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Morecambe and Wise Show, The

'Beak' performanceFORGET 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.



  1. Lee James Turnock

    May 26, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    Their first Thames TV series from 1980 is a bit of a classic, all told. Superb guest spots from Gemma ‘Pennies From Heaven’ Craven, Suzanne ‘Carry On Emmannuelle’ Danielle, Deryck ‘Sykes’ Guyler, Harold Wilson (I’m serious!) and Dave ‘Green Cross’ Prowse, among others.

  2. gman

    May 30, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    Just a pity that much of their first Thames series was rehashed material from their fifth BBC series. Their best Thames episodes were the two specials written by John Junkin and Barry Cryer

  3. Jules

    September 3, 2012 at 10:54 am

    They were successful hard working variety artists who transferred to television. The problem (as always with television) is that whilst you can have the same “routine” week-in week-out on the music hall circuit, television gobbles up all the good material in just one series. After establishing TV success, all you then need is a few repeated catch phrases, repeated physical gestures (slapping Ernie’s Face) with little else – it wasn’t their fault, but rather TV’s, that they became rather sad. And as for the “iconic” dancing routine: I do not like Angela Rippon; condescending and (put bluntly) she looked (and looks) like the front of a 1960s diesel railbus with those eyebrows.

  4. NP

    December 15, 2012 at 8:29 am

    Endless `best of’ clips have given them much a greater legacy than they deserve. Last year the 76 Christmas special with John Thaw and Dennis Waterman was repested and it was terrible.

  5. Enoch Sneed

    December 20, 2012 at 9:23 am

    Can’t agree with NP their legacy is over-rated but, yes, the 1976 Christmas show wasn’t their finest. M&W were at their best in 5 minute sketches and cross-talk routines but always wanted to make full-length movies which diluted the fun. The World War One spoof from the ’76 show goes on far too long and Eric has no chemistry with Kate O’Mara, their scene together is embarrassing. The script wasn’t by Eddie Braben, and it shows.

  6. Glenn Aylett

    December 24, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    NP, I would agree with you if you said the Thames specials weren’t very good, but the BBC work was superb and the 1976 show was one of the best. Achtung, Volkswagen!

  7. Glenn A

    December 27, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    Watching them again on BBC Two on Christmas Day, Morecambe and Wise were good, particularly Morecambe’s facial expressions and asides to the camera, but not quite up there with The Two Ronnies, whose material was more intelligent and didn’t rely on special guest stars to pan out otherwise average sketches. Also the move to Thames saw a big dip in quality, while the Two Ronnies quit on a high in 1987 with no deterioration in standards.

  8. Tom Ronson

    October 24, 2022 at 4:09 am

    Next time the 1975 Christmas special with Diana Rigg and Des O’Connor turns up, listen for one bloke in the audience absolutely cacking himself laughing at the speeded-up fencing sequence. It’s ace.

  9. Eugene Smith

    December 30, 2022 at 9:57 am

    Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen were guests for most of the 70s, more or less a house band.

  10. Richardpd

    June 25, 2023 at 10:28 pm

    I was born a few years too late to see any of their shows first time round, but luckily the BBC had a series of compilation of the best bits in the mid 1990s.

    Supposedly Glenda Jackson spent most of the Cleopatra sketch biting the inside of her cheeks to stop herself from laughing as Eric & Ern were so funny.

    She also made a blood donor information film with Ernie.

    • Glenn Aylett

      June 27, 2023 at 8:35 pm

      The peak years for Morecambe and Wise were 1961 to 1977. In this period, they could do no wrong, their following became enormous and they could attract stars as big as The Beatles on their shows. Not remembered as much now and rarely shown on television, they even had a big hit film with THe Intelligence Men, which still makes me laugh now( the duo dressed up as ballerinas is a classic scene). It’s amazing that a comedy duo whose golden era was 50 years ago can still have a big following now and make people laugh.

  11. Richardpd

    June 27, 2023 at 10:43 pm

    I know they tried branching out into films with mixed results.

    • David Smith

      June 28, 2023 at 6:44 am

      They wanted to get back into movies when they loved to Thames, through the link with Euston Films. Unfortunately the only one they got round to making was Night Train to Murder, which didn’t even get shown until after Eric’s death, didn’t get a cinema release like the earlier ones and I gather was pretty ropey.

  12. Droogie

    June 30, 2023 at 12:38 am

    You can’t call Night Train To Murder a movie! It’s shot on videotape and looks cheap as hell. At least Cannon & Ball’s awful Boys In Blue was shot on 35mm film and able to be screened in cinemas. It’s depressing watching a visibly knackered Eric & Ernie in this final outing.

  13. Sidney Balmoral James

    July 1, 2023 at 7:30 pm

    I have always presumed that having gone to Thames at least in part because it offered the chance to make films again (presumably via Euston Films), Eric’s declining health, and their declining comic power – the Thames series demonstrated their glory days were behind them – meant that was never going to happen, and this was a sort of compromise – a long TV programme in effect. It originally had a laughter track although quite where the laughs were supposed to be we shall never know, as it’s not exactly a rib-tickler, and proceeds at an incredibly slow pace – even for 1984 this was really old hat. I can see why it wasn’t shown until after Eric’s passing – it would have finished them. Following his death, that was no longer an issue. Boys in Blue does at least have some energy to it, whatever your view of Cannon and Ball.

  14. Glenn Aylett

    July 2, 2023 at 5:18 pm

    Morecambe and Wise’s last series for Thames really was a poor way for Eric to end his career and the film was a real let down, although to be fair, The Magnificient Two, made during the duo’s golden era, was quite poor as well. However, by 1983/84, with Eric being seriously ill, the last television series for Thames was reduced to half hour episodes with Morecambe and Wise living in a penthouse flat with guests appearing at the door. Clearly the days of lavish spectaculars, 20 million viewers and critical acclaim had gone and it was sad in a way to see the duo end their career with such poor material.

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