Series / Dead Ringers

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Starting off on radio in 2000, this impression-based sketch show became a TV series in 2002. Jon Culshaw is its main star. After a long absence it returned to radio in July 2014.

Not related to the David Cronenberg film Dead Ringers.

Common parodies:
  • George W. Bush — "My fellow Animaniacs." Bush mangles the English language like no-one's business.
  • Tony Blair — Prone to over-pausing and (especially on the radio) describing his mannerisms. There was an interesting scene in one Children in Need where Jon Culshaw was doing his impression. Then the real Tony Blair arrived...
  • Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark — Announcing popular song lyrics as if they were headlines, and usually ending with "More on that story later.".
  • Fiona Bruce — Sex-obsessed. For a clean quote: "I'm Fiona Bruce. Breaking news, breaking hearts." On the radio this role was taken by the popular Radio 4 newsreader and continuity announcer Charlotte Green.
  • The Fourth Doctor — One of Culshaw's best-known impressions. He's also done a few of the other Doctors as well.
    • In one sketch, he rang various actors who had played the Doctor over the years. This lead to some very amusing quotes, including:
      Culshaw: Hello, this is The Doctor.
      Tom Baker: That's odd... Oh no, no, there must be a mistake, I am the Doctor.

      Culshaw: I'm in a situation of extreme peril! I have had to leave my timestream, go forward to the future, join you in your time stream — and have you help me.
      Sylvester McCoy: Have you been at the pub?
      Culshaw: For several millennia!
    • In fact, he's impersonated almost every Doctor, as seen when he appeared on one of the BBC's Doctor Who retrospectives. He's not done John Hurt and Peter Capaldi yet, but give him time.
    • He has also impersonated Tom Baker in an official capacity in the Doctor Who Expanded Universe, voicing the Fourth Doctor in the Big Finish Doctor Who audio play "The Kingmaker" and Fake Shemping Tom's voice in the 50th anniversary parody Reunion Show The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot (both of these starred Tom's successor Peter Davison).
  • David Cameron — as a vote-grabbing populist who prefers to avoid controversy.
  • Sir Menzies Campbell (at the time, leader of the Liberal Democrats) — a doddering old man who liked to sleep a lot. Needless to say, this one was a bit on the controversial side. This impression was retired after he stepped down.
  • The BBC Radio 4 continuity announcers (back when the show was on the radio), particularly Brian Perkins, portrayed as a gangland boss fond of torturing and dispatching those who upset him. In the TV series, Michael Buerk took over this role.

The show has also parodied other British TV and radio series such as Torchwood, Robin Hood, Hustle, You Are What You Eat, Bleak House, The Apprentice (the British version), The Weakest Link, The Archers, and more. American shows popular in Britain also featured, such as House.

The TV show was quietly cancelled in 2007, but in 2009 a new sketch show, The Impressions Show, was released along the same premise, primarily featuring Culshaw alongside Debra Stephenson.


This series has examples of:

