1 9 6 9 – 1 9 8 7 (UK)
72 x 45 minute episodes
20 x 50 minute episodes
2 x 60 minute episodes
1 x 30 minute special
1 x 55 minute special
The Two Ronnies firmly placed Ronnie Corbett and Ronnie Barker on the same level of popularity as that other great 70’s duo Morecambe and Wise.
Barker and Corbett had appeared together in The Frost Report and, although each was to have a successful career on his own – Corbett did cabaret work and later starred in sitcom Sorry!, Barker was the shining star of Porridge and Open All Hours, two of the BBC very best comedies – their partnership in this joke-and-sketch show was a television triumph until Barker’s retirement in 1988.
The opening of the show had the pair sat at a news desk in fluorescent jackets (the sort golfers might wear) and one would announce; “In a packed programme tonight…” followed by some of the 150 or more joke news items the writers had submitted every week, delivered very fast.
The number was whittled down to a final eighteen, often only minutes before the start of the show.
Over the years the format of the shows changed little; there were always sketches involving dressing up as women (though Ronnie B hated drag – he said it made his wife Joy sick to watch him) and there was always a grand musical number near the close.
The duo usually appeared as old codgers somewhere in the show and as rock singers or punks, looking particularly gruesome.
The centrepieces were sometimes brilliant adventure serials such as The Phantom Raspberry Blower Of Old London Town (with Charley Farley & Piggy Malone) and The Worm That Turned, a funny futuristic mini-drama about a world where women had taken over the world Gestapo-style.
It was a fairytale world where men were made to wear dresses, whilst the women walked around in leather shorts, thigh length boots and peaked caps and did the dominatrix thing. The serial featured Diana Dors as a woman Prime Minister (pictured at left) – a concept we found laughable at the time . . .
Other favourite segments included; The cocktail party sketches, The Village Idiots/ Country Bumpkins, The two blokes in the pub (one of whom would try to finish the sentences of the other), and Ronnie Corbett’s waffling monologues – usually one (rather poor) joke spun out to 5 minutes by endless repetitious references to the producer drinking too much, the BBC canteen and Corbett’s own slight stature.
All of the Rons’ humour was very British in style and very gentle. They didn’t go out of their way to offend, preferring seaside-postcard rudeness which made the show irresistible to children.
But adults loved the cleverness of much of the writing, often the work of Ronnie B whose pen name for many years was Gerald Wiley.
Ronnie Barker died of heart failure at the Katherine House hospice in Adderbury, Oxfordshire, on 3 October 2005, aged 76
Ronnie Corbett passed away on 31 March 2016, aged 85.
And it’s good night from him . . .