Wednesday, 31 July 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Rob Brydon's Annually Retentive - 1990 (1 August 2006)

 The fictional panel show-within-a-show would be a particularly dismal watch this week, with guest stars Jo Brand, Paul Foot, Ronni Ancona (who refuses to do impressions) and - especially unimpressive - Heat magazine's Boyd Hilton. The last of these is a particularly grizzly period touch, reminding the present-day viewer of how prominent that publication was for a few years in the noughties, before the Internet swept it away.

 Annually Retentive has an unusual structure. You assume that there are two simultaneous timelines (the panel show and the backstage preparations), but it's actually less linear than that. About half a dozen different stages of the production are shown in intercut scenes (Rob and the booker, Rob and the producer, the team meeting, the dressing room, etc.), with the viewer not told which order they occur in (you can work it out, but it is quite hard work).

 As a lot of the comedy comes from the Brydon character talking about other comedians behind their back and then having to deal with them in performance, the effect of this editing making the programme seem more interested in demonstrating a thesis about media representation of celebrity than it is in telling a story. You can see why it didn't much appeal to a wide audience.

 This episode has some of the series' most scathingly specific takedowns (and best moments), when a fed-up Brydon performs lengthy impersonations of Johnny Vaughan and Ross ("I appeal to students") Noble.

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Saxondale - Janet (31 July 2006)

 I would imagine that Steve Coogan is at his happiest as a performer when he has an audience and he knows that they're laughing. In Saxondale, a reflective post-Office character piece, Steve Coogan didn't have the reassurance of that audience in recording.

 This is the last episode of the first series, and two impulses are in play. There's a wish to achieve a relatively muted, subtle, comedy that leaves quite a lot of the work of interpretation to the viewer's intelligence. This is seen at its most acute when Tommy and young Raymond have a job disinfesting the home of a dead man. Tommy expects to find the typical residence of a lonely pensioner, and then, looking through the record collection, discovers that the deceased was a middle-aged man much like himself. Apart from the closely-drawn accuracy of Tommy's reactions and little bits of phrasing there isn't anything actually funny about this, but that's not something you mind when watching.

 At the same time, a broader desire to please is also in play. Tommy's awareness of his mortality and failings also gets tested through temptation, which takes the voluptuous form of a merry widow who wants some mice removed. Janet represents the appeal that Tommy's regular girlfriend, Mags, holds for him, but in a more confident, prosperous, form without any of the ties of domesticity. This vivid character creates an opportunity for some seriously impressive vamping from Lisa Tarbuck, but seems to exist in a more colourful, coarser comedy world than the rest of the programme.

 Much of the interest of the episode is found in the friction between these two forms of humour, such as when Tommy disrupts a suggestive conversation with Janet during a meal out - "Do you mind if we stop doing all this innuendo? It's mentally exhausting."

 Tommy manages to walk away from Janet before he does any lasting damage to his relationship with Mags. The catalysing action that prompts his conscience into doing the right thing is when she puts on some seductive music, and plays some Phil Collins-era Genesis...

Monday, 29 July 2019

A Comedy On This Day: As Time Goes By - A Deeply Personal Problem (30 July 2000)

 Each time that I see an episode of this, I get a dislocated sensation that's peculiar to watching very minor material performed to the highest level. This week's plot - Lionel and Jean try to cover up a visit from her daughter's estranged boyfriend by making up a story about a mysterious 'personal problem' of Lionel's, and then having to cope with the embarrassing consequences - could hardly be more ordinary. You don't often see Judi Dench performing in such small beer as this. Its interesting to see qualities distinct to her - very quick responses, sense of an individual moral understanding - put to service in something so routine.

 One benefit of the high production values of this series is that the initial scene (of the two daughters dropping their keys in the street and getting soaking wet) includes the most convincing artificially induced rain that I've seen in a television programme. Normally something that looks a bit wrong on television, seeing it realised so well is surprisingly exciting.

Sunday, 28 July 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Men Behaving Badly - Cleaning Lady (29 July 1994)

 Dorothy insists that Gary gets a cleaning lady, who turns out to be an attractive young woman... with a funny foreign accent.

 The things about this programme that made it seem sharp at the time are the things that now annoy me about it, and are mostly in the writing. Simon Nye gets a lot of his laughs from one character saying something slightly fanciful and another character reacting dismissively. Once you notice how it works, it doesn't sound good.

