Posts Tagged ‘criticism’

6.5 One of the Last Few Places Unexplored By Man

In which Compo gets trapped in the closet…

ANDREW: Another whimsical hillside opening for this episode. There are some great lines here, including Foggy responding to Compo’s ferret story with ‘You’ve led a really useful life, haven’t you?’ I promise to say that at your funeral, Bob.

BOB: You’ll never outlive me, not with your insane, adrenaline-fuelled high-octane lifestyle. Do you know what? If someone clipped together four or five of these opening philosophical segments of the show to make a full episode, it’d probably be one of my favourites of the whole run. 

Clegg: The concept of a hole in space confuses me enormously. But so did the instructions on the electric blanket, and that works. So I suppose God knows what he’s doing.

Compo: Electric blanket? You great Jessie. Why don’t you put a warm brick in it like everybody else…

You youngsters may laugh, but when I was growing up in the 1970s, it wasn’t uncommon to find older neighbours and relatives who still kept a ‘warming pan’ by the fire… essentially a large brass pan to be filled with hot coals from the fire before being slipped between the sheets an hour or so before you went to bed. Taking extra care not to set your bedspread on fire. Brace yourself, but like many houses in the UK we didn’t have central heating in our house until the late 1970s. My first memories of getting ready for school are of putting my clothes on in front of a flickering coal fire while looking at the ice on the inside of the front room windows. Winter 1977. Read it and weep, you children of the Combi Boiler.

ANDREW: And I thought we had it rough not having cable television until I was ten.

I still haven’t gotten used to the new-look Café yet, even though it’s now the version I grew up with! I love this extended sequence, however. First up, we get some choice Sid and Ivy conversation, with lots of bickering about relatives and Sid’s lack of get-up-and-go. ‘Another hectic day in the struggle for existence?’ she asks as he innocently reads his paper. As if this wasn’t enough, in walks Wally Batty! This scene actually reminds me of a stage play; it’s long, confined to a small set and characters drift in and out throughout its runtime. Lovely blocking.

BOB: That exchange is great. There’s something about Northern dialogue that really lends itself to bathos. It’s a tactic that never fails to make me laugh, and Roy Clarke uses it as the basis for many a great Sid and Ivy exchange. You missed off the killer second line, though!


Ivy: Another hectic day in the struggle for existence.

Sid: If you’re on about the dustbins, I’ve already seen to ‘em.


I’m baffled by Compo’s clear depiction of Nora Batty’s bedroom as mysterious, uncharted territory, though. Wasn’t he in her bedroom in the first episode of this very series, rescuing Nora from being trapped beneath the bed? Oh, well. It’s a good job we’re not like those weird Doctor Who fans, Drew, otherwise we could drive ourselves mad worrying about pointless continuity like this. Ahem hem.

kathy-staff

ANDREW: Just wait until we reach First of the Summer Wine

Another name for the database – Chunky Wrigglesworth. A boy who used to very carelessly grab great handfuls of Foggy’s trousers, and who was famous for sitting on people at playtime. We even learn that he had to get married and is now a dentist is Macclesfield. I think he might be the most fleshed out unseen character thus far!

BOB: A bit of a milestone here as well, I think… Sid actually joins in with the schooldays nostalgia! Is this the first time he’s done this? Anyone? I’d actually assumed until now that Sid was an outsider from another town, as I can’t recall him ever previously joining in with any of the reminiscing that our main trio frequently indulge in. I thought it was only his marriage to Ivy that had brought him to Holmfirth! Is he a local lad after all?

And I love how Foggy insists on calling Ivy ‘madam’, despite the fact that they’ve known each other for decades! Does he do the same to Nora, too? I think he does… it’s a lovely character touch, symptomatic of Foggy’s deep-seated fear of women, and his desire to keep them at a formal arms length. A veneer of gentlemanly respect masking a morbid terror of the female world. Although, oddly, Foggy is the one member of the trio that we’ve actually seen indulging in romantic liasons during our adventures.

ANDREW: Compo has tarted himself up to have a photo taken, but he doesn’t want it taken in his ‘disgraceful’ abode. Instead he intends to pose next door inside Nora Batty’s house.  He is, of course, turned away. Although he’s been shooed off before, there’s something particular about the way in which this scene is written, shot and played that will set up a long recurring gag for many episodes to come; Compo turns up at Nora’s door only to be chased down her steps by the end of her broom. I must have seen a hundred variations upon this as a kid and never got tired of it.

BOB: No wonder Compo is embarrassed by his house, it’s in a worse state than ever! In the early series it was just a bit scruffy and untidy, now it looks… well, it looks like Mr Trebus’ house. There’s stuff piled up everywhere. Up yer chuff!

