The television incarnation of the show aired its fifth series in 2005, including a special devoted to the United Kingdom General Election on May 5 to start the six-part series, and a Christmas programme on December 23. The sixth series started on 8 May 2006 and ended on 12 June 2006 running 6 episodes. Series 7 ran from 22 February 2007 to 29 March 2007 on BBC Two at 9.30pm.
The series is well known for its portrayal of fellow BBC employees, such as Radio 4 newsreader Brian Perkins as a Godfather-like figure ("Who's the daddy?"), controlling all of Radio 4. He often sends death threats to other members of the BBC, and threatens to kill anyone who tries to chat-up his love interest Charlotte Green. In one sketch, the Dead Ringers Brian telephoned the real Brian, and the impersonator accused the real Brian of not being "hard" enough. Later, the real Brian joined in on the joke, claiming that he put colleague Peter Donaldson's feet in some concrete and threw him into a canal.
Another character was the former Director General of the BBC, Greg Dyke, portrayed with a Michael Caine-like accent by Phil Cornwell, who had previously played Caine in Stella Street. Dyke was portrayed under varying circumstances, such as claiming to have recommissioned Fame Academy whilst he was drunk at the BBC Christmas Party. Dyke is portrayed as harbouring personal hatred against the Daleks: "Bring back Doctor Who? OK - but there's going to be no Daleks in it. They've crossed me too many times!"
Newsreader Kirsty Wark (of Newsnight) regularly opens bulletins on the programme with a line from a popular song read in a tone of voice more apt for a news segment, always closing with the phrase "More on that story later." Fiona Bruce and Charlotte Green (of Radio 4) are portrayed as seductive and saucy; the later confesses to a "ribald" sense of humour.
Broadcasts reportedly from Downing Street parody previous BBC political editor Andrew Marr, showing his supposed eccentric manner, interminable sentences, and jerky movements — he is shown with giant artificial hands operated by puppet rods and speaks in mixed metaphor: "Well Fiona, might I say my goose has well and truly had its chips". Sir Patrick Moore is revealed not to be an astronomer but actually a peeping-tom and psychic around the London Eye. Famous movie quotes are often twisted and added to everyday things. For example, Russell Crowe in Gladiator: "My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife... and that's when I called Claims Direct!” 'Jazz' singer Jamie Cullum is portrayed with the voice and body movements of Gollum from The Lord of the Rings.
One recurring gag includes celebrities being introduced in news reports or interviews as the "offspring" of a famous person, character or even an object from everyday entertainment or culture.
Culshaw regularly performs prank telephone calls, impersonating (among many others) Tom Baker's incarnation of the Doctor, Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi, art critic Brian Sewell and talk show presenter Michael Parkinson. In the TV version, he roams in public as such characters, vexing shop assistants and used-car salesmen alike with such pronouncements as, "I seek passage to Aldershot" which mirrors Alec Guinness's line in Star Wars "I seek passage to Alderaan." He also interviewed a bus stop full of people as Parkinson. As the Doctor, he ventured into a furniture store seeking a replacement for the TARDIS, eventually entering one wardrobe and re-emerging from the other (much to the astonishment of the shop clerk). He also accompanied a group of tourists onto the London Eye while declaring that they were in fact trapped in a Sontaran "interstitial time helix."
Alan Bennett is also another person impersonated. His sketches were monologues, each one recounting an improbable tale about an incident with him and the late Thora Hird, normally getting Peter Sallis and the fictional Mr. Pettiforth from No. 42 included in the story. Past exploits have included Thora being a dominatrix, a football hooligan, a dictator (later having plastic surgery to look like Saddam Hussein), a Satanic priestess, a May Day protestor, and in one tale she was raised by Southerners.
The Jeremy Kyle Show is also featured, with Mr Kyle calling the guests 'scum' and forcing them to make up. He also screams at audience members and guests. "HUG HIM!" then "THAT'S NOT HUGGING!". He also shouts "Roll the credits... FASTER!" "Hello I'm Jeremy Kyle, and you're scum."
In the radio series, several Radio 4 shows are mocked. They include the Today Programme, where John Humphrys never gets the time right, Sue MacGregor stressing the "Mac" in her name, and Rabbi Lionel Blue on "Thought for the Day" telling listeners "Don't worry, something will turn up, it usually does." Other shows mocked include Go 4 It, Radio 4's children programme that seemed to offer very little that children would be interested in, such as poetry and book readings. It was formerly hosted by Matt Smith, most noted for saying "Ace," at the end of every sentence. He is the only person that even Brian Perkins fears taking on.
