Posts Tagged ‘cafe’

6.2 Car and Garter

In which Compo feels the need for speed…

BOB: Can I admit to a little tingle of excitement every time we reach the debut episode of a regular character?

ANDREW: Please do! We’d best enjoy the experience before saying goodbye to people becomes a more common occurrence.

BOB: Oof, you morbid soul. But ladies and gentlemen, it’s Wesley Pegden! As soon as I saw smoke billowing from beneath a garage door, and the sound of a muffled explosion, I knew exactly who we were going to meet.

There’s a classic opening line to this episode as well: “How do you get marmalade off a ferret?” asks Compo. It’s one of life’s eternal mysteries, isn’t it? Also, an exchange that I remember heartily laughing at back in 1982, and my dad doing likewise…

           COMPO: When you straighten up, why doesn’t the blood rush straight to your feet?

           FOGGY: You don’t think anything’s going to be in a rush to get to your feet…

Brian Wilde’s delivery is a perfect mix of warmth, self-satisfaction and disdain. And I cannot help but feel hugely sentimental whenever I hear a line in anything that made my dad and I laugh together. I know them all when I hear them… in Fawlty Towers, Monty Python, Porridge, you name it… as soon as I hear that line – even if it’s for the first time in thirty years – I’m transported back to the front room, and a little routine we would play out: if we both laughed simultaneously at the same thing, then immediately afterwards we’d exchange a fleeting look of mutual appreciation across the room. It was completely involuntary, and my mum found it fascinating. But I’ve always shared a sense of humour with my dad, and we absolutely bonded over TV comedy. And he had fabulously progressive tastes… I know plenty of my contemporaries who were banned from watching The Young Ones when they were kids, but I was introduced to it by my dad. He loved it, and we watched it together… along with all of the edgiest 80s TV comedy you could think of. One of the highlights of my early teenage years was staying up late on a Friday night and watching the likes of Who Dares Wins on Channel 4 with him. Thanks, Dad.

And I’ve just realized that the above paragraph makes it sound like my dad is dead! He’s not everyone, he’s fine. Cancel the flowers.

ANDREW: Good to hear, I’m always on the lookout for a guest reviewer…

BOB: I love Gordon Wharmby in Summer Wine, although has he been surrounded by a bit of urban mythologizing over the years? I’m sure I remember reading somewhere that he was a local amateur dramatics enthusiast without a previous professional acting credit, but that does him a bit of a disservice. True, he wasn’t a trained thespian and combined part-time acting with a day job as a painter and decorator, but he had been part of Oldham Repertory Theatre, and had also done small parts in Coronation Street, amongst others.

What I didn’t realise was that he’d actually auditioned to play the angry man on the roof at the end of the previous episode, In The Service Of Humanity! It’s a one-line part (“Hey, bring back that ladder!”), but he impressed Roy Clarke and Alan JW Bell so much that they asked him to read for Wesley in Car and Garter. Bell, apparently, found him “absolutely real”, and the part was his. However, Wesley was – I’ve read – previously earmarked as a guest role for a well-known TV actor! Anyone know who that might be? This could be Summer Wine’s April Walker moment!

ANDREW: I wonder if, as they were casting this part, Clarke and Bell were specifically looking for a Fred Dibnah type. The Bolton-born steeplejack first rose to fame in 1978 and, although it never struck me until now, Wesley’s likeness to the man is striking.

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A brief detour to the café sees Sid being harassed by Ivy. Has the phrase, “In the kitchen” ever been spoken with such menace? What really struck me about the scene, however, is the smattering of applause it receives at the end. This is unusual in Summer Wine land and, although I’m not trying to be critical, I don’t understand what the scene did to elicit such a reaction. It’s not a standout. Perhaps scenes routinely received this sort of reaction and, under newcomer Alan Bell, a tiny snippet accidentally made it through to the final edit.

BOB: There’s a staggering scene in Clegg’s house that actually made me rewind the DVD to double check that I’d heard it correctly. They’re talking about Sid, and Foggy – rather amazingly – delivers the opinion that (brace yourself) “Ivy seems him as something of a big dick”.

Whhhhhhhhat?!?!? It’s not even a one-off. “There are far too many boring, serious beggars about,” muses Clegg, immediately afterwards. “We need all the big daft dicks we can get”.

Am I being incredibly prudish here? It’s hilarious, but I always thought ‘dick’ was up there with ‘cock’ and ‘prick’ as an insult I wouldn’t have expected to hear in Summer Wine! Certainly not in this later era, anyway. The reaction from the studio audience suggests that they’re a bit taken aback as well!

