TV Cream

TV: M is for...

Magnificent Evans, The/Clarence

TWO POST-RONNIES roustabouts for BARKER of middling spectacle (ho ho). Evans was an amorous photographer in Edwardian Wales, Clarence a short-sighted removals man. Both were too caricatured for Ron to find much to get a handle on, with too much reliance on dirty pictures and dropping vases respectively.



  1. Lee James Turnock

    May 5, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    Clarence isn’t too bad, but the Magnificent Evans was a huge mistake.

  2. Tom Ronson

    February 28, 2023 at 3:00 am

    Ronnie Barker was undoubtedly a huge talent – he had the perfect comedy face, his delivery was usually spot-on, his timing was perfect, and he mastered wordplay and dialogue like no other performer of the era (perhaps only Eric Idle came close) – but his sense of humour was suspect, to say the least. Here was a man who could have done anything, yet when the BBC gave him his head, he made By the Sea (effectively a Benny Hill sketch stretched out to nearly an hour) and Clarence, which was pretty much a live-action Mr Magoo cartoon with lots of ropey jokes about a man with defective eyesight picking up inappropriate objects, bumping into things, and mistaking pillar boxes for people. As popular as he was, his imagination screeched to a halt about a million miles before his talent, and that Not the Nine o’ Clock News sketch spoofing The Two Ronnies was long overdue.

  3. Sidney Balmoral James

    February 28, 2023 at 8:14 pm

    I disagree about Clarence, it wasn’t intended to be a laugh out loud sort of programme, it was a very gentle, nostalgic series, with Clarence and his girlfriend played to perfection by Josephine Tewson moving into an idyllic prefab cottage. The fact that he was short-sighted wasn’t really milked as I recall, just used for a bit of occasional comic punctuation.

  4. Richardpd

    February 28, 2023 at 11:08 pm

    I agree that Clarence was OK if not outstanding series, which had it’s origin with Six Dates With Barker made by LWT in 1971.

    The episode Ronnie Barker wrote 2774 AD: All the World’s a Stooge is a mixed bag, great for ideas in places due it being set in the future where comedy has become religion & well acted, but it struggles in places to keep the momentum up for 25 minutes. As a long Two Ronnies sketch or possibly a short serial it would be a classic.

    Ronnie Barker seemed to be best writing sketches, certainly as Gerald Wiley he never seemed to be short of ideas for The Two Ronnies when they didn’t have to run for more than a few minutes.

  5. Glenn Aylett

    March 2, 2023 at 7:49 pm

    At least Ronnie Barker knew when to quit and retire gracefully and he was never bitter( even with The Two Ninnies sketch that annoyed him) about new trends. He retired to his antique shop, lived off the repeat fees and made a modest comeback when he was dying with The Two Ronnies Sketchbook, where a little of the old magic appeared in the links between the old sketches. Barker was a genius and you can forgive him The Magnificient Evans as everything else was generally excellent.

    • Richardpd

      March 2, 2023 at 10:27 pm

      Yes Ronnie Barker probably retired at the right time, with almost his only non-2 Ronnies repackage project being a one-off drama where he played Churchill’s butler.

      • George White

        March 6, 2023 at 4:06 pm

        After the Gathering Storm, he did another film for HBO/Richard Loncraine, he had a more sizeable role in A House in Umbria, doing his old General routine in more serious surroundings. About four survivors of a European terrorist bomb on a train in Italy, including a former child prostitute carnie turned madam turned romance novelist (Maggie Smith) who takes three of her surviving passengers, a girl orphaned in the bombing who has become mute, Ronnie B’s General, who has lost his daughter, and a German guy (Benno Furrman) who lost his girlfriend, and is obviously the culprit.
        Released theatrically in Britain, it’s odd, tonally all over, with a very obvious twist, Giancarlo Giannini as a beleaguered Eurocrime copper, lashings of sentimentality and sub-Dennis Potter weirdness.

        • Richardpd

          March 6, 2023 at 10:36 pm

          Sounds quite different to his usual fare!

  6. Glenn Aylett

    March 3, 2023 at 3:52 pm

    Ronnie Corbett continued after The Twp Ronnies and Sorry finished with a daytime game show, and his chair monologue was revived with Ben Elton, which proved neither Ronnie had a beef with the new wave of comedians( people like Bobby Ball should have taken note). I think both Ronnies were excellent and for all Barker got most of the credit as he was a scriptwriter, Corbett was just as talented and many of his chair monologues where he spun out a simple joke for five munutes were hilarious.

  7. Richardpd

    March 3, 2023 at 10:27 pm

    Ronnie Corbett presented the evening game show Small Talk in the 1990s, & would often contribute towards Children In Need or Red Nose Day.

    Supposedly he thought The Two Ninnies was hilarious but kept quiet to not upset Ronnie Barker!

    Certainly the chair monologues were a highlight of the show, with a few laughs before the punchline at the end with that odd bit of music from Ronnie Hazelhurst.

