The Two Ronnies
|The Two Ronnies|
The spectacles logo from the show's opening. Both performers wore glasses; Barker's are on top, Corbett's underneath.
|Created by||Bill Cotton|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||12|
|No. of episodes||93|
|Running time||40–58 minutes|
|Picture format||PAL (576i)|
|Original run||10 April 1971 – 25 December 1987|
|Followed by||The Two Ronnies Sketchbook
The One Ronnie
The Two Ronnies is a BBC television comedy sketch show created by Bill Cotton for the BBC, which aired on BBC1 from 1971 to 1987. It featured the double act of Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett, the "Two Ronnies" of the title.
Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett met for the first time at the Buckstone Club in the Haymarket, London, where Ronnie Corbett was serving drinks between acting jobs. They were invited by David Frost to appear in his new show, The Frost Report, with John Cleese, but the pair's big break came when they filled in for a few minutes during a technical hitch at an awards ceremony in 1970. In the audience was Bill Cotton, the Head of Light Entertainment for the BBC, and Sir Paul Fox, the Controller of BBC1. Cotton was so impressed by the duo that he turned to Fox and asked "How would you like those two on your network?". As a result, Barker and Corbett were given their own show by the BBC. The programme quickly became one of the most successful and long running light entertainment shows on British television, broadcast at the prime-time slot of 8 p.m. on a Saturday night, and at its peak, 20 million viewers a show.
The show was based on the complementary personalities of Barker and Corbett, who never became an exclusive pairing, but continued to work independently in television outside of the editions of the Two Ronnies. The show was produced annually between 1971 and 1987. It had many notable writers including Ray Alan, John Cleese, Barry Cryer, Spike Milligan, David Nobbs, David Renwick, Eric Idle, John Sullivan, Michael Palin, Terry Jones and Laurie Rowley. In addition, Barker used the pseudonym Gerald Wiley when writing sketches.
The show featured comic sketches in which Barker and Corbett appeared both together and separately, with various additions giving the programme the feeling of a variety show. The sketches often involved complex word-play, much of it written by Barker, who also liked to parody officialdom and establishment figures, as well as eccentrics. Corbett appeared quieter, more often acting as a foil for Barker, but remained an important part of the "chemistry". Many of the jokes revolved around his lack of height, with him delivering many of them himself: when Barker said that the next part "does suit Ronnie C. right down to the ground", Corbett replied "Mind you, that's not far is it?". Other jokes could be of a sexual nature of the sort found on seaside postcards: for example:
"Tickle your botty with a feather tonight?" (sotto voce)
"I beg your pardon?" (outraged)
"Particularly grotty weather tonight"
- "Four Candles", written by Barker, where Barker walks into an old-fashioned ironmonger's store and asks for "four candles." Corbett gives him the candles but it turns out that Barker wanted "fork handles – 'andles for forks", meaning garden forks. Barker continues to ask for items from a list, very tersely, and Corbett continues to misinterpret them, growing more and more frustrated.
- A parody of the quiz show Mastermind with Barker as host Magnus Magnusson and Corbett as a contestant named Charlie Smithers, whose specialist subject was "answering the question before last".
- Nothing's Too Much Trouble – a sketch, set in an old-fashioned sweet shop, in which Corbett decides to test Barker's "Nothing's too much trouble" policy, and forces him to perform many tedious tasks to fulfil his order, eventually driving him insane.
- "Rook Restaurant" (originally titled Complete Rook), written by David Nobbs, where Barker is a disgruntled waiter in a restaurant that only serves Rook. Corbett plays the role of a diner with Claire Nielson as his wife.
- "Swear Box", where Barker and Corbett keep swearing in a pub which has a swear box and the swear words are bleeped out.
- "Opticians", written by Barker, where an optician and his customer have equally poor sight.
- "You Can Say That Again", where Corbett (as Bert) hesitates when speaking and Barker (as Charlie) finishes his sentences.
- "The Confusing Library", where Corbett tries to locate a book in a library where Barker as the librarian classifies the books by colour, size, thickness and thinness.
- "The Confusing Shopping List", where a customer and shopkeeper try to decipher a shopping list written by the customer's wife.
- "It's A Duck!", written by John Sullivan, where Corbett as Sid tries to convince his friend George that a duck he has bought is actually an Argentinian racing pigeon.
Both Barker and Corbett had their own solo sections on each show. Barker would have his own heavily wordplay-based sketch, often as the head of a ridiculous-sounding organisation (for example, the "Anti-Shoddy Goods Committee"). Likewise, Corbett always had a discursive solo monologue in each show, when he sat in a chair, facing the camera, attempting to tell a simple joke, but constantly distracting himself into relating other humorous incidents. The joke itself was normally deliberately corny; the humour came from Corbett's wild tangents, as well as the anticlimax when he finally reached the punchline.