ANDREW: Well, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the genital connotation in the word is attested in an 1891 dictionary of Farmer’s Slang. Then there is the idiom “Clever Dick”, which has been used as recently as a 2012 game show C4 hosted by Anne Widdicome entitled Cleverdicks. I realise that none of this answers your question, but it’s nice to make the effort sometimes.

BOB: I still think this is filth, and should be banned. Neverthless we get to the crux of the episode… Wesley is building what he sees as the ultimate high-performance car, and needs a test-driver, and our heroes volunteer Sid for the job, believing it will increase his standing in Ivy’s eyes. Interesting to see that, in these early stages, Wesley clearly isn’t taken with Compo’s sense of humour – there’s a real prickliness to their exchanges.

ANDREW: And then we encounter another odd audience response. Bell cuts to a close-up of Foggy and the audience roars with laughter. It isn’t until a few seconds later that we cut to a wide shot which reveals Sid in his ridiculous racing gear. Usually, during this kind of sitcom gag, the set and performers are shielded from the audience. They only see the action play out on monitors, just like viewers at home. I’m convinced these moments have something to do with a change in production techniques, maybe the studio floor layout had been modified.

BOB: I didn’t notice any of this! It’s all real to me, guv. What is this ‘studio floor’ of which you speak? Ivy, meanwhile, is having none of Sid’s daredevil exploits and forbids him to take part (as well as taking a little sideswipe at his implied proclivities – “Don’t be making a fool of yourself if that bus conductress comes in, and don’t have her poking my sandwiches with her bell finger!”) and so – predictably enough – Compo is roped in to drive Wesley’s cobbled-together sports car.

ANDREW: It’s a cliché, but women really are unpredictable sometimes. Just the other week, Emma was upset with me. By way of apology, I baked her a loaf of break in the shape of, erm… a big dick. While I was baking, this seemed like the greatest idea in the world, but it didn’t go down well… so to speak. What I’m trying to say is I sympathise with Sid!

BOB: Bake one for me. We’ll eat it together while we watch Getting Sam Home. I’ll look after you, my angel. 

ADDREW: As for the Bus Conductress, I like to think she’s the same feisty character we saw during series two’s ‘Forked Lightning’. I seem to recall you took a shine to her.

BOB: I can’t remember her! I’m such a fickle fool. There’s a bizarre twist here… Nora is actually impressed! And, not only that, she wears the garter that Compo gives her to keep her wrinkled stockings up. And proudly gives him a tantalizing glimpse of it! I’m not sure how I feel about this, actually… it’s very funny, but would Nora actually do that? Although I can also see the argument that we need to see a certain affection reciprocated between them, otherwise you’re just left wondering why she doesn’t just call the police on him every week.

ANDREW: Like I said, unpredictable.

BOB: I also wonder if this the episode that really kick-started the whole ‘wrinkled stockings’ phenomenon. I know they’d been mentioned in the series before now, but Compo’s hatred of them is major plot point of this episode. And it was around this time that wrinkled stockings became one of the major cultural identifiers of Last of the Summer Wine… you certainly wouldn’t read an article about the show (or about Kathy Staff herself) without them being mentioned, and I think that might have stemmed from this very episode.

ANDREW: Yep. This will become one of the series’ most celebrated running gags and eventually leads to this oddity…

I’d love to know who plays the onlookers in this episode. They’re a small crowd and they don’t look like actors. I wonder whether they were locals, crewmembers, relatives of crewmembers… anybody know?

BOB: What strikes me most about this episode is that Alan Bell was spot on with regards to Gordon Wharmby – he is indeed “absolutely real”. It’s a fine performance, and a great encapsulation of that breed of middle-aged Northern men who spend all of their spare time in overalls beneath a car and need a garage (or a shed, or just some private space to retreat to, unencumbered by female tutting and clucking) to retreat to. I see a lot of my Dad in Wesley.

ANDREW: Actually, what impressed me most about this one was the direction. I know I’ve harped on about a couple of production oddities, but the film sequences really sparkle in this episode. Bell’s signature landscape shots perfectly puncture the studio bound and character based stuff and one sequence, where Ivy returns to the café only to flee upon seeing Sid in his racing get-up is really dynamic. Just look at some of these shots.

Picture 12

Picture 14

All in all, good stuff.

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Summer Winos on Tour

Hello folks! Sorry that it has been so long since we last updated the site, but we’ve both been a little run off our feet. In the meantime I have finished editing a video that should have been ready for the launch of this blog. It’s slight, but we hope you enjoy. Click the little HD symbol for a higher quality version.

Summer Winos (3.1+3.2)

REMINDER: Our Compo-tition is open to entries until the 18th!

3.1 The Man From Oswestry

In which Compo and Clegg befriend the world’s most deadly ex-army corps sign writer the same height as John Wayne.

