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Bring me laughter - and two missing episodes of Morecambe and Wise

PUBLISHED: 16:06 17 December 2018 | UPDATED: 16:06 17 December 2018

A still used by the BBC promoting the missing episodes of Morecambe and Wise
Picture: Chris CAPSTICK

A still used by the BBC promoting the missing episodes of Morecambe and Wise Picture: Chris CAPSTICK

Archant

It is a Christmas tradition that has left countless families full of festive laughter.

Richard Russell has helped bring the episodes back to their full glory
Picture: Richard RussellRichard Russell has helped bring the episodes back to their full glory Picture: Richard Russell

And now fans of Morecambe and Wise Christmas specials are in for an extra treat this month thanks to an intrepid missing episodes hunter and a Norfolk computer expert.

Two episodes of the comedy legends are due to be shown for the first time in 50 years on Boxing Day in this country after they were found hidden away in an African cinema.

The 30 minute Morecambe and Wise Show episodes from 1968, which star Michael Aspel in one of them, were found in a derelict cinema in Sierra Leone by television archive hunter Phil Morris.

MORE; joy as Dr Who episodes found

And thanks to the wizardry of Downham Market man, Richard Russell, the episodes have been restored to colour, ready for their showing on BBC 2 on Boxing Day.

Mr Russell is a retired computer expert who is also known in television archive circles for being able to restore programmes to colour from black and white tapes and films.

Back in 1968 the BBC would have made separate copies of the show as the nation and other countries started to move from black and white television sets to colour.

The black and white versions did contain a hidden colour element that can now be retrieved through a highly technical process involving chroma dots and the use of BBC Basic programming.

After being handed the film cans it took Mr Russell about a week to restore them to colour, a process that was then refined by fellow restoration experts Peter Crocker and Mark Ayres.

The process means Mr Russell was the first person to see the two episodes in colour in this country since they were transmitted in 1968.

He said: “It was obviously a thrill in being in that situation. It is nice to be the first person to see them in colour for 50 years.”

The two episodes are from the first series of the Morecambe and Wise Show and were originally shown on September 9 and October 10 1968.

Mr Morris runs a company called Television International Enterprises Archives and in 2013 returned nine missing episodes of Dr Who, starring Patrick Troughton.

He said: “The Great British public are in for a treat this Christmas with two super sweet lost Morecambe and Wise episodes not shown for 50 years fully restored in colour

“So sit back and enjoy Christmas with Britain’s favourite double act, you are in for a treat.”

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