Summer Winos (2.5 + 2.6)

2.5 A Quiet Drink

In which our trio endeavor to wring beer from a stone.

ANDREW: I like the choice of location for the opening of this episode. As usual our heroes are wandering through the country, but in the background one can spy what I deduce to be the then recently constructed Emley Moor transmitting station. There’s a nice contract between nature and technology in that choice and it ties in nicely with the fact that the trio’s amble is interrupted by two near collisions with passing motorists.

BOB: I missed that completely! Oh, what it is to have young eyes. I might have to break my own self-imposed rule and watch that bit again, as I have a bit of a soft spot for TV transmitting stations, and like to make a pilgrimage to Bilsdale at least once a year. And it’s always pissing down every time I go. Apparently Emley Moor’s current mast went up in 1969 after the previous construction was destroyed in a storm! So yeah, it would only have been five or six years old when this was filmed. I find all that 1970s analogue TV technology incredibly evocative and exciting. Oh yes, my life is a roller-coaster ride of high-octane thrills and danger.

ANDREW: This has to be the most sitcom-like of the episodes so far. The plot is much less free-wheeling, for the most part we remain within the confines of the studio-bound pub, and there are a set of stock comedy characters; the miser, the con-man, the woman driver, the drunk. I don’t mean this as any insult to Clarke, though, as even his stock characters seem to be drawn from life. I’ve known a few women like Tina in my time – in fact they’re mostly relatives! What might seem broad at first is still finely observed.

BOB: Yeah, apart from a few very slight snippets of location work, this would even have worked as a theatrical production. It’s pretty much 30 minutes of our heroes in a country pub, seeking that elusive ‘quiet drink’ as a cavalcade of larger-than-life sitcom characters create chaos around them.

I think you’ve mentioned before how Summer Wine drops us into this world without too many concessions… we’re rarely given any exposition about new characters, and our heroes almost always know far more about them than we ever do This is pretty much the case for everyone here… as well as Mouse, the miserly boozer, we get Danny and Tina – who seem for all the world like the prototype Boycie and Marlene from Only Fools and Horses. Danny is the man-mountain wide boy with the moustache, camel hair coat and fedora, constantly trying to flog rubbish to his fellow boozers, while Tina drinks like a fish and makes an exhibition of herself at the bar! I expected Denzil and Trigger to walk in at any moment.

ANDREW: It may feel like more of a sitcom, but the plot is still typically light. One line from Clegg is all that is needed to set up the episode’s dramatic thrust, a childish dare amongst friends. “A man could get a real sense of achievement if he could persuade Mouse into buying a round.”

BOB: I actually thought this had more of a traditional sitcom plot than most other episodes we’ve seen before… it has a distinct beginning, middle and end rather than the drifting quality that epitomizes early Summer Wine. Clegg does have some great lines in this. ‘It’s probably only a legend, like Mrs Broderick’s lodger,’ he tells Mouse, as they attempt to persuade him he has the ‘second sight’. More 1970s lodger-related innuendo! I love ‘Happiness is the sum-total of the small things’ as well, which could easily be the guiding principle for all 37 years of Summer Wine.

There’s one line in this episode that made my ears prick up though, and that’s because it’s a very famous line from a British comedy film made pretty much contemporaneously with this episode. As the pub’s resident card-players all return from the gents’ toilets, one of them utters the immortal line ‘That’s the first time he’s known what he’s had in his hand all flamin’ night’. A quip also delivered to great effect by Brigit ‘Thelma’ Forsythe in The Likely Lads – The Movie when Terry Collier vacates their game of bridge to relieve himself outside the caravan!

I’m guessing both Roy Clarke and the Clement & La Frenais tag-team have just done what all great writers do here… picked up on a brilliant line they’ve heard in real conversation somewhere, and adapted it for use by one of their fictional characters. I greeted it like an old friend anyway, and roared with laughter.

ANDREW: This is the only time I’ve noticed Bates’ performance in studio not matching the location inserts and I might be seeing things. As they take Tina to the car it seems to me that he’s clearly playing it pissed, but not so during the studio scenes.

BOB: I didn’t spot that either! We do see our trio behaving in surprisingly decadent fashion in this episode, though… in later years, their ‘elderly delinquent’ behaviour is generally rather harmless and whimsical, so it was a slight jolt to see Compo putting the boot into one of the cars outside the pub! And then, at the end, we have all three of them – clearly the worse for a few drinks – peeing up the side of the car park wall in broad daylight, something I suspect we’d never have got even a couple of series later. It definitely gives them a little bit of an edge… they’re not just harmless drifters, they frequently don’t care at all about the mores of normal society.

ANDREW: Absolutley . There’s also the small matter of putting a drunk behind the wheel of car!

BOB: Incidentally, I’ve never noticed the Clothiers Arms pub in Summer Wine before, but it looks like it still exists…

http://www.clothiers-arms.co.uk/

ANDREW: You filthy temptress, you.

2.4 Ballad For Wind Instruments & Canoe

In which our trio pursue canoeing and fail to drop Compo right in it.

ANDREW: This is really the first of the stunt episodes. While there have been elements of physical comedy in the past, nothing matches up to a canoe ride. Still, though, the decision to take to the river in a canoe extends naturally from the trio’s status as layabouts. The sight of Compo dangling over a bridge and of the trio in Victorian bathing suits however, must be the broadest comedy the series has offered so far. A sign of things soon to come… it all looks rather appealing, though.

