Spitting Image‘s fourth episode saw an increased emphasis on the doings of Michael Gove, pop star Adele, and Ivanka Trump. It was about as focused as last week’s episode in this regard (which also focused on a few main characters, mainly Prince Harry and Megan Markle), there thankfully being no return to the chaotic scatter gun approach of Episode Two.
However, there was nonetheless a notable drop in quality from last week. Many of the jokes weren’t relatable (I still find the “Priti Patel is a vampire” thing unintelligible, only now it’s unintelligible and tedious) and many of the others have been well and truly overdone by only the fourth episode (I’m thinking Emmanuel Macron’s overly long lascivious tongue). The joke about Adele’s weight loss and everyone’s fixation on it was mildly amusing the first time it was told in this episode, but not the second time — let alone the fourteenth. We get it, we get it already! Here comes another joke for the umpteenth time: Ivanka Trump is a vacuous person. Okay, okay. Stop it, please, stop the “joke” already. My God, stop. On the up side, Jurgen Klopp was, once again, amusing, although not quite as “funny” as he was in Episode Two. And the “The dress is blue and black… I heard ‘laurel’” joke was admittedly funny, albeit five years out of date. When your best joke in a twenty-four minute sociopolitical satire relates to a five year old viral meme about the colour of a dress, you need to ask yourselves some serious questions.
The main “joke” about Gove seems to be that his cheeks look like two giant bollocks. Heady satire indeed(!) Speaking of which, however, the puppets are wonderful. We get a long look at Piers Morgan, and it’s truly delightful. The puppets really are magnificent. A shame the episode wasn’t. Another tawdry song number rounded off what was a pretty poor, if not totally worthless, fourth instalment. It has made me YouTube the songs from Not the Nine O’Clock News; now that was how to write a funny comedy song!
I haven’t given up hope yet, but I’m getting the feeling that Season One might end up being best viewed in a single twenty minute “Best Bits” compendium.
The third episode of BritBox’s Spitting Image was a bit less random than last week’s outing, focusing more on a few key characters. This was necessary as it gave us a bit of time to develop the jokes, insofar as the jokes are developable and not just the same gag repeated and reheated.
We see a massive increase in the presence of Prince Harry and Megan Markle. The jokes were mostly obvious — Harry is a bit of an idiot, he’s posh, he thinks he’s run away to freedom but is actually more under-the-thumb than ever — but these punches nonetheless landed and were funny. The line involving “chukka” made me laugh, encapsulating in a few words Harry’s total detachment from reality like never before in his life.
We started to see significant time committed to ridiculing the totally ridiculous Labour front bench. This was nice, and it’s unclear why the Shadow Cabinet hasn’t been featured that much already; perhaps it’s fear of offending the left, or perhaps it’s just that this ridiculous Labour frontbench is beyond satire. In any case, Starmer was portrayed as the only competent one, all his team presented as incompetent toddlers in need of direction. I’m not sure if this is particularly on the nose, however, as his team is generally seen (by critics) as an example of positive discrimination gone awry with incompetents being overpromoted due to having ticked the right boxes.
Episode Three did just enough to nudge a good rating, but it’s still marginally weaker than the season opener. Spitting Image still seems to be finding its way. It’s a show that the world needs, and it’s a show with a great weight of history behind it. Therefore, I’m willing to give it time to come of age. But it’s still not hitting the right notes.
Let’s just get straight to it: Spitting Image Episode Two was much weaker than the season opener. No amount of new regular characters can save it. And boy were there a bunch of new characters! We were absolutely pelted with them. Sadly, the scattergun approach usually leaves the viewer grimacing rather than grinning, and this episode did not break that pattern.
It seems they have made the microscopic coronavirus a regular character; it’s boring and pointless. Boris was as underwhelming as last week. Cummings is still good, his reptilian shtick not yet boring although not as funny as last week. Thunberg is amusing, and it’s nice to see them lampooning a person with a learning difficulty. Not because I enjoy mocking disabled people, but because we live in an age where lampooning a person like Thunberg is considered haram due to her autism; satire is there to expose the ridiculous in everyone and everything, and it cannot have sacred cows or else it is toothless. Her autism itself was not mocked, and that is the key.
