Lost Morecambe & Wise episode to be screened on TV for first time in 50 years

Ernie Wise and Eric Morecambe from 1967. Morecambe and Wise: The Lost Tapes is being shown on ITV.

An ITV archive picture of Ernie Wise and Eric Morecambe from 1967. ITV will be airing Morecambe and Wise: The Lost Tapes on Wednesday, July 28, 2021. - Credit: (C) ITV

A missing episode from comedy duo Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise not seen for 50 years will be screened on TV this week.

Morecambe & Wise: The Lost Tapes can be seen on ITV at 9pm on Wednesday, July 28, 2021.

It was previously shown on BBC One in October 1970.

Celebrity Morecambe and Wise fans taking part in this film include its narrator Toby Jones, plus Jonathan Ross, Ben Miller and Eddie Izzard.

Joining the celebrities for this unique screening are Eric's wife, Joan, and children Gail and Gary.

Eric Morecambe lived in Harpenden before his death in May 1984, and the Hertfordshire town's new cultural centre is named after the comedy legend.

An oil painting of Eric Morecambe by artist George Anthony Rowe from 1970 now hangs in pride of place in the new Eric Morecambe Centre.

Gary Morecambe, Joan Bartholomew and three Willmott Dixon managers in front of a painting of Eric Morecambe

Gary Morecambe and Joan Bartholomew with three Willmott Dixon managers in front of an oil painting of Eric Morecambe by artist George Anthony Rowe, in the new Eric Morecambe Centre, Harpenden. - Credit: Rafe Abrook Photography / Willmott Dixon

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Construction company Willmott Dixon, who have completed both the new Harpenden Leisure Centre and the Eric Morecambe Centre, arranged for the painting to be delivered to Harpenden from Dorset.

Willmott Dixon managers were happy to show it in situ to Joan Bartholomew, 94, and son Gary Morecambe on a recent visit they hosted. 

George Anthony Rowe with Eric Morecambe in 1970

Artist George Anthony Rowe presenting the painting to Eric Morecambe in October 1970. - Credit: Supplied by Gary Morecambe

Two years ago, the Herts Advertiser reported on long-lost early 1960s photos of The Beatles appearing with Morecambe and Wise on their ATV show Two of a Kind.

These pictures of Eric and Ernie with The Fab Four – John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr – had been uncovered in the collection of late Herts Ad photographer, Tony Gregory.

The Beatles on The Morecambe and Wise Show, taken on December 2 1963 by Herts Ad photographer Tony "Greg" Gregory.

The Beatles on The Morecambe and Wise Show, taken on December 2 1963 by Herts Ad photographer Tony "Greg" Gregory. - Credit: Archant

The Beatles on The Morecambe and Wise Show, taken on December 2 1963 by Herts Ad photographer Tony "Greg" Gregory.

The Beatles on The Morecambe and Wise Show, taken on December 2 1963 by Herts Ad photographer Tony "Greg" Gregory. - Credit: Archant


How was the lost episode found?

Morecambe & Wise were Britain’s undisputed kings of comedy, having fronted 175 shows over a 22-year TV career.

They regularly pulled in more than 20 million viewers every week in their 1970s heyday, but one of their classic shows hasn’t been seen on TV since October 1970 – and was believed to have been lost forever. 

Then in 2020, Eric Morecambe’s family made a remarkable discovery.

While looking for paperwork, Eric's son Gary found an old film can in the attic. Its contents were a mystery because the label had been torn off.

When the footage was checked by experts, they were amazed by what flickered into view: an episode unseen for 50 years.

Now viewers will have the opportunity to view this delightful slice of classic comedy once again, alongside Eric and Ernie’s celebrity fans, former guest stars and family. 

Of The Lost Episode, ITV says: "This show features the funniest sketches from the newly unearthed programme, and includes rare archive film of the duo at work, to remind us why Eric and Ernie are our best-loved comedians."

Eric Morecambe with Joan and two of their children reading the Herts Advertiser

Eric Morecambe with Joan and two of their children reading the Herts Advertiser - Credit: Archant

Remarkably, the episode turns out to be the duo's first ever show made for BBC One, dating from October 8, 1970.

It came at a crucial time in the pair's career when, after four series on BBC2, they were about to break into the big time. 

The half-hour show introduced their new BBC1 audience to a series of gag-packed routines involving stage curtains, ventriloquism and a toy dog that shoots nerve gas out of its bottom.

The duo's long-time collaborator Ann Hamilton plays a nurse in a hospital sketch, looking on as Eric eats all of Ernie's grapes and then uses the empty bag to catch an invisible ball.

There's even a daring bedroom sketch in which Eric eavesdrops on a newly wedded couple in the next flat while they make love.

The Lost Episode was written by their long-time script-wizard Eddie Braben and played to 14 million viewers.

Though it was never repeated, the episode helped pave the way for the duo's ascent to comedy legend status, and a series of star-studded hit TV shows which the nation still holds in high esteem.

Eric Morecambe

Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise from the Herts Advertiser archive. - Credit: Herts Advertiser

Eric Morecambe pictures from former Herts Advertiser photographer Anthony Gregory's archive.

Eric Morecambe picture from former Herts Advertiser photographer Anthony Gregory's archive. - Credit: Herts Advertiser / Archant.


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