The Two Ronnies (BBC1, 1971-1987)
Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett don’t need much introduction really, but they were a pair of comic actors who first worked in together in various comedy shows in the mid-60s. They became successful enough to be given their own sketch show that launched in 1971. For most of the run, only Morecambe and Wise could match their level of success on TV, and I don’t know if it’s a popular view or not, but I always preferred this double act myself.
Every edition of The Two Ronnies usually followed the same structure. They would begin with some rather daft news stories, before going into the first sketch. The bespectacled duo (as they always called) could always be relied on to deliver. Among the highlights were the sketches that the Ronnies actually performed individually. Barker often did sketches as an officious type who would offer advice on all kinds of rather bizarre things, and these contained some entertaining wordplay and mispronunciations.
Corbett would often tell a rather rambling story on a big chair, along with several references to the producer. The show maintained an open door policy for writers, so anybody could submit an idea for a sketch, and many of the leading comedy writers of the day contributed, with Barker himself being among the most prolific. But there was even more to the show.
There would also be an interval that would feature a variety or musical act, along with an ongoing serial such as The Phantom Raspberry Blower Of Old London Town or The Worm That Turned, and there would still be enough time for a big song and dance number, before a few more news reports ended the show. This did well enough for there to be 12 series and several Christmas specials, and there was also a tour, and a version made for Australian TV.
The show remained popular until it came to an end in 1987 following Barker’s retirement. During the show’s run, Barker and Corbett also had much individual success in sitcoms including Open All Hours and Sorry! which were very well received too. The first time I remember watching the show and got into it was actually after it had ended, as there were then several compilation series looking back at 20 years, 21 years, 22 years and so on since they had first worked together.
All of the series have been released on DVD, and there have been several repeat runs on channels including UK Gold and ITV3. The Two Ronnies did eventually reunite for some more specials, including a night where they looked back at the show and also took part in a discussion with some of the writers. They then got together one final time for The Two Ronnies Sketchbook which featured many more highlights.