The nine series of 50 minute programmes produced between 1968 and 1976 by Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise are generally considered to be their best output; From series two all are penned by Eddie Braben (save for the 1972 and 1976 Christmas shows which were penned by John Junkin and Barry Cryer) these programmes used a familiar format of opening spot with the duo in front of their familiar "tabs", followed by a musical guest, sketches, another musical guest followed by a scene in the fictional flat, either in bed or in the lounge greeting star guests, usually a play "What Ern Wrote" and the closing song and credits. This format was occasionally not used but was considered the "norm" during the pair's BBC years. Until 1973, unlike other shows episodes were broadcast every fortnight rather than weekly.
From 2 September 1968 until 19 September 1971, The Morecambe and Wise Show aired on BBC Two (except for their Christmas shows of 1969 and 1970 which aired on BBC One). The main reason for this was that Morecambe and Wise had moved to the BBC because they were making colour television programmes, and Lew Grade, their boss at ATV would not make their show in colour at ATV, so they moved to BBC Two, the only channel who produced programmes in colour at the time. BBC One would join ITV in launching a full colour service in November 1969, but it took until 19 September 1971 before The Morecambe and Wise Show to be transferred to BBC One.
Following their move from the BBC to Thames Television in 1978, Thames continued using the Morecambe & Wise Show title (from their BBC show) for the television series and specials the duo made for ITV between 1978 and 1983 with various title changes for seasonal specials as indicated below. Having previously worked for ITV associate ATV in the 1960s making the series Two of a Kind, the pair then spent nine years at the BBC making the original Morecambe & Wise Show; their record-breaking 1977 Christmas special on BBC 1 was their last episode before their return to commercial television. At Thames, the duo made four series of The Morecambe & Wise show, and several specials including Christmas shows. Their last episode was broadcast at Christmas 1983.
The first series was penned by the duo's previous writing partnership of Sid Green and Dick Hills who also appeared in the show, sometimes in flat scenes, embryonic of what was to follow in later seasons. As part of the BBC's policy to wipe and re-use videotape in this era, most of the programme content was lost but a remaining fragment exists and was released on DVD together with the complete second series in 2007. Originally recorded in colour, only black-and-white footage remains which is taken from episode six and features Edmund Hockridge and the shadow puppets sketch, unseen for nearly forty years. The audio versions of the entire first series still survive as they were recorded by a fan
The second series was shown on BBC2 and like the first was recorded in colour but here most of the colour VT survives; the opening credits see the duo in a projection room attempting to reproduce the opening credits onto a screen with little success. It was the first series written by Eddie Braben who honed the individual personas of Eric ("the buffoon") and Ernie ("the playwright"). This series also saw the introduction of Janet Webb as "the lady who comes down at the end" and the first performance of Bring Me Sunshine which was to become their signature tune. The opening credits however still used the theme from Two Of A Kind.
The opening spot centres around the duo changing their names to Robin Catbush and Phyliss Ludicrous, followed by a table tennis quickie where the balls get larger with each serve; Wise visit from lady doctor is followed by the pair appearing as tortoises after hybernation, a silent monks skit and Frankie Vaughan singing; Peter Cushing is then introduced for his role as King Arthur in the very first Ernie Wise Knights Of The Round Table which sees the start of a long running gag that Cushing was never paid which would be used until 1980.
The opening spot sees a discussion of Ernie's unseen facet, followed by a monks quickie ice cream sketch; Eric eating crisps in bed is followed by a short about leaving the cinema then Richard Wagner at work, Edward Elgar at work and Eric's bird watching, Ernie Wise's interpretation of the Complete Works of Shakespeare, closing with Eric celebrating the anniversary of D-Day
The opening spot is themed around palm reading, followed by a silent skit of the monks cutting wood, a flat sketch sees Ernie getting an au pair much to Eric's annoyance; a Marlene Dietrich tribute is followed by Rosie Morecambe and Fanny Wise then a further Dietrich spoof and a Frankie Vaughan spoof. Juliet Mills is introduced before taking her place in Ern's play The Tea Planters' Wife.
The opening spot sees Eric teasing his partner with a lucky talisman; a visual skit sees the monks at the organ followed by a flat sketch and the monks playing hoopla; in a cameo, Peter Cushing returns to be paid; a visual skit sees Danny La Rue "unfrocked", then the monks down with drink before Edward Woodward is introduced for his role in the play Murder At The Grange.
This was the first of several highly successful festive editions made by the BBC and is available in its entirety in the archives. This edition is less frequently repeated than the later shows, a fact that has been attributed to its lack of "big" guest stars. Although all the guests were high profile at the time, they have since become less prominent in the public eye. It is notable for the appearance of Frankie Vaughan who had initially been the butt of many jokes for the duo, although his dislike of this led them to redirect their comments famously to Des O'Connor after this point. Nina van Pallandt performed Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown? which had featured in that year's James Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service as well as a parody with the duo in which Christmas trees fell over mid-performance. This was a theme that they would return to many times and with many variations in the next years.
The third season saw the characters settle into place even more, with regular appearances from Kenny Ball and Janet Webb as well as the expansion of plays to close each show. Also of note is the guest appearance of Eddie Braben himself in episode two and the special edition which was screened as episode six but was, in fact, the BBC's entry into the Golden Rose Of Montreux competition that year and was specially made for this purpose. This complete season was released on DVD in 2007.
The opening spot sees Ern trying his hand at being a "baggy pants comic"; this is followed by a ticket clipper skit and the pair in bed discussing the secret of long life; a monks skit sees them smoking followed by The World’s Strongest Man spoof and a lost voice quickie; Eric then visits Wise's record shop, before Ernie announced he is getting married.
