Dead Ringers (TV Series 2002–2007) Poster

(2002–2007)

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The Lord of the Ringers
laishers26 August 2003
NOTE: While there's no plot to spoil as such, specific characters and scenarios are mentioned in the following review.

There are many impressionists currently displaying their wares on British Television, such as the slightly-overrated Alistair McGowan or the fading Rory Bremner. If ever the genre needed fresh blood in the mix, it was now. Step forward the incredibly successful Dead Ringers, who in one bound appear on our screens, leaving their radio careers on hold for a few moments.

Like all impressionist material, Dead Ringers focuses largely on current issues, particularly with its portrayals of George Bush Junior, Tony Blair, and several other high-ish profiles from the political world. However, this series does not bury itself knee-deep in time-sensitive material, and there are plenty of sketches that will appeal to those not even aware of who the characters actually are.

This is the world of impressionists fused with that of Cleese and co., for there are many similarities between this series and the Monty Python sketches, despite the differences in the styles of comedy themselves. For instance, who can forget TV historian Simon Schama describing the reign of Henry VIII with a deck of cards, some scales, and a Victoria sponge cake for illustrative props? Or the battles between Ian McKellen and Alan Rickman as they fight to become the token British bad guy in the new Hollywood blockbuster?

Dead Ringers is also eager to take on international figures, such as Darth Vader helping out in the stormtroopers' bakery ("the crust is strong in this one"), and his nemesis Obi Wan Kenobi trying to purchase a second-hand car ("I'll give you two thousand now, plus fifteen when we get to Aldershot"). The numerous Doctor Who sketches are immortal, too, but mostly the comedy caters to a British market. It is unlikely other nationalities will understand all the references given in the majority of the sketches. That said, remember that this series was written for fun, and digs at the Government, not to sell itself abroad.

Now that we've established the sketches themselves as being flawless, the only thing left is to look at the impressions themselves. They are honestly some of the best currently on television. I can think of only two characters (Harry Potter and Arnold Schwarzenegger) where the voices are not instantly recognisable, although the visual effects go some way to countering this. And some are obviously camped up a little, but the majority are so authentic that it's scary.

With a second series finished at the time of writing, we can only hope that more are being prepared. Perhaps with a few fresh faces, and a few less Bush sketches. But to all the writers and the cast - and particular mention must go to Jon Culshaw - well done, you've entertained a nation. Now go back and do it again.

God bless pancakes.
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Hardly that clever or sharp but a generally funny impressions-based sketch show
bob the moo27 December 2005
Beginning life on Radio 4, this show first came to my attention because John Culshaw used to be a regular on the Chris Moyles radio show back when I used to think he was worth listening to. At first glance it didn't really appeal to me because I was expecting something a lot more like Bremner, Bird & Fortune, by which I mean I was hoping it would be cleverer, sharper and not necessarily the sort of funny that makes you laugh but occasionally the uneasy feeling that the latter show can give you. However a few more viewings and I settled down into acceptance that Dead Ringers is not in the same arena as BB&F and that this is not necessarily a problem.

DR tends not to be as sharp because it isn't really a satirical show (although it can be), it is more of a straight comedy show (although not totally to the degree of, say, Alistair McGowan). This mix of populist and political works quite well and produces some very good scenes with a good hit/miss ratio. It isn't always the smartest game in town but it makes for it by being roundly entertaining. It rarely has a point to make but rather just takes aims at public figures with general mockery. Hence we get things like Andrew Marr with his fantastically out-of-control arms or the simply dumb George Bush; it is rarely insightful but it works.

The performers are all pretty talented and, although the visuals aren't always great, the voices are normally spot on. Culshaw relies a bit too heavily on the old stalwarts of Dr Who and Obi-Wan, but generally he is very good although I do get the impression that the general comic approach of the material is down to his influence. Ravens is usually the one that looks least like any of the people she is impersonating but she does get the voices really on target to compensate; with fewer females in target positions, she tends to take more of a support role at times but she is generally good. Cornwell isn't a great impressionist but he is very close and he has good delivery, Connelly is equally as good and Perry is good in most, if not all, of his roles.