Trebus
And then ‘By ‘eck, she’s like Margaret Lockwood…’ he gurns, kindling his sordid Nora Batty fantasies once again. Erm, she’s really not…

I really admire Roy Clarke’s unapologetic use of cultural references entirely in keeping with his characters’ backgrounds. I’m not sure Margaret Lockwood would have meant a great deal to huge swathes of Summer Wine’s family audience in 1982, but Compo would have worshipped Lockwood during her cinema heyday in the 1940s, and his dropping of her name here as the epitome of female perfection is absolutely consistent with his character. I see a lot of current TV comedy where elderly characters are given lines that are completely inappropriate for their age… and sure, it gets a laugh, but I always end up thinking ‘No! 70-year-old men DON’T talk like that’. I suspect a lot of comedy writers think of funny lines first, before assigning them to their characters without worrying too much about the consistency of the whole thing. Clarke lets the lines flow naturally from his very well-defined characters, and it lends the dialogue a much more satisfying air of authenticity.

My laugh-out-loud moment of the episode…

Compo: Are you telling me she doesn’t set your pulses racing?

Clegg: Only for cover.

ANDREW: At Compo’s house, it is explained that the randy little Herbert doesn’t just want his photo taken in Nora’s house, but in Nora’s bedroom; the titular place unexplored by man. Compo really is a little boy in his attitudes to carnal pursuits. Describing being chased off by Nora as ‘sexual foreplay’, he goes on to flap his arms and quack his way around the room in some bizarre mating dance.

Foggy is just as childish, unable to accept responsibility for any mistake he makes during the episode. Earlier, he accidentally hit a woman in the bottom with his walking stick. Instead of apologising he blames wasps and as a result is labelled a ‘sex maniac’. Now, he refuses to accept responsibility for dropping Compo’s camera, making up an earth tremor to excuse his butterfingers.

BOB: Wilde is magnificent in this series. I can’t praise him highly enough. Foggy is a ridiculous character, but Wilde makes him totally believable and – amazingly – sympathetic. He’s one of the truly great sitcom characters, and doesn’t get recognized as such nearly often enough for my liking. 

ANDREW: Again our slapstick climax comes about as a natural extension of the plot; which is nice. Returning from an auction, Wally needs a hand carrying his new purchase – a wardrobe for Nora’s bedroom. Seizing the opportunity with glee, Compo concocts a Trojan Horse-inspired plan to secure entry to the room of his dreams. I particularly like the fact that we get another glimpse of Foggy’s maniacal streak during these scenes. He takes great joy in locking Compo up in a dark, confined space and is quick to abandon his friend and nip off to the pub. This is his revenge for getting involved with a scheme that he hasn’t concocted himself!

BOB: Yes, Foggy’s on great vindictive form here. ‘Just lie there and make a noise like a coathanger’, he says, gleefully shutting Compo into the wardrobe. And again, bringing back memories of my dad’s absurdist sense of humour. Long before this episode aired, I had a rather vicious pet rabbit, and I distinctly remember my dad solemnly telling me ‘whatever you do, don’t make a noise like a carrot’. Was ‘don’t make a noise like a… (insert entirely silent object)’ a running joke for men of their generation? It wouldn’t surprise me if this stemmed from wartime (or, at least, forces) banter somewhere along the line.

‘There’s something very satisfying about locking him in a dark, confined space’ made me laugh as well. Brian Wilde’s impeccable delivery goes a long way – a perfect combination of haughty disdain with just a hint of affection.


Clegg: Do you think he can breathe?

Foggy: I don’t doubt it for a minute, he’ll do anything to spite me.


Oh, I could listen to this all day.

ANDREW: I like to think that Stuart Fell was locked inside that wardrobe for the sake of realism.

BOB: A great episode I think, with some of the strongest, funniest dialogue we’ve had for a while. My only disappointment is the clear suggestion that Nora and Wally don’t actually share a marital bed! I want them sitting up in bed together, like Joe and Petunia from the Public Information Films. They’re the prototype Wally and Nora, you know. Oh yes they are. Oh yes indeed. Oh yes.

ANDREW: Yeah, another cracking episode. It isn’t difficult to see why the series was going over gangbusters during this period.

