The Scottish Mail on Sunday
Bring us sunshine... AGAIN!
Missing for more than 50 years and finally unearthed from a dusty attic, this hilarious show reveals Eric and Ernie at their very best
MORECAMBE AND WISE: THE LOST TAPES Wednesday, ITV, 9pm
They brought us sunshine and laughter like no one else for more than 20 years as the supreme stars of prime-time television, drawing record audiences to become the nation’s greatest and best-loved double act.
But perhaps the only downside of the sublime legacy of Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise (above) is that their much-loved material has grown so familiar over time that you could be forgiven for wondering if you need to see their famous sketches once again.
Now along comes an astonishing find through which we can refresh our appreciation of their brilliance – an episode of their show that was first screened 51 years ago and thought to be lost until last year.
The original show, which aired on BBC1 on October 14, 1970, came at a crucial point in their careers, shortly after the duo switched from BBC2 to the main channel and were being reshaped by genius scriptwriter Eddie Braben.
More than 14million viewers tuned in to watch – only for the BBC to wipe the tape of the recording a few weeks later.
Happily, that incalculable loss was corrected when Morecambe’s son Gary found an unmarked canister in the attic of his family home and it turned out be the missing episode.
Somehow pulling off the coup of broadcasting a gem first shown by its rivals, ITV gives us a treasure trove of gleeful delight. The feast of sketches shows the two funnymen at the peak of their powers, playing off each other with perfectly timed performances born out of a partnership that was fine-tuned over decades on stage and screen.
Combining Eric’s irrepressibly mischievous persona and Ernie’s more strait-laced style, they mock each other’s hair, banter over incipient middle age and muck around the stage curtains in a scene straight out of music hall, as well as making risqué gags about nurses and newlywed couples that stay just the right side of familyfriendly without upsetting the more conservative viewers of the day.
In between the archive footage, we see Morecambe’s widow Joan and children Gail and Gary watching the show and clearly loving seeing Eric and Ernie back in action. Plus, Ben Miller, Jonathan Ross and Barry Cryer are among the celebrities who also pay tribute to Britain’s unchallenged kings of comedy.