 Making the characters' low motivations the source of the comedy was fair enough, but there's a mistaken sense that showing their disloyalty and base appetites is funny enough in itself, and that the leads' supposed charm will make these disagreeable people in some way endearing. The comedy is constructed around a lot of very short scenes, which get to the point that advances the plot as quickly as possible through the least intelligent route. I'd just like an actual scene with the space to investigate what's going on and to draw out some very one-note characterisation.

 One disappointing aspect of this episode is that Tony starts a career as a model, but we don't get to see anything at all of him being interviewed or at work, something novel that it would be interesting to see.

Saturday, 27 July 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Shelley - The Deep End (28 July 1992)

 The first episode of series ten and the 1990 production date and summer broadcast suggests that ITV no longer saw this programme as much of an asset... It's been a good ten years since an episode written by (series creator) Peter Tilbury, and Hywel Bennett is the only element left from the programme that it started out as. Shelley is more of an everyman discontented middle-aged man than the distinctive (unemployable graduate) character he once was, and the show now seems as much interested in Shelley's landlord, Ted (David Ryall).

 The entire first act of Andy Hamilton's script is a two-handed scene of Shelley and Ted at home, in which Ted persuades Shelley that he ought to take swimming lessons. Its very loosely structured and nothing much seems at stake. I could really have done with a bit more emotional impetus to engage me in this. You get the impression that both men are a bit bored and filling in time, and that Andy Hamilton is pleased to display his virtuosity in keeping an inconsequential scene spinning for over ten minutes.

 Things perk up slightly in the second act with some OB scenes of Shelley splashing about in a swimming pool and making some friends on the course - most interestingly, Samantha Beckinsale as a hydrophobic actress who's been cast as a mermaid in a film. But as soon as Shelley makes these new friends they then melt away disappointingly at the end of the episode, for reasons of expedience rather than pathos.

 The experience as a whole is one of watching a character comedy that has lost its sense of character.

Friday, 26 July 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Don't Drink The Water - Home From Home (27 July 1974)

 The obvious emphasis in this first episode is on broad comedy that creates as many opportunities as possible for Stephen Lewis to pull faces. But there is something quite oppressive about the barrage of relentless discomfort and embarrassment that Blakey and his sister immediately face in their new Spanish flat.
 The porter and his wife are rowing in Spanish. The builders are still in the apartment when they move in. The taps fall off the wall. The water is brown. The sea view is of another block of flats. A lizard scuttles across the floor. Pat Coombs gets hysterical. A storm breaks a window. There's a power cut. The next-door neighbours are cackling vulgarians. It’s established that all of the money has gone into moving here and it's impossible to get back home. Whenever Blakey tells anyone that Pat Coombs is his sister they think that's a euphemism for his mistress, etc., etc.

 The studio audience responds ecstatically to this catalogue of misfortunes. But there isn't space for much empathy in the script, apart from perhaps the five years of affection automatically accrued for Blakey off the back of On The Buses. After about five minutes, I started to daydream about how well (with minimal adjustment) this would work as a horror story. It just needs something a bit more perverse or grotesque about the couple next door, or a mutilated cat on the doorstep to fit into place...

Thursday, 25 July 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Sez Les (26 July 1974)

I'm not religious. For years I was an atheist but I gave it up. I was getting no holidays.

 John Cleese plays a precise and haughty hotel manager! Only in a little throwaway sketch, but he's noticeably good in this part... I'd imagine that the 'Hotel Splendide' is a higher class of place than Fawlty Towers, though.
 In a similar vein, there's a sketch with Dawson as a diner in a swanky restaurant (a familiar comedy situation of this time) arguing about hidden charges with Frank Thornton's supercilious waiter - "You used the wrong fork with your salade Nicoise, sir. Anything that lowers the tone of the Cafe Marcel has to be paid for."
 This week's guest artiste is a very tanned Clodagh Rogers, not entirely flattered by being dressed and styled in the period fashion. I dimly remember women's dresses being held up by hoops like that when I was a small child, although Roger's ones are studded with sequins...
 Clodagh hasn't had a hit for a few years and has recently been dropped by RCA. She performs her new single 'Saturday Sunday' (released by Pye, who won't keep her on after this). It isn't going to set any charts alight. It's an undistinguished number, but oddly underpinned by a period arrangement of fumping drums and slow bass, a la Hotlegs' 'Neanderthal Man' or David Essex's 'Rock On'.
 The Irving Davies Dancers have been awarded a slot of their own this week, offering their interpretation of 'Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves'.
 Highlights of this routine include a slow tambourine dance and the lead female dancer being wrapped in a red sheet, which the men of the troupe then swing her around in. It's a bit more disjointed than their very best numbers, with a lot of separately recorded cutaways. But this emphasis on individual moments within the routine does give us the splendidly camp moment when, on the line of "Every night the men would come around to lay their money down", a chorus of three gypsy temptresses give the viewer a knowing look...