  8. Droogie

    March 4, 2023 at 12:47 am

    Ronnie Barker’s retirement from comedy to run an antique shop instead was a rum affair. The shop supposedly wasn’t very successful, and apparently the only visitors were comedy fans wanting a peek at their hero but who never bought anything in the shop because everything was so overpriced. I can only imagine it was full of expensive saucy postcards and chamber pots?

    • Tom Ronson

      March 6, 2023 at 2:52 am

      Googling reveals that Barker’s antique shop was The Emporium in Chipping Norton, which closed its doors in 1999. The Sun sent someone there with a silver salver valued at £1000 and Barker offered them twenty quid for it – which explains why Bob McCabe’s authorised book about Barker includes the disclaimer ‘Not The Sun!’ at the bottom of a list of newspapers and magazines that provided him with reference material.

  9. Sidney Balmoral James

    March 4, 2023 at 8:58 am

    Barker was also subject to a tabloid sting in which a paper brought in some valuable silverware, and he didn’t offer them very much – e.g. a very lot less than it was worth, which I’d have thought was how most antiques shops operate, surely? He was subsequently given a platform on Wogan to complain very bitterly about the paper in question (it was clearly a favour he’d called in because I remember Tel saying you’re due to be on in a few weeks time anyway). For a man with twenty years service as headline BBC comedy act, he didn’t die a wealthy man (not surprising given – until recently – the BBCs unwillingness to remunerate its talent, hence departure of Morecambe and Wise to Thames. Billy Cotton famously actually offered Simon Dee less than his current salary when his contract was up for renewal, to test his loyalty (a test he failed), although he may well have recognised that Dee had a shelf-life only slightly longer than that of a conference pear.

  10. Glenn Aylett

    March 4, 2023 at 11:22 am

    ITV typically paid their stars double what the BBC paid, one of the reasons Bruce Forsyth jumped ship in 1978, but it could be a false move as they lacked the comedy scriptwriters the BBC had and shows were shorter due to the commercial breaks. Only Benny Hill seemed to prosper when he moved to Thames in 1969 as they allowed him more freedom with his show and he found his niche with a bawdy show that attracted 20 million viewers well into the eighties.

  11. Sidney Balmoral James

    March 4, 2023 at 1:40 pm

    Benny Hill seems to be on permanently on one of the digital channels every evening, and he’s terrible – how did we sit through such utter crap? He overdoes just about every reaction, the slapstick is poorly done, the sets cheap-looking, and the supporting cast consists of the most broken down old dossers imaginable (with the exception of Henry McGee) and a bunch of tarts.

    • Glenn Aylett

      March 4, 2023 at 7:24 pm

      @ Sidney, Benny Hill was excellent throughout the seventies and many of his sketches were hilarious, but by the eighties, the rot started to set in: a man in his late fifties perving at lingerie clad dancers, sketches with obvious jokes and, as you say, a broken down looking old cast. Benny could still make you laugh- his French cabaret sketch from 1984 and the traffic warden sketch from 1982 were still good- just fewer and fewer times as the eighties went on, and by the end he was worn out and unfunny. He should really have quit around 1984 when there was still some goodwill towards him at ITV.
      Ronnie Barker OTOH ended his career just as the cracks were showing with The Magnificient Evans and he felt The Two Ronnies couldn’t carry on after 16 years. I didn’t know about his interview with Wogan slagging off the new wave, but generally most people have a higher opinion of Barker than Benny Hill, and when he returned near the end of his life for Sketchbook, you could see Barker was delighted to do his items of late news and humorous links between the old sketches.

  12. Droogie

    March 4, 2023 at 2:58 pm

    Ronnie Barker really had a grudge against alternative comedy. As Glenn Aylett said, Ronnie Corbett was happy to work with younger comedians but Barker seemed threatened by the new lot. I recall him being very pious on Wogan defending the smuttier elements of The Two Ronnies and saying that really lewd tv programs should have on-screen warning symbols for parents ( just like Channel 4 tried a few years later with that silly red triangle.) Barker also got very irate at some BBC centenary show when Reeves & Mortimer re-enacted an old Morecambe & Wise skit with Tom Jones. Barker approached the producer after show and told him if that bit was actually broadcast, he’d make an official complaint to the BBC. The skit wasn’t funny, but you do wonder why Barker overreacted so.

  13. Richardpd

    March 5, 2023 at 2:49 pm

    I can understand Ronnie Barker getting angry about The Two Ninnies because it was directly aimed at him, but I’m a little surprised to find he wasn’t pleased about the arrival of Alternative Comedy.

    At least most of the earlier Alternative shows were post-watershead & expected to be risque.

    Considering he was happy to take part in many retrospectives he didn’t seem to hold any long term ill-will towards the BBC.

  14. Droogie

    March 7, 2023 at 12:21 am

    Victor Lewis Smith used to repeat a gag about Ronnie Barker’s antique shop while it still existed, and how if you wanted to know the real value of any personal valuable item just sell it to Ronnie Barker and then divide the price he’s charging for it by 20.

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