The English Programme: The Writing of Spitting Image

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Whilst G&T is waiting for news on the Dwarf front, here’s something rather interesting I was pointed towards on Twitter. The English Programme was a Thames schools programme examining, well, English – and in one edition which some kind soul has uploaded to YouTube, they take a look at The Writing of Spitting Image. (It was first broadcast on the 8th January 1986, but was repeated later, outside of schools programming.)

The reason it’s so interesting to us, of course, is that this is exactly the time Rob and Doug were head writers of the show. But not only do we get lots of shots of the two sitting in grey offices being slightly awkward, rather endearing, and very fascinating – but the end credits reveal that this entire episode of The English Programme was written by Rob and Doug themselves!

Let’s have a gander, shall we?

DAWWWWWWW, BLESS THEM, THEY LOOK SO YOUNG. Also: I am incredibly amused that the programme starts with a Jasper Carrot routine which is about “enthusiasts are boring”. Definitely not something anyone reading or writing this site would know anything about at all, obviously.

The show is billed as a look at the writing of Spitting Image, but with clips from Carrott’s Lib, Son of Cliché and Three of a Kind – all of which Rob and Doug wrote or co-wrote – the show almost feels more about Rob and Doug than about Spitting Image itself at times. The whole thing is worth clearing 25 minutes for and sitting back and watching, rather than just skimming through and watching clips. (The puppets asking the questions is a beautiful conceit, too.)

Oh, and Chris Barrie fans: the programme also includes Chris Barrie. Just so you know.

Fittingly enough, as the above programme looks at the early years of Spitting Image, in the Spring BBC Four will be doing an Arena retrospective documentary on the show. Here’s hoping that some footage from the pre-pilot and pilot – so memorably described in Lewis Chester’s book Tooth & Claw: The Inside Story of Spitting Image – makes it into the programme…

Spitting Image, there. We now return you to our usual schedule of not publishing any Red Dwarf news.

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10 Responses to The English Programme: The Writing of Spitting Image

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  1. “We’d never put in anything racist or sexist.”

  2. Great find! Cheers fellas.

  3. Damn! I don’t have the bandwidth to watch this ATM, and I’m bored to tears…*sigh* It’s like going to the beach and not allowed to get wet.

  4. This is incredible!! Whoever found this deserves several hundred firm handshakes. :D

    Chris’s Paul Daniels impression is simply brilliant.

  5. I read Tooth and Claw last year, so this was doubly fascinating (along with seeing the writing process generally). It looks like you have to have a really healthy ego to stay in TV writing, since you’re going to be pulled apart and tossed or reassembled differently every time you submit a piece. Newspaper writing isn’t quite that intensive.

    On the puppets, it was neat to see all the labor that goes into just one character for one scene. I don’t know why I thought voicers like Chris had to do any of the puppetry themselves, but I did (or maybe they helped if they weren’t doing a voice in a sketch?). I guess I liked the idea of him being among creative “grandchildren” of Jim Henson (i.e. him training Louise Gold, her training the SI puppeteers) …

  6. G&T Admin

    I’ve only just watched this. MORAY HUNTER WITH A BUSHY MOUSTACHE ALERT.

  7. Annie, I thought the same thing. I knew it took multiple people to work them, but I always imagined the voice actor being involved with the puppetry, too.

  8. Finally got round to watching it. The best stuff was definitely seeing lots of people with substantially more hair, and hearing Rob and Doug’s beautiful telephone voices.

  9. Annie, I thought the same thing. I knew it took multiple people to work them, but I always imagined the voice actor being involved with the puppetry, too.

    Honestly, as I watched, I thought the only thing missing in that behind-the-scene bit was a flute of champagne in Chris’s hand and a serving-girl to pop grapes into his mouth between lines and rub his shoulders.

  10. Damn…all of a sudden, I’m looking for work…

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