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Annually Retentive - 1981 (25 July 2006)

 Annually Retentive's celebrity guests received uneven amounts of attention and ribbing. This week, Josie d'Arby and Robert Webb are given little to do, while Russell Brand gets the lion's share of comic business. The programme catches him at just the right time, during the first few months of his period of immense fame when he was still a novelty rather than a ubiquitous presence. Although I've always found his talents as a comedian and actor erratic, one thing that he is very good at is playing a slightly caricatured version of himself, flirting with Sharon Horgan's character by asking her if she's ovulating.

 Another merit of this programme occurs when one of the guests is a comic who you can't abide. I've never liked Marcus Brigstocke, finding him unbearably belligerent and shouty, so it's good to see the Brydon character skewering him in programme planning:
BRYDON: (dismissively) Oh, let's get Marcus on. He'll probably come on dressed very conservatively and then say something a little bit risqué. That's what he does, okay? Looks like a geography teacher, says something risqué. It's a one-note joke.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Saxondale - Fleas (24 July 2006)

 One of Saxondale's less-recognised virtues is its depth of research into the mechanics of pest control. Apart from maybe the odd rat catcher in country tales, it's not a profession that I've ever seen depicted fictionally elsewhere. It's never especially funny, but whenever Tommy goes about his work and explains what he's doing there's an automatic level of inherent interest, and his understanding of the life cycles of the parasites that he's eliminating is a subtle grace note for the character.

 This episode uses the pest control angle especially well, with the main plot involving some detective work from Tommy, who attempts to prove that a larger, more corporate, firm are defrauding their clients by re-infesting their premises. There's a bit more to chew on and a wider ethical perspective with this than this week's other cause of rage for Tommy, getting his car clamped.

Monday, 22 July 2019

A Comedy On This Day: It Ain't Half Hot Mum - Gloria's Finest Hour (23 July 1981)

 For a programme into its eighth and final series, It Ain't Half Hot Mum was still in very good shape in 1981. We're up to 1945 and in Burma now, but the only historical note is when L.C. Reynolds admonishes Sergeant Williams, "Steady on, Sergeant Major. We've got a Labour government now. They make a fuss about all sorts of things, you know."

 Watching a popular regular acting highly out of character always makes for an interesting episode of a long-running sitcom, and this week Bombardier Beaumont suddenly becomes butch and courageous. This transformation comes from a bang on the head caused by a coconut falling from a tree. The filmed sequence of the hungry troops trying to get the coconuts down was what amused me most when I watched the original broadcast as an eight year old. These days I'm preoccupied with thinking, "Why don't you just try shaking the tree first?"

 There are three simultaneous sources of interest for a regular viewer in stories like this. How does this programme work when our expectations of a character are reversed? This new butch Beaumont really is horrible to his friends - "You poofs! Dressing up as tarts - You nasty little pervert, Sugden" - and you realise that it would be a grim concert party if he stayed like this. His effete qualities become particularly valued once they go missing.

 There's also a raised awareness of performance - how would Melvyn Hayes play a tough guy? As it turns out, rather like Victor Maddern. The surprise factor just about carries it off, but you can see why you wouldn't ever cast him as a brute.

 And the third source of interest is in how and when the situation is going to revert to normal. In this episode it comes right at the end when a badge for valour is pinned on the Bombardier and the prick makes him faint. After a few scenes of the order of things being disrupted, it makes for a happy ending for regular viewers, reminding them of things that they like about the programme's ensemble.

Sunday, 21 July 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Q9 (22 July 1980)

 Normally, Ed Welch's musical spot midway through an episode of Q9 comes as a welcome relief from Milligan's continual manic state. But for this final episode of the series they're trying something different... a song with lyrics by Milligan is sung by Anna Raven, a young woman with no other credits to her name. The song is arranged and sung as an emphatic ballad (think Charles Aznavour), but Milligan's lyrics are extremely verbose. I suppose that the intended effect of the words is moving whimsy, but that would be better conveyed through a much lighter arrangement.