Eric and Ernie discuss permissive show in opening spot, Ernest Chapman guests in Ernie's play "Trouble at Mill". Quickie "A Shot in the Dark". Whistling sketch featuring Eddie Braben. Monks shoplifting quickie. Flat sketch about dating Pricess Anne.
Ernie gets "with it" in the opening spot, followed by a playing in the park skit; bath time for Ernie is followed by a window-cleaning sketch; a short entitled see you at seven precedes the pair visiting Fenella Fielding to discuss the latest play; the monks feed the birds before a bowls skit and the closing play Nelson & Lady Hamilton. (This is the 1969 Christmas show re-edited with some new material.)
Eric’s wig is the subject of much mirth in the opening spot, before meeting Diane Cilento for dinner; a cinema short follows, then soaking feet skit, an introduction to the play The Barretts Of Wimpole Street (which would be reused with Joanna Lumley in 1982) closes the show.
This episode was entered for the Golden Rose Of Montreaux. The opening spot see the duo attempting to exchange trousers, then Nina performs the Banana Boat Song with some backing and percussion from the duo; a powerful binoculars skit is followed by Eric's enormous ventriloquist doll "Oggy" closing the show with Bring Me Sunshine.
The opening spot sees Ernie attempting to become an overgrown boy scout; The Nose Blowers follows a sketch with Richard Greene; three shorts follow: "Love In A Mist", "Pocket Radio" and the monks dancing before Richard Greene is introduced for his appearance in The Adventures Of Robin Hood
Owing to their ever-growing popularity, this was the second series to be produced in 1970 and was in production as the previous series was on air. Whilst still featuring Janet Webb as "the lady who comes down at the end" (now an expanded speaking role), this series was notable for the introduction of the largely silent "Monk Sketches" that became a weekly feature. By this time, long-term collaborator Ann Hamilton who would go on to provide her services for the remainder of the boys careers, was fully on board and featured in many of their sketches. Series four was released on DVD in April 2008 but only features the first five episodes of this series – the sixth episode, made to herald a repeat run on BBC1, no longer exists. The DVD cover does claim that it is the "complete fourth series", but because of the missing final episode, this is misleading. An audio recording exists thanks to a post on Youtube on the channel Audio Only
A This Is Your Life segment forms the opening spot followed by a moon landing skit; Ernie decides the double-act is over in a flat sketch then the duo visit Eric Porter in his dressing room before Tarzan’s Last Adventure; a six weeks to live skit, a bill-posting quickie, the glove puppet sketch and the monks in a James Bond spoof precede the play Wuthering Heights.
Following the opening spot is a fox hunting sketch, a record shop sketch involving bird calls, then a visit to Eric’s parents, three in a bed, boarding house, in the park with baby, the speaking clock, a barbers' shop quickie, "Frankie Vaughan’s Son", the monks following sign posts, and a flat sketch where a pregnant lady calls for Ernie
Wise's obsession with health food forms the opening spot, a quickie on contagious disease, the underwear shop, Miss Holiday Resort, Nina is given a cake, the monks on pay day, and the final sketch sees Wise trying to pen a play in bed only to be constantly disrupted by Morecambe.
Ernie’s ballet accident is the focus of the opening spot, then a christening sketch followed by Fenella Fielding visiting the flat, getting directions from a policeman, the big record, the monks playing dice games, Sing Something Simple and I’ll See You Again closes the show.
The opening spot centred around a stool, a dieting sketch, Eric messing up Ernie’s plays and insulting the guest stars, a ticket collector skit, the drama critic, the monks at the organ precede Barbara Murray's introduction before the play There’s No Business Like Big Business.
Featuring a selection of sketches including moustache seeds, Ernie in hospital, the ear specialist, a honeymooning couple next door and closing song. The programme was screened some three months after the first five episodes of the series, as a new production to introduce a run of repeats. This episode no longer exists, as information provided by the BBC to website http://www.lostshows.com proved. This episode aired on BBC One instead of their usual channel BBC Two. This was to give BBC One viewers a chance to see some of the sketches and routines the duo had been making over on BBC Two, as some people at this time could not receive BBC Two. It would be followed by a repeat season of episodes originally aired on BBC Two.
The second seasonal offering saw the return of recurring guest star Peter Cushing who still hadn't been paid (a joke that was to continue well into their Thames Television days); also starring was William Franklyn who, at the time, fronted an advertising campaign for Schweppes tonic water with his "Shhh, You Know Who..." tagline. Much comedy was drawn from this, especially in light of the fact that the BBC was forbidden to advertise products. He appears in one of the duo's legendary plays at the end of the show in which the Three Musketeers are parodied. Well-known actor Edward Woodward also sang The Way You Look Tonight rather than appearing within a sketch as he had done in previous appearances.
The plays that Ern wrote were now well into their stride and from series five were given their own spoof opening credits, recalled by many fans and regularly parodied to this day; the monk sketches continued and guest stars such as Flora Robson, Arthur Lowe and Ian Carmichael lined up to appear in the plays that closed many of the shows. In common with the previous year, 1971 saw two series of the show being produced, with the second being made at the time the first was screened. Series 5 was released on DVD in May 2009.
The opening spot is followed by learning to play the piano in sixty seconds, an employment office skit, changing shoes, trying to impress Flora Robson, before the play Queen Elizabeth The First Of England, Part One, a draughts sketch and the talking doll.
After the opening spot is the Facts Of Life sketch, Ernie Wise tries to sing, Arthur Lowe meets the lady who comes down at the end and marries her, the play Monty On The Bonty followed by the closing theme song.
Ernie considers replacing Eric in the opening spot, followed by silent monks, The Connoisseurs discuss antiques, a milk quickie, dreaming of falling, Ernie's "Coming-&-Going" illness, the jewellery shop, the boarding ramp, and a flat sketch with a fellow writer (which would be reused for Thames later) preceding the closing song.