Overall this isn't a clever show or the satirical impressions that I've grown used to with BB&F but instead Dead Ringers is more generally amusing. Mocking and poking fun rather than being sharp and incisive puts it below BB&F in my book (despite actually being funnier) but for the majority of viewers this will do the job. A bit broad for my tastes but generally funny and entertaining.
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Absolutely hilarious
I really enjoyed this show when it was on BBC America. I thought that Jon Culshaw's impressions of Ricky Gervais, Simon Schama and Arnold Schwarzenegger were a riot. I especially loved his impression of Ozzy Osbourne. As for his impression of George W. Bush he got the voice dead on but he doesn't even bear a resemblance to him. Because of the show's hilarious impression of David Dickinson I even watched "Bargain Hunt" and no wonder they ape him. I haven't seen the actual people that they lampoon such as Greg Dyke, Michael Buerk, Kirsty Wark and a bunch of others that are too long to name so I can't tell you if they are accurate or not although some of the quotes that they attributed to these people were hilarious. I did enjoy the show when they did a special lampooning the presidential election last year. Of course they aped Bush but I liked the impressions of John Kerry and especially Michael Moore. The Christmas show was really hilarious and I loved the Ozzy Osbourne line. A very entertaining show.
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I Did Like The DOCTOR WHO Stuff
Theo Robertson9 April 2003
I did remember DEAD RINGERS from BBC radio . I didn't think much of it except for the DOCTOR WHO stuff which was very funny , and I have the exact same feeling about the TV series.

Man dressed as the mysterious timelord known only as " The Doctor " ( 4th incarnation as played by Tom Baker ) goes on the millennium wheel in London and shouts to a bunch of Japanese tourists that " I know what this is . It's a Sontaran incubation centre used for hatchlings for their war against the Rutans ! " Cut to a crowd of bemused Japanese tourists . " The Doctor " also visits a working mans' club where he's the star guest and plays his favourite songs which include the Keller machine sound effect as seen in 1971 story The Mind Of Evil . Cut to a bemused audience

But many of the sketches are tedious and are endlessly set around George Dubya Bush . I don't want to sound like an apologist for the American Republican party but how much mileage can you get out of the man's seemingly limited intellect ? It was the same throughout the 1980s when comedians went on about Ronald Reagen and didn't realise they were flogging a dead horse . And DEAD RINGERS suffers from some very intrusive and oh so obvious canned laughter
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BBC Quality not hitting the mark here
rachet18620 October 2005
Us ex-pats here in Europe are lucky enough(sometimes) to get fantastic British comedy on BBC Prime. Unfortunately whilst Mr Culshaw is in this show, he does not actually quench my/our thirst for impressionistic comedy.

The writing of the show = childish + low-level (Suitable for Children's BBC?). Mr Culshaw, you will never be of the caliber of a Bremner, because of the fact the average person above 8 years old can hear your underlying voice/impression as being the same person.(Just like Mr Novelty of the 70s - Yarwood). I remember Culshaw on my local radio, Viking Radio, he was bad then and bad now. Learn to alter your underlying voice in your impressions, then you can go further, maybe.

Use some of the budget to pay for good script writers (Matthews/Linehan would be cool- but not their 'thing'). Congrats for the BBC commission, I'm surprised as well as other people are.

Best Impressions; David Brent, Tom Baker, Ann Robinson.

Impressions 50% of Males Could Do Given 1 Hour Training; Sewell, Ozbourne, Gluteus Maximus(my gag you can take for the show Jon), David Dickinson, Johnny Vaughn.

TERRIBLE Impressions; Schwarzenegger, Blair, Bush + any not listed under 'Best Impressions'.

Well done for effort though. Surely, the only way is up!
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The sharpest sketch show in history
andyguest6 September 2003
The best topical comedy shows are on the radio. It's true, take shows such as The News Quiz, The Now Show and It's Been A Bad Week. Another of the best radio shows is an impressionists sketch show called Dead Ringers, which has also spawned the BBC2 TV series.

Like the radio show, it lasts half an hour and has some regular "characters". The radio 4 version had Brian "The Daddy" Perkins and the TV show has Michael Burke who insists on concluding shady deals on his mobile before reading the news. Politicians don't get away lightly too, figures such as Tony Blair and George W Bush feature too.

One of the all time great sketches featured Zippy from Rainbow standing for Cherrie Blair using only a black wig and Haiwan shirt. And look out for "Yet another history program" with Professor Simon Sharma. As mensioned in another review here, he boasts about how much money he's made, and tells great chunks of important history using only three props.

