TV Cream

TV: R is for...

Richard Stilgoe Show, The

NOW THERE’S a title to toy with. We haven’t heard much from Mr Music for a while, so it’s with great whimsical pleasure that we offer you up this one-off sorbet of skittery, wherein our hero tunefully jousts with PETER SKELLERN and MAUREEN LIPMAN about, presumably, glasnost, Oliver North and NEIGHBOURS.



  1. Glenn Aylett

    February 6, 2021 at 3:19 pm

    No doubt he’ll have performed that witty tune about a librarian with Peter Skellern called Joyce The Librarian. Actually the late Revd Skellern on his own was quite a good singer and had a massive hit with a brass band as backing group in 1972 and not The Floral Dance.

  2. Sidney Balmoral James

    February 7, 2021 at 1:38 pm

    Peter Skellern also had a group with Mary Hopkin, Julian Lloyd-Webber, Tristan Fry etc. called Oasis – for a one off album in mid-80s. Unquestionably better than the rough beast that slouched out of Manchester a few years later to destroy popular taste in music.

    • Glenn Aylett

      February 9, 2021 at 7:30 pm

      One should think Mr Skellern had more class than that unwashed pair of yobbos who thought they were the next Beatles and had John Lennon been alive, he’d have laughed them off the stage. I do recall at the height of the second Oasis’s fame, mention was made of this Revd Skellern led group, in the same way there was a sixties folk act named Nirvana.

  3. Sidney Balmoral James

    February 10, 2021 at 6:37 pm

    According to my old Rough Guide to Rock that sixties Nirvana sued Mr. Cobain and co – not sure what outcome was.

  4. Droogie

    February 11, 2021 at 12:47 pm

    I recall a Peter Skellern series on BBC2 in the early 80’s called Happy Endings that were half hour plays with musical numbers and comedy that was so gentle it was practically comatose. Nowhere near as good as The Innes Book Of Records.

  5. Droogie

    February 12, 2021 at 1:52 am

    Skellern also appeared as “ a special guest star” on the ITV Morecambe & Wise show when they were way past their best and acts like Rula Lenska or Alvin Stardust were also considered special guests. Skellern does a sketch where he’s trying to teach Eric & Ernie a song on the piano that was a blatant rehash of the Elton John one from the classic BBC years. Horrible stuff.

    • Glenn Aylett

      February 12, 2021 at 7:51 pm

      It was painful to watch Morecambe and Wise by their last ITV series, although to be fair Eric was dying and they knew the act was on its last legs, and they’d run out of ideas. Had The Two Ronnies kept going until 1993 and been tempted over to ITV by a huge contract when they announced the end of their BBC shows in 1987, might they have faced criticism their shows were never the same as the BBC years and they were rehashing old material.

      • Sidney Balmoral James

        February 12, 2021 at 10:39 pm

        The Thames years were not kind to Morecambe and Wise – they had been perhaps overrated during the BBC years, and then Eric’s ill health, and lack of good writers meant they were on a sticky wicket, but even so it was surprising how much they were willing to revisit their glory days. It’s said that they went to Thames because that meant they could make a film again, but Thames films were hardly great cinema, and indeed, the film they eventually produced, Night Train to Murder, is neither feature length, nor shot on film, has a faltering script (part-written by and Eric and Ern, which was not a good idea), and neither has the energy any more to bring it to life.

  6. Richardpd

    February 12, 2021 at 11:59 pm

    The Two Ronnies were tempted to go to Australia in the mid 1980s to make some shows that were mostly re-makes of their best sketches, some of which were shown on Channel 5 a while back.

    Luckily they were savvy enough to quit while they were ahead & coast along doing the intros & outros on the 20-21-22-25 Years of compilation shows into the 1990s.

  7. Droogie

    February 13, 2021 at 12:54 am

    Did any comedy performer that made their name on the BBC ever prosper by jumping to ITV? Apart from Benny Hill doing it quite early on, all the rest effectively nosedived their career. Morecambe & Wise, Dick Emery, Mike Yarwood, The Goodies etc, all came a cropper. Comedy actors from successful BBC sitcoms too like Michael Crawford, Harry H Corbett, Arthur Lowe etc all appeared in ITV flop shows too. The Two Ronnies really dodged a bullet it seems by not huffing off to ITV after getting upset about the hilarious NTNOCN parody.

    • Glenn Aylett

      February 13, 2021 at 1:10 pm

      @ Droogie. I think going over to ITV was often the kiss of death for BBC stars, but a few managed to prosper. Bruce Forsyth looked sunk after the failure of Bruce’s Big Night, but reinvented himself as a game show host( just like he was on the BBC), and Des O Connor found his light hearted chat show worked even better on ITV. While not an entertainer, Sport On 2 presenter Jim Rosenthal must have felt like he’d won the pools when he acted as a stand in on World Of Sport and then became the face of ITV Sport after Dickie Davies retired. OK he was never in the same league as Des Lynam or as respected, but Rosenthal had an interesting career that included such ITV fare as boxing from Stevenage and the glamour of the Monaco Grand Prix.

