Ronnie Barker was the most popular comic actor in the country.
Largely because he didn’t leave anything to chance.
He oversaw every detail: from scripts, to wardrobe, to makeup, to sound effects.
He had to be convinced everything was the best it could possibly be.
If it wasn’t, he’d do it himself.
Of course, this led to problems with other people on the show.
The scriptwriters, David Nobbs, Ian Davidson, Dick Vosbrugh, didn’t like it much.
A lot of their ideas were turned down in favour of Ronnie Barker’s own ideas.
It wasn’t fair, but what could they do?
Everyone was allowed to submit ideas for the show, even the public.
The writing team would have their say and the best ideas would get used in the show.
If the scripts sent in were better than the writers’ scripts, they got used.
One member of the public, Gerald Wiley, sent in dozens of brilliant ideas.
And most of them were chosen.
Week-in-week-out Gerald Wiley sent in scripts and week-in-week-out they were chosen.
No one argued because it was obvious they were the best.
Everyone could see it was fair.
Gerald Wiley’s stuff was so consistently good, they wondered why they hadn’t heard of him.
Eventually, they suspected it must be a famous writer doing it under a pseudonym, to avoid paying tax.
The main suspects were Frank Muir and Tom Stoppard, but no one could prove anything.
One of the many scripts Gerald Wiley sent in was the famous “Fork handles/four candles” sketch.
It was voted ‘The Best TV Comedy Sketch Ever’ by the public.
Finally after years of pleading, Gerald Wiley agreed to show himself.
The entire team arranged to meet for dinner at a restaurant, they were desperate to see who he was.
But he didn’t show up.
Everyone was deflated and they began to leave.
Then Ronnie Barker stood up and said “I’m Gerald Wiley”.
Everyone told him to sit down and shut up.
But he said it again “No it’s true, I’m Gerald Wiley”.
And everyone went quiet, they couldn’t understand it.
Why had he bothered to go through all that pretence just to write ideas for his own show?
He said “I didn’t want you thinking the only reason the ideas were getting bought was because they were mine. I wanted the ideas to be bought because they were the best”.
And they were the best.
‘The Two Ronnies’ regularly achieved an audience of 17 million, it ran for sixteen years.
Ronnie Barker won the Variety Club Award in ‘69, ’74, and ’80.
He won the Radio Industry Award in ‘73, ‘74, ‘77, and ‘81.
He won the British Assoc of Film & TV Arts in ‘75, ‘77 and ‘78.
Because his ideas were the best.
But no one could see that while they had Ronnie Barker’s name on.
Once he took his name off, the problem went away.
Because that’s what our mind does: it judges the most salient point, not the most important point.
That’s why it’s important for us to know the difference.
To be able to judge between what’s salient and what’s important.