  • 0% Approval Rating: Ian Duncan Smith, leader of Britain's Conservative Party in the early oughts, is so unpopular, that Saddam Hussein reasons he could probably make a good bid for the leadership himself. Duncan Smith, for his part, isn't too concerned, but he notes if he was up against Genghis Khan or Adolph Hitler, then it'd be a serious problem.
  • Adam and Eve Plot: Faced with an imminent nuking of Britain, Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott plan to produce Jeremy-spawn to repopulate Britain with a more socialist-friendly clime. Then Abbott finds out Corbyn was actually hoping to reproduce with John MacDonald...
  • Ambiguously Gay: Tony Blair, who dumps Cherie as his wife in favour of Robin Cook (who is a guy), and in one speech indicates he's trying desperately to get George Bush's attention.
  • Anachronism Stew: The radio version had a sketch supposedly celebrating the 700th anniversary of The Today Programme, with a look back at the first, which was set in the Hundred Years' War but nonetheless had expies of modern presenters and politicians talking in Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe. This proved popular enough to get a TV adaptation (which used Newsnight instead).
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: A Running Gag on the radio version has Andrew Neil introducing his three guests, which run something like "A jellyfish with an arts degree; Davros, creator of the Daleks... and DIANE ABBOTT!". Abbott is introduced with a greater degree of incredulity each time.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Andrew Marr inadvertently and suddenly evolves into a ball of light mid-newscast.
  • Bald of Awesome: Ross Kemp's is noted, with him defining each of his roles as "Angry Bald X". It gets very strange when he decides "Angry Bald Queen Mother" and "Angry Bald Australian Feminist" are the next logical steps in his career.
  • Black Comedy: The 2017 special, as one might imagine of a special revolving entirely around the subject of Britain being nuked.
  • Bland-Name Product:
    • "Yet Another History Program", presented by Simon Sharma.
    • "Yet Another Historical Drama", which is no way resembles Pride & Prejudice.
    • Ceebeebies The Brightly Coloured Blobs, who resemble kids shows such as the Tweenies, but in a way that "doesn't infringe copyright".
  • Boxed Crook: Delia Smith gets arrested after it turns out she's a serial-killer, but the police release her to help track down another serial-killer, who drains men of their bodily fluids. Or Nigella, as she's otherwise known.
  • Bowdlerise: Thora Hird's Nice History, "where we refuse to dwell on the unpleasant side of life". Including examples of Henry VIII actually being married to the same wife for his entire life, or a contingent of Roundheads and Royalists meeting atop a hill to have a lovely picnic.
  • Catch-Phrase: Many, e.g.:
    Tony Blair: PEO-PLE...... of Britain... (begins running commentary describing his hand movements)
    Linda Barker: Which we think works really really well!
    Matt Smith of Go 4 It (not that one): Ace!
    George W. Bush: My fellow... ("Invertebrates", "Umbrellastands", anything but "Americans".)
    John Humphries: And the time is coming up to... (some bizarre number or concept like 'eleventy-umpteen past banana' - referring to how Humphries famously would read the time out incorrectly and convince millions of drivers they were late for work)
    Greg Dyke: My name is Greg Dyke! And I am director general of the BBC!
    Nigel Farage: No no no, let me speak!
    Donald Trump: 'Losers!' or 'Bigly big!' or 'Fake news!'
    Theresa May: I can't come to the phone right now, because [comment based on her recent activities]
  • Character Filibuster: John MacDonald has to repeatedly restrain himself from launching into socialist rants at the drop of a hat, to no real success no matter how hard he tries.
  • Characterization Marches On: The first episodes of the TV series portray Deliah Smith as being boring and out of touch. A few episodes later, she's an Ax-Crazy murderer who kills other TV chefs so as to free up the TV schedules for her own show.
  • Cloudcuckoolander:
    • The Doctor, at least in how he is perceived by all the people he rings up.
    • Former England football team manager Sven Erikson, who's so bizarre Kirsty Wark is momentarily taken aback.
    • The first series of the TV show portrays Queen Elizabeth II as a scatter-brained old lady "who holds all the great answers without realising it", after the Paul Burrell affair.
  • Completely Missing the Point:
    • When BBC Radio 4 burns down, a fireman tries to save some of the workers, only for them to miss the point of his trying to do his job, and try and psychoanalyse him instead.
    • One of Tony Blair's schemes is to replace fire engines with clown cars, despite Kirsty Wark pointing out that clown cars can only go a few feet before exploding in a hilarious bang. Blair confidently states that this will make them better than the Green Goddesses note .
  • Cosy Voice For Catastrophes: "Joan Bakewell Talks You Through the Apocalypse", wherein Joan Bakewell convinces the listeners that horrific nuclear bombardment is nicer than it seems.
