The 1976 Christmas Show was the second that Eddie Braben didn’t write – although it’s certainly better than the previous non-Braben show (1972) and something of an improvement on the 1975 show. Mike Craig, Barry Cryer, Lawrie Kinsley and Ron McDonnell were on writing duties (with additional material from M&W). Although Ern sometimes seems a little dim (not realising that Eric’s Christmas gift was incredibly duff, for example) overall it’s a good attempt at synthesising the Braben style.
There’s a dress-up sketch, similar to efforts from some of the previous Christmas shows (Turkeys/Reindeers). Here, Morecambe and Wise are two members of a table-top football team. Ern’s the new left back, whilst Eric has been there a while. “42,338 consecutive games. And only had the trainer on once. And that was for a coat of varnish.”
The Nolans sing When You Are A King. They’re very pink.
Elton John’s good value. Initially he attempts to provide piano accompaniment for the boys.
ELTON: Do you want this blues, reggae or funky?
ERIC: (looks offstage) Can he say “funky”? No, “funky”. You were close. The studio manager is looking it up. It’s a gift he has.
Eventually Elton gets so frustrated he grabs Eric (although slightly too hard as they bump faces – watch out for Eric and Ernie’s expressions, priceless!). He then appears a few more times, before getting the chance to sing Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word. He obviously made a good impression as he’s back the following year.
By this time, Ernest Maxin had taken over as producer. He had choreographed some of the musical numbers on previous shows – so it’s maybe not surprising that song & dance numbers tended to feature quite strongly during his time as producer. Since M&W (especially Ernie) both loved song & dance, it’s something that plays to their strengths and there’s two good examples in this show.
Ernie performs Singing in the Rain whilst staying bone-dry (it’s Eric who gets wet). As Ernie was always something of a frustrated song-and-dance man, it’s a lovely segment for him. The street set looked very impressive, especially for such a short sequence – which was a clear indication just how highly the BBC rated M&W (clearly money was no objective when crafting the Christmas show).
The play boasts appearances from John Thaw, Dennis Waterman and Kate O’Mara. They help to liven things up – especially John Thaw – but like a number of the other plays it’s just far, far too long. At twenty minutes, it feels very padded out.
Nowadays it’s a common sight for newsreaders to dress up and perform (Children in Need or Strictly Come Dancing, amongst others). Back in 1976, it just didn’t happen – which explains why Angela Rippon’s appearance caused such a sensation. M&W get to dress up in top hat and tails and it provides a nice end to an entertaining show.
2 thoughts on “The Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show 1976”
I can’t remember if was the 1976 or 1977 Christmas show that had Eric coming on stage with a puppy which he said he got from Swap Shop. On the following edition of Swap Shop, which was either on New Year’s Day 1977 or New Year’s Eve 1977, they showed the clip and Noel Edmonds reminded viewers that people weren’t allowed to swap pets.
He said that he would like to have Morcambe and Wise as guests on Swap Shop, but they never did. They did show the table top football sketch on the Cup Final edition of Swap Shop. The goal keeper was played by Arthur Tolcher, their resident harmonica player.
Was this the programme where the title sequence was done as a comic strip? Was the strip drawn by Dennis Gifford? It was the show with the “He Is Coming” gag.
It’s odd to think that the Morcambe and Wise Show with the famous Angela Rippon dance wasn’t written by Eddie Braben.
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Yes, 76 was the one with the animated titles (an improvement on 75 which had a rather feeble “funked-up” version of the theme music.