Ernie's body is the subject of ridicule in the opening spot Jack Jones performs Sweet Dreams Baby with two dubious backing singers, the record shop, love letters, Hotel Dracula, Arthur swallows the harmonica, the invisible Eric quickie, and Ernie has the flu in the closing flat sketch
Ernie considering retirement is discussed in the opening spot, the vicars on a train sketch, "no lettuce" quickie, Glenda Jackson at the flat, felling a safe quickie and the classic Ernie Wise play Antony & Cleopatra closes the show; this play was much repeated in compilation shows over the years and is often regarded as some of the duo's best work.
Ernie’s education is up for discussion in the opening spot, then a Sherlock Holmes quickie, a visit to the wig boutique, Eric feeling fed up and listless, a police visit, Hands Across The Table quickie, Eric does Jake The Peg and Ian Carmichael is introduced for the play Murder In Mayfair
Reading newspaper reviews forms the basis for the opening spot, an exploding piano quickie, the Multilingual Hotel, preaching in the pulpit, a fishing quickie, Eric has the reversals, and Ernie aspires to become Bob Hope's scriptwriter with hilarious results.
This series marked the last regular appearances of Janet Webb; although she would make return appearances later, she ceased to close the show. The regular musical item in each show for this series was provided by Kenny Ball & His Jazzmen. Series 6 was released on DVD in August 2009.
Eric has a new tape recorder in the opening spot, then musical leg pulling, the book shop: The Language Of Birds before Francis Matthews is introduced before the Ernie Wise play The House Of Terror. This would be the first edition of their show to air on BBC One, as for the previous five series the show had aired on BBC Two (with a repeat some weeks or months later on BBC One for the benefit of those viewers who still had 405-line TV sets and were thus incapable of receiving BBC Two.
Doom and disaster reign in the opening spot, a submarine skit, whistling sketch, Bobo The Glove Puppet, an accident at work sketch, then Keith Michell is introduced for The Legion Of The Lost play to close.
Eric has got his hands on a Jasper Rawlings painting in the opening spot, Ten Years Hence... sees the duo imagining 1981 (an idea later revisited at Thames), introducing Cilla with the promise of a record contract while the three sing Bring Me Sunshine precedes Gardeners World with Percy Thrower who visits the duo as Eric takes over as his gardening apprentice.
Eric has had a threatening letter from a hit man in the opening spot, then a Top Of The Form spoof, Mrs. Mills' introduction sees her presented with a fruitcake, John Mills and the autographed banana precedes the play Escape From Stalag 54
Ernie is to be induced as one of the Great Men Of Our Time in the opening spot, the car accessory shop, the Brian Rix Trousers Down Competition, Eric's leg rejuvenating machine, a milkman quickie, Nina is presented with a gold disc and a flat sketch reading the Sunday papers and playing spot the ball
The duos' family trees come under discussion in the opening spot, a cement bucket skit, Ernie's wife has a fancy man, Eric's dog, the dentist sketch, the Harpenden Male Voice Choir, Tom Jones gets new backing singers for Exactly Like You, at the flat Ernie is trying to work on his memoirs to be interrupted by Eric.
The festive edition for 1971 contains several memorable scenes, including Shirley Bassey singing Smoke Gets in Your Eyes whilst the boys re-arrange the scenery, (she also performed the theme song from that year's Bond film Diamonds Are Forever), the Hollywood Melody with Glenda Jackson and the BBC newsreaders and André Previn conducting Eric's rendition of Grieg's Piano Concerto. The BBC's other headlining star Dick Emery also makes a brief cameo appearance in the opening spot of the show. This episode is frequently repeated each December and excerpts regularly used as part of compilation shows.
No series was produced in 1972 with the duo concentrating on a high-quality spectacular for Christmas Night. Braben had suffered a breakdown and was not credited as working on the special, instead it was penned by John Junkin and Barry Cryer. Several guests from previous shows returned, as well as Vera Lynn singing Pass Me By with Eric and Ernie as backing, and Kenny Ball joining in with the Cabaret finale to the Victoria & Albert play with Glenda Jackson. Pete Murray appeared in the play "What Ern Wrote" entitled "Dawn Patrol", a World War One flying aces spoof. The show also featured cameos from various starts who had previously appeared, in pre-filmed inserts where they stated "I worked with Morecambe and Wise, and look what happened to me..." as the camera pulled back to show them in a variety of other jobs; they were:- Ian Carmichael (news vendor), Fenella Fielding (railway guard), Eric Porter (binman), André Previn (bus conductor) and Dame Flora Robson (tea lady)
New opening credits with rainbow lettering heralded the pair's return to regular shows, and 1973 saw a twelve episode series with many memorable plays such as The Curse Of Tutankhamen with Robert Morley, The Mighty Kong with Susan Hampshire and the health food shop sketch with Frank Williams, best known as the Reverend Timothy Farthing on Dad's Army. The series opened with Cliff Richard making a guest appearance. Series 7 was released on DVD in May 2010.
The series opened with a visit from pop star Cliff Richard to the pair's fictional flat, interrupting Eric's painting of his model Spitfire; whilst Ernie tries valiantly to be "hip" and "with it" sporting a purple-flared trouser suit and red kaftan, the scene concludes with the three appearing as sailors for one of their most memorable routines based on The Fleet's In Town ending with Morecambe stepping off the ship and notable for the Playschool parody mid-way through.
Respected thespian Robert Morley appears in The Curse Of Tutankhamen in which it is discovered that the mighty king took some unusual items to his grave including a fan belt and a packet of salt and vinegar crisps. It is also revealed that he had a sister (Tutantesi, a parody on Two-Ton Tessie) who is revealed to still be alive and played by Janet Webb, otherwise known as "the lady who comes down at the end".
