More TV Memories – Alistair McGowan’s Big Impression.

Alistair McGowan’s Big Impression (BBC1, 1999-2002)/The Big Impression (BBC1, 2002-2004)

Alistair McGowan is a comedian and impressionist who contributed to various comedy shows for many years (including the later series of Spitting Image), along with appearing in adverts, and a lot of voiceover work. By the late-90s, he was given a sketch show of his own, which had a large support cast that included fellow impressionist Ronni Ancona.

As Rory Bremner was concentrating almost solely on satirical impressions of politicians on his comedy shows by this point, there was a big opportunity for someone to step into the position of doing a mainstream show that featured impressions of celebrities like TV hosts, actors, sportsmen, and so on, and Alistair was the one was chosen to do it, in Alistair McGowan’s Big Impression.

He was a rather tall man with large eyes, which meant that sometimes he didn’t look exactly like who he was supposed to be impersonating, but there was little doubt that he sounded like them. For example, his take on Richard Madeley and his mannerisms was uncanny to the point where it was difficult to believe that it actually wasn’t the man himself.

One flaw with all of this though was that because this was designed to be family entertainment, a lot of the sketches deliberately lacked an edge. This meant that a lot of the jokes were either rather corny, or you could see them coming from a long way off. The sketch that concluded with “my spouse? Oh, I thought you said my sprouts!” was a good example of this.

But as Alistair’s stature increased, along with the regular series, he was given some specials. In 2001, he showed off his range of EastEnders characters. And in 2002 there was a World Cup special, where various sports hosts and England players were featured. He also earned a coveted place on the primetime Christmas Day schedule on a couple of occasions, and won a Bafta too.

Ronni’s stature also increased to the point that by the fourth and final series, this show had been renamed The Big Impression, after she was given equal top billing alongside Alistair. After this ended, in 2005 Ronni was given an comedy series of her own called Ronni Ancona And Co., but this wasn’t as well received. Alistair has continued to be a familiar face (and voice) on TV too.

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