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Friday, July 9, 1999 Published at 16:37 GMT 17:37 UK


Tempting back The Two Ronnies

The Two Ronnies: And it's hello again from me...

It may not seem like it - thanks to the still popular reruns - but one of the UK's best-loved comedy partnerships have barely set foot in a TV studio since 1986.

For 15 years Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett's variety shows tickled the nation's funnybones, regularly pulling in audiences of up to 17 million.

Now the duo's work will be remembered by BBC One on Friday in Two Ronnies Night.

Famous fans including Sir David Frost, Terry Wogan and Ben Elton will pay tributes to the duo, while the full story of their partnership will be illustrated with classic clips from their shows.

Classic sketches

Many of their sketches have become classics - as memorable as Monty's Python's "Dead Parrot" and Morecambe and Wise's "Singin' in the Rain".

Remember 1976's "Four Candles" (Fork Handles) exchange at the hardware shop and the mind-bending "Mastermind" skit from 1980?

[ image: Musical mayhem]
Musical mayhem
Each show followed a similar format, opening and closing with mock news items.

In between, there were the sketches, spoof serials - including The Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town - plus a lavish musical number and Corbett's rambling joke.

Musical guests included Barbara Dickson and Elaine Paige.

Corbett and Barker are now both 69. Barker still runs his beloved antiques shop in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, while Corbett has a busy schedule of after-dinner speaking, cabaret and his abiding passion - golf.

The pair first met in 1966 on satirical programme The Frost Report in 1966. Five years later, they landed their joint series.

Solo success

But unlike many double acts, they also kept solo careers on the boil.

Barker starred in two classic comedy series of the 1970s and 1980s - Porridge and Open All Hours.

[ image: Heyday: Laughs all the way]
Heyday: Laughs all the way
Corbett also enjoyed sitcom success in Sorry! and presented the game show Small Talk.

Barker has always insisted there will be no comeback, so it is a surprise to see him back beside Corbett - even if it is for one night only.

"The terrifying thing is, people might think this is it, we're all back again, and we're definitely not," declares Barker.

"I'm retired and I'm determined to be and I want to be," he adds. "But this is different for Ronnie, as well as for me.

"It's a very nice thing to do, it's a nice thing to have. I couldn't turn it down."

Corbett describes Two Ronnies Night as "a scrap book of our lives together".

The future

The Two Ronnies and Morecambe and Wise were lucky to be around during the golden age of variety on TV.

Other comedy partnerships have come and gone. Little and Large and Cannon and Ball were once prime-time TV favourites.

Hale and Pace, Smith and Jones and now French and Saunders and Reeves and Mortimer have carried on the tradition, but what about the future?

[ image: The Fast Show: The
The Fast Show: The "natural successor"
BBC head of comedy Jon Plowman reckons Lee and Herring, plus fringe stars Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding - known as Mighty Boosh - and another act called the Nimmo Twins could well be the comedy double acts to watch out for.

However, he believes BBC Two's The Fast Show, with its blend of fast-moving, well-written sketches, is in many ways the successor to The Two Ronnies - even though it is performed by an ensemble cast rather than a double act.

"Double acts are a fairly tried and tested formula, but just occasionally a really good one like the Two Ronnies comes along," adds Plowman.

BBC One's Two Ronnies Night starts at 2000 BST on Friday 16 July.

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The best of the Two Ronnies (1978)

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