. A great sketch, with Shaun putting in good performances in both roles.

It’s A Bit Like: Newstopia again

Track Fifteen: Jesus Was A Good Man

A country-tinged melody about how Jesus was really good, and how the devil is rubbish.

It’s A Bit Like: A satire on Toby Keith, or someone, we imagine

Track Sixteen: A Visit

An uncaring son visits his bewildered elderly father at an old people’s home. A brilliant sketch that works best when you hear it for yourself, so less said the better. It’s basically a fleshing out of a certain sketch from Micallef P(r)ogram(me), and the post-credits scene at the end of an episode Micallef-devised sitcom Welcher & Welcher, if you’ve seen those.

It’s A Bit Like: The Micallef P(r)ogram(me), or heck, Monty Python. Probably Cleese as the son, Jones as the father. Maybe even Cook & Moore.

Track Seventeen: Hell Of A Time

Just dandy. A short song from the perspective of a dead man reaching heaven, and being delighted about all the things he can do now he’s there. Oh, if only there were a way you could hear what it was like.

It’s A Bit Like: Eric Idle in full pomp

Track Eighteen/Nineteen: An Explanation/Modern Day Folk Heroes

Shaun muses on how Ned Kelly is Australia’s sole folk hero and how there should be more of them. He duly introduces a song about some more contemporary equivalents to Kelly in the hope they they could subsequently be held in similar regard to old bucketbonce. Said song is then performed in the style of Bob Dylan.

It’s A Bit Like: The Bit In Newstopia Where Shaun Sang A Song As Bob Dylan

Track Twenty/Twenty-One: A Briefing/Dalgetty’s Fruit Wholesalers

Mr Dalgetty, owner of a fruit wholesale firm visits a slick American advertising agency, and tells them all about the background of the family-owned firm, and what they’re looking for. The agency then performs their radio advert for the company. A bit one-note, but hey.

It’s A Little Bit Like: The Songs Victor Lewis Smith Did Between The Prank Calls On Nuisance Calls

Track Twenty-Two/Twenty-Three: A Synopsis/Cahiers Du Cinema

A French actor introduces his song in a near indecipherable accent, followed by his song, performed in something which may not necessarily be in actual French. We’re not sure, as like Girls Aloud, we can’t speak French.

It’s A Bit Like: Don’t know, but the backing music was also used for the menus in at least one of the Micallef P(r)ogram(me) DVDs.

Track Twenty-Four/Twenty-Five: An Early Morning/Tipworks Market

An eager father wakes up his children, because they are all going to… Tipworks Market. A short song about said market is then performed, in the same breathless style as Victor Lewis Smith circa Inside Victor Lewis Smith.

It’s A Bit Like: Victor Lewis Smith, moreso than the Dalgetty sketch

Track Twenty-Six: Poetica Zirconia

Just super. More top wordplay from Shaun, via a look at the work of poet Sir I.P. Whittingslow. Great stuff that we’re not going to spoil by transcribing here, so you’ll just have to buy the album. As the sketch contains several funny poems that work very nicely in isolation, this could be cherry-picked for an episode of The Smith Lectures, if Radio Two still do that. We wouldn’t know, as they’ve stopped putting their comedy shows on Saturday afternoons, because they’re idiots.

Track Twenty-Seven/Twenty Eight: A Tribute/My Generation

Shaun introduces and performs an electro cover version of the The Who classic, before waxing philosophical on matters historical.

“If history teaches us anything, it’s that we learn nothing from it. It’s a valuable lesson that’s worth remembering, and unless we do, we’re doomed to repeat it, or at least sit a supplementary exam during the holidays.”

Track Twenty-Nine: Happy New Year

Shaun’s celebratory tune designed to create global togetherness just after 11.59pm on every December 31st, by way of impersonating residents of several trouble-stricken nations forgiving their tormentors. A nice end to the album, and one we’ll hope to see performed on Shaun Micallef’s New Year’s Eve show on Australia’s Channel Ten. Or more specifically, the following day, if we can find a (“wholly legal advertising-supported streaming video of it. Where’s that bloody taxi?” – BrokenTV’s Legal Dept).

It’s A Bit Like: Spitting Image, again

 

So there it is. Much more of a ‘lazily-compiled breakdown of the tracks alongside a bunch of facile comparisons’ than an actual ‘review’, admittedly, but that’s just how we roll. In summary though, it’s really good, save for a few duff tracks like “Cahiers Du Cinema” or “Dalgetty’s Fruit Wholesalers”, which we didn’t really rate that highly. In a nutshell: the good tracks more than outweigh the bad, and if you don’t buy it we don’t think you shouldn’t legally be allowed to vote.

 

To round things off, how about offering a sample track? After all, it’s what successful music blogs do, it would genuinely help promote the album as people can hear for themselves what the contents are like, and probably won’t end with a harshly worded cease-and-desist letter being fired off at Broken Industries Inc. Yes. That’s what we’re going to do. it’ll be a good thing to do. A nice thing. An honourable thing.

MP3: Shaun Micallef – Hell Of A Time

Buy a copy of His Generation from here if you’re in the UK, or from here if you’re in Australia. If you’re from neither, both links are probably equally applicable.

(“Thank God you’re here. Driver – the airport please. We want nothing to do with this.” – BrokenTV’s Legal Dept.)

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Thursday, 26 November 2009

YouTube Thing And Album Of The Day



We've been listening to the new Shaun Micallef CD plugged in the above Rove interview. Except, Micallef being Micellef, he instead plugged a wholly fictional album, and brought with him a copy of The Best Of The Smiths to display.

The actual proper album is a really rather splendid "old-school" (if you will) comedy album like what Peter Sellers or Monty Python used to make, containing a few comedy songs ("Christopher Walken Sings David Bowie's Fashion") and a load of enjoyable sketches. Favourite so far: "Charlton Heston Reads The Bible". You can buy it here. Or elsewhere, probably. Like iTunes if you're in Australia, we shouldn't wonder.

(Yes, this is a bit of a placeholder update until we come up with something else. Still a great album, though.)

Update: It's also available from Amazon Marketplace for under a tenner. Thanks to Paul from Hot Cuss (which should be updated more frequently. Tsk) for the heads up.
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Monday, 23 November 2009

Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out In The Middle Of BBC News 24 – It’s The Digital Switchover!

Not one, but two disappointing YouTube-based updates on the same day? We’re spoiling you, we really are.

So, the Big Digital Switch-Off is now underway, and given the number of posters featuring That Robot Formerly Voiced By Matt Lucas But Which Has Since Become Mute (possibly not the robot’s real name) hanging from lamp-posts in our vicinity, it’s a big deal. Certainly big enough for us to have to retune our Freeview box every few weeks if we want to avoid accidentally recording Five’s 8.30pm output with our series link for The Daily Show, and big enough for ‘our’ BBC region to become BBC Wales, but for our ITV region to remain Granada. Maybe the region thing is down to continental drift, who knows. But anyway, yeah, big.

How is this being marked? Pretty much every transmitter has been pumping out an analogue signal for at least fifty years – you’d hope they’d be given a last hurrah before having the plug kicked out. While it’d be a bit much to expect the sort of big showbiz farewell old ITV franchises used to put on once they’d lost their licence, it would be nice.

imageYou could guess the drill here. A montage of some of the programming put out over the transmitter over the years, interviews with local ‘celebrities’ (possibly restricted to a reporter from the local news and the bloke from Safestyle Windows, but hey). A sombre chat with the engineers who’ll be carrying out the actual switch off. A jovial glance at some of the transmitter-based bloopers over the years – mostly where the picture would cut to static, but if we’re lucky there could be a misspelling of the word “Independent” on the transmitter-generated caption for the 1979 ITV strike.

