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Victims of a puppet state; BEST EVER SPITTING IMAGE SUNDAY, STV, 10.30pm The cruel puppeteers are back for a one-off and victims have their say, by PAULENGLISH.

Byline: by PAULENGLISH

It gave us a reason to find Maggie Thatcher funny, had the nation singing songs about deckchairs and chickens and made us look at the darker side of life with a satirical twist.

Spitting Image was, for 12 years, the cream of Sunday night viewing. Now, the work of legendary puppeteers Luck and Flaw is celebrated with a retrospective rummage.

Between 1984 and 1996, the most famous faces in the worlds of politics, pop, sport and film were subject to scathing latex parody. No-one was safe. Now, for the first time, some of the show's victims are given a forum to have their say.

Sir Trevor McDonald, Des Lynam, Steve Davis and Paul Daniels are on hand to tell Best Ever Spitting Image what they thought of their puppets.

And politicians such as Neil Kinnock, Edwina Currie, Michael Heseltine, David Owen and David Steel describe the moment they realised they would be appearing on the show.

Edwina says: "Everybody in the House of Commons was hoping they would be in it and portrayed in a favourable light." But for comedian Daniels, the show was a bi t ter-sweet experience. He says: " Spitting Image was laughter and pain at the same time.

"I think I was probably about the first light entertainment person they picked on. I fell about laughing, because I don't mind people taking the mickey.

"I actually phoned up and said, could I have the puppet, because I didn't think they would be picking on me, again. But they said they wanted to use me again.

"So I tuned in the following week and they had a sketch about me pulling the front of Debbie's dress off and nuzzling her boobs. That was when I started to look at Spitting Image from the other side. I started to see the darker side of this and didn't think it was all that funny."

And while the nation fell about laughing at the stinging portrayals of Ronald Reagan and Maggie's cabinet, Paul claims not everyone got the joke. He says: "Some of them got hurt, despite the brave face and the public eye and all that.

"I know I've talked to one or two, who I'll not name. But they felt very hurt by it. Nobody likes being poked fun at so cruelly." Presented by two specially made puppets of Ant and Dec, Best Ever Spitting Image takes a look at the impact the show had on the world it pastiched.

Maggie Thatcher is possibly the best remembered of all the puppets, and is seen in many guises from an alien to the messiah and even as Winston Churchill. Sir Bernard Ingham tells how the Iron Lady didn't like her puppet and the programme speculates about whether or not it affected her career.

The series also gave impressionists Jon Culshaw, Harry Enfield and Alistair McGowan their first big breaks.

Producer Stuart Ramsay says: "The show was truly ground- -breaking and it was evident from making this just how much affection there still is for it."

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CRUEL... Public figures had to suffer when they were satirised on the show
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jun 24, 2006
Words:523
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