Dead Ringers is a British satirical television and radio comedy. It is made up of a number of sketches, usually containing no more than two or three characters, and is performed by a number of impressionists. Primarily, the programme focuses on British political figures and popular culture, but it also satirizes American issues, in particular the current Bush government. It stars Jon Culshaw, Jan Ravens, Phil Cornwell, Kevin Connelly and Mark Perry who each play a large number of the various figures satirized. Dead Ringers shares much of its comedic style (though not its use of impressionist actors) with a previous ITV programme called Spitting Image. The name "Dead Ringers" refers to someone who looks identical to someone else, fitting its impressionist nature.
Generally, Dead Ringers avoids any political affiliation; all major British parties are satirized equally, with no real tendency towards any one point of view. This is likely because it is produced by the BBC, who are obliged under their charter to produce non-biased programming.
- Tony Blair: As Prime Minister through most of the series' run, Tony Blair (played by Jon Culshaw) appeared in a large number of sketches. He is portrayed as being more intelligent that the rest of his cabinet, often speaking down to his populace, remarking that he has won "two general elections" whilst his audience haven't. In addition, he has a tendency to describe his mannerisms and appearance: "United the nation in times of crisis hand gesture". Blair also serves as the straight man in sketches involving both Blair and George Bush, at one point commenting that Bush "is not even listening to what is being said at his own press conference". (To which Bush replies, "That's a good point, what Tony just said.")
- Gordon Brown: Gordon is portrayed as a robot, and preparing an invasion of the planet. He moves using slow, jerky gestures and frequently ends his sketches by saying "Exterminate!" loudly, in the manner of a Dalek. The Brown-Blair rivalry is taken to extremes, with Blair ultimately regenerating in the manner of Doctor Who to avoid giving the Prime Minister's job to Gordon.
- David Cameron: The leader of the Conservative Party is portrayed as having no real policies, and trying to avoid any difficult decisions or making a stand about anything. Instead, he makes policies about coat-hangers or clothing for children. At one point he remarks that: "hopefully, you won't notice that I don't do anything.
- Menzies Campbell: The leader of the Liberal Democrat party in opposition is lampooned as being senile and in a retirement home, the conditions of which he frequently complains about. He becomes easily confused and manipulated, but has grand visions to take control of the government, such as allying himself with Gordon Brown to become Deputy Prime Minister, then exposing Gordon as a drunkard (as was done with former leader Charles Kennedy) to take control of the government. As a reference to a Flash Gordon villain, Menzies (whose name is pronounced MING-us), refers to himself as "The Mighty Ming".
- Ian Duncan-Smith: The former Conservative Party leader is portrayed as being universally loathed by everyone, at one point remarking that: "Recent opinion polls do suggest Saddam Hussein to be more popular than I am."
- John Prescott: The Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott (played by Mark Perry) is portrayed as being hideously obese, at one point trying to sneak a "Prescott-widening scheme" through the House of Commons as part of a "road-widening scheme" and asking for the addition of three extra mouths to allow him to eat more pies. Prescott also speaks in utterly nonsensical sentences, such as "A good Britain to you all!"
- George Bush: The many slip-ups and mistakes that George Bush makes during speeches are exaggerated in Dead Ringers, such as "My fellow invertebrates", "My fellow cabinet members, Donald Rumsfeld and Basmati Rice…" and "Abu Musab al-Safari and the Iraqi detergents are Vanished." In addition, he is portrayed as being hopeless childlike, at one point recording Sesame Street over an intelligence video tape. However, unlike many of the other caricatures in Dead Ringers, Bush is shown to be relatively friendly, albeit incompetent.
- Robin Cook: The foreign secretary speaks entirely in humming of various pitches (sometimes subtitled for the viewers' benefit).
- Greg Dyke: The former Director-General of the BBC is portrayed as an arrogant and confrontational figure, as well as being not widely known. His sketches generally begin with "I, am Greg Dyke, Director-General of the BBC." Then, in response to an unheard reply: "Shut up, I am!" He is shown to have a personal vendetta against certain programmes, and adds absurd constraints on them: "Bring back Muffin the Mule? Fine. But they've got to film it underwater.". He also has a personal problem with the Daleks: "Bring back Doctor Who? Fine. But it's not going to have any Daleks in it. They've crossed me once too many times.
- Fiona Bruce: Practically all of Fiona Bruce's news reports are full of sexual innuendo or double entendres, usually accompanied by her raising her eyebrows.
- Delia Smith: Delia is portrayed as holding very conservative values (at one point remarking that undoing her top button makes her "feel like a whore".) She is also very patronizing to her audience: "Last season, we spent six episodes teaching you how to boil water properly. But you couldn't do it properly, could you? So we're going to do it again."
- David Dickinson: The presenter of Bargain Hunt is generally parodied as being annoying, arrogant and with orange discolored skin and a ridiculous hairstyle. He remarks that nobody ever makes a profit on Bargain Hunt, and that "the only cheap thing here is this show. Cost six quid to make."
- Torchwood: The numerous homosexual or bisexual characters are satirizes, as well as the Welsh setting. The perceived low budget nature of the programme also receives mention, with Owen referring to the Torchwood computer as "an Apple Mac with stickers on". The sudden scene changes are also satirizes, with Jack referring to them as being "plot holes" caused by "fluctuations in the timeline."
- Alan Rickman, Ian McKellen and Brian Blessed: Frequently, a fight scene emerges between Alan Rickman and Ian McKellen, both well known for playing British villains in American films. Generally, the two will kill each other, at which point the other characters will say something along the lines of "where will I find another villain to save the world from at such short notice?", whereupon Brian Blessed enters through a window. This satire comes from the fact that Blessed has often been noted to take roles turned down by Rickman or McKellen.