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Copy Cats

"You think this impression's wooden? It's just my leg!"AGAIN WITH THE IMPRESSIONS. Only this time there were no saving graces. Ostensibly a fast-paced succession of celebrity-lampooning sketches and songs performed by a young team of impressionists, the sheer consistent lack of quality of Copy Cats left an almost indelible mark on Saturday evening schedules. Kevin Turvey in 1987! Rowan Atkinson’s shouty-man-in-audience character in 1985! Joan Rivers all the time ‘cos there’s always someone that can do her! “Cats” consisted of constantly-churning musical-chairs-style list of mimics, right from stars like BOBBY DAVRO (all voices sound the same) and GARY WILMOT, through MARK “ROY” WALKER, MIKE “JIMMY CRICKET” OSMAN and stalwart double-act AIDEN J. HARVEY & ALLAN STEWART, all the way down to HILARY “JOAN RIVERS” O’NEILL and, inevitably, ANDREW O’CONNOR. First series prefaced with cartoon/balloon-y font depicting title, with “wine-bar” font version twiddling about in the corners then tight-close up on each goon’s face. ’86 saw cheeky comic character antics as the “comedy crew” morphed out of made-up “Copy Cats” comic, each adopting a knockabout image of themselves but “disguised” as a real celebrity or character, all except CHERYL TAYLOR who bizarrely emerges in the form of the Queen of Hearts (true!). Change of tack from herein, with capers discarded in favour of upbeat lyric delivered by the “comedy crew”, dressed in white DJs or full-on ballgowns, hilariously perched on bar stools and marooned on that LWT stage (shot pans round semi-circular formation as they sing the toe-curling tune – “Copy Cats! The comedy team! They’re never quite what they may seem! They look at life in slight-ly diff-rent waaaays!”). This relaxed-but stiff tactic was a hangover from the early closing sequences, which seemed to go on for 20 minutes and had the ensemble singing either that song or tiresome others, but stopping all the time to have the chosen “cat” deliver another poor impression. O’Connor did Turvey, Davro did Duncan Norvelle, Stewart always did Frank Carson (“This is Frank Carson, News At Ten, Westminster. It’s a cracker.”). Later incarnations were tighter, but still ruined by that damn song and raising-of-the-arm on the last long note.



  1. Matthew Rudd

    February 14, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    Mike Osman’s impersonation of Lou Beale was quite extraordinary.

  2. televisualcabbage

    February 15, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Bobby Nankville (Davro)…. Skated off Dancing on Ice to a very frosty reception…

    Gary Wilmot… From the West End Stage to playing South African Rugby Player Chester Williams in Invictus… Directed by Clint Eastwood… “Go on punk, make my day… and do an impression of Norman Wisdom in full Norman Pipkin mode!”

    Aidan J. Harvey… Now in Spain, apart from an appearence at Portsmouth’s KIngs Theatre in panto about six years ago with Tony (I’m Adam Chance, not the former Arsenal defender) Adams and Mark (Not Gerry..) Rafferty formerly of the Neighbours parish…

    Andrew O’Connor… Objective Productions… Producers of a load of great Naughties telly…
    A very rich man and director of Mitchell and Webb’s movie debut Magicians… Come full circle, you might say!

  3. Tom Ronson

    March 25, 2022 at 3:46 pm

    A few episodes have sprung up (like weeds) on YouTube over the years, and they are unspeakable. During the eighties, it really seemed as though ITV were prepared to offer a series to anyone who could impersonate characters from Coronation Street with a reasonable degree of accuracy. There was another series that pre-dated Copy Cats by about a year called Go For It, which was similarly interminable, and featured Les Dennis and Dustin Gee doing (surprise, surprise) Vera Duckworth and Mavis Wilton. Again. Jessica Martin and Gary Wilmot both moved into musical theatre and have subsequently done very well for themselves, which is all to the good. I saw Wilmot last year at the Barbican in a revival of Anything Goes (alongside other TVC favourites Robert Lindsay and Felicity Kendal) and he was more than fine.