The opening spot sees Eric nurturing an injured bird; this is followed by the duo performing with the Harpenden String Quartet. Henry Cooper features in the Bully on the bench sketch (later reused at Thames with Mick McManus in the role) the a Nelson quickie and Lulu is introduced before her dance routine with the duo; Percy Edwards and his bird calls feature in the closing sketch based in the pair's garden.
This show featured The Mighty Kong as the closing play and featured the actress Susan Hampshire as the love interest. Percy Edwards provided the animal and bird noises for the play but did not appear in the show.
Having recently appeared as the title role in the BBC's own adaptation of Casanova, Frank Finlay appears in the play Lust Over London which centres around the main characters of Casanova and Moveova with long-time collaborator Ann Hamilton providing the love interest. With music from Design and Wilma Reading who sang I Don't Know How to Love Him.
Note: This programme was the subject of a documentary made by the BBC's Omnibus team entitled Fools Rush In... which traced the production of a Morecambe & Wise show from its inception at the script read-through stage, through to the filming of the final product. It featured a scene set in 10 Downing Street which was closely followed in the documentary, with music from Anita Harris. The show was written by Eddie Braben, and he is featured on the accompanying documentary being interviewed, as is producer John Ammonds among others.
Eric attempts to make Ernie join his mucky movie club in the opening spot, followed by a visual quickie about historical trees; Ern's Hollywood party impressions is followed by Byron Meets Keats (penned by Mike Kinsey) then the pair's memories of school, followed by a visit to the bank to secure Ernie's legacy
The opening spot centres around Ernie’s birthday followed by a cricket skit; the short marriage ceremony sketch precedes shopping in the supermarket with Hannah Gordon after which she gets a script for the epic The Moon & 2 1/2p
The opening spot sees Eric wearing a wig followed by a sketch in a television shop; Roy Castle is introduced as Ernie’s new partner and visits the flat before performing Side By Side with the duo; a poacher short is followed by a film set visit before the closing play Call Of The Yukon.
Eric announces he is leaving in the opening spot, followed Nana Mouskouri performing with The Athenians before the duo perform their own Greek Dance to the singer;, The Sooty Show is then spoofed with Harry Corbett appearing at the end with the "real" Sooty; a cigar commercial spoof is followed by a Mame routine with the Black & White Minstrels; the closing song is Following You Around.
The opening spot discusses the duo's birth certificates then Ernest Wise Reads Dickens; Alan Price and Georgie Fame perform You Are My Sunshine then Ernie is considering replacing Eric before Wilma Reading sings; Peter Cushing returns still demanding payment, then performs A Couple Of Swells with the pair. Bring Me Sunshine closes the show with Cushing joining the duo to perform the exist dance. Note: this show was written by Eddie Braben although the Dickens sketch was credited to Mike Kinsey.
By this time, an established running gag was the fact that our intrepid duo could not get stars to work with them, and this show features four cameo appearances from Yehudi Menuhin, Rudolf Nureyev, Laurence Olivier and André Previn all making excuses not to appear. Perhaps the most memorable is Lord Olivier who pretends to be a Chinese Laundry attendant over the telephone. Vanessa Redgrave joins in the Latin American Extravaganza, and the Napoleon & Josephine play, with music by John Hanson. Another memorable scene from this show is Hannah Gordon's effort to sing the song The Windmills of Your Mind used in the film The Thomas Crown Affair against a wind generator. This show was interspersed with short film segments from Yehudi Menuhin, Rudolf Nureyev, Laurence Olivier, André Previn. From this show until the final BBC outing in 1977 all shows featured the familiar yellow and brown tabs with the "M" and "W" motif.
This series featured Arthur Tolcher as the harmonica player who would interrupt sketches only to be told "Not Now, Arthur" by Morecambe, before sidling off stage. He had appeared in the 1971 and 1973 Christmas Shows and was a collaborator with the duo from their music hall days. There was no Christmas show this year but a compilation show was presented by the BBC on Christmas Night instead.
Predictability is a concern in the opening spot, then Previn is lured back to appear, followed by a Mastermind spoof with Magnus Magusson, "Queen Of The Ivories" Mrs. Mills appears before the duo discuss childhood memories; a city gents dance routine precedes the Ernie Wise play Hamlet and the closing theme song.
Eric has a pain in the leg in the opening spot, then Ludovic Kennedy discusses the "Art Of Conversation" followed by two quickies: "No Jokes" and "Holiday Plans". A sketch of the colonel on the train precedes the Ernie Wise play Death Cottage and a song and dance number Give My Regards To Broadway before the closing theme song. Note: this episode has a fault on the master recording resulting in the film freezing whilst the sound remains; it was released on DVD in July 2010 in this format.
Eric memorably appears as "Spick Sparkle" the new pop sensation in the opening spot performing The Sailor With The Navy Blue Eyes; a cigarette cards quickie is followed by the city gents dancing; then Eric's new nose, the contortionist's accident and a flat sketch featuring Ernie's new secretary.
In the opening spot Eric has lost his voice, followed by The Connoisseurs who discuss wine; Great Authors Of Our Time is featured followed by Wilma Reading singing, and Francis Matthews is introduced before his appearance in the play Murder In Mayfair.
Ernie is presented with a throne in the opening spot, followed by Opportunity Knocks with Hughie Green; Eric & Ern Junior appear before a Salvation Army interview with David Dimbleby who joins the pair to sing Friendship before the closing theme song
Eric has delusions as the "Bard Of Harpenden" in the opening spot; followed by an Echo In The Well spoof; this time Ernie has lost love before the final play The Plantation Of Passion featuring June Whitfield and the closing theme song.