Actually, having said all that, it’d be a rubbish idea. No wonder we’re not director general of the BBC. We didn’t even make it to the interview stage.

They could at the very least give the switch-off a cursory mention on the BBC News Channel just before the channel falls off air, in the manner of Philip Schofield saying “goodbye to Northern Ireland” when he was in The Broom Cupboard and they were about to cut to their regional news. That’d be quite good. Or maybe just put up a special caption, and a nice bit of music. Even a Ceefax page saying what’s going on, for the benefit of the elderly and/or bewildered. Or even, just for a bit of a giggle, let the nuclear attack emergency broadcast system kick in. Chortle!

imageAfter all, with such a rich history in broadcasting, surely the BBC wouldn’t let the UHF signal they’ve been sending us so lovingly for so many years end with a whimper? By just letting it die in the middle of the overnight BBC News simulcast? Surely not that. That’d just be shi- oh? They did just that? Ah.

“Bye Winter Hill! Don’t let 56 years of transmission hit you on the arse on the way out!”

“See you in hell, Moel-Y-Parc!

So much for BBC Two in the UK, but what about the digital Checkpoint Charlie in other nations? Germany, for example. Back in the pre-digital Sky era, we used to love wandering through the high numbers on the Pace receiver checking out German telly, and it seemed to be very professionally put together. Some channels used to fill the wee small hours by broadcasting repeats of news bulletins from the 1970s (yes, really! How excellent is that, eh?), or rolling as-live thru-windscreen coverage of someone driving through Germany (again, yes really! How utterly uninteresting is that, eh?). Surely our stereotypically efficient Teutonic cousins would make the effort?

image Sadly, and similarly, no. Going by this grainy couldn’t-even-be-bothered-running-an-aerial-lead-into-their-PVR footage, German station ARD (was that the one who ran repeats of Monty Python series four in the mid-90s?) simply fell off the air with a whimper in the middle of an entertainment show.

 

Meanwhile, the feed of ARD on the Grünten E2 transmitter at least had the good grace to go out after the end of a news bulletin, before crashing quite amusingly into the testcard and a piece of hugely inappropriate music. Five bonus points to them.

Leave it to Sweden to do things properly. The analogue farewell for viewers of TV4 saw a news bulletin interviewing the very engineers who’ll be shutting off the analogue signal, before falling off-air in the middle of a cooking programme. Admittedly, it should have been done with a special closedown concert featuring Whale, The Wannadies and The Knife, but it’s a marked improvement on what we’ve seen so far.

Hopping over the Atlantic, the home of Still Bothering To Do Regional TV Properly, it seems quite a bit more was made of the switchover.

image A lot of – if not all - channels ran rolling captions over their analogue broadcasts detailing what was about to happen. If nothing else, it gives us an excuse to post a clip of the hugely underrated Drew Carey Show.

 

As for the actual turn-off itself, it was handled so well, we’re almost feeling guilty about about the haphazardly Photoshopped picture just up there. There are plenty of clips of these on YouTube, so we’ve had the BrokenTV researcher monkeys poring over as many as several of them to bring you

BROKENTV’S TOP 3 US ANALOG(UE) SWITCH-OFF CLIPS

Iiiiiiiiiin three! Illinois-based WGEM went about things very nicely, with the whole thing making up part of a news bulletin. No Swedish engineers in ill-considered knitwear here – the switch-off is handled by one of the station’s reporters, after a cheery explanation on what’ll happen next. Hurrah!

 

Iiiiiiiiin two! Unless Fox News have been lying to us, PBS affiliate WSRE is sure to sign off with a BBC World News bulletin, a plea to get everyone driving hybrids, and will end on an animation of Richard Dawkins jumping up and down on Old Glory as a sarcastic Europop remix of The Star-Spangled Banner plays out in the background. Well, it doesn’t. Instead, we get a lovely slideshow of transmission rooms, musings on the era of analog(ue) broadcasting, a tremendously overcomplicated mention of the frequency the channel has been broadcasting on (along with a somewhat overdesigned slide of the number “23”), information on the FCC’s stipulations on channel closedowns, a quick ‘compilation’ of test patterns (including the infamous ‘Indian’ one), shots of past WSRE programming (“Fish’n With Andy”), and a quick “thank you” to loyal viewers.

In short, just like how an IBA Engineering Announcement would look in 2009, if they still existed. Splendid.

 

And iiiiiiiiiiin one! WDEF-TV does things in as perfect a manner as humanely possible. Bonus points right from the start, for cutting off David Bloody Letterman in mid-sentence, cutting to a “DTV Update” as if it were a newsflash. Newsflashes are always exciting, as long as they don’t involve our impending deaths. There then follows a quick look back at the history of the analog(ue) coverage offered by the network over the years, and a rundown of just why digital is much better. The bulletin ends with a splendid montage of local WDEF output over the years, including glances at delightfully lo-fi weather reports, news teams and caption cards. After that, it’s quickly back to Letterman, with the signal quite nicely cutting out before Dave can open his gob. Textbook.

In summary, come on The BBC. You’ve still got several regions to close down – get the local news teams in to make something special of it. It’s no good looking at ITV – their regional output has long since been a joke, but the annual regional concerts for Children In Need show that the Beeb can still do this sort of thing properly. Come on, we want to see Gordon Burns on BBC North-West blowing out a candle at 00:29 on the 4th of December to mark the end of analogue, and we want it, erm, then.

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The Unsettling North American Television Ident Awards

What is it with pre-90s US television networks, eh? They’re not content with merely having channel identities that look like the corporate logo of a sinister megaglobal corporation pumping out robotic vigilantes that go wrong and kill everyone in early 1980s straight-to-VHS movies, no. They have to ramp up the chill factor my animating them badly and playing in music recorded by (we’re guessing) a hook-handed killer given a Bontempi organ for the first time. In short, they make the 1970s and 1980s Open University ident seem cosy by comparison. What do we mean? Here’s what we mean.

Aargh!

Aiee!

Urg!

Spuh!

Meh.

Fuh. Though admittedly this last one is from Australia.
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Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Website(s) of the Week (and Competition Winner)

Firstly, we have a winner for our Spitting Image DVD Box Set competition. Step forward James Wallace. Expect the goodies in the post soon. Meanwhile, thanks to everyone else for entering. We wish we could have given each of you a prize, though not to the extent of actually going out, buying lots of things and sending them out to you. We’re merely paying lip service to politeness there. But thanks for entering, anyway.

Secondly, why have we never thought about posting links to other websites we’ve just discovered before now? Er, don’t write in. It’s not another competition or anything, we were just wondering aloud. This is the sort of thing we’ve found on our travels around the web:

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And what is that? A logo for a local radio station? A new streaming music service? Well, interestingly enough, it’s the original, rejected-before-launch channel identity for MTV. It was later replaced by the amorphous channel identity you’re probably already very familiar with:

image Exciting 1980s US TV ident related facts such as this can be found at the utterly engrossing Fred/Alan Archive and at the personal blog of Fred Seibert.

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Fred (Seibert) and Alan (Goodman) were the duo behind much of the design and feel for the fledgling MTV network, back when there was nothing else quite like it anywhere else in the world. While the MTV ‘brand’ isn’t anywhere near as iconic nowadays, what with it being yet another outlet for imported reality shows and little else, in the 1980s it represented a huge change in how cable television was perceived in the US. Until MTV, many people thought the term ‘cable TV’ was synonymous with ‘HBO’ and little else, but Fred and Alan’s branding help change that perception.