  • Damned by Faint Praise: Queen Elizabeth the II, faced with the destruction of all Great Britain, says to them that in the end, Earth was her third favourite planet.
  • Delayed Reaction: David Davis crows to Theresa May over the phone about finally having secured all the Brexit conditions he ever wanted and more, having not gathered that the French PM's nervous and hurried responses were more because he was trying to get to a nuclear bunker, and that in short order those demands were very much about to be null and void. Then what he's caused sinks in.
  • Depraved Kids' Show Host:
    • The BBC's desperate attempts to find a replacement for Angus Deayton fail when it turns out that their last hope, Pudsey the Bear, is also a coke-snorting fiend.
    • One of the Brightly Coloured Blobs turns out to also being doing drugs.
  • Disguised in Drag: A ludicrous scheme of David Davis' has him disguising himself as a woman to marry the French president and get half of Europe's money in a divorce settlement. Things start going wrong when his taxi driver mistakes Davis for a stripper...
  • Double Entendre: Nigella Lawson's habit of "sexing up" her cooking is parodied, when she gets bored and decides to sex up doing her taxes, or cleaning the toilet.
  • Downer Ending: The 2017 special ends with Great Briton being nuked into oblivion, and worse, Michael Gove survives.
  • Dreadful Musician: The Sing Something Simple Singers were regularly featured on the show's version of Crimewatch for "murdering hundreds of innocent songs".
    • Musical Assassin: After being dropped by The BBC, they were turfed out onto the streets and got tough to survive, as illustrated by some Lyrical Dissonance-
      Fill this holdall with money
      Or we'll blow you and the customers away!
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: When Matt Smith (not that one) left Go 4 It, the radio version interpreted this by having him told by his producer to "investigate what it's like inside a sack", after which he was bundled into a van and thrown into a river.
    I'm drowning! Only joking. No, I'm not. (Glub, glub, glub.) ... ... ...Ace.
  • Evil Brit: Spoofed with "Alan Rickman Plays The Bad Guy In Every American Film".
  • Extreme Doormat: Jeremy Corbyn is portrayed as one, even in the face of total nuclear annihilation, wanting to try and get the missiles to engage in talks.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: The senior Tory leadership decide that in a choice between nuclear fire or being locked in a bunker forever with Michael Gove, they'd rather take their chances with the nuke.
  • Faux Horrific: One sketch has a show revolving around Directory Inquiries, and their desperate quest to prevent people being mildly inconvenienced.
  • Fetch Quest: Gandalf keeps sending Frodo on epic quests... to fetch things like milk and cigarettes ("But don't tell Bilbo! He thinks I've given up.")
  • Film at 11: "I've got something to put in you, I've got something to put in you, at the gay bar, gay bar. More on that story later."
  • Follow the Leader:
    • An in-universe version has a bored Gil Grissom decide to imitate Sam Tyler and get hit by a car in the hopes it takes him to a simpler time. Which it does. But it also takes him into the world of Miss Marple instead.
    • Another in-universe one, when the BBC outright admit that they'll do what they always do when another network comes up with a popular idea: "nick it!"
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Nigella Lawson can't even use a pen, or clean her toilet without them "exploding" at her touch.
  • Global Ignorance: Press secretaries at the White House have to deal with Trump thinking Jerusalem is in Britain.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: A recurring sketch has Ian Mackellen and Alan Rickman fighting over who gets to be the resident Evil Brit, ultimately resulting in them shooting each other to death. Literal ham-to-ham combat.
  • Hidden Depths: David Beckham was depicted as being fairly dim off the football pitch, but displays occasional moments of cutting insight or cultural depth.
  • Hypocritical Humour:
    • The original radio series has Alan Bennett condemning some aspect of modern media, followed by him and Thora Hird doing the exact same thing (e.g. speaking out against violence, then throwing the radio out the window).
    • The Newsnight Review segments have the reviewers criticizing The Cat in the Hat, then speaking in Dr. Seuss-esque rhyme as they describe just how much they didn't like the film, or criticizing the selfish and unpleasant contestants of Celebrity Big Brother, then acting exactly like them ("they just talk about themselves all the time. Would I do that? Me? Talk about myself? Would I do that?")
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Delilah Smith, who brutally murders other chefs with a machete, then cooks their remains on TV.
  • Improbable Weapon User: One sketch has Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi fighting with baguettes.
    Your baking products are weak, old man.