 As always, the brief cutaways to the studio audience are the most interesting (and certainly the least forced) parts of this programme. Not everyone is having a marvellous time -

 You can see where unfortunate girlfriends have been dragged along to this ordeal by their fan boyfriends –

Saturday, 20 July 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Get Some In! (21 July 1977)

 The final episode of the fourth series, and the programme feels a bit routine in this episode. A military series will always be preoccupied with power and status, and the way that this one is plotted reminds me of the 'status games' scenes that we were made to improvise in youth theatres almost thirty years ago.

 C Flight have completed their nursing exams and Corporal Marsh has been found to have cheated and has his stripes removed, meaning that Richardson is now technically his superior. The 'erks' have fun ordering him around (most amusingly the do-gooder Lilley commanding him, "Come on! Move, move, you blinker!"). Naturally, this ascendancy is short lived as all five airmen are then posted abroad and the 'erks' attempt to flatter Marsh into swapping his posting with Leckie so that the four friends can stay together...

 Esmonde and Larbey were good enough writers that this never becomes tedious, but it certainly isn't surprising... Until the end, when there's a peculiar scene (shot on OB) of Corporal Marsh contemplating suicide by throwing himself off a bridge. That is unexpected, though it does seem rather unprecedented and out of character. But the moment is so rushed and quickly resolved that it doesn't leave much of an impression.

Friday, 19 July 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Thick As Thieves - Holy Deadlock (20 July 1974)

  The final episode particularly demonstrates why, despite its superb pedigree, this series is such a disappointment.

 It's never really sure what the joke is and where the emotional heart of the premise lies. How are we supposed to feel about George, Stan and Annie's unusual arrangement? It often doesn't seem to matter very much until someone remembers it. More to the point, how do three characters themselves feel about it? There's no strong bond of love-hate between the two friends, they just seem to sort of half-heartedly accept each other except for on odd occasions when the comedy requires one of them to be in a bad mood.

 Are they supposed to be inept criminals or unfortunate ones? Oughtn't the viewer to have the feeling that something is at stake if they try to go straight or return to crime? The more one thinks about it, the flimsier it seems - the exact opposite of the experience of watching Clement & La Frenais' other series.

 More thought has gone into the set design for the gangster's flat that George and Stan burgle in this episode, an elegant space filled with vulgar furnishings - leopard skin-styled sofa and zebra-patterned waterbed, shown via a surprising overhead shot that represents the experience of the friends looking at their reflections in the mirrored ceiling.
 The best thing about this series is it's opening credits, a tiny film in four shots, with each section full of little detail that rewards repeated viewing; the terraced street with the tower blocks looming behind; Annie, George and Stan walking through the market, each carrying a bag of shopping, George eating an apple, offering the fruit to Stan and then losing his balance when he has a second bite; a partially demolished house on a bed of rubble with a burning brazier, inside which we can see into the old, wallpapered rooms where two workmen are taking up the first floor floorboards; the tower block again, panning down its many floors to reveal the three leads sat on a wall in front of the building, their heads craned to look up at the top floor - they turn round to face forwards and George kisses Annie, who is then kissed by Stan while George turns away in a huff.

 All this is soundtracked by a Mike Hugg theme, of the same ilk as Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads? and it's subsequent film theme. The arrangement and singing sounds very 1974 to my ears, like Hudson Ford, say:
Some of us are like most of us
We do the best we can
We make ends meet
and we live on the street
where they're pulling the houses down (down down)

But life's just making do, my love
We'll just have to see it through, my love
And if three have to live like two, my love
we'll do the best we can

 There's a neat use of a mandolin a la 'Maggie May' in this piece. You don't initially take much notice of the female voice that doesn't join in until the second line, but then you remember her when you hear the song performed again as a duet over the end credits.

 Would that so much craft and care had gone into the rest of the programme.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Sez Les (19 July 1974)

 From Ken Dodd and Dickie Mint to Joe Beazley and Cheeky Monkey few comedy ideas are ever so funny as a hapless puppet act, and instead of Dawson's usual stand-up this week the show opens with US superstar Roscoe Chip and Peppy. Chip has no talent, Peppy is a hideous troll-like figure, and Dawson has particular fun with the oleaginous patter of American funnymen - "Isn't that a fun remark?" It's rare to see him play a creation that he clearly has no affection for.