In 1983, Fred and Alan left MTV to form the world’s first “TV Branding Company”. Named Fred/Alan in reference to a quote from old radio superstar Fred Allen (“This drudgery, this sham, this goldmine”), The company helped develop and launch a number of (now well known) networks, such as VH-1, Nick At Nite and Comedy Central, and helped transform the flailing Nickelodeon from the worst performing cable channel in the USA to the most popular, within six months. The company dealt with the identities and promotion of several more channels, with various degrees of success, before closing its doors in 1992.

The Fred/Alan site contains a lot of interesting information on how all this came about, and also contains lots of interesting ident montages that couldn’t be any more 1980s if they were wearing stonewash denim. The personal site of Fred Seibert – who became president of Hanna-Barbera on leaving Fred/Alan - contains a lot of insider information on the world of TV design and promotion as well as the world of animation. Interesting stuff. Retro TV spods should also enjoy embedded Scribd documents of old magazines, such as a copy of Cablevision from 1982.

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The Fred/Alan Archive: http://fredalan.org/
Fred Seibert: http://fredseibert.com/
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Sunday, 15 November 2009

Printed Pisstakery (Spitting Image Giveaway Part 3)

Today is the last day of our epic (by our workshy standards) Spitting Image giveaway. Providing you’re reading this before 11:59pm Sunday November 15th 2009, there’s still time to enter our competition in association with VoucherCodes.co.uk. Details on how to enter are at the bottom of this update. Go there now and take part, on the proviso you come straight back to this point of the article immediately afterwards. DO IT NOW.

Welcome back from the bottom of the article. As you may well have deduced from your scroll down then back up the page, this final Spitting Image update looks at some of the printed offerings put out under the Spitting Image brand. In short, it’s our

TOP 5 SPITTING IMAGE BOOKS OF ALL TIME

A title arrived at only partly because we own a grand total of five different Spitting Image books. Sadly, the Lee & Herring penned booklet that came with some-or-other Spitting Image VHS isn’t one of them, so don’t be holding your breath for that. For each title, we’ve taken a number of spine-damagingly illustrative scans, each of which can be viewed in huge-o-vision by clicking on the thumbnails. In time-honoured Top Of The Pops tradition, we’ll go through them in ascending order of quality, starting with:

5. SPITTING IMAGE: THE GIANT KOMIC BOOK

100 pages / 1988 Pyramid Books / Various authors / ISBN 1-871307-48-1

imageFor the most part, this book actually has very little to do with Spitting Image. Save for the inclusion of a few spoof photo-love stories featuring Spitting Image puppets, this could just as easily have been called The Big Bumper Book Of Topical Cartoons Probably Not Quite Right For Viz. In fact, featuring strips from the pens of Banx, Ian Jackson, David Haldane and Graham Thompson, large parts of the book could just as easily have been taken from late-period Oink! comic. In fact, for all we know, they were – Oink! folded a few months before SI:TGKB was published. That’s not to say there wasn’t an impressive roster of non-Oink! contributors. The book also contains strips written by Spit regulars Geoff Atkinson, John (aka Jack) Docherty, Moray Hunter, Ian Hislop, Guy Jenkin, John O’Farrell, Nick Newman, Geoffrey Perkins and Harry Thompson, and artwork from (amongst many others) Steve Bell and Gerald Scarfe.

Being slightly cynical, we could claim this book only really exists because Viz was starting to become huge around the time of publication, and the publishers fancied cashing in on something similar with a recognised satirical brand on the cover – even considering the contributors, it could just as easily have been Private Eye: The Giant Komic Book were it not for the puppet photo stories. That’s not to say the content isn’t worthwhile, and there’s even a dig at Viz in there (“Johnny Onejoke”). Here are some sample pages.

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Restaurant Review with John Hurt. As you can see, very little to do with Spitting Image specifically. While some make mention of the sort of public figure you’d expect to see on the show…

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Some have a bigger point to make. In the case of The Adventures Of God, on organised religion. Eagle-eyed comic spods might note that the above strip makes much the same point as many of Ruben Bolling’s God-Man strips from the marvellous Tom The Dancing Bug, only eight years earlier. And they’d be right.

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Banx’s “They Came From Outer Space”. One that could easily have been used in an issue of Oink!, and for all we know, might have been lined up for the piggy periodical before it folded.

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A page containing Gerald Scarfe’s “Mister Gillray’s Deadliest Sins”, featuring those old-world lower-case esses that we’ll wager a good 60% of the UK population saw used for the first time in the closing credits for Blackadder The Third.

4. THE APALLINGLY DISRESPECTIVE SPITTING IMAGE BOOK
100 pages / 1985 Faber and Raber / Various authors / ISBN 0-571-13670-2

image At least, we think there are 100 pages in this. The book is taken up almost entirely by spoof sections culled from other publications such as What Sausage Weekly, Police Information Gazette, The Daily Turd, Campain (not a typo,obv) and Which Home Personal Computer Micro Boring Dull Yawn Magazine, each page of which comes with contradictory page numbers. Hey, all part of the fun.

This offering has much more to do with the show itself, with most pages containing those lovable latex rogues, including many shots of specially created models – some made especially for the book, others made for other publications years earlier. Again, many of the better Spitting Image writers worked on the book, including Fluck, Law, John Lloyd, Rob Grant, Doug Naylor, Ian Hislop, Nick Newman, Geoff Atkinson, Docherty/Hunter and (it says here) Lord Lucan. The contents are as acerbic as you’d expect given the people involved, but we especially like the way the layouts of each section are laid out accurately. While sadly different types of paper stock weren’t used (unlike in, say, The Rutland Naughty Weekend Book or The Goodies Disaster Movie), you can tell at a glance which pages are meant to represent The Face, The Sunday Times Magazine or the Yellow Pages. Clue for the last one: the page is yellow. Here are some scans. See if you can guess which ones we’ve included because the page had already become detached from the rest of the book, so we’ve done both sides of it.

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Any book taking the piss out of 1980s computer magazines is sure to get a thumbs up from us. We loved them at the time, but dipping into them now (which you can do here) shows them for what they were. Your Sinclair not included, obv. Speaking of Mr Sinclair, a lovely spoof ad for Sinclair Research, too.

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Spoof TVTimes listings and an attack on Midland Bank’s Griffin mascot? Okay, this is starting to seem like the makers of this book focus grouped it with a room full of cloned versions of us aged ten.

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Luckily, ten year old us wouldn’t have understood this page.

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Let alone this one. Note the spoof ad for the FT. The series proper did a similar parody, only replacing the Financial Times with The Beano. A move which surely would have delighted us at the time, had we been allowed to stay up late enough to see it.

3. TOOTH & CLAW: THE INSIDE STORY OF SPITTING IMAGE
146 pages / 1986 Faber and Raber / Lewis Chester / ISBN 0-571-14557-4

image Not much we can do by way of scans here, as it’s a proper paperback book looking at “the remarkable story of the men and women behind the mocking puppet masks”. Now, admittedly, we’ve only had this book in our possession for a few days now, and as such haven’t had time to read much of it yet. This isn’t too surprising in itself, as we’re exactly the type of person to buy a load of cheap paperback books purely for the purpose of having full bookcases in our front room, so that visitors think we’re dead clever. They don’t know we’re too busy playing GTA4 and posting our every mundane thought on Twitter to actually read any of them.