Parkinson Takes A Christmas Look At Morecambe & Wise 1974
25 December 1974 (1974-12-25)
This was the only year that the duo were with the BBC that no festive programme was made and there was a decrease in their output after this time. Instead of a brand new show the pair were instead interviewed by Michael Parkinson who also introduced some of their most memorable clips from previous shows. Again, the programme was broadcast on the evening on 25 December but, other than the interview, there was no new footage available. Their slot was filled by the Mike Yarwood Show and the interview shown at 11.25pm.
After no Christmas Show in 1974 and no regular shows during 1975 when the duo had been presenting and appearing in the BBC show It's Child's Play, the pair made a welcome return to their established format with another festive offering; the opening routine which features the much-maligned Des O'Connor is one of the most repeated pieces of material. The show concludes with the historical romp Nell Gwynne which features the first location shots used for an end-of-show play with Diana Rigg in the title role and Gordon Jackson parodying his own character from Upstairs, Downstairs. The show is interspersed with Robin Day who, over the course of the programme has his "friendly" discussion turned into a brawl. At the end of the programme, as Morecambe and Wise close with the song Positive Thinking, he is seen to stagger past with the aid of a walking stick. The show also features a parody of Big Spender with Eric and Ernie as dancers. This show utilised the opening credits from the following years' series and did not feature the word "Christmas" in the title.
This was to be the last series the duo made for the BBC (and the first full series in two years) and saw the famous making breakfast routine set to The Stripper. When the duo moved to Thames Television, this series was repeated on BBC1 shortly after the announcement in January 1978, and retitled as Morecambe & Wise At The BBC; each repeat edition topped the weekly BBC1 ratings. It was notable that the series was not shown in a regular weekly slot, being intermittently shown over three months. It saw the introduction of a new title sequence using footage from previous shows and a new arrangement of Bring Me Sunshine using full orchestra with electric organ. All shows were penned by Eddie Braben.
Opening Spot (Hands Off Little Ern), Male Nannies, Gilbert O'Sullivan, Not Now Arthur, Dancing Drunks, Ern's play is entitled The Legend Of Dick Turpin and features Dily Watling and a cameo appearance from commentator Peter O'Sullevan in a house racing spoof ending with the traditional closing song.
The opening spot centres around the fact that Ern's wife has left him), which is followed by a return to the ever-popular monks skit; a quickie about fencing is followed by a spoof of The Sky At Night after which Patrick Moore performs on the xylophone; the Harpenden Happy Shots band perform before the play The Handyman & Milady after which the duo perform Nobody Does It Like Me with Michele Dotrice, closing with the familiar end song.
Opening Spot (Statue Or Ern?), popular star Lena Zavaroni performs Something 'Bout Ya Baby I Like, Irritating Eric, The Connoisseurs return to discuss the merits of the humble British sausage, followed by the closing song.
Opening Spot (Scottish Dance), The Connoisseurs, Eric visits the chemists' shop, Tap Dancing, a flat-based sketch sees Wise getting fit and showing Morecambe his new backyard gym, then the play Lives Of The Bengal Lancers with Gerald Case and the closing song.
Opening Spot (Eric Quits), Disappearing Piano, the parody Slaughter On Western Avenue dance routine follows; a spoof guest introduction for Frank Sinatra sees the duo watch the singer perform Come Fly With Me from the wings (he does not actually appear) then a flat sketch on sunbathing and the closing song.
Opening Spot (Freedom Of The City), Champagne, Immigration Office, the classic breakfast routine around David Rose's The Stripper is followed by a sketch in a calculator shop and a short bank hold-up where the felon passes notes to the bank clerk; Wise is interviewed in a flat-based sketch for a magazine on how to write like what he does, followed by the closing song.
Cryer and Junkin replaced Eddie Braben for this special, which featured The Sweeney stars John Thaw and Dennis Waterman, Elton John, Angela Rippon, plus a cameo appearance by Des O'Connor. This show featured the famous "newsflash" in which Rippon's desk splits in two to reveal her legs, followed by a song and dance routine. The opening credits are in a cartoon style with the duo appearing as caricatures of themselves having a snowball fight, this title sequence was only used once, and the word Christmas does not appear, whilst closing credits featured baby photographs of the cast, a tradition carried on from the previous years' festive special.
The final BBC Christmas Show attracted audience figures of 27.5 million, a record for the show, although it was beaten in the ratings by The Mike Yarwood Show earlier in the evening schedule; this was also the first time that Christian names were used in the opening titles. The following opening sequence features a parody of Starsky and Hutch, in which the comics star as 'Starkers' and 'Krutch', driving through the streets in a red Mini Clubman emblazoned with the same white vector stripe as seen on the Ford Torino. Boasting the longest guest list of all their shows, stars from the casts of Dad's Army (although Clive Dunn, Arnold Ridley & Ian Lavender are not present and James Beck had died in 1973) and The Good Life appeared, as did Elton John and Angharad Rees (who performed Baby, It's Cold Outside). A host of news presenters took part in the There Is Nothing Like A Dame routine as listed above. Angela Rippon also made an appearance, which had been intended as a surprise. When news leaked of her contribution days before Christmas, the BBC began an investigation into how the leak occurred and contemporary press reports claimed that staff were fired from the corporation over the leak.
No series was made in 1978 in an effort to make the Christmas Show stronger, but there was one hour-long offering (the same length as the BBC shows had been, but with adverts). This opened with a sequence whereby a lorry with a BBC logo emblazoned on its side, appears at Thames Television's studios, the back doors are flung open, and Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise are thrown out, in a direct nod to the bad feeling that was present at the time the partnership had departed their previous employers. The format remained reasonably faithful to that used previously although Eddie Braben did not join them immediately. There's the familiar end-of-show play "What Ern Wrote", this time it is a pastiche of Dr Jekyll & Mrs Hyde: however, there is a more cinematic feel to the parody and it moves beyond the confines of being a single set stage piece. There is also a pet shop sketch with the "Will he come out for a bit of Kit Kat?" line, itself a nod to the fact the duo were now on commercial television. The show closes with Walkin' in the Sunshine rather than Bring Me Sunshine. The episode is available on DVD as part of a Thames TV set released in March 2008.
