TV Cream

100 Greatest TV Moments

87) “And I have an enormous penis!”

Not The Nine O’Clock News meets another BBC comedy show, 1980

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The working title for Not The Nine O’Clock News was Sacred Cows, and it certainly lived up to that name with a sketch that did something highly unusual at the time in criticising one of its BBC stablemates – and the previously untouchable Two Ronnies to boot. Undoubtedly The Two Ronnies is one of the best-loved comedy programmes in the history of the BBC, but even its biggest fans would surely admit that parts of it did get a bit predictable. Hence this sketch, apparently written by a former Ronnies writer, which gleefully sent up the conventions of the series, spoofing its reliance on innuendo and its formulaic jokes, before embarking on a very silly song parody (and we love the way they’re beefeaters for no reason) that builds from subtle double entendres into just a constant stream of blatant obscenities. The acting is also fantastic , especially Mel Smith’s performance as Ronnie Barker, with his constant double takes and smirks to the camera, expertly picking up on Barker’s faux-innocent mannerisms. All good fun and, thanks to the constant repeats, still relevant today, but the huge excitement in 1980 was that this was not only a parody of a BBC programme on the BBC, but a BBC comedy show on another BBC comedy show to boot, and apparently Ronnie Barker was most upset by what he saw as treachery within TV Centre. It’s all fair comment, though, and the fact that they were able to do it on the Beeb is the great thing, illustrating that this was a show that had opinions, that did take the piss out of everything and had no truck with the convention that they were things you didn’t touch. In its own way it was as daring as any remark they made about the government and certainly struck a chord with viewers. Of course, the Rons themselves continued much as before and rightly enjoyed huge succe ss – but it doesn’t mean it’s the only way to do comedy, and The Two Ninnies sums up why Not seemed such a breath of fresh air at the turn of the eighties.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Mark Wright

    July 9, 2013 at 2:47 am

    Thank you TVC! I would have been 8/9 when this first went out, and I’m now certain that this expert demolition job was responsible for shaping my entire taste in/love of comedy ever since! (*Except I’ve now remembered another one. Buy anyway.)

    I’ve just relived the joy I felt, as a child, staring at the TV – utterly spellbound – whenever a GOOD impressionist or PERFECT parody sketch appeared. I must have been discerning at an early age as I can also recall my pre-pubescent RAGE upon seeing a sub-par “take off” of Mavis from Coronation St/Ooh Betty/”…I’m just here to say…”/”The Thing They Do” hack-fest. This must have set the bar for me.

    My favourite thing ever is “Smashie & Nicey: The End of an Era” which is often credited as bringing down the Radio 1 old-guard, and is the standard-bearer (in my opinion) of perfectly executed parody. But I wonder would I have taken the same interest in that, or The Day Today, Victoria Wood’s “As Seen on TV”, Victor Lewis-Smith’s wonderful assasinations, et al, had it not been for this delightfully contemptuous whimsy?

    Watching now, I’m loving their repeating of the first few words of the script during the “news” section, as if to ride the expected audience laughter, which is so brilliantly observed.

    I wish TV was still good.

    (*I can remember staring transfixed while watching an episode of “End of Part One” as a child, genuinely worried that what they were doing might be “against the law”.)

  2. Adam Maunder

    July 9, 2013 at 11:29 pm

    Humourless pedantry alert: this was from the very last edition of NTNO’CN, airing on the 8th March 1982.

    Wasn’t it Peter Brewis that admitted to writing this recently? Said he’d written some musical finales for the Rons prior to this – they’d actually done a Beefeater routine in their 1980 series, so that presumably explains the choice of costume for this spoof – and was so pissed off with the way they did them that he thought he’d take some revenge. A bit hard to imagine what he’d written for them, given the likes of his ‘Baronet Oswald Ernald Mosley’ on Not the Nine, but even so.

    • Tom Ronson

      July 12, 2021 at 10:59 pm

      This sketch was written by Colin Pearson, who also wrote for The Two Ronnies and penned the sitcom Constant Hot Water.

  3. putthetellyon

    July 11, 2013 at 12:50 am

    It’s perhaps slightly surprising that Ronnie B found this offending given that The Two Rons also parodied TV shows themselves such as Mastermind, or perhaps with it being a send up of their own work he saw it that somebody was just throwing dog muck all over it (so to speak).

  4. Mark Wright

    July 21, 2013 at 12:17 am

    Sad that we’re a ninny down. RIP Mel.

  5. Stan Pomeray

    March 24, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    “Over China Over China Over China town……”

  6. Glenn Aylett

    March 5, 2016 at 9:24 pm

    Much as I liked The Two Ronnies, the musical pieces were often self indulgent and often not funny. I think Not did the right thing by showing up the most boring part of the show.

  7. Richardpd

    January 8, 2022 at 5:40 pm

    Supposedly Ronnie C found this hilarious, but kept quiet until after Ronnie B had passed on.

  8. Glenn Aylett

    January 8, 2022 at 8:53 pm

    Both shows were excellent and as a huge Two Ronnies and Not fan, I had no problem with this send up of Barker and Corbett. To me, the musical sketches didn’t always work and could drag in places and needed to be cut down. Otherwise the rest of The Two Ronnies was comedy gold and Not’s biting satire, put downs of musical trends, politicians and television shows was classic comedy. Also the show was very near the bone for its time and had people talking.

  9. Droogie

    January 8, 2022 at 9:41 pm

    @Glenn Aylett Didn’t Ronnie B supposedly threaten to leave for ITV instead after seeing the Not sketch? The Ronnies dodged a bullet there as they would’ve tarnished their legacy like Eric & Ernie , Mike Yarwood, the Goodies, Dick Emery etc. with a late unsuccessful ITV career. Corbett was much more open-minded to working with new comedians ( the Harry Enfield Blackberry sketch is a modern classic.) it’s a shame Barker was so set in his ways and wasted his latter years running an unsuccessful antiques shop instead apart from the occasional comedy appearance.

    • Glenn Aylett

      January 9, 2022 at 11:40 am

      @ Droogie, Barker was annoyed, but he probably knew leaving the BBC for ITV would have been a poisoned chalice and the BBC wanted to revive Open All Hours, which was just as popular as The Two Ronnies. Corbett also had Sorry on BBC One between series of The Two Ronnies, which was doing good business for him at the time, so a move to ITV was off.
      I think Barker got over the send up, as Not was cancelled in 1982, but by the mid eighties, he knew The Two Ronnies couldn’t go on forever and wanted quit on a high, not turn into someone like Benny Hill, who was becoming increasingly old fashioned and despised by the new wave.

  10. Richardpd

    January 8, 2022 at 10:01 pm

    I got the impresstion Ronnie Barker wanted to retire while still at the top, though he occasionally acted again, one part being Churchill’s butler in a drama.

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