  8. Sidney Balmoral James

    February 13, 2021 at 8:51 am

    I have read somewhere that the BBC famously allowed much more time / space to get things right, rehearsals etc., which was a luxury not available on the commercial channel – not sure how true that is. I didn’t know that the Two Ronnies were offended by Griff and Mel – wouldn’t surprise me. Suspect it was mainly Big Ron, who didn’t seem to mind making his feelings known, as when he appeared in Wogan after a tabloid set him up in his antiques shop (I think they tried to flog him a valuable bit of silver, and he offered a derisory sum for it, although that presumably is how the antiques trade works, surely?) Most people by all accounts only went into the antique shop to gawp at him.

  9. Droogie

    February 14, 2021 at 12:00 am

    I recall Victor Lewis Smith being cheeky about Ronnie B’s antique shop years in one of his newspaper columns and telling readers if they want to know the real worth of any antiques they own to just look in Barker’s shop window for identical items, and then reduce the cost on his own price tags by 90{30e2395aaf6397fd02d2c79d91a1fe7cbb73158454674890018aee9c53a0cb96}. Barker was a strange chap. Made a big deal about retiring from showbiz for good after his dreadful BBC sitcom Clarence flopped, but then kept returning regularly on TV for 2 Rons stuff and adverts to pay off the debts from the failed antiques business. Each time he’d look more haggard and delicate.

    • Richardpd

      February 14, 2021 at 2:53 pm

      I remember late on Ronnie B won some plaudits for coming out of retirement to play Churchill’s butler in a one-off drama.

  10. Glenn Aylett

    February 14, 2021 at 3:53 pm

    Ronnie Barker did look ghastly in his last two series of The Two Ronnies Sketchbook and for all the wit was still there, you could tell he was dying. Ronnie C did live several years longer and did make a reasonable comeback with The One Ronnie, which proved he could work on his own, and had scored considerable success in the eighties with his sitcom Sorry.
    I always felt sorry for Ernie Wise, as he was completely lost without Morecambe, and his career after 1984 was reduced to some panel game appearances and an unsuccessful sketch show on Radio 2.

    • Droogie

      February 15, 2021 at 5:04 am

      I’m guessing Ronnie Barker’s physical demise in later years wasn’t helped by the stress from by his son Adam’s horrible behaviour that made the creep go on the run from the law for 8 years. Agree with the love for Ernie Wise here and him being underused post-Eric. I could’ve seen him working with Victoria Wood on something if he’d stuck around.

  11. Sidney Balmoral James

    February 14, 2021 at 7:02 pm

    Agreed – poor Ronnie Barker’s physical decline was very sad. Ernie Wise for all the sadness of losing his partner, didn’t ever seem to dwell on it or fall into self-pity – he kept his hand in in various ways – wrote a gardening column, did stage work etc., and enjoyed life in Florida – those BBC and Thames fees obviously well-managed. But 73 was not really old age by modern standards, and seems extremely unfair for someone who always seemed so spry. One would have liked to have had him still around and popping up at 95, like Stanley Baxter. I always liked Ernie Wise.

  12. Richardpd

    February 15, 2021 at 11:08 pm

    Phil Cool was another performer who made the move from the BBC to ITV & ended up flopping badly.

    Les Dennis another half of a comedy duo who was left in potentially a tricky situation when Dustin Gee died unexpectedly, fortunately he was offered a lifeline to be Russ Abbott’s sidekick, as well landing the host of Family Fortunes. The BBC also continued the Laughter Show for another series or so as a good will gesture.

    • Droogie

      February 16, 2021 at 12:32 am

      @richardpd Yes! I now remember the Dustin-free Laughter Show! They drafted in Joe Longthorne as a replacement impressionist if I recall. Bella Emberg from the Russ Abbot years too.

  13. Sidney Balmoral James

    February 16, 2021 at 5:55 pm

    Dustin and Les were already firmly part of Russ Abbott’s Madhouse – I saw them live at the Gaumont in Southampton – must have been around 1984. Poor Dustin’s case not dissimilar to that of Eric Morecambe – he was very seriously ill and should have had complete rest, but carried on working.

    • Richardpd

      February 17, 2021 at 11:11 pm

      I was surprised at how young Dustin Gee was when he died at 43, which is only a year older than me, though he had a serious heart condition.

      I guess the temptation to ignore doctor’s orders while having some mainstream success after years on the club circuit was too much for him.

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