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MORECAMBE AND WISE: TWO OF A KIND - THE COMPLETE FIRST SERIES
DVD. Network.

Two of a KindAfter their disastrous and infamous first TV series Running Wild in 1954, Morecambe and Wise would take their first steps toward becoming Britain’s best loved comedians (and they are, let’s not even argue about that) eight years later with this series.

Here, the characters we remember from the hugely popular series that would run through to 1983 and the death of Eric Morecambe first started to emerge. They are not quite there yet – Ernie is cock-sure but incompetent, and Eric is a fool, but the characters feel as if they are still being worked out – and in fact, as this series progresses, you can see them developing week by week. The references to Ernie’s wig, his ‘short fat hairy legs’, his meanness and the plays wot he wrote are all in the future, but the pairing work very well together here, and many classic Morecambe and Wise traits are already here, most notably Eric’s continual interruption of Ernie as he tries to introduce items.

It’s these other items that let the show down. This is very much of the comedy-variety persuasion, and that means that for every minute of Eric and Ernie, we get a minute of trad jazz (it’s hard these days to conceive of how popular this most turgid of jazz was at a time we associate with the beginnings of Beatlemania, but here’s Aker Bilk and a seemingly endless stream of other acts to belt it out with astonishing insincerity or originality) and a singing act – usually the Beverley Sisters or another girl group, sometimes a solo act. On a few occasions, the jazz bands actually perform two numbers, which is a bit much, as it means that less than half their show (and despite the title, it’s continually referred to by the pair as ‘the Morecambe and Wise show’) actually features the top-lined comedians. Anyone would think the producers were nervous of letting them have too much screen time.

Each episode opens with a spoof of another show – it’s fun to see them playing the Flintstones or the puppets of Supercar – and the sketches of the first few shows eventually begin to give way to the character-driven banter that the air would come to master.

Watching these shows is to have a rare glimpse into the beginnings of a cultural phenomenon, knowing what was to come. For that alone, this is a very welcome release.

DAVID FLINT

BUY IT NOW (UK)

 

 

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