  4. Droogie

    October 9, 2022 at 3:55 pm

    Watched a few episodes on YouTube and was shocked at how poor the show was . Some bloody weird stuff going on there too. Who booked Lee Evan’s dad Dave for this? His range of impressions are surreal in their datedness. The Goons! E.L.Wisty! Aidan J Harvey appears as Tommy Cooper a lot too, which seems bizarre now as Cooper had already been dead for a few years . When the cast do try doing someone contemporary, it’s usually not much better. Andrew O’Connor does a seriously ropey Ben Elton that has to be seen to be disbelieved.

    • Tom Ronson

      October 28, 2022 at 1:09 am

      There’s a sketch taking the piss out of Coronation Street in which Gary Wilmot plays Bet Lynch. Cue one of the other cast members saying ‘Hey up Bet, did you fall asleep on the sunbed?’ The audience react to this nasty bit of racism with absolute hysterics. Wilmot can’t be arsed to hide his utter disdain and doesn’t even try.

      • Glenn Aylett

        October 29, 2022 at 11:14 am

        About as funny as food poisoning then. I always liked Lenny Henry in Three Of A Kind, where he was the equal of David Copperfield and Tracey Ullman, and the three of them telling each line of a joke was brilliant. However, most ITV comedy in the eighties, bargain bucket rubbish for their hardcore audience who were easily amused by lame jokes, although Spitting Image really was good and a rare comedy hit for ITV.

        • Richardpd

          October 29, 2022 at 12:24 pm

          I remember Three Of A Kind was quite good, especially as they often used the same props & sets when spoofing BBC shows.

          Alfresco was an attempt by ITV to grab a slice of the Alternative market, but seemed to fail to get a winner in spite of the decent cast.

          • Glenn Aylett

            October 29, 2022 at 3:54 pm

            @ Richardpd, the BBC was where most of the comedy talent was in the eighties. ITV only really had Benny Hill as a big star by 1985, but by then, his show was running out of ideas and making it more family friendly( Hill’s Little Angels) chased away a lot of male viewers who liked the real Hill’s Angels dancing around. Yet they did move into more adventurous territory now and again with Spitting Image, The New Statesman and Girls On Top and did quite well.

          • Richardpd

            October 29, 2022 at 10:22 pm

            Hot Metal was another more adventurous ITV sitcom, written by David Renwick & Andrew Marshall.

            Richard Wilson was one of the regulars, & who came to mind when David Renwick was thinking up his next series.

  5. Richardpd

    October 9, 2022 at 10:09 pm

    ITV seemed to try a few odd light entertainment shows in the 1980s, & this is one of the stranger sounding ones.

  6. Glenn Aylett

    October 10, 2022 at 8:31 pm

    ITV comedy seemed to wither in the mid eighties: they’d lost Kenny Everett, Russ Abbott and Stanley Baxter to the BBC, Benny Hill was falling out of fashion and had become unfunny, and the death of Eric Morecambe meant the end of Morecambe and Wise. Copy Cats, along with Kate and Ted Robbins, was typical of what they were offering against the BBC’s far better output, second rate impressionists doing predictable impressions of Coronation St characters and pop singers. However, their comedy dramas really shone in this era with Auf Wiedersehen Pet being one of the greatest shows of the eighties and Minder in its imperial, hilarious era.

  7. Richardpd

    October 10, 2022 at 10:51 pm

    Chas & Dave getting a light entertainment show was another odd thing for ITV, but considering their star power in the early 1980s it’s not surprising.

    Les Dennis and Dustin Gee also slipped though ITV’s fingers to do the Laughter Show on BBC1. Jasper Carrott & Victoria Wood also bailed out to the BBC & their best output.

    ITV were lucky to get Spitting Image for a top notch impression series, it easily could have been bought up by the BBC or Channel 4.

    Hale & Pace were step in the right direction a few years later, certainly better than Bobby Davro, Freddie Starr, Jim Davidson & a few others they struggled to get the right show for. They also headhunted Phil Cool but he couldn’t recreate the magic of Cool It!

    ITV managed to do quite well with comedy dramas for some reason, Jeeves & Wooster a few years later was very good.

  8. William Smith

    April 29, 2023 at 8:56 am

    Isn’t Cheryl Taylor’s Queen of Hearts meant to be Fergie? The playing card has ‘F’ rather than ‘Q’ in the corner.

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