Stand out stuff was Jurgen Klopp finding the positive in everything including bricks through the window. Very funny and helped me just about get through what was, otherwise, a mostly boring 24 minutes. Frankly, the Klopp stuff were the only parts where I actually laughed out loud as opposed to merely smiling — that is, where I smiled at all.
Generally forgettable stuff, but some shoots of hope remain for this series.
Spitting Image is the legendary satire-with-puppets show that helped define an era (the ’80s-90s Conservative governments) and which was internationally syndicated and remade in dozens of countries. It has gone down in TV legend, so much so that there have been several tries at rebooting it or copying it. But October 2020 is when the show was finally rebooted, exclusive for the BBC-ITV joint delusion venture to rival Netflix: BritBox. But can reality ever live up to the memory of this now fabled show?
Episode one was surprisingly on point in terms of style and gags; you would never have thought the show had been off air for around 25 years. However, just like the good old days, many of the gags fell flat. And just like the good old days, many other gags had an inspired insanity about them (I’m thinking an extra-terrestrial, insectoid, baby-eating Dominic Cummings… if that doesn’t get you interested, I don’t know what will).
There was some lampooning of the right, as you would expect, but thankfully the left wasn’t immune, either, Lewis Hamilton and Greta “Magical Autist” Thunberg coming in for fire.
One bizarre weak point left me scratching my head. The guy doing Boris Johnson just wasn’t that good. He was weirdly restrained. Boris Johnson himself makes a better parody of Boris Johnson than this Boris Johnson parody did. Quite odd, and a bit of a flat note.
All in all, this wasn’t the sharpest satire I’ve ever seen. However, it was much better than the knock-off Newzoids (2015-2016). Many jokes landed. It seems to be taking swipes at all. And the trademark mix of heady satire and toilet humour has continued. Worth watching, although I’m not sure if it’ll be good enough to help make BritBox a success.
10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Spain and the Spanish
My wife is Spanish. What I thought would be a splendid union of two noble cultures has been far more prosaic than I hoped. Here’s some of the things I’ve learnt over the last few years about Spain and the Spanish that you probably didn’t know.
1. Say It With Grapes
At New Year, Spaniards all around the world gather in the town square and wait for the main clock to chime twelve. Nothing odd about that. But instead of dropping the ball, as in New York, or smashing nearby cars up and passing out in their own vomit, as in England, they eat grapes. One per dong. More difficult than it sounds: one grape per second, no spills allowed. Even more trying given that the Spanish hadn’t even discovered the seedless grape till circa 1999.
Have you got a hold of your grapes yet?
You’re probably aware that Spain uses the continental two-pin plug. What you might not be aware of is that in Spain, the plug sockets have no on/off switch. In the beginning, I thought my girlfriend (as she was then) was drunk or stupid when she would stare at an obviously turned off (UK) plug socket and complain that the phone/computer/house must be faulty. Even now I forget and try to turn Spanish plugs on/off. Even now my wife forgets to turn British plugs on.
3. Manners (Part 1)
They don’t say “please” and “thanks”. Simple as. If you say them in Spanish as often as I hope you do in English, you will sound completely servile and probably mad. Just learn to gesticulate like a foreigner. And if your English friends complain that you are affecting a Frenchy air of late, tell them that it’s Spanish, actually, and that’s how they speak.
4. Manners (Part 2)
So, many years ago now, I went to a shop on my holidays in Spain. I bought my stuff, said “por favor” and “gracias” – although the shop assistant didn’t join in, the rude cow (see above). And when it was over, I held out my cupped hand, ready for the weighty clunk of change – at which point she looked at my hand, sniffed, and slapped the money down on the counter. So rude.
It kept happening though. Did my blotchy, sun-inflamed skin give me away as a filthy Englishman/German (see next point)? Or did I just have that sort of face?
Eventually, I met my gem of a girl. One day we went to a shop (in England). She paid. The cashier held out their cupped hand, ready to receive the coins. And my girlfriend looked at the hand, sniffed, and slapped the change down on the counter! Who had I gotten myself involved with? Some etiquette-shunning harpy?! As it turned out, no one in Spain places money in the hand. I’ve asked why, but nobody knows. They just don’t. And the “sniffs”, I presume, were disapproval at my ignorance of local customs Cupped hands! What next? Not slaughtering bulls for fun!?