BOB: Yes, I thought the same… the first of the real ‘caper’ episodes, in which our heroes embark on an unlikely physical escapade which invevitably ends in disaster. Usually with the involvement of a large physical prop… and, of course, in this case it’s the canoe that drifts into their lives as they idle away an afternoon at the river’s edge.

ANDREW: Speaking of stunts, this must be apex of Clegg’s adventurous spirit. The character I grew up with would be too worried to go plodging at the deep end of a stream, let along propose a canoeing expedition. I wonder if the incoming introduction of Foggy will prompt his evolution.

BOB: Clegg’s very adventurous at this stage, isn’t he? This is the latest in a few examples of Clegg desperately wanting to break away from the confines of Holmfirth and go out… well, adventuring. ‘The key to thousands of tranquil miles of British pollution,’ he deadpans. ‘Mile after mile of waterway, we can get drowned almost anywhere…’ I wonder how long it’s meant to have been since his wife died at this point? You get the impression he’s been through a long recovery phase and is now keen to start enjoying himself and testing his mettle a little.

ANDREW: Post-Traumatic Spouse Disorder

BOB: Interesting you mention Foggy, as I thought a few of Blamire’s lines in this episode pre-empted the introduction of Brian Wilde’s character. In particular, the opening scenes where he’s musing about his military career… ‘I’ve seen men delirious with jungle fever,’ he barks. ‘I’d like to see you lot try to make a camp in a mango swamp’. Roy Clarke definitely carried over some of this attitude into Foggy’s character, with a crucial difference… with Foggy, it’s made very clear that his military musings are almost all complete fantasy, and his ‘hard man’ trappings are constantly debunked and undermined by Clegg and Compo.

With Blamire, there’s no such debunking – so we have to assume that his stories are all actually true, and he’s genuinely a force to be reckoned with. It’s official – Blamire’s absolutely hard as nails!

ANDREW: Has Steve Pemberton travelled back in time in order to play Arnpepper? It’s an uncanny physical and vocal resemblance. He’s a great character part, and a template for more eccentrics to follow.

BOB: Yes, Arnpepper is a fine character, although I didn’t spot the resemblance to Steve Pemberton! His introduction is great, drifting half-submerged along the river, two minutes behind his wayward canoe. ‘Howdo lads, have you seen a canoe?’ he shouts, casually, to our heroes. ‘What colour?’ deadpans Clegg. Brilliant stuff.

And nice to see another scene in a disused farm building, as he attempts to dry off and bequeaths his canoe to our three heroes! John F Landy, who plays Arnpepper, did a lot of fine TV character acting in the 1970s and 80s… he pops up in Minder and Boon, amongst many others.

ANDREW: Arnpepper mentions Look North. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Look North mentioned on television outside of… well, Look North. Now that it is mentioned I have a strange feeling of ownership; ‘that’s my local news programme, that is!’

BOB: I felt exactly the same, although I feel a bit of a party pooper in pointing out that the Yorkshire version of Look North is different to ours… it’s a separate programme made by BBC Leeds. But lines like that work wonders in grounding the show to a very specific place, and giving the characters a base in reality. Arnpepper is an eccentric, surreal character, and therefore exactly the kind of man that would want to get his five minutes of fame on regional TV!

There’s a nice line in that strange pie-eating scene in the café as well… Sid offers to pay for the pies, to which Ivy angrily retorts ‘You know we’re saving up for that mobile chip van!’ A van that I don’t think we actually see onscreen for another eight years, when it becomes a crucial part of the ‘Getting Sam Home’ Christmas special that I know we both adore. Although that show is based on a novel that Roy Clarke wrote during these early years, so I guess the mobile chip van was heavily in his thoughts during 1974/75!

ANDREW: Archaic reference alert! Compo refers to Blamire as Joe E. Brown during the biggest gob completion. That almost flew over my head, but rekindled some memories of old-time Hollywood comedy. Today, he’s probably best remembered for delivering the final line in Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot. Here’s the gob in question:

BOB: Indeed, and I noticed Compo actually says Joe E Brown’s legendary line ‘Nobody’s perfect’ later in the episode! I wonder if Roy Clarke had seen Some Like It Hot around the time he wrote this episode, and thought he’d pay a subtle homage? Although Joe E Brown died in July 1973, so I suppose it might have been a personal tribute to Joe himself? Whatever, it’s a clever little touch.

As you’ve said, the closing scenes are very broad (especially the swimming costumes disguised with leaves and branches – far more conspicuous than just walking home in the costumes themselves!) but the canoeing scenes themselves are heavenly… the sun-dappled river, the shady, rustling trees and our three idle heroes drifting lazily into nothingness. It’s almost a metaphor for the show itself at this stage.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by David Cook on May 30, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    “A Quiet Drink” is interesting, if ony because of the goof involving Cyril’s trilby – in one shot he’s wearing it – the next he’s back to being bare-headed (his hat is meant to be on a chair, ready for Tina to sit on it!

    Reply

  2. Posted by Paul Hughes on May 30, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    Of course Bill Owen had played Thelma’s dad in Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?, but I don’t think he’s in the film.
    I’m going to take this opportunity to plug my friend Dave’s so-called music. Here’s a track of his called Emley Moor: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYnzp0DiJVQ

    Reply

  3. Posted by Chris Orton on May 30, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    Weren’t the suppoorting characters so much more interesting back in the early days? They were mostly one-shot appearances too, rather than then long-running ones of later years.

    Reply

    • Posted by Andrew T. Smith on June 5, 2011 at 12:25 am

      True, although there a a couple of examples of two-shot characters coming up that pave the way for the later-day expanded cast.

      Reply

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