An example of Ronnie Corbett's humour is this short excerpt from a monologue:
I was lying in bed with my wife last Sunday morning when she called me by a special pet name she has for me, a loving and endearing term that only she uses. 'Hey Shorty' she said, 'would you like to hear the patter of little feet?'
Somewhat taken aback, I replied 'Yes, I would.' She said 'Good. Run down to the kitchen and get me a glass of water.'
It became a tradition of the shows to have a continuing "serial" story which progressed through the eight episodes of a series. These were often fairly bawdy tales with special guest stars. The very first serial was Hampton Wick (1971) written by Barker, which began as a pastiche of costume dramas about a governess called Henrietta Beckett, played by Madeline Smith, with the Ronnies playing a wide variety of other characters, but had a neat twist ending that turned this notion on its head.
There were four modern-day mystery serials featuring the comic detective characters "Piggy Malone" (Barker) and "Charley Farley" (Corbett). Done to Death (1972), a mystery about a murdered family, featuring Sue Lloyd; Death Can Be Fatal (1975), in which the duo are sent in search of the formula for the Clumsy Drug, alongside Cyd Hayman; Stop! You're Killing Me (1977–78), in which Devon's yokels are murdered and dumped in London, with support from Kate O'Mara as the gypsy temptress, Lucy Lee; and Band of Slaves (1981–82), where an all-girls orchestra is sold into white slavery by a demented Chinaman.
One of the most famous serials was The Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town (1976), written by Spike Milligan and Ronnie Barker but credited as "Spike Milligan and a Gentleman". Set in Victorian times, it is a Jack the Ripper parody in which a mysterious figure goes around blowing raspberries at members of the upper classes. The raspberries were done by Barker's friend David Jason. This entire section of sketches was included in Spike's book "I Told You I Was Ill".
Another memorable serial was The Worm That Turned (1980); Diana Dors guest-starred in this spoof piece of dystopian fiction set in 2012 in which women rule Britain. Male and female gender roles are completely reversed, even down to men having women's names and vice-versa. Men are housekeepers and wear women's clothes, and law and order is managed by female guards in boots and hot pants.
The Two Ronnies also starred in two spin-off silent films labelled The Two Ronnies Present..., By the Sea and The Picnic, written by Barker, mainly silent comedies featuring a squabbling upper-class family with a 1920s feel about them.
Another regular feature of the shows was an elaborate musical finale in which Barker and Corbett – often in drag – and company would sing a medley of songs in character, in barbershop, music hall, Gilbert and Sullivan or other styles, with the original words altered to suit whatever comic situation they were portraying. There would also be a cabaret musician or group appearing as a special guest, including Dana, Elkie Brooks, Manhattan Transfer, Pan's People, Michel Legrand, Barbara Dickson, Tina Charles, the Nolan Sisters, Elton John, New World, Elaine Paige and Phil Collins, the last of whom also took part in a few sketches.
The show always opened and closed at the newsdesk, which featured the Ronnies as newsreaders, reading spoof news items. This gave rise to the famous catchphrase at the end of each show:
Corbett: So it's "Goodnight" from me.
Barker: And it's "Goodnight" from him.
Following the departure of Morecambe and Wise from the BBC in 1978, The Two Ronnies became the BBC's flagship light entertainment programme, regularly gaining the top viewing figures in the critical Christmas Day audience battle. A memorable Radio Times cover for the extended Christmas issue in 1973 had both double acts appearing side by side.
Spin-offs and compilation series
The pair made no new shows after Christmas 1987, following Barker's decision to retire from show business. This was unknown to the audience and even the production team – the only person Barker told was Corbett, and they and their wives all went for a meal straight after the recording, keeping it a very low-key affair. Corbett tried to continue on his own, but The Ronnie Corbett Show lasted only one series in 1987.
In 1986, 1987 and 1988 multi-part compilation series titled Twenty Years of the Two Ronnies were aired, which featured the pair picking some of their classic sketches.
The Two Ronnies in Australia
The Two Ronnies was regularly screened in Australia on ABC Television, and was repeated several times. In 1986 the series was reported as being into its second or third airing, and being broadcast in a respectable time slot.
In 1979 a special was made for the Nine Network in Australia under the title of The Two Ronnies in Australia. It was followed by a full series in 1986 with six episodes. These episodes contain many of the original sketches done for the BBC, but reworked for an Australian audience.
