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The Two Ronnies : The Complete BBC Christmas Specials
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...AND IT'S GOODNIGHT FROM HIM.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett's magnificent partnership became a cherished British institution. Their Christmas Specials were particularly eagerly awaited and, for many, they were the highlight of festive television schedules. The 1987 Christmas Special proved to be The Two Ronnies last ever full show together, but by then they had left so many cherished memories.
The Christmas Specials features extra special guests - such as Elton John, David Essex and Elaine Paige - and great Christmas fun, as well as the regular Two Ronnies fare of the opening and closing news headlines, party, allotment and pub sketches and Ronnie Corbett's shaggy dog monologues.
This collection will bring back all the memories of those shows including such highlights as Chas and Dave; The Milkman's Christmas Address To The Nation; Christmas Day In The Yukon; Game For A Trial; The Tree - an Extra-Festival encounter of the Christmas Kind and Pinocchio II - Killer Doll.
All the Christmas specials from the comedy sketch show that, in its heyday, was as much a British institution as roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. Double act Ronnie Corbett and Ronnie Barker, aka 'The Two Ronnies', perform their trademark sketches, 'drama serials', musical routines and rambling monologues before finally signing off with their famous catchphrase, 'It's goodnight from me', 'And it's goodnight from him'. Includes all the Christmas specials from 1971 to 1987.
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With all that in mind, I have been increasing my efforts to find a whole range of suitable entertainment that will, fingers crossed, be able to prevent the whole lot of them from killing each other this Christmas (at least until I have managed to flee the scene and thus, hopefully, avoid any future legal proceedings in which I might somehow be named as some sort of 'accessory'). And, as far as festive family entertainment is concerned, you really can't get much better than 'The Two Ronnies'. Although, in the case of this particular item, just because it is heavy on the Yuletide cheer does not mean a person can't get rather a lot out of it at other times of the year as well.
I bought this 2-disc collection a couple of years ago although, if I were in the market for buying it this year, I would undoubtedly have gone for Porridge & The Two Ronnies Christmas Specials [DVD], which seems to be this product, plus a bit of 'Porridge' chucked in for good measure and all (as of early November at least) for less than the price of this. I'm just saying. Mind you, the presence of Mr Mackay et al does leave that other collection labouring under a '15' certificate I notice.
'The Two Ronnies: The Complete BBC Christmas Specials' comes equipped with English subtitles, which I'm sure I shall find extremely handy next month during those occasions when there's a blazing row going on alongside me and I can't quite make out what The Ronnies are actually saying. The menu for both discs incorporates a little snippet of the theme tune to 'The Two Ronnies' which is all well and good except that, well, sometimes I put one of these discs on and then pay a visit to the smallest room while it sorts itself out; depending upon how long I'm actually in there for, I might have to listen to that theme tune a dozen times or more which, when all is said and done, is probably at least a dozen times or more too many. No? Oh well, that must just be me then.
The 1973 'Old Fashioned Christmas Mystery', written mainly by Gerald Wiley (aka Ronnie Barker himself) is very cleverly done. It quickly becomes apparent that we are ourselves actually among the guests at a Victorian wingding, thanks to The Ronnies talking directly to camera, a technique which I'm pretty sure is called 'breaking the fourth wall'. It gives a wonderfully intimate feeling to this episode, in which Piggy Malone and Charley Farley are called upon to try to track down a stolen turkey. The plot of the thing is barely even relevant though, for it is simply a means of linking various bits and pieces together. Things like a juggler who can somehow throw and then catch multiple plates on his head in one go, a 'Gilbert & Sullivan' musical number and a group of can-can dancers with the ability to do the splits, kick a few tea-trays, show off the sort of lingerie I wish I had the figure to really do justice to myself AND send my blood-pressure soaring into the stratosphere, all without apparently breaking into any kind of sweat whatsoever.
The 1982 Christmas Special opens with the Two Ronnies' impression of 'Chas and Dave', the result of which is an extraordinarily catchy little number. Later, David Essex brings us the far less catchy 'A Winter's Tale' but he does it while descending a flight of rather tricky-looking steps. I expect it was that sort of effortless multi-tasking that made him such an icon of the late-20th Century.
This disc also contains a bonus feature in the form of the Two Ronnies' appearance on 'Christmas Night With The Stars' in 1972. Cilla Black sings a duet with Ronnie Corbett which might leave you wishing that your ears would call a wildcat strike for the entire duration but that experience is more than made up for by the sterling efforts of Lulu and The Young Generation in their bouncy rendition of 'Come And Go With Me'. Lulu is as cool as a cucumber throughout, even having the presence of mind to readjust her earring halfway through. I'd say that, plus her ability to make a white tank top look chic, makes her an even more impressive multi-tasker than David Essex actually.
The 1984 Christmas Special contains a couple of features of particular note. First and foremost, there's a brilliantly creative sketch featuring Patrick Troughton as the judge presiding over a trial that actually ends up being a tribute to a whole host of different game shows. I'm sure the average barrister does not have to deduce the occupation of his witnesses with the help of 'Twenty Questions', nor to establish whether or not someone has an unshakable alibi via a quick game of 'Give Us A Clue' but it's a really clever idea. I can't wait for my legal eagle father to set eyes on it - he's going to have forty fits, I just know it (that might well be the highlight of my Christmas, actually). Apart from that, there's a wonderful song from Ronnie Barker's 'Lightweight Louie Danvers' in which he tells us about all the girls he has known. It's a cracking tune as well as being a brilliant piece of comedy.
The 1987 Christmas Special can boast a live performance by Elton John (singing 'Candle In The Wind') as well as an astounding little cameo by none other than Charlton Heston in the extraordinarily surreal 'Pinocchio II: Killer Doll'. It's weird and, if I'm honest, I wouldn't exactly call it wonderful but, well, it was obviously expensive to produce so I'll give it the respect it probably deserves on that score. Linda Baron looks as voluptuous as ever, and you can never see enough of her in my opinion - if you know what I mean. The absolute highlight of the show for me though is the goings-on in the 'Klondike Saloon' where they are, very much like me I fear, expecting a 'Grand Xmas Brawl' on their premises. Ronnie Barker has seen the wisdom of embracing his feminine side for this one and, even the fact that he looks way more attractive in a dress than I can usually manage cannot put me off this sketch.
Finally, we have a nice collection of interviews and classic clips in the 'Christmas Retrospective'. The likes of Ronnie Corbett and Barry Cryer share their memories of 'The Two Ronnies' together with a host of producers, directors, writers etc. Most memorable for me were the insights of the costume designer who created the dress that Ronnie Barker wore in the 'Klondike Saloon'; it's nice to know that I am not the only bloke who finds that a big chest can really cause problems when it comes to fitting into the more attractive and eye-catching ladies' fashions... .
In my opinion, these two discs contain more than enough decent entertainment to distract members of even the most dysfunctional of families from indulging in a bit of Christmas GBH - at least for a period of about four hours. Not that I have tried it on my lot yet of course: I can't afford to shoot my bolt too early in that regard. But even knowing that I have it in my arsenal is of increasing comfort to me as I am forced to face up to the fact that I really do come up with some absolutely ridiculous ideas sometimes... .