However, the show most famously mocked is Radio 4's soap opera, The Archers. Characters normally impersonated include Clarrie and Eddie Grundy, stumbling from one crisis to another, Joe Grundy and his incomprehensible yokel accent, Jack Woolly’s equally incomprehensible Brummie, posh Brian Aldridge, snooty Lynda Snell, and Ruth "Oh noooh" Archer.
A former running gag, dating back to the earliest radio series of Dead Ringers, has former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, referring to his physical characteristics and mannerisms while speaking. Recently, however, this is often replaced by Blair addressing the nation in an insulting, oppressive or vaguely aggressive way. In one episode of Dead Ringers, prior to his resignation as prime minister, Tony Blair is seen regenerating into David Tennant, or the Tenth Doctor during an interview with Nick Robinson, after stating that the Blair legacy must go on.
Meanwhile, former Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, speaks in nonsensical, incomprehensible and, above all, long sentences. On one occasion he catches fire when two of his incomprehensible sentences rub together, along with being the subject of the "Prescott-Widening Scheme" to go with a similar one for Britain's roads. When he announces that this scheme would reduce the amount of incomprehensible sentences uttered, Kirsty Wark comments that this could be the most popular thing he's ever done.
When David Blunkett was Home Secretary, he was portrayed as a hard man who was "Only in this Home Secretary game for the arse-kicking". On a revamped episode of the Today show, he expressed his desire to become a Hollywood reporter and sort out Ben Affleck. After he was sacked as Home Secretary, Blunkett was in line to become the next hard man on EastEnders, with "Dirty" Den having a premonition that he was about to die in a needlessly sensationalist way. It later emerged that Blunkett had had an affair with "Dirty" Den and then cruelly dumped him.
The late Robin Cook is even less coherent, and it has been suggested that the famous Doctor Who theme music was created by combining a recording of Cook explaining his views on the European Union with (for the higher-pitched sounds) his reaction to being told that all young, female BBC employees were turned on by ugly ginger men with beards.
Clare Short is meanwhile portrayed as an angry woman hated by the government, with an almost fixed grimace: "I was so flabbergasted when the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, announced that we were going to war that my jaw dropped by almost half a millimetre!", while Alistair Darling's contrasting black eyebrows and white hair make him more badger than human.
Charles Kennedy, former leader of the Liberal Democrats, appears as a bit of a drunk, while Michael Howard, the former head of the Conservative Party, was shown as a vampire (a reference to the "something of the night about him" comment by Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe). In some episodes, he channelled all of his evil into his left hand, to create a "hand of evil", which would often embarrass him when he tried to express his view on something. During a time when some Conservative peers defected to the UK Independence Party, his hand of evil defected to UKIP, so he cut off his hand to remove it from the party and his body. But, as a result, his other hand became evil (and defected to the BNP).
The current opposition leaders are also parodied; David Cameron is a vote grabbing popularist, who avoids the tough issues in favour of policies about coat hangers and children's clothing, and has to write down the name of his party on the palm of his hand. Menzies Campbell meanwhile is portrayed as an old, out-of-touch grandfatherly figure ignored by his party; at one point, the Liberal Democrats brick-up all the windows and doors to his house. He frequently complains about the poor conditions in the old people's home in which he resides and always refers to himself in the third person as "Mighty Ming", a reference to the arch-enemy of Flash Gordon, Ming the Merciless. He ends every speech by saying "night night" and turning off the lamp by which he is sitting.
The Queen is also ridiculed, portrayed as someone who constantly makes announcements. She is first seen making an apology for her involvement in the Paul Burrell affair — and is mocked by the media as being someone "who holds all the answers to all the unsolved cases without even realising it". The Queen also appears for fictional newspaper The Bung, as "an old lady who met Diana once or twice in a big house". She comments briefly on the princess and asks "Can one have one's money now?" The Queen has also fought Darth Vader, who turned out to be Prince Philip behind the mask. The Queen also hosts QVC Shopping Channel with Prince Philip, who is selling a diamond tiara for nothing to any member of the Royal household. He advises them that they can take it round the "society jewellers and flog it for more money than Harry spends on hashish". She also took over Helen Mirren's role in Prime Suspect in revenge for Mirren playing the Queen in the movie of the same title. She closed the episode with the line "One's telling you one's nicked, you slag!"