The show was parodied twice by the Not The Nine O'Clock News team in 1982. One was as "The Three Ronnies", including footage of Ronald Reagan, at the time the President of the United States. The other was controversially as "The Two Ninnies", a "cruel pastiche" of their opening routine and a musical routine, using exaggerated innuendo, e.g. "Oh vagina, oh vagina, over Chinatown!" Barker in particular was quite offended by this sketch. The writer of the song was Peter Brewis, who had written for The Two Ronnies.
Revivals and comebacks
The show resurfaced in 1999 for a Two Ronnies Night. Ronnie Corbett also presented a Two Ronnies at the Movies special that same year. In 2000 A Tribute to the Two Ronnies was hosted by Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett themselves.
In 2004 Barker announced that he and Corbett would return to make new episodes, entitled The Two Ronnies Sketchbook. This involved the two sitting at the newsdesk introducing their classic sketches. A Christmas special was recorded in July 2005 due to Barker's failing health.
Whilst the Sketchbook series was transmitted, The Two Ronnies was also the subject of an episode of the BBC documentary Comedy Connections. Ronnie Corbett, producers James Gilbert, Terry Hughes and Michael Hurll as well as writers Ian Davidson, Peter Vincent, David Renwick and Barry Cryer all spoke about the making of the series. Ronnie Barker did not appear, but excerpts from an interview he gave in 1997 were included.
On Ronnie Barker's death on 3 October 2005, Ronnie Corbett is reported to have said that throughout their many years of association there was never an angry word between them.
In September 2006, they were voted by the general public as Number 6 in a poll of TV's greatest stars.
As of 2012, full shows of The Two Ronnies are repeated on ITV3 and Gold. On 24, 25 and 26 December 2006, the ITV3 channel devoted the whole three days to the show interspersed with Ronnie Corbett's reminiscences of the show and Ronnie Barker. On 28 May 2007 many more episodes new to ITV3 were broadcast as well a showing of The Picnic and By the Sea.
Barker and Corbett also made a number of advertisements that appeared on ITV, most notably for British Leyland (Austin/Morris) in 1979 where Corbett played a villain on the run and, "needing some wheels", gets salesman Barker to show him round the Austin Morris range. They did a second ad in 1981, for the "BL Double Bonus" campaign, which featured Corbett playing a tax inspector inquiring as to why Barker is running four cars. They also did a series of ads for Hertz car rentals in the 1980s.
||When adding DVD release dates that are in the future, please include a reliable reference.
Unreferenced dates will be treated as speculation and removed.
Unlike many comedy performances transmitted before 1980, during the period of widespread wiping of television material, the BBC Archives remarkably retains all episodes of The Two Ronnies in their entirety that were originally transmitted. In April 2007 (18 months after Barker's death), 2 Entertain began releasing The Two Ronnies on DVD in Britain. Series One and Two, including a definitive collection of their Christmas specials with segments from Christmas Night with the Stars, the Old-Fashioned Christmas Mystery and three other Christmas shows, were released on 30 April, 2 July and 29 October 2007.
The Two Ronnies were released in Region 4 (Australia) on the following dates: The Best of The Two Ronnies Volume 1 on 4 March 2002, The Best of The Two Ronnies Volume 2 on 17 March 2003, Series 1 on 4 July 2007, Series 2 (two discs) on 8 May 2008, Series 3 on 5 March 2009, Series 4 (two discs) on 4 August 2009, Series 5 on 4 March 2010 and Series 7 on 3 March 2011.[dated info] The Two Ronnies in Australia was released on 28 June 2008 with all-region coding.
|DVD Title||Discs||Year||No. of Ep.||DVD release|
|Region 2||Region 4|
|Complete Series 1||2||1971||8||30 April 2007||4 July 2007|
|Complete Series 2||2||1972||8||2 July 2007||8 May 2008|
|Complete Series 3||2||1973–1974||8||17 March 2008||5 March 2009|
|Complete Series 4||2||1975||8||19 May 2008||6 August 2009|
|Complete Series 5||2||1976||8||15 June 2009||4 March 2010|
|Complete Series 6||2||1977–1978||8||22 February 2010||5 August 2010|
|Complete Series 7||2||1978–1979||8||17 May 2010||3 March 2011|
|Complete Series 8||2||1980||8||6 September 2010||2 June 2011|
|Complete Series 9||2||1981–1982||8||28 February 2011.||1 March 2012|
|Complete Series 10||2||1983–1984||6||9 May 2011.||5 September 2012|
|Complete Series 11||2||1985||5||25 July 2011.||3 April 2013|
|Complete Series 12||2||1985–1986||6||26 September 2011.||7 August 2013|
|The Christmas Specials||2||1973–1982-1984-1987||4||29 October 2007.||6 November 2008|
|The Complete Collection||27||1971–1987, 2010||96||24 September 2012.||2013|
|Two Ronnies in Australia||2||1986||6||—||28 June 2008|
|The Best of...Volume 1||1||1971–1984||1 Compilation||1 October 2001||4 March 2002|
|The Best of...Volume 2||1||1971–1985||1 Compilation||29 September 2003||17 March 2003|
- "The True Ronnies" – The Weekend Australian Magazine – 11–12 November 2006
- "Entertainment | Obituary: Ronnie Barker". BBC News. 4 October 2005. Retrieved 18 September 2010.