But there is also some great secret camera work, such as 'Obi-Wan Kenobi' buying a second hand car or 'Maximus Meridius Decimus' (Russel Crowe in Gladiator) asking local builders to rebuild his castle from one foot ruins, with one builder having the solution to how to strengthen the medieval walkways - decking. Another gem was 'Michael Parkinson' interviewing people waiting at a bus stop.

To sum it all up, it's a very funny show that's recorded the day before broadcast to keep it as topical as possible. There's not a hint of canned laughter either, it's recorded in front of a real audience.

And to quote a recent episode, "Hi, I'm Johnny Vaughan. I'm still a big star, it's the channels that got smaller".

Just watch it.
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Can be for both grown-ups and young people
Greatwhitewhale221 May 2004
Jonathan Ross said at the British comedy awards that Dead ringers does a great impression of Alistair McGowan's shows. How wrong he is. He's probably never seen Dead ringers. Dead Ringers offers an up-to-date of the past week look at the news, TV, media and other things. They do polticans, got more impressionists, do more adult jokes, do Candid camera style jokes so Jonathan Ross is dead wrong.

The show started on Radio 4, perhaps that's why young people go away from it but it's a great show. It's very funny, and takes a very sharp swipe at certain stories.

The impressions are fantastic. Espically to Jon Culshaw who does both Bush and Blair very well and made some very funny trademarks about them. (Blair: "Sweaty palms, Hard man hand gesture, Vote-for-me smile" and Bush: "My fellow UmaThurmans, it has been a sadificantly day"). Though it does more politians, it does do movie stars, TV stars music stars and anyone else. One problem is some of the people they do. I mean, I didn't know who Dr. Simon Schama or Brian Sewell were until this show. I didn't even know Newsnight review existed but still laughed at the Tom Paulin impression. But ignore all that, they basically do them really funny and strangely.

So it's a great show, do watch if you want the world to be given a satical swipe!
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Hilarious on radio...
new_life_25522 October 2004
I love Dead Ringers. It is easily the best BBC Radio 4 sketch programme and I think that this is the medium it excels in. The television series though...well, it's alright. There are some bits that are extremely funny (particularly the 'Gladiator' spin-offs) but personally I don't think it should ever have gone to TV. Though the voices are accurate, the appearances are not - and, most importantly, there was no way of being able to show the Dr. Who "tell me, my friend, do you stock spare parts for a tardis" phone-calls (an absolute classic.) I much prefer hearing the voices of the chosen victims and picturing them in my mind than seeing an inaccurately portrayed celebrity on the TV (though Tony Blair is still very good!)
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Better on radio
ColinBaker7 January 2004
Listen to this on R4, and some of the impressions are aurally stunning. Jan Ravens' Anne Robinson is amazingly accurate, as is Jon Culshaw's Tom Baker/Dr Who (pity that it is out of date). Mark Perry must have cursed the day that Robin Cook resigned, as his unintelligible rants were a highlight. The biggest praise I can bestow on the show is that there have been several occasions (eg the Archers) where I am unable to tell whether it is Jon Culshaw, Mark Perry or Kevin Connolly doing the voice (Jan Ravens of course is fairly obvious, though). The show also built up its share of catchphrases, the favourite of which is "OH NO" as spoken by Ruth Archer (Americans probably haven't a clue who that is!). The spoof phone calls were a bit hit and miss, and usually funnier when the victim is a celebrity, like when Jon Culshaw as Brian Perkins called the real Brian Perkins.

All the above comments were about the radio show. The problem with transferring to TV is making the impressionists look like the people they're lampooning, and here the show falls down. The skill of the vocal mimicry can't disguise the fact that Jan Ravens cannot look like Sophie Raworth, Anne Robinson, Kirsty Wark or Nigella Lawson. Mark Perry is obviously quite a big man, considerably larger in stature than his voices (David Dickenson, Robin Cook), and Kevin Connolly always resembles himself. In fairness Jon Culshaw - "in character" - looks like a couple of his victims, but that's about it. The material - which seemed so sharp on the radio - is a bit tired in comparison. The "Candid Camera" stunts are as variable as the spoof phone calls, but you have to admire Jon Culshaw's improvisational skills in the various ridiculous situations in which he involves unsuspecting members of the public. My own favourite was "Michael Parkinson" interviewing people at a bus stop. Still a good if disappointing watch.

