Comedy duo’s ‘lost’ shows discovered
TWO missing episodes of The Morecambe And Wise Show, which have not been seen for 50 years, have been found in a derelict cinema in Sierra Leone.
The shows were thought to be lost for ever after being wiped in a BBC cost-saving plan to reuse video tape.
But the cherished episodes featuring one of Britain’s best-loved comedy duos have been saved for the nation.
At the height of their fame, Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise attracted prime-time audiences of nearly 30 million for their Christmas specials.
And the pair will be back on our screens this festive season after being recovered in a remarkable international rescue operation.
Archive preservation expert Philip Morris discovered the tapes gathering dust more than 4,000 miles from home in the wrecked building in the West African country’s capital Freetown.
He said: “This is historically important for British TV. These things are national heritage, it belongs to us all.”
The tapes had been sent to Sierra Leone in the hope the country’s broadcasters would buy the full series.
Mr Morris found the tapes after a tip-off from a local contact that a stash of old TV programmes had been unearthed in the abandoned cinema.
The building contained “stacks and stacks” of films most of which were damaged. But both Morecambe and Wise episodes were in perfect condition.
Mr Morris had travelled to Sierra Leone in 2011 to scour archives but the national television station had been destroyed in the civil war which claimed 50,000 lives between 1991 and 2002.
Mr Morris said of the find: “Inside this building there were old steel benches with stacks and stacks of films. Most were in a bad condition, but amongst these were two of the missing Morecambe and Wise episodes.”
Like many programmes of the time, the episodes were only shown once on TV, when first broadcast in 1968.
They were screened on BBC Two where the duo had returned for their first series after seven years with ITV.
The 30-minute shows feature sketches called Hollywood Musical, Sailing Around The World and Eric And The Pools.
Michael Aspel was also a guest in one of the episodes.
Mr Morris had previously recovered 1960s Dr Who and The Sky At Night programmes from Nigeria.
On Christmas Day 1977, Eric and Ernie drew 28 million viewers.
Eric died in 1984, aged 58, after suffering a heart attack on stage. Ernie died in hospital in 1999, aged 73.
SOME people search for fossils or gold coins. Others track down mosaics and ancient spears. But one man, Philip Morris, has been on the trail of “lost” episodes of the Morecambe and Wise show – and has come up trumps.
He’s found two from the first series in 1968 hidden in an abandoned cinema in Sierra Leone.
What’s more, we’ll all be able to enjoy them this Christmas. A gift and a joy.