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23 July 2014
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  • Comedy
  • Alistair McGowan's Big Impression

Alistair McGowan's Big Impression

Ancona and McGowan as Richard and Judy.

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.

Alistair McGowan as Terry Wogan

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.

Alistair McGowan & Ronni Ancona as Posh and Becks

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.

Alistair McGowan as Dot from Eastenders

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.

Cast

Ronni Ancona
performer
Jan Ravens
performer
Alistair McGowan
performer
Sally Grace
performer
Roger Blake
performer
Julian Dutton
performer
Ruth Arnold
performer
Duncan Wisbey
performer
Alan Francis
performer
Steve Nallon
performer
Victor Romero Evans
performer
Laurence Howarth
performer
Stephen Ventura
performer
Craig Parkinson
performer
Tom Watson
performer

Crew

Ronni Ancona
writer
Alistair McGowan
writer
Steve Punt
writer
Tony Roche
writer
Paul Dornan
writer
Julian Dutton
writer
Alan Francis
writer
Kay Stonham
writer
Laurence Howarth
writer
Duncan Wisbey
writer
Simon Blackwell
writer
Nev Fountain
writer
Tom Jamieson
writer
Daniel Maier
writer
Henry Naylor
writer
Philip Tredinnick
writer
Robin Ince
writer
Gareth Carrivick
director
Michael Cumming
director
Charlie Hanson
director
Angela deChastelai Smith
director
Charlie Hanson
producer
Geoff Atkinson
producer
Elaine Morris
executive producer

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