From what we’ve been told about it (from people who actually know what they’re talking about), it’s a brilliant read, including as it does detailed information on Clive Sinclair’s investment in the pilot show, the recording of that pilot show, and Central’s insistence on the show containing canned laughter. The book also takes a look at much of the tabloid furore over the early episodes, normally involving them making puppets of various royals. Tabloids desperate to manufacture outrage? How times have remained exactly the same.

2. SPITTING IMAGES
66 pages / 1987 Century Hutchinson / Various Authors / ISBN 0-7126-1758-2

image Only 66 pages, and it’s in second place? Half of the book is taken up with full-page photographs? And they’ve got the name wrong? Even everyone’s mum stopped calling it “Spitting Images” by the end of series three! Well, the lofty position can be explained in part by the list of writers credited on the back cover. Alongside a few of the usual suspects from the other books (the ever-prolific Hunter, Docherty and Lloyd), this book includes work from Julie Birchill, Richard Curtis, Ian Dury, Ben Elton, Harry Enfield, Stephen Fry, Germaine Greer, Barry Humphries, Sue Townsend, John Wells and Gore Vidal. Admit it, even the ones you don’t much like from that little list were still really good in 1987.

It doesn’t end there, either. The “Images” part of the book title comes from the fact that each full-page photo contains a specially taken shot of each puppet model. All the puppets had been refined for the special photoshoot at the studios of John Lawrence Jones, with some even being completely rebuilt for the shoot. The results are, by and large, brilliant. The photos hark back to Fluck and Law’s pre-telly practice of constructing one-off caricatures for a single photo shoot, meaning for the most part they’re positively dripping with venom. When you combine that with the fun way the articles are uncredited – as the back cover has it “figuring out who is savaging who is just one of the many delights of this brilliantly illustrated book” – you’ve got a lovely printed snapshot of mid-80s satire. Well, lots of snapshots. Anyway, scans:

image P.W. Botha. “Worse still they objected to being half-starved and beaten by the police just for being black.” Our guess of writer: John Wells? (Legal note to the legal representatives of J. Wells, the piece is quite clearly being sarcastic.)

image Rupert Murdoch. The dirty digger has never looked so much at home. “Rupe is an old Melbourne pal of mine from way back; I first learnt to read about the Big Wide World in one of his father’s wonderful newspapers. Let’s face it possums…” Our guess: Ooh, wouldn’t be Barry Humphries, would it? Clearly it would, yes.

imageRon and Nancy. Given the accompanying piece for this is a nicely entertaining apology letter stating how he’ll pass on taking part in this project, signed by Gore Vidal, we’ll guess that the writer for this one is… erm, Gore Vidal. We’re two for three!

image Mrs Thatch. “I would rather spend the night with Guy the Gorilla (Yes, I know he’s dead) than climb aboard one of those vile rattling contraptions and visit you all up there in slag heap land.” Our guess: Not Ben Elton. Too restrained to be him.

1. A NASTY PIECE OF WORK: THE ART AND GRAFT OF SPITTING IMAGE
226 pages / 1992 Booth-Clibborn Editions / Roger Law / ISBN 1-873968-31-0


image Brilliant. This is the pick of the bunch, even if the title itself isn’t wholly accurate. A Nasty Piece Of Work is largely an autobiography of Spitting Image co-creator Roger Law, and doesn’t even get around to mentioning Spitting Image properly until chapter nine (or page 163, in case you’re assuming all the chapters are really small). This is a good thing, as up to that point the book looks at Roger Law’s earlier work, both on his own and alongside Peter Fluck.

Even back in the early days, Law’s work made for interesting reading; his first nationally published work (in 1962) was a weekly collaboration with Peter Cook for The Observer. From there he moved on to providing illustrations for The Sunday Times Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, National Lampoon, Magnet News (Britain’s first black newspaper, despite Law not being black), album covers for Hendrix and The Who, as well as selling eggcups in the shape of royalty.

Once the topic shifts to Spitting Image (as it does from page 163 onwards), there’s still a lot of interesting ground covered. The non-broadcast pilot of Spitting Image was hampered by the team spending ages on trying to get a robotic parrot (due to be perched on the shoulder of the Reagan puppet) working properly. Progress was only made once the android psittacine was scrapped for parts. Of further interest is the huge amount of behind the scenes information on offer, even going as far to include the storyboard for the title sequence of The Mary Whitehouse Experience (a Spitting Image production, you’ll remember), rough sketches for puppets and pieces on the largely unheralded artists who’d worked on the design of Spitting Image.

In short, it’s brilliant. Here are some scans from the book.

image 
The book contains lots of delightfully vicious magazine illustrations, such as this one of Richard Nixon, used in National Lampoon during the Watergate scandal.

image
From one horrible arsehole to another. From the pre-Spitting Image days, this had been the first time Fluck and Law had made a fully upholstered body, ordered to illustrate a Sunday Times article on unfunny racist comedian Bernard Manning. After all that effort, the Sunday Times eventually chose not to use it, but the illustration finally saw publication after being used in the TVTimes parody section of The Appallingly Disrespectful Spitting Image Book.

image

Our eyes! A photo used for a 1979 Men Only article on the UK’s new Tory government, alongside several nude shots of the Tory cabinet, which we don’t include here. Interesting aside: our scanner actually made a worrying squeaking noise when we scanned the above image. Don’t forget lads, click the thumbnail for the full-sized version.

image

An illustration of the newly-elected Ronald Reagan at nuclear loggerheads with Leonid Brezhnev, created in 1980 for the CND’s own magazine.

image

Finally, the cover of Thatcha!, the cover artwork for a never-finished, never-published Spitting Image book set to mark The Iron Lady’s tenth year in power. (Reader’s voice: “well, of course it was never published if it was never finished. Idiot.”)

 

So, that’s that. If you’re now interested in picking up a copy of any of the books we’ve mentioned here, they tend to crop up with different degrees of regularity on eBay, and quite affordable prices. If you’re very lucky, you might stumble over one at a car boot sale. With the possible exception of Komic Book, we’d say that if you don’t already own them, and you’ve read this far through this blog update, snap them up.

image

Now, your LAST CHANCE to get a material reward for reading BrokenTV. Remember, from tomorrow onwards the only thing you’re likely to be left with after reading the blog is a slight sense of disappointment, as per usual.
 
In association with VoucherCodes.co.uk, we’re still giving away an excellent DVD BOX SET of the FIRST SEVEN imageSERIES of Spitting Image, worth SIXTY QUID, and there's still time to enter our competition.
“Hang on, Voucher-what-dot-co-dot-where?”
Look, we told you this the other day. Twice.
 
"Sorry, I wasn't paying attention then.”
 
Tch. You said that the other day. It’s almost as if we’re copy-pasting all this, then changing a few words in the hope no-one will notice. VoucherCodes.co.uk brings together the best voucher codes, 2-for-1 restaurant vouchers, printable vouchers, deals and sales for hundreds of leading online stores to help save you more money. You can pick up a Lovefilm Discount Code, an Amazon Promotional Code or even Sky Offer Codes from the site
 
“Of course, silly me. What was it I need to do again?”  
 
While it’d be tempting to pose a tremendously difficult “which photo is on the top right of page 167 of A Nasty Piece Of Work” questionimage, it’s hugely unlikely VoucherCodes.co.uk would let us keep the box set ourselves, so we may as well ask something more open ended. Namely: which was your favourite Spitting Image puppet, and why? No special criteria, it could just as easily be one of the heavy hitters like Tebbit, Coleman or Gielgud as opposed to the Brett Anderson puppet that appeared once. It could even be the Downing Street cat that talks like Tony Hancock from the last few series, we’re easy. One entry will be chosen at random to win the prize. Come on, give it a go. The odds of winning are much better than you might expect.
 