- Gilbert and Sullivan sketches were included in the 2nd episode of the first series, first shown on 17 April 1971 and as the finale to "The Two Ronnies Old Fashioned Christmas Mystery", their 1971 TV Christmas special.
- These lines were recently[when?] used in the second series of the BBC production of Robin Hood.
- "Galleries: Christmas and New Year Double Issue". Radio Times, 22 December 1973. Retrieved 8 May 2011.
- Collier, Shayne. Again and again and again. The Sydney Morning Herald – The Guide: 2 June 1986, p.1, 6. 
- "Ronnie Barker OBE – Comic Actor and Writer". BBC H2G2.
- "The Two Ronnies in the Picnic". BBFC. 10 August 2012. Retrieved 14 August 2012.
- "The Two Ronnies: Complete Collection DVD". Amazon.co.uk. 2 August 2012. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
- "The Two Ronnies – Series 1 [DVD] ". Amazon UK. 30 April 2007. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- "The Two Ronnies: Series 1 DVD ". EzyDVD Australia. 4 July 2007. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- "The Two Ronnies – Series 2 [DVD] ". Amazon UK. 2 July 2007. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- "The Two Ronnies: Series 3 DVD ". EzyDVD Australia. 8 May 2008. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- "The Two Ronnies – Series 3 [DVD] ". Amazon UK. 17 March 2008. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- "The Two Ronnies: Series 3 DVD ". EzyDVD Australia. 5 March 2009. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- "The Two Ronnies – Series 4 [DVD] ". Amazon UK. 19 May 2008. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- "The Two Ronnies: Series 4 DVD ". EzyDVD Australia. 4 August 2009. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- "The Two Ronnies – Series 5 [DVD] ". Amazon UK. 15 June 2009. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- "The Two Ronnies: Series 5 DVD ". EzyDVD Australia. 4 March 2010. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- "The Two Ronnies – Series 6 [DVD] ". Amazon UK. 22 February 2010. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- "The Two Ronnies: Series 6 DVD ". EzyDVD Australia. 5 August 2010. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- "The Two Ronnies – Series 7 [DVD] ". Amazon UK. 17 May 2010. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- "The Two Ronnies: Series 7 DVD ". EzyDVD Australia. 2 June 2011. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- "The Two Ronnies – Series 8 [DVD] ". Amazon UK. 6 September 2010. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- "The Two Ronnies: Series 8 DVD ". EzyDVD Australia. 2 June 2011. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- "The Two Ronnies – Series 9 [DVD] ". Amazon UK. 28 February 2011. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- "The Two Ronnies: Series 9 DVD ". EzyDVD Australia. 1 March 2012. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- "The Two Ronnies – Series 10 [DVD] ". Amazon UK. 9 May 2011. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- "The Two Ronnies: Series 10 DVD ". EzyDVD Australia. 5 September 2012. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- "The Two Ronnies – Series 11 [DVD] ". Amazon UK. 25 July 2011. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- "The Two Ronnies: Series 11 DVD ". EzyDVD Australia. 3 April 2013. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- "The Two Ronnies: Series 12 DVD ". Amazon UK. 25 August 2013. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- "The Two Ronnies: Series 12 DVD ". EzyDVDAustralia. 7 August 2013. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- "The Two Ronnies: The Complete BBC Christmas Specials DVD". Amazon UK. 29 October 2007. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- "The Two Ronnies: The Christmas Specials DVD ". EzyDVDAustralia. 6 November 2008. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- "The Two Ronnies: The Complete Collection DVD". Amazon.com. 24 September 2012. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- "The Best of The Two Ronnies (BBC)  [DVD]". Amazon UK. 1 October 2001. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- "The Best of...Volume 1 DVD ". EzyDVD Australia. 4 March 2002. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- "The Best of the Two Ronnies – Volume 2 [DVD]". Amazon UK. 29 September 2003. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- "The Best of...Volume 2 DVD". EzyDVD Australia. 17 March 2003. Retrieved 25 August 2013.