TV Review: Lookalikes, C4

There's a theory doing the rounds that television is so short of original ideas that it is drawing on its own past and eating itself. This theory surely reaches its apotheosis with the second series of Lookalikes, which has just started on Channel 4. I'll try to explain...

Lookalikes is a sort-of constructed reality TV show about celebrity lookalikes, but also a sort-of sitcom. In the first episode of the second series the agency run by the David Beckham lookalike has hit the skids, but the rival agency run by David Brent is on the way up ("Every cloud..." as he didn't say in this - he has Brent's nervous tics but his own lines).

So far so straightforward. But it's easy to get confused. The David Beckham lookalike, ditto the Gordon Ramsey double and Tom Cruise, is based on a real person. The David Brent lookalike is based on a fictional creation (ditto Poldark). Tim Oliver, the person who plays besuited bozo Brent (Fact. Very well actually) used to work as a David Brent lookalike in real life and maybe still does.

There are also other thoughts. If, for example, there was a Homer Simpson lookalike or a lookalike of a Disney character the programme might well - caveat, I'm not a lawyer – risk getting into copyright difficulties. But as far as I know Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and the BBC aren't calling in m'learned friends just yet.

So in the first episode we saw "David Beckham" hit the skids – though if he ate a few pies and brushed his hair forward I think he could make a few quid as a James Corden stunt double. But Brent was going from strength to strength, shooting his own reality TV dating programme, Sex Mansion, to pitch to television. The sad-eyed Gordon Ramsey clone was funding it, so was even sadder when he failed to get a date out of it. 

It's all a very weird hall-of-mirrors concept, but actually quite an astute critique of both reality TV and celebrity. There is even a Morgan Freeman soundalike narrating it. Though thinking about it now, things really have come more full circle than I initially thought. Shortly before Ricky Gervais broke through with The Office he made a one-off comedy called Golden Years in which he played a proto-Brent character who dreamt of being s star. That show also featured a lookalikes agency, including a Queen tribute act, Right Fred's Dead. You can watch it here.

Lookalikes, C4, Wednesdays, 10.30pm.



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