Alistair McGowan's Big Impression
Alistair McGowan had been plying his trade of comedy impressionism throughout the 1990s in a number of formats, including BBC TWO's Standing Room Only and Fist of Fun.
He found it difficult to escape the huge shadow cast by fellow master mimic Rory Bremner.
That is until 1999, when the BBC gave McGowan his own primetime sketch vehicle, which quickly matched and outstripped Bremner and Dead Ringers as the most popular impressionism series on TV.
As Bremner's comedy became increasingly political, McGowan made the worlds of entertainment and sport his primary targets and aided by highly impressive make-up and costumes, impressively took off a wide range of celebrities (from Richard Madeley and Gary Lineker to Naseem Hamed and Robert Kilroy-Silk).
He was assisted greatly by his talented female partner Ronni Ancona, whose mimicry of such stars as Barbara Windsor and Ruby Wax widened the scope for potential sketches.
Within their strong double act she became Judy Finnegan to McGowan's Madeley and Catherine Zeta-Jones to his Michael Douglas.
Eventually, this increasingly equal nature of their partnership was reflected by the dropping of McGowan's name from the show's title.
One of the most novel aspects of the series was the placing of celebrities into surprising situations, such as adding Eddie Izzard to the crew of Star Trek, or envisaging Steptoe & Son as featuring Dot and Nick Cotton from Eastenders, or monarchy-based sitcom spoof The Royal Family.
However, the show's biggest weakness was that the dialogue was often less strong than the imaginative ideas, meaning that it was usually the impressions themselves that got the laughs rather than the material.
This didn't stop the format from gaining strong ratings, and it grew to become a cornerstone of BBC One's prestigious Christmas Day schedule.
In 2003 McGowan and Ancona even created a Beckham-centric spin-off, Posh & Becks' Big Impression, by which time both stars had risen to become household names, as famous as many of their victims.
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