Last year digital channel G.O.L.D. broadcast a documentary series called Bring Me Morecambe and Wise, which consisted of five hour long episodes (minus ad breaks of course) detailing the history of Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise. BBC Two is now broadcasting a short series, consisting of two episodes, both episodes 90 minutes long. This does raise the issue of how these can be “The Whole Story” when the series is shorter in length.
But do not let the length of this series put you off if you are interested in learning more about Eric and Ernie. The first part of the series deals with their early career, starting from their childhood on the stage, their first failed TV series, their first major success on ITV, and finally their move to the BBC. The second episode looks at their career on the BBC, detailing the history of some of their most famous routines and Christmas specials, lightly touching on their move back to ITV and finally the deaths of both stars.
The first episode is the more interesting of the two. Their early careers have been dealt with in other programmes, such as the drama serial Eric & Ernie broadcast back in 2011 which covered their early lives including Running Wild, their first BBC series which totally bombed and their stage comeback. However, this episode also covers their early career on ITV in the show Two of a Kind. This was mainly interesting because of the at-times troublesome relationship between Morecambe and Wise with their writers at the time Sid Green and Dick Hills.
For those unfamiliar with Two of a Kind, they may be surprised to know that many of the routines which became famous on their BBC series were recycled sketches from Two of a Kind. Early examples of the “Singing in the Rain” and the “Andre Previn / Greig Piano Concerto” began on ITV. We also get to learn about many of the comedians and variety acts that influenced Eric and Ernie, which included Laurel and Hardy, Abbot and Costello, Frank Randle, Sandy Powell and Jimmy James.
Other issues are also touched upon, such as their films and attempt to make it into America (something Wise wanted to do more than Morecambe). However, their final years on ITV are only lightly touched upon. The second episode is nearly entirely taken up by the BBC series, dealing with various sketches and classic routines in-depth, although other subjects are obviously covered; primarily Eric Morecambe’s numerous heart attacks.
Morecambe and Wise: The Whole Story high point is covering the early years. Much of the later half covers moments that many of us are familiar with, so it is primarily interesting only in a technical aspect. However, if you want to get a good idea about the inner workings of the great double act, this is a fine series to watch.
4.5 / 5
Morecambe and Wise: The Whole Story is broadcast on BBC Two at 21.00 on 24th November and 1st December.