5.2 The Flag and its Snag

In which Foggy attempts to put the pole up… 


BOB: After a cracking opening episode to the series, things take a turn for the worse here for me. The opening scenes are desperately lacking the usual sparkle… the regulars just seem to be bickering aimlessly, but without any of the witty rejoinders we’ve become accustomed to.

ANDREW: I can see where you’re coming from, but there are some cracking exchanges in this scene. Take this quick burst from Clegg and Compo, for example:

CLEGG: Then he retired and went in search of paradise.

COMPO: Where’s that then?

CLEGG: Clacton.

I also like the implication that our trio has embarked on many an unseen adventure with Foggy’s allusion to attempting to get Compo and Clegg into astronomy. Perhaps that adventure wasn’t exciting enough to be depicted on screen. Maybe they’ve had a string of anti-climactic exploits that have gone untelevised just prior to the beginning of this season. That would explain why everybody seems so down and annoyed with one another.

BOB: Even the normally-genial Sid seems depressed. Although Compo nicely betrays his 1930s childhood, reading all manner of Boy’s Own comics, with his erotic jungle fantasies about Nora Batty. ‘White man come in Nora’s hut!’ Good grief.

I know Summer Wine is hardly noted for its high-octane pacing, but this really is a slow episode.

ANDREW: The soundman seems to be nodding off. Five seasons in and that’s the first time I’ve seen a boom drop into shot.

BOB: We’re almost halfway through before Foggy unveils his latest half-baked scheme… to plant the Union Jack flag from the old Sea Cadets’ hut at the top of a nearby hill. Exactly why, we’re not exactly sure, although it does lead to an intriguing line from Clegg. ‘Ever since I read some Harold Robbins, I’ve had this nightmare about woodlice in the trousers…’ he shudders. I’m not hugely ashamed to reveal that I’ve never read a single line Harold Robbins has ever written. Can somebody explain this for me, please?

ANDREW: Not me, I’m afraid. Surely, one of our three readers must have a clue. Get in touch

BOB: And so we embark on, oddly, a kind of Summer Wine road movie, complete with textbook 1970s British Rail jokes and Gordon Gostelow’s horse-and-cart-owning Willis, possibly the most overtly comic persona we’ve seen in the series so far. Gostelow plays him as a classic comedy drunk, in a turn that wouldn’t look out of place on a Music Hall stage. Although he is the lucky recipient of one sensational line…

FOGGY: I have this vision.
WILLIS: Me too. Horrible little green things crawling all over the front of my Uncle Herbert’s scrapyard… 

A sensational Roy Clarke non-sequitur, and one that made me laugh out loud.

ANDREW: That music hall observation certainly squares with what little I know about Gostelow. He was born in Australia in 1925, but began his career after moving to the UK in the 1950s. He may have missed out on the Music Hall by a few decades, but he appears to have had a very interesting career; swinging like a pendulum between Shakespeare and the pantomime stage. You can here the Australian slipping through from time to time in this performance.

I need to write a another quick love-letter to Ronnie Hazlehurst here. The hop-along tune that accompanies our trio’s hayride is very evocative of Hollywood westerns. It’s completely at odds with what’s on screen, but somehow fits perfectly. To my mind, he’s really asserting himself as being as much part of the show as Clarke’s scripts, the scenery, or any of the actors’ performances during this run.

BOB: We finish with the flag curiously unerected, and an outright slapstick finale in which two genuinely terrified-looking mules are chased around a paddock. An uncomfortable finish for me, and – I think – the first episode of our quest that I’ve really actively disliked. Apart from the couple of killer lines that I’ve picked out, I really didn’t find much to enjoy here at all.

ANDREW: There have been a handful of stand-out moments for me, but I agree that this episode just doesn’t hang together at all. Those poor, distressed-looking mules are a horribly misjudged addition. Then, to cap it all off, it all ends with a bit of sloppily executed and predictable slapstick. A minor bump in the road, I hope.


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Chris Orton on September 29, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    Ronnie Hazlewood?!


  2. Posted by Chris Orton on September 29, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    Oh, Harold Robbins was a writer of sex-based novels I think, which is probably what terrifies Clegg. No idea where the woodlice come into it though…


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