In Series 7, John Reid is portrayed as the nodding dog "Churchill", which says "oh, yes" when something is correct, and, when he was asked if he would fix the Home Office, he said "Oh, no no". There was a parody of the Apple Mac computer, where Blair was the "PC" and Cameron was the "MAC"; they both agreed that they are all the public have (for leadership), and then Campbell drives in his electric wheelchair, saying that he's a Sinclair ZX81. Gordon Brown, initially portrayed simply as an incredibly emotionless and unexpressive man, has now become a fully robotic character, often malfunctioning and occasionally issuing Dalek-esque calls to "EXTERMINATE!" He is also shown as a dictatorial, Stalin-esque figure.
Sometimes, his actions are caricatured as childlike and lacking in understanding of the consequences (for example, taping over intelligence videos with episodes of Sesame Street). One of the most famous sketches of the President involves him telling the captured Saddam Hussein that it's now his turn to start hiding in a new game of international hide-and-seek (lampooning the Monty Python sketch of the same name). In one sketch, the show lampoons the American public by using Bush as a 'translator' for a speech that Culshaw's Tony Blair is making. Bush reduces the speech to statements such as "America good" and "Bad man obliterified!".
The Radio Show versions featured King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, and a themed sketch that had a large number of Television gameshow hosts like Chris Tarrant, the late Richard Whiteley and Ruby Wax. It was called The Weakest Host and Anne berated them each, voting them all out. A Doctor Who-themed sketch featured Anne Robinson as a possible candidate to play the Ninth Doctor. Featuring the Daleks and the Cybermen, the Daleks were voted as The Weakest Evil Creature and had to perform the Walk of Shame, "The most embarrassing part was the walk of shame, I'm sure it never used to be three flights of stairs". But possibly the most famous of these radio sketches was the ultimate showdown between Anne and Brian Perkins, which results in Anne being declared the weakest link by the "Daddy of the BBC.
A common sketch will start up with a set up of the scene (e.g. a Schwarzenegger-esque action hero battling armed men in an action film), then McKellen will burst onto the screen in an electric wheelchair and mock the protagonist of the sketch (often he opens with the line: "I'm Ian McKellen aka Doctor Death!"), then Rickman will appear on screen and proclaim something to the effect of "Not if I have anything to do with it, I'm Alan Rrrrrrrrickman!" (the impersonator often exaggerates Rickman's drawling voice). The two villains will forget the protagonist and proceed to insult each other, each claiming to be the better villain (often the impersonators pick out characteristics of Rickman and McKellen that make them suitable stock villains. One memorable sketch has McKellen proclaiming: "But everybody knows I'm far more moustache-twirling and cruel than you are!" to which Rickman replies: "But I'm more stiff-necked than you and I do a great set of arrrrrrrched eyebrows!"). Eventually the argument escalates to a point where they both unveil deadly weapons. McKellen sports a retractable "miniature cannon" (though it resembles a Gatling gun more than anything else) attached to his wheelchair, whilst Rickman pulls a huge silver bazooka as if from nowhere. These weapons even appear when the two men face off for the role of 'Mr Parcy', the cad in a period drama - with Rickman referring to his gun as a 'Regency Bazookoid Blaster'. They both proceed to shoot each other until they are dead, leaving the protagonist of the sketch shell-shocked. Eventually the protagonist will proclaim something to the effect of "Where am I going to find another melodramatic villain for my last action film?", at which point Brian Blessed bursts into the room, clad in a costume resembling the costume he wore as Prince Vultan in Flash Gordon. Blessed always looks extremely jolly and always says only one line at the top of his voice: "HELLO! I'M BRIAN BLESSED!", to which the protagonist will react in an annoyed or aggressive manner, (eg. 'oh sod off, fatty' in the period drama, and being shot by Schwarzenegger in the action film).
Countdown is a slow and traditional show that was mercilessly compared with Channel 4's youth-orientated line-up. Des Lynam is portrayed as the disgruntled and defeatist presenter, who seems constantly in conflict with the show which he takes every opportunity to devalue ('OK, so Dave is the best at making a word out of Strobcats..'). He is seen as dismayed by the passing of time in his current status ('...that's another 30 seconds of my life I'll never see again') and as a result is frequently in reminiscence of his past ('Do you think when I was 25 I was playing word games with Martin bloody Jarvis?'), particularly his football commentator roots ('I used to be the most important man in football, you know.') In one episode, he appears on Match of the Day determined to become the presenter again. He says he doesn't mind just covering the boring matches, "the ones with America playing".