  • Inherently Funny Words: Invoked and weaponized by Alan Bennett, who declares no-one can out-whimsy him saying "macaroons".
  • Insane Troll Logic: Jeremy Clarkson's argument against driving trains to work. After all, if everyone drove trains, where would they park them?
  • Intercontinuity Crossover:
  • It's All About Me: Theresa May, depicted hiding from angry Brits, or whining about how austerity hasn't worked for her, and as a result she's lost her job and wound up in an abusive relationship with the leader of the D.U.P.
  • Jerkass: Why does Gandalf keep sending on long, tedious quests for mundane items. Because, as he freely admits, he's a bastard.
  • Knife Nut: Brian Perkins, gangland boss of BBC Radio 4, has one, and has a fondness for using it people who incur his displeasure.
  • Loan Shark: Tony Blair falls for a late-night add, getting Britain into massive debt with a bunch of sharks who charge a 20% per month increase, forcing him to put John Prescott up as collateral. If he misses one payment, the gangsters threaten to cut off one of his incomprehensible sentences and mail it to Blair.
  • Look Ma, I Am on TV!: It once had a sketch where John Prescott does this.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Parodied when Darth Vader turns out to be... Prince Philip ("Elizabeth, I am your husband.").
  • Malaproper: George Bush and John Prescott.
  • Manchild:
    • George W. Bush, who declares war not on Iraq, but Tie-Rack, as well as the cast of Sesame Street, much to his aide's despair.
    • Donald Trump, who as president repeatedly phones his underling at four in the morning with frivolous demands or concerns, usually ending by asking for a bedtime story.
  • Man on Fire: John Prescott, a Grade 2 Listed Politician, accidentally and tragically burns to the ground when two of his unintelligible sentences rub into one another and catch fire.
  • My New Gift Is Lame: One of the hosts of Newsnight Review complains about his Christmas gift, a Buckaroo, not because (as Germaine Greer assumes) it's a representation of the detritus of modern civilisation, but because Mariella Frostrop got an X-Box, and he didn't.
  • Noodle Incident: One sketch revolves around various celebrities and personages pledging their sympathy and sorrow for "a very terrible thing", only for everyone to lose interest when it's mentioned it happened a long way away, and no Westerners were involved.
  • No-Sell:
    • Darth Vader's attempt to force choke a Geordie worker fails, because as another builder points out, no Geordie has a neck.
    • A nuke does absolutely nothing to David Dickinson, or his tan.
  • Not Me This Time: In the 2017 special, it initially appears that Donald Trump has started a nuclear war. Halfway through the program, it turns out the White House staff thought ahead, and replaced the Big Red Button with one that summons diet coke, a bucket of KFC and a swim-suit model. The real culprit is David Davis' stupidity.
  • Nuke 'em:
    • In the very first sketch on the first episode, Iraq is nuked by the weapons inspector, David Dickinson, setting off an antique nuke.
    • As a result of an insulting tweet, Kim Jong-un launches several nukes at Britain. The One Show hosts remain cheerily blasé about the total annihilation facing them, and the nuclear winter to follow.
  • Parody Song: "It's Bloody Cold", a song set to the tune of "You're Beautiful".
  • Politeness Judo: After learning about a Terrible Thing That Happened, the leaders of Britain's Tory and Liberal Democrat parties get into an on-air competition over who is more appalled.
  • Prank Call: The radio version did a few of these: the Fourth Doctor phoning (real) Directory Enquiries in search of the Master is particularly memorable, especially the one where the operator suggested that he might need the international directory.
  • Reading the Stage Directions Out Loud: Tony Blair describing his mannerisms after every sentence ("Angry forehead, pointy finger!")
  • Recycled In Space: The Ninth Doctor complains that while he was intense, the Tenth is just "Jarvis Cocker in space!"
  • Ridiculously Human Robot: Gordon Brown in later series, though on one occasion he starts juddering and yelling "EXTERMINATE" a lot...
  • Serious Business: A young boy sending a 2000 page letter to Santa Claus for a Playstation 2 is review by the UN, only for Santa himself to overrule their decision, and carpet-bomb the kid's house once he's determined to be naughty.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Their version of art critic Brian Sewell was a walking example of this who occasionally lapsed into Sophisticated as Hell. When faced with the Roving Reporters, who only ever asked these two questions of anyone:
    Roving Reporters: D'you like Eastenders?
    Brian Sewell: No. Eastenders is a cavalcade of parsimonious bleating, bereft of cultural significance on every conceivable level.
    Roving Reporters: D'you like chips?
    Brian Sewell: Bugger off!
  • Shown Their Work: The science fiction references were pretty much all well-researched, especially the Doctor Who ones. All of the Fourth Doctor's jargon refers to actual planets, technologies and so forth not only from the show, but from the period of his tenure.
