Having jumped ship from the BBC to Thames in early 1978, this was their second special for ITV (the first was broadcast in October 1978). Somebody who didn’t travel with them, at least to begin with, was Eddie Braben – so the show was written by Barry Cryer and John Junkin with additional material by Morecambe and Wise themselves.
The lack of Braben, and possibly having to work with producer/director Keith Beckett (who had produced the October special but still must have been an unknown quantity) might explain why everything feels a little laboured.
There’s the occasional ironic nod back to their BBC shows – most notably when they introduce Anna Ford and proceed to indulge in a trademark top hat and tails dance. The joke, such as it is, is that this isn’t Ford but a lookalike – as becomes obvious when every opportunity is taken to shield her face from the camera. Given that they were never short of real celebs, it’s an odd sequence – possibly a topical gag that hasn’t travelled down the decades too well?
The biggest waste of talent concerns Leonard Rossiter’s appearance. Things start promisingly with some decent cross-talk in front of the curtain – Rossiter tells them he’s not working here, just passing through on his way to the BBC. Eric then mutters they might not be far behind! All three then drag up as the Andrews Sisters and mime to Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy. And that’s it – the mere fact that they’re dressed as the Andrews Sisters is presumably supposed to be hilarious (but alas, no).
It’s not all bad though. There’s a nice flat scene with Frank Finley and the sequence with Eric, Ernie and the Syd Lawrence Orchestra is good fun. The big moment is reserved for the end, as Harold Wilson pops round to the flat. Irrespective of whether he’s funny or not, the novelty of seeing the ex-prime minister is worth the price of admission alone. The look on Eric and Ernie’s face as Wilson receives a tumultuous round of applause from the audience is lovely to see and Wilson’s a good sport – receiving Eric’s jibe that he’s actually Mike Yarwood (and doing an impression of Tommy Cooper!) with equanimity.
Overall it’s pretty patchy stuff. M&W still obviously had the audience’s affection, but they weren’t well served by Cryer and Junkin’s material.