“Fair enough. How do I enter?”  
 
As we’ll need to actually contact the lucky winner, we’ve had to come up with a bit of a compromise for entering. When it comes to taking part, you’ve got two choices. Choice one: if you’re a Twitter user, leave a comment mentioning your fave Spitting Image character, along with your Twitter username. We can then send you a Direct Message over Twitter if you’re the winner. Choice two: fire off an email containing your entry to us at brokenindustries@gmail.com – that way, we can get in touch if you win. Don’t worry, unlike a lot of online competitions there’s absolutely no chance we’ll pass your email details on to nasty marketing types (partly because we don’t know any, and don’t really want to).
 
Technically there’s also choice three: post a comment including your email address in the body of said comment, but note that it’ll be openly viewable to everyone, and will probably mean your inbox is subsequently packed with a ton of spam, so it’s not a very good idea. It’s the internet equivalent of sending cash through the post. We’d go with either choice one or two, frankly.
 
“Is there a list of terms and conditions, like you get in proper competitions?”
 
Just because we’re a bunch of slackjawed ne’er-do-wells, it doesn’t mean this isn’t a proper competition, you know. All the T’s and the C’s can be found at http://www.vouchercodes.co.uk/competitions, but basically:
* You must be a UK resident aged 18 and over.
* Entries to be made via comment or email (as detailed above).
* The competition starts 5th November 2009, and the closing date is 23.59:59 on Sunday 15th November 2009.
* Only entries received before the specified closing date and time will be submitted into the Competition. eConversions Ltd. accepts no responsibility for lateness, loss or misdirection of entries.
* No purchase is necessary to enter this competition, largely because we don’t sell anything. Maybe we should start selling stuff. If we ever do start selling stuff, you don’t need to pre-order it to enter this competition.
* It is a requirement of the Competition that the entrant has access to the Internet to submit their entry. Bit unfair on the Amish, but there you go. * Anonymous entries to the Competition will not be accepted. * The prize will consist of a Spitting Image: Series 1 – 7 Boxset
* No cash alternative is available for the prize. What you can do is just put it on eBay once you’ve won it, or just give it away as a Christmas present.
* The promoter of the competition is: eConversions Ltd., 9 Dallington Street, London, EC1V 0BQ, UK
* Entries are limited to one per person. We’ve got super secret IP address reading powers, you know. And a cricket bat. (Legal notice: we’re joking about the cricket bat.)
* The winner will be selected at random on 16th November and notified by the email within 96 hours. * The winner's name will be published within 15 days of the Competition’s closing date at: www.vouchercodes.co.uk/competitions. * Employees (and their relatives) of eConversions Ltd. and other companies associated with the competition are excluded from entry.

“What if I don’t win? How am I supposed to get hold of a box set then? Come on fatty, bet you haven’t thought about that.”

If you miss out on the competition prize, you can always head over to VoucherCodes.co.uk and use an Amazon promotional code to get one at a bargainous discount, of course. Buggerlugs.

“Look, I don’t even like Spitting Image. When are you going to do a proper update?”

We’re working on another Spotify Top 100, Stay tuned for it.
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Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Satira Virulenta del Látex (Spitting Image Giveaway Special, Part 2)

image Slightly later than we'd envisioned due to circumstance, here's the second of our Spitting Image specials. Don't forget, thanks to our excellent chums at VoucherCodes.co.uk, you can walk away with (have sent to you in the post) a DVD box set of the first seven series of the show. Full details at the end of this blog post.

Before we stick our hand up the back of Part Two, a quick 'thank you' to a couple of people for filling in a few of the gaps in our great big rubbery heads. First up, TV Cream's Steve Williams for pointing out what was actually going on with the studio audience in the first 1.4 episodes of the show. Steve?
it's - gasp! - canned laughter. The book Tooth and Claw about the making of the series said that they dubbed it on the first show by order of Central, but the second show ran way over schedule and I think they were still editing part two while part one was actually on the telly, hence the rather haphazard laughter. But that show meant they were able to convince Central it wasn't required, and they never used it again.
Funnily enough, the copy of Tooth & Claw we'd ordered last week from an eBay seller arrived this very morning. Extra thanks to Steve for pointing out the above, as the flipping book doesn't have an index, meaning we'd have had to spend ages going through the it trying to find that out. We can't help but think the Spitting team quite deliberately used the sound of a distinctly unimpressed studio audience, to help them get their own way. That's an achievement in itself, as canned laughter tapes containing such a meagre smattering of giggles can't be easy to find. Of course, when Rubbish 3 Sponsor Bumper Stand-Up Bloke did his bits in front of a similarly unimpressed pretend audience on Channel Four's comedy output for much of this year, it would have been from a downloaded clip, which would be much easier to get hold of.

Our second helping of thanks goes to Matthew Rudd (of the reliably splendid Does That Make Sense?), for pointing out that the third escapee from Some Of Our Puppets Are Missing was of course Leonard "To Be Or Not To Be, That Is... Illogical, Captain" Nimoy. Of course. Bluh. Thanks Steve and Matthew. (Ooh, and also thanks to the entrants so far.)

So, what aspect of moulded cocksnookery are we looking at today? Well, one of our favourite facts about the show is the way a slew of foreign broadcasters soon jumped on the idea soon after the show premièred in the UK. With that in mind, what could be more fun than taking a look at some of those? Quite a lot of things, but we're going to do it anyway. Starting off with a trip to

ARGENTINA ("Kanal K")



Pronounced "Canal Car", and featuring puppets with cloth hands, as opposed to the 'proper' latex hands we all remember from Spitting Image. That's not doing it right. When we saw that the people behind "I'm On Setanta Sports/Special 1 TV" were using the 'cloth hands' method on their puppets, it took a lot for them to win us over (specifically the subliminal shots of Jose in a Liverpool shirt around the time it looked like Rafa Benitez was getting the boot. No, first time round). Cloth hands isn't doing it properly. Sure, it might be cheaper, more convenient and more comfortable for the puppeteer, but it's still not right. Anyway, as you might have guessed, we don't have a bloody clue what's going on there, as it's all in Spanish, so we're wittering on about something inconsequential.

What we do know is that Kanal K was aired by Canal 13 in the early 1990s, only to be taken off the air (officially) after the show ran with a sketch where the puppet The Pope said "va fangulo" (Italian for "fuck you"), or (reputedly) after repeated criticism of former President Carlos Saúl Menem. Either way, the clips of the show we can find on YouTube don't make much sense to us.

AUSTRALIA ("Rubbery Figures")



After learning that Rubbery Figures came from the same stable as Aussie sketch show Fast Forward, we had quite high hopes for this, especially when we saw a YouTube clip showing us their take on the Iron Lady (see above). Sadly, as you'll probably have noticed if you've glanced at the above clip, it's not very good. Firstly, the title music sounds (to our ears) like an outtake session for one of the 'jaunty, relax, so we're all going to die, so what' music stabs from the Protect & Survive video (brr). The main thing is, it's all done very cheaply indeed. Now, it seems this is deliberately so - the captions are made from felt tip, and it seems for much of its life Rubbery Figures was a segment in another show, but it does make the accompanying humour seem rather cheap too. Two bonus points for the John Howard puppet making a cameo appearance in an episode of The Micallef P(r)ogram(me), however.

And after all that, we remembered that Full Frontal was the really good Aussie sketch comedy we were thinking of, not Fast Forward. Fast Forward was rubbish. And BrokenTV's fourteenth law of television dictates that felt-tipped captions are only any good when they're done by Bob Godfrey.

