Remembering Ernie Wise

The latest episode of A Brit Talks Vintage TV is now available to stream and download!

Below is a transcript of the podcast.

Hello there, and welcome to A Brit Talks Vintage TV, with me Jamie Dyer.

On the 21st of March 2024, it was the 20th anniversary of the passing of comedy legend Ernie Wise. His comedy partner, Eric Morecambe, had died 15 years before him. The two of them continue to live on in reruns, as I shall explain later.

Ernie Wise was born on the 27th of November 1925. He first met Eric Morecambe, then Bartholomew, in 1940. They quickly struck up a friendship and began performing as a double act. Their first TV series, Running Wild, was a flop on the BBC in the early 50s. They were then snapped up by ATV in the early 60s, for a show called Two of a Kind. It was on the BBC from 1968 to 1977, that they enjoyed their greatest successes.

Every Christmas without fail, my family and I still sit down to watch the Morecambe and Wise Christmas show. Starting in 2019, we’ve watched every BBC special on the fiftieth anniversary of their original broadcast. We’ve seen a giant dummy, Hannah Gordon get blown away and even Andre Preview. Their comedy, mostly written by the wonderful Eddie Braben, never fails to make us laugh.

I can’t say I have a favourite of the two, they each brought their own strengths. Eric was quick witted and very good with little physical touches. Ernie played the straight man comedy role to perfection, and was also an excellent dancer. This can be seen in their classic Singing in the Rain sketch, possibly the best one they ever did.

The beauty of this sketch is that it reads in two ways. Yes, Morecambe being doused unexpectedly several times with water is very funny. However, the magic comes with Ernie’s dance routine. He plays it absolutely seriously, as though he’s doing the actual musical. His mimicking of Gene Kelly may not be the funniest thing ever put to tape, but it’s enough to put a smile on your face. Bring you sunshine if you will. Not bad for a little Ern with short fat hairy legs… It just doesn’t sound right when I say it does it!?

It shouldn’t be surprising that the work of Morecambe and Wise continues to be rerun and appreciated. Much of it has also been brought out on DVD, even the ATV and Thames years. I didn’t realise until recently just how much work they put into each and every second. I knew about the well-documented rehearsals with guests. What I wasn’t aware of, was the amount of time it took them to actually film things! I’m sure they said on a recent rerun special with Michael Parkinson, that their famous Breakfast Stripper sketch took several hours to film. It just demonstrated how much work went into it, for me.

What do you think it was that made the two of them so good? Perhaps it was all those nights performing in theatres up and down the country, honing their craft? Maybe the excellent writers they had around them at various times. Could it be the production team or the guest stars? Or perhaps its the friendship the two of them shared for decades. They truly were two of a kind.

Following Eric’s death, Ernie did a little work here and there. He’s in episodes of What’s My Line, along with Countdown. He also made a guest appearance in an obscure American Ted Knight sitcom called Too Close for Comfort in 1985. Ten years later after health issues, he retired from showbusiness at age 70. 29 years later, and we’re still talking about him, the plays what he wrote and his mate Eric Morecambe.

So what else is there to say? I’ve said enough. If you have anything to say about the shows mentioned in this podcast, you can email, tweet @OldTimeReview on Twitter or check out the Facebook page, Old Time Review. This is Jamie Dyer signing off.


Written and Presented By Jamie Dyer

This is an Old Time Review Production

Jamie Dyer

Jamie Dyer is an experienced writer, broadcaster, musician and social media marketer. He enjoys Old Time Radio, vintage TV, collecting vinyl and supporting the New York Knicks.

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