4.7 A Merry Heatwave

In which Christmas comes early for Nora’s brother Billy…

BOB: This is marked on the DVD as the Christmas Special, but it’s a curious bit of scheduling… the previous episode from Series 4 – ‘Greenfingers’ – was broadcast on 14th December 1977, in the usual Wednesday night slot, but ‘A Merry Heatwave’ actually went out on New Year’s Day 1978, a Sunday. The final episode of Series 4, ‘The Bandit From Stoke-on-Trent’ was then shown on Wednesday 4th January. So is ‘A Merry Heatwave’ officially part of Series 4 or not? These are the things we need to know…

ANDREW: The series is in desparate need of an Andrew Pixley. Perhaps we should see if he’s free?

BOB: Whatever the airdate, it sees Summer Wine celebrating its first Christmas special in typically perverse fashion… the episode is set during a summer heatwave, but a distraught Nora needs to create an unseasonal festive period so she can send the pictures to her brother Billy in Australia, who isn’t expected to live to see the real thing. Yes, more death and terminal illness! ‘This time he seems to have his heart set on it,’ wails a hysterical Nora in the café, prompting our heroes to rally around with paper chains (Oh crikey, I spent MONTHS of my childhood making paper chains for Christmas. The whole of our household decorations were held together by juvenile spittle) and tinsel.

ANDREW: It’s a gloriously stifled and enforced Christmas they throw together and one that isn’t helped along by Foggy’s cinéma vérité aspirations behind the camera. Then again, watching Wally and Nora struggle to appear as if they are enjoying themselves while wearing festive hats, one doesn’t get the impression that the real holiday season goes any more smoothly.

BOB: Some nice Sid and Ivy moments in this episode, including a great set-piece in which they’re actually kissing in the café – with Ivy seemingly encouraging Sid to attempt to turn her on! It’s a scene that’s clearly a riff on a similar routine between Marilyn Monroe and Tony Curtis in Some Like It Hot… and with mentions of Joe E Brown fresh in the memory from a previous episode, you have to conclude that it’s one of Roy Clarke’s favourite films.

Even Nora’s attitude seems to have been softened for the festive period… she has her hair tumbling down and is wearing a floral blouse! She actually looks… quite… nice (hit me with something, Drew). And, amazingly, she can’t take her eyes off Compo’s ripped trousers. ‘It draws you in like something mysterious…’ she ponders, turning her head sideways to get a better look. It makes you wonder…

ANDREW: While I feel hitting you with something is an entirely justifiable punishment for such wicked thoughts, it really is a testament to Kathy Staff’s performance that we are so totally convinced by her Nora costume’s usual padding and dowdiness. 

BOB: Some cracking one-liners in this episode, all of which made me laugh heartily…

Compo: ‘She came from a good home’
Clegg: ‘Yes, for unmarried mothers…’

Norah: ‘Billy has great difficulty in passing water…’
Clegg: ‘Can’t he move inland?’

Clegg: ‘Tommy Warburton had to give up a certain married woman’
Compo: ‘Fancy giving her up when she was certain…’

A very enjoyable episode, all told. And, of course, Nora’s cousin Billy rallies by the end and runs away with his nurse. All is well in 70s sitcom-land.

ANDREW: Yes, although we’ll never see him, I will forever imagine Harold Bennett in the role… 


6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jakob Pieterson on April 13, 2012 at 12:28 am

    I never think of this as an Xmas special, always think of it as part of series 4…mind, later in the show’s history this happens again…random episodes being plucked out and presented as Xmas specials, and occasionally causing continuity problems cause there’s characters in it that are then introduced in the next series
    eg – Loxley Lozenge (altho the Crusher scenes in it have been cut from the DVD release),
    – Musical Passing for a Miserable Muscroft (has Entwhistle in it, altho he’s introduced in the following series)

    My favourite scene is the one with Sid and Ivy where they’re decorating the cafe and she goes from accusing him of stealing the tree, to hugging him affectionatly, to berating him for leaving too much money for it


  2. Surprised no reference was made to Pete Postlethwaite’s small role


    • Posted by Andrew T. Smith on April 15, 2012 at 9:41 am

      That might be something to do with the fact that neither of us recognised him until you pointed him out!


  3. Posted by Jakob Pieterson on April 15, 2012 at 12:47 am

    This episode also has one of the worst sets seen in the series, where Sid and Ivy are kissing and the trio are outside…obviously filmed in studio as opposed to being filmed on location, and the set (particularly the wall behind them) is so badly done it’s amazing.

    Bad Set


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