TV review: Eric, Ernie and Me, BBC Four
- Henry Northmore
- 18 December 2017
Drama takes us behind the scenes as Morecambe and Wise become the nation's favourite comedians
It's hard to think of a double act that had more impact on British popular culture, Morecambe and Wise ruled TV during the 70s. Their turning point from light entertainers to comedy giants came in 1968. What started in tragedy – Eric Morecambe had a heart attack and their original writers quit believing he'd never work again – turned into triumph.
Enter Eddie Braben (played by Stephen Tompkinson) and a return to the BBC. He saw the real magic in Morecambe and Wise, he wanted to drop the façade and tap into their personalities and friendship. It was still scripted but there was a freer looser attitude, Morecambe and Wise became Eric and Ernie, and Braben created TV gold.
It wasn't all plain sailing, Morecambe and Wise were initially sceptical; their demand for high quality material put a serious strain on his personal and family life. However Braben was his own harshest critic, piling on the pressure always searching for perfection. The workload ground him down and came to a head as they prepared for their 1977 Christmas special.
Mark Bonar and Neil Maskall rise to the challenge playing two of the most iconic characters in TV. Inevitably they can't quite capture that special spark – who could? – but this is a backstage drama rather than a faithful recreation of their comedy act. Eric, Ernie and Me is an absorbing and heartfelt look behind the scenes highlighting the moving parts that allowed genius to flourish while shining a spotlight on one of British comedy's unsung heroes.
And if you want more Morecambe and Wise – hey it's Christmas, why not? – there's also Eric & Ernie's Home Movies (BBC Two, Fri 29 Dec, 8pm) which gives us a fascinating glimpse at a selection of footage shot by Eric and Ernie through their lives.
Eric, Ernie and Me is on BBC Four, Fri 29 Dec, 9pm.