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.