ANDREW: Losing one of the three main characters so early on in the run could easily have resulted in the end of Last of the Summer Wine, but Roy Clarke is firing all cylinders here.

BOB: Absolutely, this is a fabulous episode – really top notch British comedy. Full of great lines and alternating lovely pathos with some brilliant laugh-out-loud comedy. And superb performances from everyone. It’s as though all involved felt they had to be really on top of their game for what’s effectively a relaunch of the whole series.

ANDREW: Poor Compo. He’s devastated to have lost Blamire, and it’s totally believable. The opening scene in which Compo and Clegg visit the café and lament the loss of their friend to a Welsh widow are very clever on Clarke’s part. It reminds us of how essential the ‘third man’ is to the series’ premise and sets us up to welcome Foggy Dewhurst with open arms. Without Blamire, Clegg is reduced to fretting over oil stains on his trousers and some of the sparkle is gone from Compo’s impish eyes. Without a third man, the last of the summer is turning into Autumn for the duo. They need an authority figure to push them out of their comfort zone and force them into diverting situations.

BOB: I love the opening scenes, with Compo idly kicking tin cans around the square outside the café as he waits for it to open. It’s the second childhood syndrome again, isn’t it? He’s absolutely the kid with no friends in the corner of an empty playground. In the previous series we saw Clegg and Blamire struggling to hold a conversation in the temporary absence of Compo. Clegg and Compo aren’t quite THAT bad, but in the scene in the café, it’s clear that their lives are going to be much less interesting without an authority figure to rail against. ‘It’s times like this, when I’m low on fags, that I really miss old Cyril Blamire,’ says Compo, which is as profound an outpouring of emotion as you’d ever get from a Yorkshireman in the mid-1970s.

ANDREW: It’s nice to see that Blamire’s absence has been accounted for and that, rather than ignore his departure; Clarke has given the character somewhat of happy ending. Last episode we were talking about Blamire’s tragedy being routed in his lack of personal relationships, but he is now happily shacked up with “a certain lady.”

BOB: Yes, great to see the unseen Blamire being given a happy send-off. The letter that he sends to them (as read out loud by Clegg, to a tittering Compo) is superb, and almost a pre-curser to the hilarious missives that the never-seen Joe Maplin would dispatch to the staff in Hi-De-Hi. ‘Thanks to the Labour government, when the Russians finally come, all we’ll have left to throw at them is one Welsh-speaking Alsatian,’ he writes, building up to the revelation that Foggy Dewhurst will soon be returning to Holmfirth and joining the merry gang.

We’ve talked before about how we’re constantly dropped into an established Summer Wine world that’s existed long before the series started. Even early in this episode, we hear Compo talk about characters that we’ve never met and probably never will… ‘Vernon Hislop broke his pelvis – I had an eyewitness account in the bookies from a bloke called Trigger’.

Foggy is the most audacious example yet. In most other sitcoms, a new main character like Foggy would be as unfamiliar to the existing characters as he is to us viewers, and we’d get to know and appreciate his qualities and quirks together. But, as you’d expect in a close-knit community like Holmfirth, everyone already knows Foggy, and it’s us viewers that are on the back foot from the beginning. ‘A great long gormless streak from Arnold Crescent,’ as Compo describes him, ‘his mother wore brown boots’. Roy Clarke’s attention to detail in making Clegg and Compo’s memories -stretching back five decades to their collective childhoods – so complex and real is a joy.

ANDREW: There’s a lot of buildup to Foggy and I love Compo’s recollection that, “He looked like a pencil with a rubber on the end.” When he does turn up, Foggy is a tempest in a green kagool; as Clegg says a genuine fourteen-carrot guilt edged barmpot.  It’s lovely to see Clegg come to life at the sight of this maniac. It’s as if the character has regained his purpose; sort of like the toys in Toy Story who are lost without somebody to play with them.

BOB: There’s a glorious moment when Foggy is rummaging maniacally in his pockets for his notebook, and Clegg turns to Compo and gives him a look of utter, heartfelt joy. It’s only a fleeting second or two, but you have to wonder if there’s a little bit of Sallis’ true feelings in that look – it’s a real ‘everything is going to be alright, after all’ moment, and Sallis seems to be genuinely revelling in Brian Wilde’s performance.

And quite right too, because Wilde makes an absolutely magnificent debut. From the first second he appears, marshalling the troops on the bus into Holmfirth, Foggy is a fully-formed, three dimensional character, and a brilliant one to boot. Bereft of Blamire’s self-confidence and brashness, it’s made clear even at this stage that Foggy’s military exploits are pure fantasy, scarcely concealing a timid and awkward man who lives largely inside his own mind. And yes, it’s played for laughs, but Wilde’s performance is so nuanced and perfect that all of Foggy’s tics and quirks (The meditative ‘planning sessions’, staring into space with a rigid expression of silent concentration, are my favourite) are never anything less than believable. We’ve ALL met the smalltown loners and dreamers that weave themselves a fantasy persona… it’s a fictional staple made famous by Walter Mitty and Billy Liar alike. Foggy is the latest in a long line of these characters, and it’s absolute TV magic from the off. A sensational creation and a stunning performance.

