Managed to catch up with Morecambe & Wise: The Lost Tape, ITV Hub. For boomers it was a trip down memory lane for millennials it was surely “what’s all the fuss about”.
First of all we didn’t see enough of the lost tape: far too much time taken up with forced laughs and superfluous comments from ‘celebrity fans’ and unnecessary analysis, which detracted from the duos comedy. The best excerpts, those with Andre Previn, Glenda Jackson and Penelope Keith, weren’t from the lost tape but were classic pieces shown many times over many years – where was Angela Rippon?
The fact that the complete tape wasn’t broadcast probably means that either the reproduction quality wasn’t good enough or that the sketches weren’t. If what was broadcast was the best of the recording then it was probably the latter. That’s no disrespect to Eddie Braben who wrote some superb sketches for the pair’s BBC shows nor to Dick Hills and Sid Green the main writers on ITV’s Two of A Kind.
An estimated 24 million viewers tuned in to their 1977 Christmas Special
Narrator, Toby Jones, mentioned in the voice over that an estimated 24 million people watched the M&W 1977 Christmas Special on BBC. But you have to remember that at that time there were only three TV channels, BBC1, BBC2 and ITV. By 1977 the show had become a Christmas institution; so much so that ITV had thrown in the towel. In opposition to the BBC’s Christmas evening offering of Bruce Forsyth’s Generation Game followed by The Mike Yarwood Show screening prior to M&W, ITV broadcast Stars on Christmas Day (Moira Anderson presenting a compilation from Stars On Sunday) followed by the film Young Winston, then comedian Stanley Baxter’s Greatest Hits. Like sending out Accrington Stanley to face Barcelona. No contest.
Not everything Morecambe and Wise did was brilliant. Like every sketch or variety show there is chaff and wheat but at their peak they entertained an adoring nation with very British humour. So whilst it was great to see some sketches, seen only once before, the show itself was a manufactured non-event. Showing the complete lost tape without the dressing would have been so much better.