The show opens with Morecambe being stuck on one side of the stage with his suit on the other, resorting to increasingly absurd ways to cross the stage, whilst Wise reads out messages from Christmas cards received by the duo. The line-up for this first Thames Christmas Show featured several guest stars. A spoof dance routine featuring 'Anna Ford' opened the show, but since Ford herself had refused to appear, a stand in was used, with camera angles and slapstick comedy carefully concealing her face. Leonard Rossiter provided the third Andrews Sister in a "Fabulous Forties" segment; and a spoof This Is Your Life with the Royal Family opening the show. Former Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson made a surprise appearance, though this was leaked in the press in advance. In one sequence, Wilson manages to upset Morecambe by joking about his beloved Luton Town Football Club; Morecambe then disappears to the back of the flat, returning with a Maggie Rules O.K. banner, a reference to Conservative opposition leader Margaret Thatcher (who would become Prime Minister the following year). The show was written by Barry Cryer and John Junkin (who also make cameo appearances) with Eddie Braben still under contract to the BBC until the following year. The show closes with a song and dance routine rather than Bring Me Sunshine
The previous years' Christmas Show was edited down to 55 minutes and repackaged as a "best of". The musical feature Baby, It's Cold Outside was removed from this second broadcast as was the cameo by Angela Rippon was also edited from this repeat.
This was the only television programme the duo made in this year, with Morecambe's heart attack ensuing a lull in their activities. To a certain extent, the duo's output was seen to be "playing it safe" by bringing back safe and established guest stars and this edition saw the return of actress Glenda Jackson and the inevitable Des O'Connor as well as newcomer to the show, David Frost, who interviewed the duo about their long career. The show was more of an interview on the whole, but there was some newly made material, the stand-out section being a mimed version of the novelty song I Tawt I Taw A Puddy Tat with Morecambe as the mischievous Sylvester the cat and Wise as Tweety Pie. Harking back to the duo's previous incarnation at the BBC the programme also featured Arthur Tolcher (not now, Arthur!) and Janet Webb who had appeared at the end of their show ten years previously as "the lady who comes down at the end." The show played heavily on the pair's previous success with their festive programmes, and further cemented their relationship with the viewing public by appearing despite Morecambe's poor health. As a joke on his recent heart by-pass operation, Morecambe was not permitted to descend the staircase in the studio and this duty was performed by Garfield Morgan. However, when Morecambe did appear, he ran up and down the same staircase several times to prove his fitness. When united with Wise the pair embraced and stated how good it was to be back together again. They returned to form the following year with another full series, their first since 1976.
Sources conflict as to the structure of the output of the double-act during their time at Thames Television, one of the reasons they had chosen to part company with the BBC has been the stress of multiple shows, and the offer of making films via Euston Films, Thames film-making branch had been another factor. This is at odds with a statement made by Bill Cotton, who had agreed with Morecambe & Wise that if they remained at the BBC, they could make as many or as few shows as they chose, for the same payment. No series had been made in 1978 or 1979 (Eric's heart problems were also a contributing factor to this however) but in 1980 work began on a further series. Often listed as occasional specials in a similar vein to the work by their contemporary Benny Hill (Hill generally made Three hour-long specials a year) these shows were shown in a generally consistent order and can therefore be considered as series rather than specials. However, whereas the BBC shows were a continuous fifty minutes of entertainment, these shows were a half-hour format with advert breaks making them easily under half the length of the previous shows. Some elements were retained from their time with the BBC; this series, together with the first four specials, were released on DVD in March 2008. The series is notable in that it was the first to see the Thames ident accompanied by the singing of "Here they are now, Morecambe and Wise" to the familiar Thames theme.
The traditional opening spot sees Wise attempting to present Ern's Gala Night only to be interrupted by Morecambe who appears dressed as an explorer. This is followed by a sketch featuring a remote control on the television and a Mastermind parody. A Songs Of The Highlands skit follows, then an MI6 sketch on a park bench. A spoof tobacco advert is followed by aa flat-based sketch which is largely a re-hash of a routine done with Cliff Richard some years earlier with the BBC although there are updates; notably, the production number at the end of the sketch is different, being Painting The Clouds With Sunshine and closing with Wogan accompanying Wise to sing Bring Me Sunshine to be interrupted by Morecambe.
The opening sketch sees Wise again attempting to perform a song to be interrupted by Morecambe as a "Hell's Grandad" (a rehash of the BBC sketch featuring "Spick Sparkle". This is followed by a guest spot by Hannah Gordon who performs the Banana Boat Song (again reusing material from a BBC sketch featuring Nina. This is followed by a spoof bell-ringing short, and a flat sketch with the "fellow writer" is directly copied from a previous BBC incarnation too. Only the nature of the comedy in this sketch have dated it somewhat, with stereotypical allusions to homosexuality. Gordon then accompanies Wise to perform Bring Me Sunshine only to be interrupted by Morecambe once again as the credits roll.
The opening scene sees Ernie's bodyguard "Cosmo" appear (fresh from his appearance as Darth Vader in the Star Wars films); this is followed by a visual sketch focusing on shoes, and a skit set in a shop in which Wise attempts to purchase a television from Morecambe. There is then a new sketch set in a Chinese Restaurant and a spoof interview "Focus On The Arts". A doctors' surgery sketch in which Morecambe has lost his voice follows, closing with a two-handed flat-based sketch focusing on reading material; Wise performs Bring Me Sunshine to close, again interrupted by Morecambe who tries to fight his way through the curtain tabs which are sealed.