  • Skewed Priorities: Not even imminent nuclear war changes Theresa May's stubborn desire to see Brexit through, even though she acknowledges any survivors in the post-apocalyptic wasteland will probably have other things on their minds.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: David Davis believes he's a master negotiator, when in fact he's a moronic twit who's blustering actions get him into further and further trouble, with him oblivious all the while.
  • Snake Oil Salesman: In one sketch, Tony Blair turns out to be a conman, who's duped the people of Great Britain and stolen all their money, and plans to go for an easier target next time, by spinning a globe around. His choice? America.
  • Sophisticated as Hell:
    • Queen Elizabeth, taking Helen Mirren's place on Crimewatch after her role in The Queen.
    One's nicked, you slag.
    • Prior to that, an episode of the first TV series has her remark, on a dog, "it's a good thing she's a bitch, or I'd cut her fucking balls off".
    • Ross Kemp imitating an Australian feminist results in Ross acting like a feminist.
    Ross Kemp: An' I'll tell you somethin' else: Violence against wimmen is the perpetuation of the modern state of the male hegemony! Now get down 'em stairs, you slag!
  • Spiritual Successor: The Impressions Show, which features Jon Culshaw very prominently.
  • The Stool Pigeon: One of the Brightly Coloured Blobs gets into trouble when his actor reveals one of them is doing drugs, violating his non-disclosure agreement, and prompting the Beeb to get Uncle Bullethead and Uncle Bonebreaker to take him on an "adventure".
  • Take a Third Option: In the Evil Brit sketches, when Ian Mackellen and Alan Rickman have inevitably killed one another, the character laments they now have no Evil Brit at all. Cue BRIAN BLESSED appeared, and being rejected.
  • Take That!: ... Yes?
    • Richard Hammond is portrayed by a child.
    • One sketch has a troubled President Bartlett informing his staff that actually, he isn't the President of the United States. Everyone is horrified when they learn just who is.
    • The BBC Cafeteria, which has descended into an all-out brawl over unequal pay, is declared to be more horrific than any war-torn country.
    • To Recycled Premise in the 2017 Christmas special, when the BBC Radio 4 announcer asks the audience if they're really wondered what the Nativity would be like, set in a 1970s council estate, before adding "me neither". Followed seconds later by a shot at the Christmas themed poems that had been doing the rounds at that time ("and now, here's another one of those poems we all... love so much.")
  • The Nth Blair: During an interview, Tony Blair collapses, and regenerates into David Tennant.
  • Time Abyss: Sir Patrick Moore buys a telescope so powerful that it can not only capture the light of events that occurred at the beginning of the universe, they can also buy the light of the time before that, when he bought his coat.
  • Too Dumb to Live: George Bush.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: As the real life Tony Blair's popularity went down, the show's version became more confrontational and aggressive towards the public in his addresses.
  • Totally Radical: Matt Smith (not that one) was infamous for this in real life, and his Dead Ringers version naturally took it Up to Eleven.
  • The Unintelligible:
    • Robin Cook, and also John Prescott in a different way. One crossover sketch involved Captain Kirk attempting to understand Robin Cook by having Scotty "divert all warp power to the Universal Translator!" It failed.
    • John Prescott is so unintelligible that when a scheme is introduced to fill him so full of pies and chips that he can't speak, Kirsty Wark declares it the most popular decision he'd ever make, something Prescott agrees on.
    • Newsnight Review runs into a problem when the hosts are not unintelligible enough, despite their best efforts.
    I'm sorry, Germaine, we're going to have to stop you there, because what you said almost made some sort of sense, and clearly no-one watches this show for that.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: David Davis, in the 2017 special, manages to provoke the destruction of Britain by going on holiday to North Korea.
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: Greg Dyke, Director-General of the BBC, comes to after the 2002 BBC Christmas Do (two days after), and is horrified to find he signed off on a second series of Fame Academy.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: After a posh MP names his child "Sixtus" (among other things), he shrugs off the possibility his son might one day be upset at sounding like a Roman legionary. Cue angry phonecall.
    Sixtus: (a la Russell Crowe) I am Sixtus [...], owner of a ridiculous name, and I will have my revenge!
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: During a Christmas party, the 2nd Doctor is terrified by tinfoil. As the 4th Doctor states, the 10th should've known full well that most of his enemies were made of tinfoil.


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