 After dismembering Peppy, Roscoe then goes on to display further talents as a magician, attempting the sawing a woman in half act, only to be foiled by the substitute Yorkshire glamorous assistant, too fat to fit into the box.

 This week's guest artiste is Lyn Paul, going solo after The New Seekers. Her voice is good, but you can see why she wasn't really a solo star in her own right. If Wikipedia is to be believed the wistful ballad that she performs here, 'Sail the Summer Winds' "spent a frustrating seventeen weeks hovering outside the UK Top 50". John Cleese's presence this week is most keenly felt in a sketch that he isn't actually in, a quaint rewrite of the parrot sketch with Dawson as Palin, Roy Barraclough as Cleese and a flatulent, instead of dead, parrot.

 This week, the Irving Davies Dancers aren't backing a singer, but performing a cancan routine behind a series of French-themed gags and characterisations from Dawson. Using them as decoration is rather of a waste of their talents, and the long routine is at it's best when Dawson and companion also join in with the dancing.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Doctor At Large - Mother & Father Doing Well (18 July 1971)

PROFESSOR LOFTUS: Clark, if I wanted someone to make inane comments during my operations I should hire Kenneth Wolsteholme.

 It may be that Fawlty Towers has primed me to expect greater things from his scripts, but I do find John Cleese's Doctor episodes to generally be the most interesting ones. The subtle notes of cruelty and violence work particularly well in a medical setting, a place where injury and pain are always a possibility.

 This week's guest star is Martin Shaw, returning from Doctor In The House
as combustible Welshman Dr Evans. He now has a heavily pregnant wife in tow, and Cleese manages to mine more than one strand of inspired comedy from her condition. For Richard O'Sullivan's unpopular Dr Bingham she becomes the source of inappropriately phrased enthusiasm - "I mean, after all she is due to pup this evening, isn't she? I hope she won't be too long - I can't wait to get at her!"

 Her condition also inspires a particularly well-realised and original farcical sequence, when she masquerades as a nurse during an operation on her husband conducted by Professor Loftus, with the doctors having to show her what to do via mime behind the surgeon's back. Another layer of complication is then added to this scene once the contractions start....

 Another Cleese trait is managing to pack more absurdity and flights of crazy fantasy into a sitcom than you might think possible, seen this week in a subplot about Dr Upton treating patients who turn out to be mad. Professor Loftus is much better at dealing with them than the callow Upton, knowing that quite the best way to deal with a man who thinks that there's a faulty light bulb in his head is to mime changing the bulb, quickly sending the satisfied patient on his way.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Hark At Barker - Rustless On Law (17 July 1970)

 Hark At Barker must be the least documented work that Alan Ayckbourn has ever written. I had a look at half a dozen Ayckbourn books on my shelf after watching this, and it barely gets a mention anywhere.

 One reason for this neglect is the pen name Peter Caulfield. It's understandable to assume that he wrote it under an assumed name because he was embarrassed by it, but the actual reason was because he was under contract for the BBC at the time. Once you know that its by him, you can then detect elements of Ayckbourn in the programme, especially in the way that the routines involve a lot of playing games and enacting out scenarios, but Ronnie Barker's star peronna is so dominant - and the material is so much like a lot of pieces that he went on to do in The Two Ronnies - that you tend not to register the actual writing so much.

 Ayckbourn and Barker went back to 1964, when Barker appeared in Ayckbourn's first West End play (if only for three weeks), Mr Whatnot. Barker played one of his trademark crusty aristocrats, Lord Slingsby-Craddock, and the show was a 'silent' comedy about a mute piano tuner employed by the Slingsby-Craddocks, with no dialogue but with a hugely elaborate sound plot of hundreds of sound cues instead. Barker continued with this type of comedy in Futtocks End, The Picnic and By The Sea, and it’s a slight shame that Ayckbourn and Barker's only TV collaboration wasn't also in this vein.