Keen eyed readers will notice that I have not referred to Phil Cornwell. I can only assume that he is in the show to give the idea that anyone can get on, however bad the impersonation. Yes, I do not see how he is able to share the stage with the four others, who do have talent for vocal mimicry. Phil Cornwell may have a sharp eye for comedy, but he is not an accurate impressionist. All the characters on Stella Street were OTT caricatures and were never meant to be seen as accurate, but that's not good enough on this show, where his Greg Dyke/Michael Caine is by far the biggest irritation.
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Funny, even if you are not from Britain
miss_niss1 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I live in Australia, and we don't get the BBC so I have never seen Newsnight Review or some of the other British shows Dead Ringers take off. I do however, watch this show religiously, and I still laugh at those parts because they are funny even by themselves. The host of Newsnight review: "You've lost the remote again haven't you?" And it contains so much other material as well.

While all the actors are great I think Jon Culshaw is best. Culshaw's impressions of George Bush and Tony Blair are hilarious. He takes 'bushisms' to a whole new level. And while he may not look exactly like George, he captures what everyone finds funny about him. The stupidity, the immaturity, the inexperience and the ignorance. And the material is new, original and funny, even though so many jokes have been made about Bush.

I love that Dead Ringers takes off David Starkey and Simon Shauma, I mean these guys are historians! Well known ones maybe, but historians nonetheless. I'm not sure if it was Starkey or Schauma that Culshaw pretended to be when looking to renovate his house complete with 'turrets and a moat' under hidden camera with a poor unsuspecting builder. I was on the floor in tears laughing. And the hidden camera stuff with Doctor Who...him going in to a tanning salon and speed dating! Brilliant! The actors obviously know the people they are taking off because how they transform themselves is amazing sometimes. I mean Jan Ravens is the only chick but she can be convincing as any woman! The yachtswoman Ellen scenes are one of my favorites, particularly where she cleans her house. Complete with narration of course.

What makes 'Dead Ringers' stand out from other parody shows and comedians who do impressions, is that it is so much more sophisticated and clever. It actually makes intelligent and witty jokes about current and relevant political issues, the comedy doesn't come from just making a funny voice (which is seen as remarkably clever on Australia's Rove Live) it really shows how well the writers know what they are taking off. It isn't just a stupid sketch show, but it can still deliver a few cheap laughs, like Andrew Marr's giant arms, which I'm told actually look really long on TV.

So give it a chance, even if you have never watched the BBC. You soon get to love the characters and laugh at them anyway, such as Kristy Wark the news reader, "My milkshakes brings all the boys to the yard, you're damn right they're better than yours, I could teach you, but I'd have to charge.... More on that story later..."
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Absolutely Brilliant.
IanGorton18 July 2004
This is a brilliant show. A mate of mine introduced me to this program and when seeing it for the first time was mesmerised by the uncanniness of the voices. They haven't quite got the looks exactly but it takes a back seat to the voice artistry of the performers, especially the Doctor Who impressions where if you closed your eyes you'd sware it was really Tom Baker. The sketches themselves are hilarious as well as being topical with quite a bit of political satire thrown into the mix like most sketch comedies have. I'm glad now that the ABC has picked up this little gem even though I can't speak for other Australians. Overall it gets 10 out of 10 off me.
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9/10
love this show
oh_lala10 September 2006
dead ringers, i started to watch it in the second season and i cant get enough of this show, the topical humour from tony Blair to the queen to Madonna and dido always knocks me for 6..and has me rolling on the floor dead ringers says what most people are thinking (well what i do anyway) i hope this show goes on for a long time, and i do hope that they bring more series to DVD i have series 1 but miss having the rest my particular favourite impressions are of Delia,the queen (QVC) and all the pop star ones (especially Madonna "the desperate tour") I'm not really a fan of the whole going out in the public and pretending to be Parkinson (but i let that slide as its a great show) watch this show, even once i have converted a lot of people to watching it, who know never miss it like it you WILL be surprised FACT!
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who ARE half of these people?
JBoze31323 November 2003
okay...being in the US, i have no idea who theyre trying to impersonate half the time. so, the comedy falls flat for me, and im guessing this is the case for most americans who might catch an episode.

