Monday, 16 June 2014

The Two Ronnies Complete Collection Review

For Christmas last year I got Mr Click the complete box set of The Two Ronnies. He’d asked for Columbo and I kept on watching the price, having not taken advantage of it being on offer at £30 before it screeched back up to £50. It dipped down a couple of times but not enough for my liking; I knew I’d be furious if I bought it at £45 and then the next week they knocked another £15 off.

In the end I decided to go with another of the items on his wishlist: The Two Ronnies Complete Collection. And I’m glad that I did. I’ve never really watched Columbo so I’m not sure how much I would’ve enjoyed watching it, but having seen (and enjoyed) plenty of The Two Ronnies, I knew it was right up my street.

And his, obviously, it was his present after all.

It’s quite a compact little set in a little box containing fourteen slimline DVD cases. I realise this probably isn’t a big deal to some people, but as our DVD collection grows sometimes it’s difficult making space for them (particularly when you get distributors who insist on packaging each series of a ten series programme in a case the size of an old VHS box!) so the fact that they’ve condensed 27 discs into such a neat space impresses me.

That’s right, there’s 27 discs in this set and as the box packaging proudly proclaims, that’s over 70 hours of viewing. In total there’s all twelve series of The Two Ronnies, plus four Christmas specials and some bonus material. The bonus material in question comprises of a Christmas Retrospective (where they look at how The Two Ronnies came to be as well as the development of their material), two extended sketches from the mid-70s and early 80s called The Picnic and By the Sea, and also the very recent 2010 special The One Ronnie.

Although I’ve seen a lot of episodes of The Two Ronnies, usually on UK Gold on Bank Holidays, it was really good to actually watch them all in order. I couldn’t possibly pick a favourite series or even sketch because given the length of the run and the number of episodes and sketches I’d be bound to miss out some.

It was good to see the way that the programme evolved into what is now the very familiar format; the introduction with ‘news items’, followed by some sketches, a serial, Ronnie Corbett’s chair bit, Ronnie Barker’s ‘appeal’ or announcement, a popular singer, a musical number by the men and then a final ‘news item’ to finish it all off. Obviously I enjoyed some of these bits more than others, as a child I remember Corbett’s chair bit to be less appealing to me and even now I often found my attention wandering; part of that was due to some recycling of gags in the later series so you knew that what you were going to hear was a repetition of something that you’d seen only a couple of weeks before. This wasn’t something that was a problem during the original run though.

My favourite bits of any given episode were usually the musical number performed at the end of the show, these varied from funny to spectacular and often stopped at a number of points in between. I’ll admit, some were slightly cringe-worthy. Like the occasion when they dressed up and did a black-face number. There were also a number of the later series that mentioned people who have been named as linked to sex offences; Jimmy Saville, Dave Lee Travis, Stuart Hall, Rolf Harris, Gary Glitter. That made it seem a little harder to laugh at those bits.

Of the Christmas specials my favourite was the very first one which was set during a Victorian Christmas party. I think I enjoyed that one most because it broke from the established pattern of the show. The other Christmas specials, though slightly longer and occasionally mentioning Christmas, weren’t quite so overtly Christmassy.

In terms of the bonus features, I really enjoyed the Christmas Retrospective, especially because during it Ronnie Corbett mentioned the book that I’d just happened to buy the week before. I’m really looking forward to reading it because I got the impression that the Retrospective was kind of a potted version of what is covered in the book.

The Picnic and By The Sea were both almost silent films (running to approximately thirty and forty-five minutes respectively). They weren’t quite my cup of tea, though both were very funny. It was more of a slapstick sort of comedy which isn’t really my sort of thing. It was clever that both were performed with virtually no dialogue, except in the form of Mr Bean-esque speech.

The One Ronnie is a one-off special following the same format as The Two Ronnies but starring Ronnie Corbett alongside a host of British comedy stars. It was only made four years ago and features everyone from Rob Brydon to Harry Enfield, Miranda Hart to Catherine Tate. I’ll admit, I was wary in case it was just some sort of cheap cash-in attempt, but I genuinely enjoyed it. It had all the old skits updated for modern audiences; I particularly enjoyed the Harry Enfield fruit shop one with Ronnie Corbett’s character having all sorts of issues with his blackberry and apple.

I’ve really enjoyed watching all these episodes, some for the very first time. And I definitely think I got the right Christmas gift for Mr Click.

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