ANDREW: Even the supporting characters recognize the suitability of this new recruit, with Compo’s cousin Big Malcolm remarking, “If you can keep him alive, you might get some mileage out of him.” Clarke is almost winking at the audience at this point and whispering, ‘Yeah, this new set-up is going to work out.’

BOB: I was convinced for a couple of seconds that it was legendary TV wrestler Big Daddy making an appearance as Big Malcolm! ‘I get these… murderous tempers,’ stammers Foggy, slamming a kung-fu palm onto the pub table, seconds after toasting the mysterious ‘Operation Swordblade’ with a heavenly-looking half-pint of bitter. I could watch him all day.

ANDREW: “On the whole you shouldn’t say anything to me that you couldn’t safely say to John Wayne.” What a line.

3.2 Mending Stuart’s Leg

In which our trio click into action and scale the dizzy heights of the Café roof.

ANDREW: Whereas Blamire was seemingly happy to do anything, provided he was doing something, Foggy definitely seems to require a mission in life. Instead of aimlessly roaming the hills, our trio will head out on expeditions and instead of loitering in the café, the greasy spoon is used as a base of operations, be they inspecting Sid’s roof or mending Stuart’s eponymous leg. The tone has already shifted from those early, meandering installments.

BOB: Ha! How odd, I was actually going to say that after a couple of tightly-focused episodes, we’re back to a bit of old school meandering! This episode is filled with delightful non-sequiteurs, many of which are provided by Foggy. ‘I made a good contact yesterday if you ever want any offcuts of polystyrene,’ he muses, a propos of nothing, in the opening scenes. ‘I see there’s been another failure in Soviet agriculture,’ he ponders later, during a gap in the conversation. I laughed out loud, as I did ten minutes later at the following exchange:

COMPO: What’s wrong with me trousers?
FOGGY: I realise you’re a socialist, but you could invest in another pair. You don’t have to wait for the council to pull the old pair down.

Contrasting political viewpoints, social and sartorial comment and a genuine, stunning laugh-out-loud gag in the space of two lines. Even if you knew nothing whatsoever about Compo or Foggy, you could still infer so much about their characters just by reading those two lines. Now THAT’s writing.

ANDREW: And here we have it, the first instance of Clegg chickening out of something; in this case he sheepishly declines the opportunity to climb a rickety ladder and inspect some slates.

BOB: Yes! Foggy has instantly become the instigator and director of their activities, and Clegg now seems firmly entrenched as the reluctant non-participant that he remains for the next three and a half decades.

There are a few little character moments that intrigued me in this episode… I think, Drew, you mentioned that an earlier episode very subtly alluded to the fact that Sid and Ivy were childless, and I missed it completely. This time, following a classic argument, we get Ivy wistfully musing ‘Oooh, if I’d had kids…’  and the sentence is left for us to finish ourselves. There’s a definite sense of regret and melancholy that hangs over this fleeting scene.

And good to see Mr Wainwright back at the library! With another doe-eyed young acolyte – Miss Moody – now in tow.

WAINWRIGHT: I used to dream of leading the people into a better society…
MISS MOODY: Maybe you still can?
WAINWRIGHT: (respectfuly) There’s so much paperwork.

Fabulous.

And is it me, or does Compo’s shouted riposte to Nora as she rebuffs his advances yet again (‘It wasn’t like this on VE Night!’) suggest that they had a brief romantic tryst thirty years earlier, presumably before she married Wally? It’s an absolute revelation to think that his feelings towards her aren’t just the unrequited lust of an old letch, but an attempt to recapture a sensational night of passion from their long-lost salad days, on an occasion of unparalleled emotional release for the whole country. If that’s true, it must have been one of the most glorious nights of Compo’s life, and brings a whole new perspective to his character and motivations. He wants to feel young and happy and virile again, and rekindling a fleeting encounter with Nora has become fixed in his mind as the only way to do so… even though her appearance and personality have – we assume – been completely transformed since then. He just doesn’t see that, though! One of our constant sources of comedy so far as been exactly why Compo lusts after this sour-faced battleaxe – it just seemed inexplicable. But at last we have an answer! To Compo, Nora will always be the vibrant 20-year-old lass that gave herself to him at the ultimate national celebration. I actually feel like 37 years of Summer Wine suddenly makes a lot more sense!