The opening sketch is a re-hash of an earlier BBC This Is Your Life parody in which Wise is supposedly presented with the famous red book. This is followed by a hotel reception sketch where Morecambe attempt to check into Wise's hotel and a short skit where the duo play the card game snap. Morecambe then attempts a ventriloquist act with disastrous results.. This episode features a flat-based sketch where a local vicar turns out to be a champion spoon and washboard champion. In line with other programmes in this series, Guyler plays the drums to the signature tune Bring Me Sunshine with Wise, whilst Morecambe "goes and waits for the bus" only to disturb the song.
The opening sketch features a painting which Morecambe has purchased at a bargain price; Morecambe then appears in drag as Marlene Dietrich in a short parody; a short visual gag about stealing milk bottles follows, and a park based sketch with Morecambe as a policeman. A travel agent sketch featuring Morecambe's largely mute wife follows. With further reworkings from the BBC era the flat sketch features a budding writer character (the BBC routine featured a character that Morecambe refers to as "Miss Flanagan & Allen", and The pay-off to the flat-based sketch sees sit-com star Tessa Wyatt appear and she also performs the final song with Wise, whilst Morecambe again disappears only to re-appear and disrupt the proceedings.
In another re-working of a popular BBC routine, Morecambe appears as Mr. Fantastic (the BBC version having been Mr. Memory). A short window cleaner sketch is followed by another BBC reworking as a Foreign Legion spoof. The flat sketch again re-uses material where Wise has employed an au pair girl with predicable results; Gemma Craven features in this sketch and then joins Wise in another Gene Kelly recreation, this time to an arrangement of "Bring Me Sunshine" as a pastiche of An American In Paris whilst Morecambe interrupts the proceedings in usual riotous style bringing chaos to the routine to Wise's chagrin.
Another outing sees further material re-used; the opening spot on-stage is however largely new and sees Eric presenting Ernie with a life-sized monogrammed wallet which he is at times duly trapped inside; following this Mick McManus replaces Henry Cooper in a re-worked sketch, Jill Gascoigne visits the duo for dinner (previously Ann Hamilton had appeared in this sketch), a new Rolf Harris sketch also features, Alec Guinness is the doctor who sees two as one, and Peter Barkworth provides the butt for jokes in the Ernie Wise's Hamlet skit at the end. The show closed with the signature tune Bring Me Sunshine.
Following the seasonal special a further series (or occasional specials) were produced and these still featured re-used ideas from the BBC era. Highlights from this series include the return of The Connoisseurs in each episode, notably discussing British Rail's catering expertise; this, and other sketches reappear from earlier BBC shows.
Opening Spot (Novelty Bicycle), The Connoisseurs discuss the finer points of British Rail catering, the pair discuss splitting up followed by attempts by Max Bygraves to sings (reusing material previously directed famously at Des O'Connor, and he joins them to perform Bring Me Sunshine to close.
The Opening Spot features a previously used BBC sketch entitled Miracle Hair Restorer with some popular culture reference updates, The Connoisseurs then discuss object d'art followed by a further re-used BBC sketch featuring bathtime for Ern, closing with the usual end song.
The usual opening spot sees Morecambe using the latest in technology to videotape Wise; a reused BBC sketch featuring a disappearing doctors' patient is followed by a new beekeeper sketch, then a falt routine centred around Ernie's Book Of Health, Suzanne Danielle performers her rendition of "All That Jazz" with the pair, followed by the traditional closing song
Opening Spot (Pickpocket), The Connoisseurs return to discuss the merits of motorway service station food and Joanna Lumley appears in the play The Barretts Of Wimpole Street which concludes with the three performing Thoroughly Modern Millie before the closing song.
This show marked in some ways the fact that Morecambe & Wise were no longer a prime asset; it was the first time in their television careers that their festive offering had not been broadcast on Christmas Night, the schedulers opting instead for 23 December. This was also because, until 1982, Thames Television only operated from Monday at 9.25am until Friday at 7pm; as Christmas Day fell on a Friday, London Weekend Television (LWT) held the franchise to broadcast that evening - in fact, Morecambe actually references the fact the show is not on Christmas Day within one of the sketches, gaining a round of applause from the studio audience. The guest list was nonetheless impressive with Ralph Richardson heading up a stellar list, Suzanne Danielle doing a Razzle Dazzle routine with the boys (and including future assistant on The Generation Game - Rosemary Ford - in the dance troupe), a re-hash of the BBC health food shop routine, now featuring Valerie Minfie, and the obligatory play, which was Julius Caesar, a thinly covered remake of the popular BBC sketch Antony & Cleopatra from ten years earlier featuring Ian Ogilvy. This show saw M&W use technology more to gain laughs with blue screen techniques being used in some sketches, and ends with Bring Me Sunshine by the duo
By the time the twelfth series was made Eddie Braben had returned to the fold for the first time since 1980, but the productions came at a time when Morecambe's health was failing; a reworking of the classic "claiming benefit for sixteen children" featured in the first show, and the play Captain Blood with Richard Briers concluded. The Ten Years Hence sketch was also redone, and, fresh from her success with Larry Grayson in The Generation Game, was Isla St Clair. The final episode of the series contained a new play, being Sherlock Holmes with Nigel Hawthorne taking the part of Professor Moriarty and Patricia Brake as Bertha the maid, excerpts of which were use in a video compilation in 1992.