Monday, 15 July 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Never Mind The Quality, Feel The Width - What You've Never Had, You Never Miss (16 July 1970)

 A lot of - perhaps most - drama and comedy operates around the use of peripeteia, the sudden reversal of fortune or change in circumstances. This happens not only in narratives as a whole, but is generally the hinge that most individual scenes in a drama pivot around - something will have happened during the scene to change the circumstances by the end of it. Once you're primed to notice this, you see more clearly the process of writing behind things. When I've taught textual analysis of film to students, I've often given the advice that: if you're stuck observe what the reversal is in this scene and explain how it's shown.

 This story of Manny and Patrick continuing an accumulator bet through a day's races (mostly told in continuous time in a single room) is a good example of a peripatetic storyline in its most simplistic form, with the friends unexpectedly gaining and then losing a fortune. The problem with the story is that no one above the age of about eight could possibly be surprised by any of it. There's nothing that makes you think, that's clever, I couldn't have anticipated that... Instead you think - is that it? He can't remember the name of the horse? - and the thing is only just carried over the line by the likability of the characters.

 Thames' prop designers have done themselves proud with a faulty television set this week. The device through which the tailors try to follow the races, the viewer only gets to see the back of the unidentifiable television so as not to sully the reputation of any real-life manufacturers. But the hot valves, wires and ventilators of the exploding prop bring back the smell and feel of older sets still in circulation when I was a small child.

Sunday, 14 July 2019

A Comedy On This Day: The Morecambe & Wise Show (15 July 1970)

 There's a curious sketch this edition in which George Cooper and Margery Mason - in braces and pinny respectively - play Eric's parents. They live in an archetypal North Country working class home, but with twenty ducks on the wall, and the sketch starts with a pastiche of Eric Spear's Coronation Street theme. Eric is dressed in an effete Southerner's costume of matching pink shirt and necktie and brings Ernie home with him to meet his parents. Almost nothing funny is extracted from the situation save for the usual interjections, but there's an intriguing dramatic possibility in it. There is with the 'at home' sketch this edition, too, when Eric answers the door to an eight month's pregnant woman asking to see Ernie and Eric panics about the trouble he believes that his friend has got himself into.

 Three musical guests; the inevitable Kenny Ball & His Jazzmen, Kenneth McKellar and - more intriguingly - former Vernons Girl Samantha Jones. Like so many British female singers of the 1960s at least one of her singles became hailed as a Northern Soul favourite years later, but little of that comes over in this performance. She sings 'You've Got Your Troubles' in a big band style, as if she is trying to seduce the listener. This interpretation feels one remove away from the song's mood of shared gloom, as heard in The Fortunes' original rather morose performance of the song in 1963.

Saturday, 13 July 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Pardon The Expression - The Pensioner (14 July 1965)

 Very little in the way of overt jokes in this episode, which really functions as a character piece for Swindley, who meets an old man in the park and offers him a temporary job in Dobson & Hawks' greengrocers. Naturally the old man lets him down, giving away the stock to needy pensioners.

 Swindley responds to the disappointment with the characteristic decency and kindness that lies under his surface pomposity. Arthur Lowe has some nice, rather melancholy, moments to get his teeth into here and we learn a little about Swindley's wartime service in the Navy (but prosaically on a barracks ship, rather than at sea) and that his most treasured possessions are "my cello and my late father's silver snuff box." There's more continuity with Swindley's Coronation Street persona here than in much of Pardon The Expression.

 Ambitiously, the designers have constructed with a section of boating lake (with water) in the Granada studios this week. You would think this was fraught with risks, but having made it they then put it to good use, the episode concluding with Swindley and his new friend Jacob Elijah on a boat and casting off.

Friday, 12 July 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Two Of A Kind (13 July 1963)

  The (particularly feeble) main sketch this week feels curious to a viewer primed by seeing Morecambe and Wise's later performances. Eric has spent sixteen years building a scale model of the Battle of Waterloo, which he earnestly explains to the audience, which a mischievous Ernie then smashes up during their re-enactment. Eh? Shouldn't that have been cast the other way around? 

 We also have a rare sight of Ernie Wise in drag in this edition, in the big physical number with M & W as a pair of ballroom dancers, surrounded by three real dancing couples. This is much more of a pleasure to watch. Putting the comics in identical costumes to the real dancers means that they can momentarily blend in, before inevitably disrupting the order of things.

 Janie Marden sings I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm in a shoo-be-be-doobee scat jazz style, shaking her arms, raising her eyebrows and tilting her head. It's certainly a committed performance, but magnified by the camera looks more unhinged than enticing.