GERMANY ("Hurra Deutschland")



Best title of the lot, we think, what with it translating as "Hurrah Germany".Hurrah! The puppets are much more identifiable as being from a Spitting Image spin-off, too, with properly burly torsos and faces capable of more than one expression. We can't really speak for the humour, as the pitiful amount of German we know was gleaned from MTV Europe ad breaks circa 1993. We suspect the clip here could well be the Teutonic adaptation of the John and Norma Major 'peas' skits that everyone got a bit bored of in the early 1990s over here.

The show ran in its original guise from 1987 to 1991, and the programme was later resurrected in 2003 under a title which translates as "Hurrah Germany - Now more than ever!", though sadly it seems to have been a bit '2DTV', and was soon forgotten.

SPAIN ("Las noticias del guiñol")



Now you're talking. One of the few examples of the show still going (as it has since 1995, though it was more directly inspired by the French version of Spitting Image, "Les Guignols de l'info"), this is hosted by a latex take on former Liverpool and Eire striker Michael Robinson, who as everyone knows is now a well-known. TV personality in Spain, having ended his football career there (with Osasuna), and liking it so much he stayed there. Even better, the clip we've found here is from their World Cup 2006 show (or shows), and includes interviews with David Beckham, Fernando Torres, The Sun (centre of solar system, rather than tabloid), and a popular Spanish politician (we think) as Homer Simpson.

We even think we understand some of the jokes. Beckham is flogging cologne, The Sun is there over something to do with the weather at Germany 2006, while (Spanish PM) José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and (opposition leader) Mariano Rajoy are busily trying to outdo each other with their feverish support for the Spanish national side. Now, if only everyone else had been considerate enough to make their programmes all about football, we'd be sorted.

SWEDEN ("Riksorganet")



Another one with 'proper' Spitting Image puppets. Sadly, despite extensive research (ahem) we can't find out much about it. i.e. there's no Wikipedia page for it.

FINLAND ("The Autocrats")



While this isn't a direct spin-off from Spitting Image, it's probably interesting enough to include here. The Autocrats is more of sitcom in feel, taking the viewer behind the scenes of Finnish politics. No, wait, come back. It's all in quite impressive CGI, especially so considering the show has been running for over 230 episodes since 2001. There are generally between thirty and forty episodes produced every year. That's a lot of CGI.

Oh right, we haven't got to the bit that's interesting yet. Well, in 2003, an episode was made entirely in English. Named "Operation ESC", it sees Tony Blair, George W Bush and Vladimir Putin up to some international shenanigans, with The Autocrats team determined to intervene, or at least seem fleetingly relevant. And that's the first part of it up there. As we say, quite interesting, if not exactly a laugh riot. Hey, we said 'interesting', not 'funny'. Well, we've never watched a Finnish CGI sitcom before now.



Thus ends our fleeting trip around the World Of Puppet-Based Satire, but stay tuned for the third and final part of our Super Rubber Giveaway Trilogy. Now, a quick reiteration of some actual interesting stuff., and nothing to do with Finnish politics In association with VoucherCodes.co.uk, we’re still giving away an excellent DVD BOX SET of the FIRST SEVEN imageSERIES of Spitting Image, worth SIXTY QUID, and there's still time to enter our competition.

“Hang on, Voucher-what-dot-co-dot-where?”

Look, we told you this the other day.

"Sorry, I wasn't paying attention then.”

Tch. Try harder, this time. VoucherCodes.co.uk brings together the best voucher codes, 2-for-1 restaurant vouchers, printable vouchers, deals and sales for hundreds of leading online stores to help save you more money. You can pick up a Lovefilm Discount Code, an Amazon Promotional Code or even Sky Offer Codes from the site


“Ah, now you mention it, I do remember. What was it I need to do again?”
 
While it’d be tempting to pose a hugely difficult question about the Chilean version of Spitting Image (Los Toppins, coincidentally) that hardly anyone would know the answer imageto, it’s hugely unlikely VoucherCodes.co.uk would let us keep the box set ourselves, so we may as well ask something more open ended. Namely: which was your favourite Spitting Image puppet, and why? No special criteria, it could just as easily be one of the heavy hitters like Tebbit, Coleman or Gielgud as opposed to the Brett Anderson puppet that appeared once. It could even be the Downing Street cat that talks like Tony Hancock from the last few series, we’re easy. One entry will be chosen at random to win the prize.

“Fair enough. How do I enter?”
 
As we’ll need to actually contact the lucky winner, we’ve had to come up with a bit of a compromise for entering. When it comes to taking part, you’ve got two choices. Choice one: if you’re a Twitter user, leave a comment mentioning your fave Spitting Image character, along with your Twitter username. We can then send you a Direct Message over Twitter if you’re the winner. Choice two: fire off an email containing your entry to us at brokenindustries@gmail.com – that way, we can get in touch if you win. Don’t worry, unlike a lot of online competitions there’s absolutely no chance we’ll pass your email details on to nasty marketing types (partly because we don’t know any, and don’t really want to).

Technically there’s also choice three: post a comment including your email address in the body of said comment, but note that it’ll be openly viewable to everyone, and will probably mean your inbox is subsequently packed with a ton of spam, so it’s not a very good idea. It’s the internet equivalent of sending cash through the post. We’d go with either choice one or two, frankly.

“Is there a list of terms and conditions, like you get in proper competitions?”

Just because we’re a bunch of lackadaisical bumpkins, it doesn’t mean this isn’t a proper competition, you know. All the T’s and the C’s can be found at http://www.vouchercodes.co.uk/competitions, but basically:
* You must be a UK resident aged 18 and over.
* Entries to be made via comment or email (as detailed above).
* The competition starts 5th November 2009, and the closing date is 23.59:59 on Sunday 15th November 2009.
* Only entries received before the specified closing date and time will be submitted into the Competition. eConversions Ltd. accepts no responsibility for lateness, loss or misdirection of entries.
* No purchase is necessary to enter this competition, largely because we don’t sell anything. Maybe we should start selling stuff. If we ever do start selling stuff, you don’t need to pre-order it to enter this competition.
* It is a requirement of the Competition that the entrant has access to the Internet to submit their entry. Bit unfair on the Amish, but there you go.
* Anonymous entries to the Competition will not be accepted.
* The prize will consist of a Spitting Image: Series 1 – 7 Boxset
* No cash alternative is available for the prize. What you can do is just put it on eBay once you’ve won it, or just give it away as a Christmas present.
* The promoter of the competition is: eConversions Ltd., 9 Dallington Street, London, EC1V 0BQ, UK
* Entries are limited to one per person. We’ve got super secret IP address reading powers, you know. And a cricket bat. (Legal notice: we’re joking about the cricket bat.)
* The winner will be selected at random on 16th November and notified by the email within 96 hours.
* The winner's name will be published within 15 days of the Competition’s closing date at: www.vouchercodes.co.uk/competitions.
* Employees (and their relatives) of eConversions Ltd. and other companies associated with the competition are excluded from entry.
“What if I don’t win? How am I supposed to get hold of a box set then? Come on fatty, bet you haven’t thought about that.”

If you miss out on the competition prize, you can always head over to VoucherCodes.co.uk and use an Amazon promotional code to get one at a bargainous discount, of course. Sillychops.
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Thursday, 5 November 2009

Latex Lampoonery (Spitting Image Giveaway Special, Part 1)

image Latex lampoonery. Rubber ribaldry. Profane puppetry. The Muppets with swearing. Call it what you will, but you can’t deny that Spitting Image was a landmark satirical comedy show, running for for 141 episodes between 1984 and 1996. In fact, in it’s prime, it was inarguably the most biting satirical show ever broadcast on ITV, maybe even on British television entirely. And if at this point you’re thinking “well.. I don’t know. What about 2DTV?”, you might like to stick your face in a fire.