Opening Spot (Ern's Birthday), Lost In The Desert (Foreign Legion), Good Neighbours, Facts Of Life, Doctor Sketch (Just Not Myself), The Guillotine, The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes (play), End Song (Bring Me Sunshine)
Returning from the previous seasonal show was All Creatures Great & Small star Robert Hardy, joined by both Rula Lenska and Richard Vernon who had appeared in previous shows; the opening routine perhaps prophetically discussed the retiring of the double act but this in itself was a further reworking of BBC material but somehow the pace of the dialogue was becoming lost. In an update of several older sketches, the Video Shop was offered as well as a Lingerie Shop and a Chattanooga Choo Choo routine. The closing play was the Yukon Gold Rush and featured Rula Lenska in another reworking of a BBC idea. Notable of this and many other shows was the absence of the favourite signature tune over the end credits. Again, this show was not broadcast on Christmas Night but two evenings later.
The thirteenth and what was to be final series. Sketches included Gandhi Morecambe, the Swiss Slapping Dance (resurrected from their live stage show), and a feature which is almost self-parodying called No Time For... which would be suffixed with a title each week, i.e. No Time For Robin Hood or Elvis, Long John Silver, etc., meaning that the show had overrun and the popular Ern masterpiece could not be performed as planned.
The opening spot is followed by a quickie entitled A Good Ending, with a further BBC sketch reworked into Ghandi Morecambe; then Honeymoon Hotel and the play The Waiter, The Porter & The Upstairs Maid featuring Margaret Courtenay who would go on to star in the pair's final film Night Train To Murder the next year. an antique renovations skit is followed by No Time For...Jolson
The usual opening spot is followed by a flat-based sketch revolving around the repairing of an electric blanket; a short Sacked By Mail skit is followed by the Swiss Slapping Dance (part of the duo's earliest routines revised and updated) leading into a Tyrolean Extravaganza and a return to the flat for repairs, closing with No Time For...Hunchback Of Notre Dame
21 September 1983 (1983-09-21)
Following the usual opening spot, a flat sketch about warming up the bed features, then the Great Basket Escape and the language of birds which is reincarnated from a BBC sketch that featured Percy Edwards. The Chinese Musical is a song and dance number featuring the Stutz Bear Cats, this is followed by Eric's coin tricks and another re-used flat sketch themed around there being nudists next door, closing with No Time For...Robin Hood
5 October 1983 (1983-10-05)
After the opening spot, another new flat sketch features Eric's bedroom telescope, which is followed by a re-working of Ern's scrapbook from a BBC show; an unnamed star guest then chickens out and a Gypsy Dance song a dance number precedes the classic Old Men's Memories. A quickie entitled A Brush With The Law is followed by No Time For...Long John Silver
12 October 1983 (1983-10-12)
The opening spot is followed by a hand-bell players skit using The Bells Of St. Mary, a rehashed BBC sketch in a record shop is followed by a Frankie & Johnny routine; Mr. Bartholomew the Pigeon Man is a new sketch (featured later in video compilations) and the close features No Time For...Peter Pan
19 October 1983 (1983-10-19)
For their final regular show the opening spot is followed by a flat-based sketch where the duo attempt to fix the bed, Eric then appears as a one-man band; a further re-used BBC sketch featuring the male nannies in the park follows. An impresario requesting Ern is a re-used BBC sketch that featured a spoof telephone call from Alfred Hitchcock (suitably updated following Hitchcock's death in 1980), a department store song and dance routing features Puttin' On The Ritz and the show closes with No Time For...Elvis
What was to be the duo's final festive offering was billed once again as Eric & Ernie's Xmas Show and some re-hashed material from earlier BBC shows despite Eddie Braben's continued input. The most notable re-used ideas were the Harpenden Hot-Shots and the final play "What Ern Wrote" was entitled The Planter's Wife and featured Nanette Newman in the titular role. This sketch was set in Malaysia with the musical ending performed by puppets. The sketch that had aired originally in the 1976 seasonal show with Elton John ("sounds like an exit on the motorway...") was thinly re-worked here with Peter Skellern in the same role. A song-and-dance number of 'Swinging Down The Lane' closes the proceedings but there's no signature tune to be heard. Following the end of the show, Thames continuity announcer Philip Elsmore appears to introduce the next programme which is to feature Des O'Connor, the duo appear behind Elsmore to make derogatory remarks about the star in a long-standing in-joke; this would be the duo's final appearance as Morecambe died the following year.
Through the early 1980s a variety of VHS compilations were issued by the BBC including one dedicated to the pair's Musical Extravaganzasas well as some from their later years at Thames Television titled as Eric & Ernie's Xmas Show and featuring highlights from the 1978, 1979 and 1980 seasonal specials. Reader's Digest also issued a five-volume Best Of... series of VHS cassettes in 1993 using footage from the BBC series, the first three of which featured interview footage and interlinking material from Wise, Braben and Maxin filmed especially for the tapes. Under the Comedy Greats title, the BBC issued a compilation in 1996 which included limited edition postcards of the duo during their time at the BBC.
The first series of the show was wiped from the BBC archives and only 25 minutes of one episode now survives; this was included on the DVD release of the complete second series in 2007. Also in 2007 the complete third series was released including the Golden Rose Of Montreux episode. The complete set of Christmas Shows was released as a three-disc set in November 2007. The fourth series was released on DVD in April 2008 but does not include the sixth episode of the series, which no longer exists. The fifth series was released on 4 May 2009. The sixth series has been released on 3 August 2009. The seventh series was released on 3 May 2010. The eighth series was released on 5 July 2010, and the ninth series was released on 23 August 2010.
A complete box-set containing all nine series and eight Christmas specials (not included was the 1974 Michael Parkinson Christmas programme) was released on 4 October 2010. The first series of Thames Television shows together with the first four specials was released by Network in 2010, releasing for the first time since its initial broadcast the Christmas With Morecambe & Wise programme hosted by David Frost on 25 December 1979. This show was notable for featuring the last on-screen meetings between the duo and long-time collaborators Arthur Tolcher and Janet Webb with guest appearances by Glenda Jackson, Des O'Connor and Garfield Morgan.