Sunday, 19 June 2016
421 Lennie and Jerry
First viewed : February / March 1980
The "only comedy duo with two straight men" line has been used so often it's become a cliche to avoid. I'm not sure of its provenance but I can't think of anyone to whom it could be more fairly applied than this pairing. Even Cannon and Ball on the other channel were more entertaining.
They were actually on their third and final season here, after a brief three show run on Saturdays in the summer of 1978 then a longer stint on BBC2 on a Monday in 1979. Quite how they managed that, I don't know having been fortunate enough to miss them before they got the post-Top of the Pops slot at the end of February 1980.
It would be easy to assume, given that he had the longer career that Lennie Bennett was the "funny one" but that wasn't the case. They were both equally bad , their banter stilted and embarrassing. When you find yourself longing for guest stars of the calibre of The Barron Knights to provide some light relief you know it's desperate. In fact the Knights dropped to the same depths with a barber shop quartet routine whose only concession to humour was the last line "We will always be around to come and take the piss". Well thankfully not. A regular turn on that season was professional Yorkshireman Albert Pontefract who was a sort of proto-Al Murray but not very funny either.
It has to be said that the material was terrible too. Of the five credited writers on that season only Lennie Bennett himself has an entry on wikipedia. It's as if the whole show were a receptacle for the cheapest "talent" available. I remember one episode used Jerry Stevens' supposed Italian background as an excuse to trot out all the old jokes about Italian war heroes.
I say "supposed" because there's precious little official information about Jerry anywhere. His last appearance on TV was a walk-on role in In Sickness and in Health in 1987. A trawl through some chat sites reveals that his real surname is Pinder ( hmm, not very Italian sounding ) he's divorced and worked for the Variety Club organising golf days for many years. One interesting comment said he and Lennie "hardly knew each other at all. They were thrown together by LWT as a comedy duo " which would make sense, given how poor they were in tandem. Bennett of course found work as a host of lower grade gameshows for the next decade but he too was off screen by the mid-nineties. He died following a fall at his home in 2009.