Dead Ringers

Monday, July 7, 2003 by

Somehow, this show still seems to work best on the radio…

Returning for it’s second series, the Dead Ringers cast brought back some old favourites and added a number of new subjects – or victims – to their expanding repertoire: some more successfully than others. The entire show seemed to be something of a mixed-bag. Following a topical opening sketch where Phil Cornwell’s Michael “Greg Dyke” Caine makes a joke about the “sexed-up” Iraq dossier, we are treated to a completely bobbins impersonation of BBC newsreader Sophie Raworth from Jan Ravens (making a change from Jon Culshaw as Michael Burke). Ravens sounds nothing like Raworth, looks nothing like Raworth and the sketch wasn’t very funny either.

And that seems to be the main problem with the telly Dead Ringers – too many of the sketches just aren’t really that funny. Amusing yes, funny … not really. Like Raven’s take on Raworth, Culshaw’s version of Johnny Vegas was a let down too as, although his fat suit gives him the Vegas physique, he has got the voice of the rotund comic completely wrong. And mixing Johnny Vegas with the hit US show 24, doesn’t really say anything either, other than the fact that he likes a pint. Alongside that, Culshaw’s shopping centre antics don’t appear to go down very well with the members of the public that he accosts in the guises of Tony Blair and Brian Sewell. Most of the people that he speaks to are elderly and look either completely befuddled or as if they couldn’t care less about what he is saying – which, coincidentally, was how this reviewer felt when watching said scenes. Sketches involving Crimewatch, Delia Smith and Mastermind were less than impressive too, although the take-off of John Humphrey’s wasn’t bad really.

Best of the bunch in show one in terms of mimicry had to be Mark Perry’s Professor Robert Winston, appearing in a lame Walking with Cavemen sketch concerning down-on-their-luck actors, although the funniest moment had to be the superb take on the BBC’s Chief Political Editor Andrew Marr by Kevin Connolly, complete with Muppet-style crazy arms and gibberish ramblings.

One gripe with Dead Ringers that remains from the first run is the fact that a few of the sketches are probably going to be lost on the casual viewer, who simply tunes in for a bit of a laugh. Connolly’s Mark “Newsnight Review” Lawson was one the better impressions last time around, but you have to question the wisdom of including an individual that a large number of viewers probably have never even heard of. Likewise here, one sketch opens with Jan Ravens (quite impressively) as Joan Bakewell introducing a Heart of the Matter interview with God (or, as he is presented here, David Brent). Now, just how many people are going to remember Heart of the Matter? Or Joan Bakewell? These inclusions certainly make a change from more populist people like Beckham and his missus, but it’s arguable how much of the audience are going to appreciate the effort.

Like the similar 2DTV, Dead Ringers may may more up to the minute in a way that its great competitor The Big Impression isn’t quite, but that programme showcases a greater number of more accurate impersonations and, at the end of the day, is funnier.

And there was no Tom Baker either…


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