February 10, 1966: Michael Billington, who has announced he is stepping down as chief critic for the Guardian, wrote his first TV review for The Stage more than half a century ago.
He wrote of the Morecambe and Wise Show on ATV: “The quality of any weekly comedy series is bound to fluctuate. But even allowing for the fact that last week’s Morecambe and Wise Show on ATV was a non-vintage specimen… It left me with the uneasy feeling that the show’s writers, SC Green and RM Hills, were now so sure of the ability of their two stars to get an audience laughing that there was very little necessity to devise new and ingenious situations for them.
“Two weeks before, in the first programme of the new series, there was an hilarious sketch involving Eric Morecambe as an apprentice glove-puppeteer. It was refreshing to see a branch of television usually treated with such reverence being sent riotously up. But last week’s inbred item, a parody of The Man From U.N.C.L.E, took no advantage of the scope offered by the subject. Instead, we were left with the sight of Mr Morecambe trying to reduce the usual ‘prop’-female to helpless laughter in as short a time as possible. This always suggests that a sketch is being acted more for the pleasure of the participants than that of the viewer. And Morecambe and Wise are far too funny a pair to substitute ‘corpsing’ for genuine humour.”
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