Fun Fact: the Spanish are doing it wrong. It takes ages to pick the coins up off the counter.
5. Estranjeros (“Foreigners”)
The famous Spanish cartoon: Pato Lucas
The English don’t like speaking “foreign” or doing “foreign” things – as if “foreign” were a homogenous category, several shades of class lower than “English”, and one shade higher than “creature”.
But small-minded, arrogant, no-history Yanks are worse, what with their incessant remaking of non-English language films into (generally inferior) American versions. Even in little England we don’t tend to dub foreign movies. Although we don’t bother going to see them, either.
And the French! They won’t even speak to you in English – even though they understand it, even though you talk loudly!
But the Spanish aren’t immune to a touch of chauvinism.
When it comes to films, the Spanish just dub dub dub. I’ve even met Spaniards who are under the impression that much of their American-dubbed culture is, in fact, Spanish(!) And so the Spanish can only speak Spanish. And so the Spanish never visit non-Spanish-speaking lands.
And worse still, they can’t tell the difference between us and the Germans(!) I keep trying to tell my Spanish friends: we don’t wear sandals with socks! That’s those insane Germans, again! The response? You’re the same thing, aren’t you?
6. Manners (3)
You may know that the Spanish greet with two kisses, one on each cheek. What you may not know is that, even if you or the other person has a raging cold, it is seriously bad form to refuse the kiss. Protestations of being ill will not cut it. Pucker up.
I barely kiss my own mother, but I’m obligated to kiss sick people I don’t know… if they’re Spanish.
7. Plugs (Part 2)
Plugs again. The hottest of all searingly hot topics.
Me and the wife in a hotel. wife goes into bathroom.
Wife: Brrryan, where’s the plug socket?
Me: What, darling?
Wife: The plug. I need to drrrrry my hairrrrr.
Me: Um, sweetums. There aren’t any plug sockets in the bathroom. Anywhere. Ever.
Me: Err, it’s… not safe, sugar lump… because water could go… in there (blank looks from the wife) … and… KILL you…
Wife: (pause) But I need to drrrry my hairrrr.
The problem here, you see, is that cowboy builders designed all the electrics in Spain. All bathrooms have plug sockets (which don’t turn off, remember). And all plugs are two-pin, so plugs end up hanging halfway out. And in the bathroom they end up all dewy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been mildly electroshocked.
A funny thing to get twangs of patriotism about, really, plugs. But there you are. God save our Great British three-pin plugs and plugless bathrooms.
8. All Beaches Are Nudist
All men, and women, whip out their bits and march up and down the beaches nude. And yet there still is a separate category of “nudist” beech; presumably on these, they take their skin off.
9. Joie de Vivre (Wrong Language, I know)
The land of fiestas and flamenco. The British love the Spanish and Spain. When Brits hear my wife’s accent they excitedly ask her, “Are you… Spanish? You’re so lucky”. The food, the wine, the sunkissed beaches. We admire their culture. We are overawed by how loving, open, happy and unBritish they are. The Spanish believe life is for living, whereas the British treat it as a chore to be begrudgingly undertaken. But the land of love has a dark side.
Simply put: they’re incredibly racist. They don’t don white sheets and wield flaming crosses on horseback. No. But they do have a rather low view of non-whites. I’m tired of hearing Spanish people talk about the “smell” of black people, or how foreigners are all weird or stupid.
2008 Olympics Spanish basketball team doing the hilarious “slitty eyes” joke; some “fans” of Lewis Hamilton giving him some Spanish-style love.
10. They’re Insane. Fact.
Whether they’re tossing donkeys from balconies. Whether they’re releasing 2000lb bulls in an alleyway and screaming after they hurl themselves on its horns. Whether they’re strapping fireworks to their back, lighting them, and careening down packed streets. Whether they’re pelting each other with tomatoes and in so doing destroying the Spanish fruit and veg export industry. One fact remains.
Favourite Spanish passtimes: goat tossing, using a bull’s horns as a dildo, strapping live explosives to your back in a crowded place, assault and battery with fruit.
Film and Writing Festival for Comedy. Showcasing best of comedy short films at the FEEDBACK Film Festival. Plus, showcasing best of comedy novels, short stories, poems, screenplays (TV, short, feature) at the festival performed by professional actors.