FORGET RUNNING WILD, their hopeless first foray into television during the 50s. From 1961 when they barrelled onto ATV, Eric ‘n’ Ernie’s small screen shows were incomparable. Masterstroke was acquisition of Scouse gag-master EDDIE BRABEN and producer JOHN AMMONDS for the BBC series after 1968. Out went KENNY BALL’S JAZZMEN and MILLICENT MARTIN and in came a dazzling array of guest stars, the brown paper bag and invisible stone schtick, the shared double bed, big musical numbers, and that Groucho Marx inspired dance. Reflecting a music hall inheritance, each programme would open with the pair appearing from behind mock theatre front-cloths. Some ribbing of Ernie would follow (“get out of that”, “short fat hairy legs”, “you can’t see the join”) and a guest star, usually asking for payment. Then some pastiches, like “Singin’ In The Rain” with Eric getting soaked while Ernie “does” Gene Kelly. SHIRLEY BASSEY wearing hob-nailed boots, or ANGELA RIPPON high-kicking to “Let’s Face The Music And Dance”. A bit more variety nonsense padded out the rest of the show before the final act, usually a play “wot Ernie wrote”, disrupted heavily by Eric’s asides to camera. In later years, with Morecambe’s health fading, Ernie would duet their signature tune, “Bring Me Sunshine”, with DES O’CONNOR or similar whilst Eric wandered around nonplussed in the background. Move back to ITV in 1978, leaving Braben behind, was the cue for a slow decline into creaky retreads, laboured gags and too many white studio backgrounds. When Eric died in ’84, Ern went on to write gardening columns for the News of the World.Read More
Posts Tagged With '1961'
THE FORMAT might have been through the mill countless times, but when it got itself sorted, this was close to the best damn thing on telly. Way back at the beginning the whole thing was taped as live: a bonkers idea that had PATRICK MACNEE, aka John Steed, inching out of shot at the earliest opportunity in order to swap his cumbersome mackintosh for a lightweight morning suit ready for the next scene. Plots involving private zoos and crates of rotting fruit singularly failed to reel in many viewers, but as least the episodes had ace titles like ‘Nightmare’, ‘Square Root Of Evil’ and ‘The Tunnel Of Fear’. The decade rolled on and some supposedly stereotype-bashing judo/leather business came and went, though given it was all still as-live HONOR BLACKMAN (Cathy Gale) shared top billing with Stunt Man In Blonde Wig. ’65 saw a Connery-bound Blackman switched for the magnificent DIANA RIGG (Emma Peel) and here everything clicked into place helped by loads more money and pre-recorded escapades. New titles, new gimmicks, acres of new wardrobes and endless flipping between spy thriller, science fiction and telefantasy all helped, despite proceedings almost always ending up unravelling into a long car chase around the Shire counties. By now loads of people were watching, and even more were talking about it, so when a Lazenby-bound Rigg pissed off the self-appointed power that was, Brian “BUGS” Clemens, pressed on regardless. Sadly what followed was pretty dire: MacNee suddenly looked wrinkled, new sidekick LINDA “20 YEARS OLD” THORSON seemed to have only read her script first thing that morning, and PATRICK NEWELL was conscripted in to play dopey boss Mother, seemingly purely to trot out “Mother knows best” gags. JOHN CLEESE even showed up to dust down his besuited lunatic turn. It all ended with MacNee and Thorson being blasted into space for no reason – “They’ll be back!”.
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MONOLITHIC CORNERSTONE of Hanna/Barbera cartoon empire documenting “page right out of history” antics of Stone Age Flintstone clan (Fred, Wilma and Pebbles) and their neighbours the Rubbles (Barney, Betty and Bam-Bam) in the town of Bedrock. Basically, BLESS THIS HOUSE with boulders. Fred drove a dinosaur-powered crane at local quarry and constantly fought with his boss. Well-equipped cave had a record-player with a long-beaked bird doing the needle bit, a waste-disposal unit (large hungry vulture under the sink) and an elephant for a vacuum cleaner. Their car, like most of the other vehicles in Bedrock, required the passengers’ foot power to make it go. “Let’s ride,” jovial man-and-woman choir tootled over opening credits to hammer the point home, “with the family down the street, through the courtesy of Fred’s two feet.” Textbook sitcommery ensued, usually involving Fred and Barney getting into scrapes, falling out with each other, getting caught red-handed by their wives, but all making up at the end. Pet pathos provided by Dino the Dinosaur and hapless cat that Fred was always trying to put out in the titles.Read More
ESP-BASED SELF-CONTAINED yarns with people travelling back to Krakatoa or the holocaust and forward into the future by means of juddery-camera visions.Read More
EARDRUM-BATTERING COMEDY OF the working class woman from RONALDs WOLFE and CHESNEY. Miserly PETER “VOICE OF THE BOOK” JONES runs a clothing factory with a shopfloor redolent of CORONATION STREET’s Baldwin Casuals. Laughter ensues when staff of seamstresses, amongst them MIRIAM KARLIN (all series), ESMA CANNON, SHEILA HANCOCK and BARBARA WINDSOR (BBC version), ANNA KAREN and GILLIAN TAYLFORTH (LWT version) decide to work to rule. Decible level alternated between the moderately high and the sheer fucking terrifying. Episodes always ended with all sides “pulling together” to avoid minor crisis of the tea-urn-exploding kind. REG VARNEY and CHRISTOPHER BEENY also turned up, while Olive from ON THE BUSES joined the staff during the LWT years.Read More
EPONYMOUS FEMO-BOT spawned by malevolent machine made of giant spinning tape loops and teleprinters proceeds to run (slowly) amok in a Top Secret Government Laboratory on a Remote Scottish Island. Crinkle-faced shiny-haired boffins are powerless to do anything but clasp their hands to their bespectacled moon faces. Turns out Mrs Replica (JULIE CHRISTIE) has – gasp! – a human side, thanks to the fact a) she is a woman and b) she has her clanky head turned by the dapper Professor John Fleming (PETER HALLIDAY). Titular constellation is also to blame, by dint of sending signals to earth which spell out the instruction manual for making an evil bastard computer. Sequel, THE ANDROMEDA BREAKTHROUGH, found Fleming, his cyber missus (now regenerated into SUSAN HAMPSHIRE) and “scheming sidekick” Madeline (MARY MORRIS) taken prisoner in a Middle East state for propaganda purposes (topical) and made to destroy the ozone layer (ditto). Faulty machinery once again to blame.Read More