Morecambe and Wise: 1970 lost episode tape date and time - will their 1971 Christmas special be shown in 2021?

Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise will be back on our screens this Christmas Day with a ‘new’ special

A lost episode of Morecambe and Wise is set to air on Christmas Day after being discovered in an attic by Eric Morecambe’s son.

Dating from 1970, the 45-minute show was the comedy duo’s first for BBC One and dates from October that year after they moved from BBC Two.

In the 1970s, the likes of The Generation Game and Morecambe and Wise were regulars on BBC One on 25 December.

But when can you watch the ‘new’ special, and will the pair’s classic Christmas episode from 1971 - featuring Dame Shirley Bassey and the late Andre Previn - be broadcast?

Here is everything you need to know about it.

How was the special found?

Gary Morecambe discovered seven canisters in the attic of his mother’s house in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, while searching for old scripts last year.

His agent sent them off to be examined by experts who found they contained film. One - featuring part of a BBC sticker - contained the lost episode, which was then colourised by the BBC.

The episode had originally been wiped from the BBC archive by the broadcaster so the tape could be reused for other programmes.

Gary Morecambe said the newly unearthed episode, which contains a sketch about a radio call-in challenge, represents “a golden era of television”.

He told BBC News he was “staggered” when he received a phone call confirming the episode had been found and was salvageable. He added: “But I didn’t realise at that point how far the BBC would go to present it.

“That it would then get colourised, which is fantastic, so it’s been brought bang up to date. And also what’s really good is the quality of the show itself, you can see the embryonic Morecambe and Wise come through.

“It’s a bit like when they found something of Tony Hancock and Dad’s Army,” he added. “These are important pieces... so to find something that was presumed wiped, and has been sitting in an attic for 50-odd years, that is very exciting.”

The 45-minute special was discovered in an attic by Eric Morecambe’s son (Photo: BBC)

How can I watch the unearthed 1970 special?

The lost episode will air on BBC Two at 7.45pm on Christmas Day (25 December).

Eric Morecambe, who died in 1984 aged 58, and Ernie Wise, who died in 1999 aged 73, are among the most popular and enduring comedy stars in British TV history.

Earlier this year it was revealed the duo were “bored stiff” by the “very unprofessional” comedy of Monty Python in footage of them speaking to a student station in Norwich in 1973, unearthed for a BBC documentary.

Morecambe jokingly told the interviewer he liked the “opening and the finish” of Monty Python, but “it’s the bit in the middle I don’t like”.

His comedy partner Wise added: “At times there’s five or six minutes of utter boredom. And then there’s three minutes of very funny and then another eight minutes of boredom.”

Morecambe said Monty Python – the surrealist comedy troupe of John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Terry Jones, Sir Michael Palin, Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam – is “university comedy” which “irritates” him.

When can I watch Morecambe and Wise’s 1971 special?

Eric Morecambe, who died in 1984 aged 58, and Ernie Wise, who died in 1999 aged 73, are among the most popular and enduring comedy stars in British TV history.

Their 1971 special is perhaps the most fondly remembered of the duo’s festive episodes - it’s something of a tradition in this writer’s household - but will it be shown again in 2021?

Thankfully, yes.

The ‘new’ 1970 Christmas special will be preceded at 7pm by the pair’s 1971 Christmas show, featuring Andre Previn, Glenda Jackson and Dame Shirley Bassey.

It too will be broadcast on BBC Two.

Previn died aged 89 in 2019, and the German-born pianist will be fondly remembered in Britain for his hilarious appearance on that early 70s special.

As part of the episode, he is introduced as “Mr Andrew Preview” or “Privet” in a sketch which involves his conducting a spoof performance of Edvard Grieg’s famous ‘Piano Concerto’, with Eric Morecambe as the soloist.

Previn demonstrates his talent for comedy – he learned his part during a transatlantic flight to Britain – and the sketch has been hailed as one of the funniest comedy moments of all time.

At a concert in Britain afterwards, Previn had to stop playing to allow the audience to stop laughing as they remembered the Morecambe and Wise Show appearance.

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