George W. Bush, Tony Blair, James Bond, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig, Ozzy Osbourne, Sir Patrick Moore, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Victor Meldrew and Richard Wilson, Brian Sewell, Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker), Tenth Doctor (David Tennant), Brian Perkins, Simon Cowell , Master Yoda (on radio)), Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, David Beckham, Chris Tarrant, William Hague, Simon Schama, Russell Crowe & Maximus Decimus Meridius, Ricky Gervais, Michael Buerk, Sir Trevor McDonald (on television), George Lucas, Jeremy Clarkson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sir Alan Sugar, David Frost, Ross Kemp, Eminem, Gordon Ramsay, Judge John Deed, Terry Wogan, John Humphrys, Rolf Harris, Charlotte Church (on radio), Jonathan Ross, Dale Winton, Jon Pertwee, Chris Eubank, Frank Bruno (on radio), Richard Whiteley, Morgan Freeman, Bono, Homer Simpson (on radio), John Craven, Griff Rhys Jones, Billy Connolly, Nick Ross, Senator John Edwards, Phil Spencer, Robbie Williams, John Motson, Gary Lineker (on radio), Jack Bauer, Dermot Murnaghan, Johnny Vegas, Shane Richie, Liam Gallagher, Captain Jack Sparrow, Jar Jar Binks, Doctor Octopus, José Mourinho, Hugh Laurie & Dr Gregory House, James Blunt, Alex Turner, Noel Edmonds, Justin Lee Collins, Jamie Cullum, Jamie Oliver, Wolverine, Ian Hislop, Jeremy Kyle, Wayne Rooney, Gordon Brown, Michael Owen, Jack Johnson, Captain Jack Harkness, Pete Doherty, Ewan McGregor, Peter Andre, Robin Hood, James Nesbitt
Sven-Göran Eriksson, David Dimbleby, Bill Clinton, Dick Cheney, Charles Kennedy, Iain Duncan Smith , Mark Lawson, David Starkey, Des Lynam, Michael Howard, Harry Potter, James Naughtie, Kenneth Clarke, Andrew Marr, Bill Oddie, Michael Palin, Andrew Neil, Adrian Chiles, President Josiah Bartlet, Boris Johnson, John Simpson (on radio), Rev. Ian Paisley, Andrew Gilligan, Ned Sherrin, Seventh Doctor Who & Sylvester McCoy, Sir Menzies Campbell, Ringo Starr, Nick Robinson , Sir Alex Ferguson, Alan Carr, John Reid, Stephen Fry
David Dickinson, John Prescott, Robin Cook, Gandalf, David Cameron, Magneto and Sir Ian McKellen, Professor Robert Winston, Dr Rowan Williams, David Blunkett, Tom Paulin, Saddam Hussein, Peter Mandelson, Graham Norton, Martin Jarvis, Trevor McDonald (on radio), Bob Geldof, Ken Livingstone, Brian Blessed, Luciano Pavarotti, Monty Don, Richard Briers, Patrick Stewart,Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, Toby Ziegler, Donald Rumsfeld, Adam Hart-Davis, Hannibal Lecter (on radio), Lord Voldemort (On Radio), Hercule Poirot, Second Doctor & Patrick Troughton, David Cameron, Bernard Matthews, Rocky Balboa, Al Gore, George Lamb
Greg Dyke, Darth Vader , The Duke of Edinburgh, Saruman and Christopher Lee, Don Vito Corleone, Michael Caine, Derren Brown, Professor Snape & Alan Rickman, Jack Nicholson, Jamie Oliver, Jacques Chirac, Alistair Darling, Jack Straw, Marlon Brando, Bruce Forsyth, Osama Bin Laden, Senator John Kerry, Leo McGarry, Ninth Doctor Who & Christopher Eccleston , Prince Charles, Gerry Adams, Justin Hawkins, Jon Snow, Jimmy Hill, Stelios Haji-Ioannou (on radio), Alistair Cooke (on radio), Tony Robinson, Lord Hutton, Jimmy Savile, Adolf Hitler, God, Judas Iscariot, Russell Brand, Jeremy Vine, Evan Davis, Neil Burgess a.k.a Barry Scott, Donald Duck