Why do we mention this now, just the thirteen years after the blimmin’ thing finished? Well, Network have just released a mammoth eleven-disc DVD box set of the first seven series, and in association with our good friends at VoucherCodes.co.uk, we’re GIVING AWAY a copy of the Spitting Image Series One To Seven DVD Box Set (RRP £59.99) to ONE LUCKY READER. (They think we’re a proper telly website. Now shush, no-one tell them the truth. Hopefully they’re okay with having their company mentioned in the same intro as us telling fans of 2DTV to stick their faces in a fire.)

Details on how to enter our special competition are at the bottom of this update. But hey, at least read some of it first. It took ages, and just skipping to the part where you can win stuff is just rude. At least look at the screencaps and nod as if you find them interesting. We’ve got feelings. Jeez.

To kick off, a few interesting things about Spitting Image, in handy bullet form:

  • * The first episode wasn’t actually very good. At this point, the team were still finding their feet with the format, and were still coming to terms with making an entire thirteen-episode series in thirteen weeks, given that the (unscreened) pilot had taken them five months. There were other issues to contend with, such as the production of the show being split between London (where all the puppets were made, kept and repaired) and Birmingham (where it was actually recorded), Indeed, many of the people involved in the making of the show struggled to get the time to actually see the first episode go out.
  • * By the time the show reached it’s final episode, it wasn’t very good, as it had pretty much “jumped” the “shark”, which is why it was getting cancelled. Luckily of course, the majority of the shows in between were brilliant (from about episode three onwards, in fact). Clumsily, ITV chose to mark the 20th anniversary of the final show by repeating… the first and last episodes. Boh.
  • * One quite nice fact about that first ever episode: Central Television forbade Spitting Image from using their puppet of The Queen in the series debut, as (non-puppet) Prince Philip was due to open the company’s Nottingham studios later the same week, and he isn’t exactly the sort of person to let such a matter go unremarked. This was a bit of a blow for the team, who’d felt our monarch’s rubber persona would be the star of the show – with director Peter Harris, who’d previously worked on The Muppet Show, having proclaimed her as “our Miss Piggy”. Not to be outdone, the first episode featured a number of running sketches where the Queen (unseen and unheard) was keeping Margaret Thatcher waiting for a private audience. Indeed, the very first sketch on the show involved the Cabinet being introduced to “your most gracious sovereign, The Queen”, who walked on screen as… Mrs Thatch in a crown. A nice little in-joke, there.
  • * Another early sketch banned, this time by the IBA, involved “Bernard Levin” explaining why he became a writer. “I think it was because I was circumcised with a pencil sharpener”.
  • * As every schoolboy knows, the very first episode of Spitting Image featured the sound of a studio audience. Their presence didn’t really work, and the idea was swiftly ditched. Curiously however, and contrary to what we’ve read elsewhere, the sound of a studio audience seemed to stick around for a few sketches early in the second episode. Firstly in a pre-titles sketch where resurgent Tony Benn proclaims “Back! Back! Back!”, before slumping forward to reveal several knives have been shoved into his back. Cue polite titters. The muted chuckles then fade to applause as the titles roll, but then the audience disappear for the next sketch, Mary Whitehouse saying how disgusted she was with the first episode (and it’s not as if they just didn’t find it funny – Whitehouse makes reference to ‘big pink floppy things’, which would have been a laugh riot for the 1984-located brains of the audience). A few skits later, the sound of an audience reappears, disappears for the rest of the first half, then returns to applaud the title card for part two, before buggering off for the rest of the series. Very strange.
  • image
  • * This is all the more strange as the first show wasn’t actually recorded live in front of a studio audience, unless they were the most patient studio audience in the history of time itself, so it’s not as if they were actually present at the recording and therefore couldn’t be removed from the soundtrack. Roger Law points out in his excellent autobiography A Nasty Piece Of Work (ISBN 1873 968 000) that “it took one hour of studio time to produce one screenable minute of Spitting Image”, so it’s quite safe to assume the audience were shown recordings of the sketches. If that were the case, why couldn’t the non-audience versions be shown? Anyway, all trace of the audience was gone by episode three, and they wouldn’t return until an actual live-in-front-of-a-studio-audience pre-election episode screened towards the end of the show’s life.
  • * Spitting Image Pet Theory Of The Femtosecond! The quality of each series was inversely proportional to the effort put into the title sequences. Certainly, the titles for the last few seasons –pastel-coloured animation in it’s dying days, preceded by a Punch & Judy show in the years before that – were much more visually appearing than the live-action marionettes of the early years. Not a fact, admittedly, but hey.

 

Anyway, all that’s not really the point of this update. Now, everyone remembers the main targets of the show – Mrs Thatch, Norman Tebbit, Reagan, Kinnock, Prince Phil, David Colman, Frank Bruno, Sir John Gielgud at al. We’re here to play tribute to the lesser spotted puppets, rubber realisations of those who were either less obvious targets for contemporary satire, or those who weren’t based on real-life figures at all. Sometimes they were background figures from history, sometimes they were comic creations magicked entirely from the sketchpads of Spitting Image Productions, sometimes they were of people so inconsequential to the public eye the TV Times had probably needed to mention who they were beforehand. In all cases, they made for welcome companions in our fight to wring out that last ounce of weekend TV enjoyment before bed on a Sunday night, and if we’d missed it we’d have no idea what everyone was talking about on the school bus just ten hours later.  So, join us now, as we sneakily switch on the bedroom portable (at a volume so low mum and dad won’t hear us watching it) and delve into the first seven series of rubber ribaldry, picking out the more enjoyable cameos. And forwarding past half of the songs they did, because they weren’t often very good.

 

Ed

image
First seen: series one, episode one.

Unfailingly loyal cube-bonced aide to Ronald Reagan, Ed was always on hand to carry out Ronnie’s wishes, to offer helpful advice, or just to get called an asshole. Spent most of the first series trying to reclaim or replace the President’s brain, which had done a runner after being removed for safety purposes.

Harold Macmillan

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First seen: series one, episode one.

First seen playing a small part in one of the first ever sketches (Harold Wilson is moved to an Old Prime Ministers Home, much to his chagrin), the usually mute MacMillon generally appeared wherever a generic elderly MP was needed to fill in background space. He’s ninety, you know. (Well, not any more he isn’t, he’s dead.)

Generic Soviet Cabinet Ministers

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First seen: series one, episode one.

Seen wherever the scene was set behind the Iron Curtain, these would make up the entire male non-president population of the Soviet Union in sketches set in Eastern Europe. The female population would of course be played by… Generic Soviet Cabinet Ministers puppets in dresses. Spent most of the early shows trying to convince everyone that Soviet President Konstantin Chernenko was still alive, pre-empting Weekend At Bernie’s by several years.

Elderly Hitler

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First seen: series one, episode one

Retired dictator, now going under the name of “Jeremy”. First seen living at No. 9 Downing Street, where he would often give neighbourly policy advice to his next door neighbour, Mrs Thatcher.

Mrs Thatcher: “Have you ever been inside number 10?”

“Jeremy”: “Once, in 1940 I came *that* close. But with you there, I almost feel like I run the place…”

Later to be spotted as a background character many times, including popping up in the United Nations representing Argentina, presenting Top Of The Pops, or as a Tory back-bencher.