the few celebs i recognize so far- the impressions of them are pretty awful. the guy who did ozzy osbourne is good- but george bush is awful- sounds nothing like him, and im sorry, but tony blair does NOT sound like a flaming homosexual like this show would have you believe. also, i just noticed a very poor impression of graham norton.

i was actually really looking forward to this series- but after seeing most of this episode and part of another (at least i think it was a different episode), i'm not at all impressed. the impressionists here are nowhere close to being "dead ringers" of their actual counterparts, and im not finding much humor in any of their segments. i like a lot of shows on bbc america (coupling, father ted, men behaving badly, graham norton, 3 non blondes, etc)- but this, so far, isn't one of them.
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The weakest, laziest impression show on television
To be brief: Dead Ringers is a British sketch show, with a group of impressionists performing various celebrities.

The cast themselves are weak. Very few of the impressions they do are really that much better than anyone could do. Most of the time they go for extreme exagerations just so you are sure who they are supposed to be. The costume department actually contributes more than the cast, truth be told. The main cast member, Jon Culshaw, is one of the best of the bunch, but he is simply a guy who is good at certain impressions. He should be playing the minor roles in a show like this, but since Dead Ringers is so weak, he is the best they have.

All the women are played by Jan Ravens. She doesn't do impressions so much as copy obvious guestures. She clearly enjoys doing the female newsreaders most, as they give her a chance to show off - and does them all the same way. Their is very little difference between any of these impressions. If she wasn't wearing elaborate costumes, standing on replica sets, you would not guess who she was supposed to be.

The sketches are, in general, very poor. Based around schoolboy type observations, they just elaborate on the same point over and over again, rather than setting up a punchline or going for plain silliness. You can imagine the scripts for these sketches: 'Lord of the Rings is long - elaborate for five minutes' and 'politicians are liars - repeat ad infinitum. It's hard to laugh unless you're under twelve. These guys are average impressionists, poor comedians, and terrible writers.

Watching Dead Ringers, only about 70% of the time is it clear who the characters are supposed to be. Comparing this to Alistair McCowan's work is embarassing; let alone Rory Bremner's, whose impressions are incredibly accurate. What makes it worse is that those involved in Dead Ringers clearly think it's so naughty and clever; much in the same way a ten year old does when trying to be 'badass' to impress his classmates.

Dead Ringers is an embarassment for all involved, and it's a shame it even reached TV when there are far more intresting, creative people out there with fresh ideas. The BBC clearly saw the popularity of impression shows, and wanted another - and the show seems to coast on this. Taken on it's own merits, Dead Ringers should never have been broadcast.
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9/10
just one of the best sketch shows ever made!
andynortonuk4 December 2002
it's funny, its' original, it is just hilarious! the impressionists are just great at their and their reality dr who skecthes are just as good as trigger happy tv and jackass, only less crude! I hope this recieves as many awards it can get its hands on as this is just an instant television classic! It is just as good as Alistar McGowan's Big Impressions, only more original and better milking on the continual gags, like the gladiator antics in the first episode! To describe this as good is an insult, describing it as utter brilliance is just perfect! This is just a good as some of the best sketch shows ever made, like monty python's flying circus, and i hope this becomes a television institution very soon!
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8/10
Dead Ringers
jboothmillard6 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This is another one of the really good impression programmes, especially because it has Jon Culshaw and Jan Ravens, who also did the really good 2DTV. It's basically a bunch of impressions where you actually see the people being other people. Jon Culshaw does all the best male impressions including: President George Bush, Tony Blair, Trevor McDonald, Ozzy Osbourne, Ricky Gervais, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dale Winton, Shane Richie and many more. Jan Ravens does all the best female impressions including: Fiona Bruce, Carol Smillie, Delia Smith, Nigella Lawson and many more. I hardly know them, but there's also Kevin Connelly who does Andrew Marr; Phil Cornwell who does Michael Caine, Jack Nicholson, Alan Rickman, Saruman and Dirty Den; Mark Perry who does John Prescott, Saddam Hussein and David Blunkett. Some very good impressionists and comedians in a very good show. It was nominated 2 BAFTA awards for Best Make Up & Hair Design. It was number 8 on The 100 Greatest Funny Moments. Very good!
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