The satirical show hit the headlines this week after Greta Thunberg was unveiled in a preview for the upcoming season, due to be released on October 3. Some viewers blasted creators for their choice to create a puppet of the 17-year-old climate change activist, who has autism. But Reemah Sakaan, an ITV spokesperson, fired back and stated that the depiction had “nothing to do with her as an individual”, in an interview with the Broadcasting Press Guild. During previous runs of the hit show, the creators drew similar criticism for their depiction of a range of world leaders, politicians, celebrities and the Royal Family. But in a candid confession, one of the show’s creator’s admitted that one character portrayal was unfair and “rather hurtful”.
Peter Fluck was the caricaturist who devised ‘Spitting Image’ with Roger Law, which was initially rejected by TV producers but eventually developed and first broadcast in 1984.
While many feared being featured on the programme – best known for its portrayal of former Prime Minister John Major in grey to suggest he was dull – there was one person who longed for an appearance.
He claimed that Lord Jeffrey Archer lobbied producers and “used to send photographs and voice tapes” alongside letters to ask “when his puppet would be ready”.
Mr Fluck also revealed that he felt guilty about his portrayal of a notable Fleet Street journalist and now ‘Loose Women’ panelist.
He told The Telegraph in 2008: “I think Janet Street-Porter was the only puppet which went a little too far and it didn’t work.
“I think she looked rather like an onion. I should imagine it was rather hurtful but the point was, it wasn’t funny.”
Despite the harsh scrutiny of leaders, several defended their portrayal on the show including Lord Roy Hattersley, who he claimed they “mercilessly attacked”.
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Mr Fluck continued: “But he would always defend us, he would say ‘People in the public eye had to live with that level of scrutiny and comment.’”
‘Spitting Image’ targeted everyone from politicians to popstars, sports personalities to religious figures and even the Royal Family.
Despite the praise Mr Fluck received from some of the individuals his team brought to TV screens, he admitted the best thanks came from the public.
He said: “I think I am most touched by the reaction of ordinary viewers.
“I still get a lot of people saying, ‘Thank you for helping me through the Thatcher years’.
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“People were losing their jobs, mines were being closed and Christ knows what was going on – people wanted a programme that wasn’t afraid to tackle those issues.”
In a warning to future satire shows – including ‘Headcases’, an animated series that was dubbed the “son of Spitting Image” – Mr Fluck expressed the absolute need for political scrutiny.
He said: “I think the danger today is that the focus is going to gear too much towards the celebrities.
“We live in a celebrity-obsessed age but if you have a go at that, you just don’t put them on the screen.
“That is playing the game. You have to get behind the façade of the celebrity culture.”
‘Spitting Image’ will be released on streaming service BritBox on October 3.