Lord Lucan/Harold Angryperson

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First seen: series one, episode two (Lucan), series one, episode three (Angryperson)

First seen (as Lord Lucan) refusing to reveal his whereabouts while appearing on Question Time. Later seen in a variety of roles, but most enjoyably in silhouetted form as Harold Angryperson in the regular scandal round-up CRIMINAL LIBEL (first seen, S1EP3). That first Criminal Libel report centred on the (fictional) dodgy antics of Mark Thatcher. How times change, eh?

Extra bonus fact: episode seven sees Harold Angryperson voiced by Ade Edmondson in Vyvyan mode, as opposed to the more regular Chris Barrie.

Commissioner Newman

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First seen: series one, episode three

First seen parading around in front of 10 Downing Street in episode three, doing… absolutely nothing at all, really. Would later show up quite frequently, highlighting  Britain’s heavy-handed policing of the 1980s. When he wasn’t finding a flimsy pretence for duffing up Leon Britten, he would often to be found giving a good bollocking to…

Norris Dimbleby

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First seen: series one, episode nine

Usually seen playing the role of dimwitted bobby, Dimbleby was first spotted playing the new Police Spokesman For Racial Affairs, apologising for the behaviour of his predecessor. “May I assure you that for him, the future looks very nig-nog indeed”, cue him being dragged off and replaced by a succession of replacements, each in turn being dragged away after saying something racist. First seen as a regular peeler in episode 12, getting shot by Commissioner Newman in an unarmed combat training course.

Anthony Anteater

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First seen: series one, episode four.

Yeah, those bloody anteaters, eh? Glad someone socked it to them on a satirical sketch show after what they did to the unions, eh? Eh? First seen refusing to appear on set in a David Attenborough-helmed nature documentary, resulting in Attenborough having to visit his dressing room to reason with him. “David! It’s typecasting! Why can’t I play something else, like a swan, or a lion?” Much later seen in the enjoyable late-period in-show serial “Some Of Our Puppets Are Missing”, alongside David Steel and someone whose name will come to us about three seconds after we click “publish” on this update.

“I said to him, David, I said. a line of ants? I’d rather a line of cocaine!”

The Grim Reaper

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First seen: series one, episode seven.

Popping up for the first time as one of the Flying Pickets, singing about how ugly they all are. Generally spotted afterwards in his more traditional guise as collector of souls, with the occasional appearance as Yorick.

Potato

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First seen: series one, episode nine

Potato cropped up in a number of guises, usually of the Irish variety. For Ronald Reagan’s 1984 visit to Ireland, Potato played Reagan’s “closest Irish relative”. Later popped up as the Irish ambassador at the UN, and hosting Rubber News.

Central Continuity Announcer

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First seen: series one, episode eleven

The first live-action person ever seen on the show. Kept manufacturing phony transmission errors within the show, just so he could appear on screen, right up until the point his director gave him a bollocking over the phone.

(The Real) Denis Healey MP

imageFirst seen: series one, episode twelve

The second live-action person to appear on the show, and as far as we’re aware the only real-life MP to ever appear on the programme (no matter how much Jeffrey Archer would have liked to have been the second). Popped up during (puppet) Sir Robin Day’s Euro Election Phone-In to point out that the European elections had actually finished a week earlier. Sir Robin replied that European elections are so damned exciting he just couldn’t wait four years for the next lot.

COMPO TIME

 

That’s the end of the first part, but expect more rubber recollections tomorrow. Now, onto the interesting stuff. In association with VoucherCodes.co.uk, we’re giving away an excellent DVD BOX SET of the FIRST SEVEN imageSERIES of Spitting Image, worth SIXTY QUID. You know, just like a proper website might do. Yes, really.

“Hang on, Voucher-what-dot-co-dot-where?”

Tsk. VoucherCodes.co.uk brings together the best voucher codes, 2-for-1 restaurant vouchers, printable vouchers, deals and sales for hundreds of leading online stores to help save you more money. You can pick up a Lovefilm Discount Code, an Amazon Promotional Code or even Sky Offer Codes from the site.

“Fair enough. So, what do I have to do?”

While it’d be tempting to pose a hugely difficult question that hardly anyone would know the answer imageto, it’s hugely unlikely VoucherCodes.co.uk would let us keep the box set ourselves, so we may as well ask something more open ended. Namely: which was your favourite Spitting Image puppet, and why? It doesn’t have to be one of the lesser lights that we’ve gone on about in the preceding 2000 words, it could easily be one of the heavy hitters like Tebbit, Coleman or Gielgud. It could even be the Downing Street cat that talks like Tony Hancock from the last few series, we’re easy. One entry will be chosen at random to win the prize.

“Fair enough. How do I enter?”

As we’ll need to actually contact the lucky winner, we’ve had to come up with a bit of a compromise for entering. When it comes to taking part, you’ve got two choices. Choice one: if you’re a Twitter user, leave a comment mentioning your fave Spitting Image character, along with your Twitter username. We can then send you a Direct Message over Twitter if you’re the winner. Choice two: fire off an email containing your entry to us at brokenindustries@gmail.com – that way, we can get in touch if you win. Don’t worry, unlike a lot of online competitions there’s absolutely no chance we’ll pass your email details on to nasty marketing types (partly because we don’t know any, and don’t really want to).

Technically there’s also choice three: post a comment including your email address in the body of said comment, but note that it’ll be openly viewable to everyone, and will probably mean your inbox is subsequently packed with a ton of spam, so it’s not a very good idea. It’s the internet equivalent of sending cash through the post. We’d go with either choice one or two, frankly.

“Is there a list of terms and conditions, like you get in proper competitions?”

Just because we’re a bunch of clumsy idiots, it doesn’t mean this isn’t a proper competition, you know. All the T’s and the C’s can be found at http://www.vouchercodes.co.uk/competitions, but basically:

* You must be a UK resident aged 18 and over.

* Entries to be made via comment or email (as detailed above).

* The competition starts 5th November 2009, and the closing date is 23.59:59 on Sunday 15th November 2009.

* Only entries received before the specified closing date and time will be submitted into the Competition. eConversions Ltd. accepts no responsibility for lateness, loss or misdirection of entries.

* No purchase is necessary to enter this competition, largely because we don’t sell anything. Maybe we should start selling stuff. If we ever do start selling stuff, you don’t need to pre-order it to enter this competition.

* It is a requirement of the Competition that the entrant has access to the Internet to submit their entry. Bit unfair on the Amish, but there you go.

* Anonymous entries to the Competition will not be accepted.

* The prize will consist of a Spitting Image: Series 1 – 7 Boxset

* No cash alternative is available for the prize. What you can do is just put it on eBay once you’ve won it, or just give it away as a Christmas present.

* The promoter of the competition is: eConversions Ltd., 9 Dallington Street, London, EC1V 0BQ, UK

* Entries are limited to one per person. We’ve got super secret IP address reading powers, you know. And a cricket bat. (Legal notice: we’re joking about the cricket bat.)

* The winner will be selected at random on 16th November and notified by the email within 96 hours.

* The winner's name will be published within 15 days of the Competition’s closing date at: www.vouchercodes.co.uk/competitions.

* Employees (and their relatives) of eConversions Ltd. and other companies associated with the competition are excluded from entry.

“What if I don’t win? How am I supposed to get hold of a box set then? Come on fatty, bet you haven’t thought about that.”

If you miss out on the competition prize, you can always head over to VoucherCodes.co.uk and use an Amazon promotional code to get one at a bargainous discount, of course. Bignose.
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