As might be expected from the Two Ronnies, there’s several wordplay orientated sketches in the show. The first (upper class city gents who can’t pronounce their words properly) is amusing enough, but does slightly outstay its welcome.
Ronnie B’s monologue is delivered by a milkman (H.M. Quinn) in the style of the Queen’s Christmas speech. His delivery clearly appeals to at least one member of the audience (listen out for some very audible female squealing on the most innocuous of lines). The majority of the monologue doesn’t actually contain any jokes – the idea that Barker is talking like the Queen is obviously supposed to be funny in itself.
Next up are a couple of Northern road-workers who exhume some golden oldies from the Old Jokes Home, such as –
RONNIE C: Sithee, does tha believe in reincarnation?
RONNIE B: Well, it’s all right on fruit salad, but I don’t like it in me tea.
Following the very Chrissmassy musical number (the Rons dressed as a couple of Stereo Santas) and a quick Ronnie C solo sketch we move into the best part of the show. First up is another wordplay sketch – with the Ronnies as two soldiers in a WW1 trench. Ronnie C has the unfortunate knack of mishearing everything that Ronnie B says, such as –
RONNIE B: God, I wish I were back in Blightly.
RONNIE C: Do you, sir? What sort of nightie, sir? Black frilly one?
RONNIE B: Sounded like a Jerry rifle.
RONNIE C: Bit strange in the trenches, sir. A sherry trifle.
It’s a lovely, typical Two Ronnies sketch. The courtroom sketch that follows is something a little different. It opens quite normally, with Ronnie C prosecuting and Ronnie B in the dock, but it quickly becomes a parody of several popular quiz shows (What’s my Line?, Call My Bluff, Blankety Blank, Mastermind, The Price is Right) – it’s also a pleasure to see Patrick Troughton as the judge.
Ronnie B has a solo singing spot as Lightweight Louie Danvers (not too dissimilar to Fatbelly Jones it has to be said).
Following Ronnie C in the chair, it’s the big film – The Ballad of Snivelling and Grudge. Guest star Peter Wyngarde is a delight – mainly because he takes the whole thing totally seriously. There’s no winks to camera and his dead-pan performance is spot on. And if, like me, you can spot Pat Gorman in the background, then you’ve probably watched far, far too much old British television. If you don’t know who Pat Gorman is, then you’ve clearly not watched enough!
No news items to end the show – instead it’s a old-fashioned style song about Christmas. It’s somewhat comforting and sums up the Two Ronnies quite well. By the mid eighties they were pretty much out of step with contemporary comedy (and Barker knew that their time was nearly up) but it doesn’t really matter – great comedy is timeless, and there’s several examples here that still work thirty years later and will surely endure for decades to come.