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The return of Spitting Image shows how toothless British satire has become | Nesrine Malik

Satirists should lampoon the powerful – but the real bile is now reserved for those on the marginsI was, in my naivety, and perhaps nostalgia, rather

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Satirists should lampoon the powerful – but the real bile is now reserved for those on the margins

I was, in my naivety, and perhaps nostalgia, rather looking forward to the reboot of Spitting Image. How welcome, in the middle of the darkness of a pandemic; how timely, considering that the cabinet is made up of self-parodying politicians; how urgent even, at a moment when so many in the press fail to hold their negligence to account. On delivery, it was worse than a disappointment.

The puppets are a technical masterpiece, the caricatures are all competently drawn – Dominic Cummings is an alien in a gilet, Priti Patel an incoherent dominatrix, Michael Gove her boring punter who gets off on cruelty (and also does coke! Haha!). Beyond the superficial visual merits, it was satire by numbers. The jokes were excruciatingly obvious, seemingly written by committee rather than the result of a stroke of inspiration. In one sketch, Boris Johnson finds out that students are trapped in their universities because of Covid restrictions and, pretending he is a student himself, rushes over for some shenanigans only to find the students earnest and woke (I am bored even recounting the box-ticking anecdote). It felt safe, purposeless and entirely unsuited to the political moment.

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