IAN HART: They still don’t come any funnier than Eric and Ernie

Ian Hart
Ian Hart

A long plane journey has many facets, and among the more palatable aspects is the vast array of visual entertainment available whilst airborne.

On Monday, I found myself on quite a long journey and having settled into my seat I perused what was on offer to while away the hours up in the sky.

Despite attempting to watch a couple of ‘blockbusters’, and I do wonder when the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise will actually be called what it now is – flogging a dead horse – in the end I went down the retro TV route and had without doubt the most entertaining part of the flight watching the Morecambe and Wise Christmas shows from 1971 and 1975.

Many, including Eric’s son Gary, have cited the 1971 show as the duo at the very top of their game – the Shirley Bassey ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’ number, Glenda Jackson paying tribute with Eric and Ernie to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and, of course, the all-time classic Andre Previn and the Grieg Piano Concerto, something which still makes me laugh out loud regardless of how many times I watch it.

These guests were huge stars of their day, at the very top of their chosen fields. Yet they all, possibly with the exception of Previn who later revealed he didn’t really know what he was getting into but had been urged by UK-based friends to do it, virtually had their respective agents and management banging on the BBC’s door to appear with Morecambe and Wise.

And as a footnote for his long and distinguished career, Previn admits the thing British people of all ages mention to him is the Grieg piano piece.

The same can be said for the 1975 edition – Elton John, John Thaw, Dennis Waterman and Angela Rippon almost bringing the nation to a standstill with her legendary dance routine with the boys.

Okay, cynics will almost gloat that nostalgia is a thing of the past, but these shows represent a time when families all sat together in their millions to watch them.

It was superb entertainment, and by the very fact that everyone I talk to still finds it funny to this day, it’s stood the test of time.

I don’t think anyone could have ever replaced Eric and Ernie in the nation’s heart. The various TV companies have tried over the years, but no-one comes near.

And as good as they are, Ant and Dec, who some believe are the modern-day Morecambe and Wise, are merely great entertainers of their time. Eric and Ernie were and will always remain comic legends.