Britain's Most Loved and Best Comedy Double Act

Omnibus: Fools Rush In

On the television...

Script read through


Dress rehearsal
This 50 minute Omnibus documentary first broadcast in February 1973, follows Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise through the making of one of their BBC shows.

Yes, their name was once so far down the bill they could have been mistaken for the printers, but at the height of their fame, this program follows two weeks of rehearsals leading up to the broadcast of show 5 series 7. *

Once Eric and Ernie arrive the initial meeting begins with the reading of the script written by Eddie Braben. Friendly chat ensues, with Eddie and producer John Ammonds before they get down to their serious task. Eric and Ern offer ideas for improvement as they progress through one of the sketches line by line. It seems strange, but at the same time intriguing, to see Eric and Ern read the lines from the page whilst not in costume or on stage.

The whole program is interspersed with interview clips from John Ammonds, Eddie Braben and of course Eric and Ern themselves. The program also focuses on the work of Braben, who had to produce top class material week after week, and to go through the ordeal of having it scrutinised by Britain’s top entertainers.

Eddie tells his own story, growing from his own fruit & veg stall to joke writing, through to his relationship with Eric and Ern. Eric admits how hard a job it is, and I think appreciates Eddie’s contribution more than people knew.

Back at rehearsal and the scrip continues to be added to, with Ern coming up with an idea of how to use a World globe for maximum comedy effect, once opened it contains a joint of meat like you would see in a restaurant. The joke being there isn’t one. Eric quickly comes up with the killer punchline – you can’t see the joint!

Now complete, the real rehearsals can begin, and even at this early stage, you can see the improvements as Eric and Ern settle into their roles. As progress is made, the special guest Anthony Sharp is not present, but he soon arrives and work begins on fine tuning the routines on the fourth day. It is now that the sketch progresses to stage positions and acting. The cast now stand and move whilst delivering the lines, getting actions and timings right.

A song and dance number with Anita Harris, also in the show, is rehearsed out of costume, all participants enjoying themselves despite the seriousness.

It is interesting to see the small, characteristic one-liners and ad-libs being worked on over and over again until they seem to the viewing audience, to be delivered with ease. This is the professionalism of Eric and Ern. They worked hard to perfect everything they did right down to the reply of Arsenal when Ernie coughs.

Dress rehearsal arrives with more hard work, until the day of recording finally looms. Lights are positioned and recording begins as we see the final product. Even at this stage things can be changed, as camera angles and timings need to be tweaked.

John Ammonds takes over and converts everything that has been practiced through the last 14 days, into what we see on the television. Controlling the camera, sound and props, he displays great skill in bringing things together, the result is tight, sharp and very funny.

The guest chat and the Mr. Memory routine is run through before we move on to the sketch that we started with. We now see the finished article in all its glory. We see the changes and how they improved things, the mastery of comedy timing and the skill of producing all come together. Eddie Braben, now working on the next show admits he has forgotten most of the content because his head full of gags for the new show, laughs along with the audience and crew.

This is a real eye opener that shows just how much goes into a 45 minute show, and just how hard Eric, Ern, Eddie and John worked to make the nation laugh. A must watch.

*According to our database it was show 7 but the titles indicate show 5.

© 2008

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