Dead Ringers (BBC1, 2002, BBC2, 2002-2007)
Recently I took a look back at some of Rory Bremner’s shows, that were based in the areas of impressionism and satire, and this is another comedy show that was in that area, even it is wasn’t as hard-hitting as some of Bremner’s material could be. Dead Ringers started out on BBC Radio 4 in 2000, and featured various sketches, some of them were topical, and others were parodies of various shows.
This did well enough for there to be a TV version, and this launched as a pilot on BBC1 in 2002, which was then given a full series, although this would be on BBC2. Among the cast was Jon Culshaw. Now he has had a rather interesting career in comedy as an impressionist going back about three decades now. I remember when he was a guest on Chris Moyles’s Radio 1 show in the late-90s, and said that he made his TV debut on late-80s talent show Sky Star Search, when he had a big mullet. The clip hasn’t turned up online, which is probably just as well because it all sounds rather embarrassing.
He then went to on contribute to various comedy shows including the later series of Spitting Image and 2DTV. In Dead Ringers, he played various famous figures. His most successful impressions were of then-Prime Minister Tony Blair who featured in most of the topical sletches, and his take on Tom Baker as Doctor Who was also put to good use, usually featuring in hidden camera pranks. He later went on to get his own show on ITV1, before going to BBC1 for further shows, this time in a double-act with Debra Stephenson.
Also featuring in the show was Phil Cornwell, who had featured in a lot of comedy over the years, and his range of impressions (including his Michael Caine) were always amusing. Also among the cast whose talents were on display were Jan Ravens and Kevin Connolly. And often featuring on the show were parodies of various TV shows including Newsnight, and even of TV idents, hooray!
Sometimes radio shows find the jump to TV rather difficult, but this show did better than most, eventually running to seven series on BBC2, but it seems that only a rather small amount of episodes were ever released on DVD. After the first TV series, there was also a behind the scenes documentary. About five years ago, Dead Ringers was revived on Radio 4, and most of the cast returned along with some new talent to parody the latest generation of people in the news.