BOB: Eh? Oh, you young people and your funny new words. You’re WEIRD. You hear me? WEIRD (fetches brush)

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Summer Winos (3.3+3.4)

3.3 The Great Boarding House Bathroom Caper

ANDREW: The first of a two-part seaside adventure? Oh, Mr. Clarke, you are spoiling us. It is a little odd seeing the trio let loose outside of the confines of the Holm valley and the idea of packing up all of your characters and sending them off on holiday has become somewhat of a sitcom cliché over the years, but within the context of these episodes I think it works. Compo, Clegg, Foggy, Ivy, Sid, Gordon, Nora and Wally aren’t off to sunny Spain for some atypical glitz, glamour and antics – they’re heading for a weekend in Scarborough. This minibreak is suitably low rent, cheap and cheerful; Carry On At Your Convenience without the razzmatazz.

BOB: Indeed, and it’s a lovely, unexpected treat to have the title music and opening credits playing out over shots of the seaside! I’m expecting to be overwhelmed with nostalgia during this episode, as family visits to Scarborough were a regular feature of my 1970s summers. There’s every chance we might see my Gran in the background, stepping from a Bee-Line bus and picking sand from a bag of greasy chips wrapped in a copy of the Daily Mirror…

Nice line from Clegg in the opening scenes, as they’re waiting for the bus to arrive – ‘The older I get, the more I seem to like dozy people’. I can appreciate his sentiments… as I race towards my 40th birthday, I do tend to find deep thinkers and over-analyzers increasingly hard work. We all need a Compo in our lives, and he’s resplendent in a lovely stripy blazer in this episode… as Foggy puts it, ‘You look like a National Health gigolo!’

The interaction between Wilde, Sallis and Owen in these opening scenes is superb… so incredibly fast, and funny, and nuanced. I can actually see a bit of Harpo, Groucho and Chico in them. Cue Drew’s ears pricking up!

ANDREW: I guess what we see of Scarborough in the background of this episode represents the beginning of the long drawn out end for the traditional British seaside holiday. By the mid 1970s foreign travel was just about becoming affordable for working class families and certainly by the point at which my family visited the town in the 1990s a seaside getaway seemed like the exception as opposed to the rule. I think I can pinpoint why; from what I remember, nothing had progressed in terms of the tourist industry in those twenty-odd years. In particular, the boarding house at which our trio stay seems eerily familiar. I can almost smell the aroma of stale cabbage and not-so-freshly laundered sheets. Then again, maybe we just went to a crap B+B!

BOB: Does anyone even say the phrase ‘boarding house’ any more? You’re right, it’s very evocative… all tatty lace curtains, floral wallpaper and an octogenarian waitress in Edwardian maid’s outfit. And yet, despite this, there’s still a beautifully-observed scene in the dining room where Ivy – bless her – affects a very well-heeled voice to compliment the landlady. ‘Seldom have we received such service,’ she trills, in exactly the same voice that my mother affected when answering the phone throughout the 1970s. It was still an age where ‘speaking nicely’ was considered correct social practice, and despite her working class Yorkshire background, clearly Ivy would be mortified to think that anyone could consider her (gasp!) ‘common’.

ANDREW: The idea of Ivy and Sid piling into a bus on holiday with three old blokes that loiter around their café might seem a little odd, but the fact that they do creates a cozy sense community. I don’t think the concept of community breaks really exists any more, does it? I remember that, when I was in primary school, practically our entire street would pile into a coach and visit Beamish for the day. It was an annual event; a byproduct of the fact that the street was originally built for workers at the nearby paint factory and that pretty much everyone who lived their still either worked there, had retired from there, or knew somebody eligible who could get them tickets. That’s all over now, and has been for some time, as families move, retirees passed on and the sense of community in that street gradually faded away. I know it’s not quite the same thing, but this episode has succeeded in making me a little nostalgic for a change!

BOB: I’m absolutely overwhelmed with nostalgia by this episode, but – as I expected – it’s Scarborough that’s doing the trick. There’s a beautiful scene where Compo, Clegg and Foggy mess around in the Penny Arcades, and it’s the arcades as my Gran would have loved them – no fruit machines or Space Invader machines yet, just one-armed bandits and Shove Ha’Penny. The sun beats down on sandy pavements, and unsuspecting holidaymakers bustle past in cheesecloth shirts and flares, immortalized in a little piece of TV history. It’s absolutely a window into my early childhood.

I think we need to give a little mention to Ronnie Hazelhurst at this point as well, his scores are so evocative and carefully-crafted… over the scene I mentioned drifts a lovely, lilting flute rendition of Scarborough Fair, and it’s just perfect. A fabulous episode.

3.2 Cheering Up Gordon

BOB: I’d forgotten this was a two-parter and was surprised to find us still in Scarborough at the start of this episode! And – wahey – this is the first episode I can remember actually seeing on TV back in the day, because I distinctly recall an earnest school morning discussion between me and my friend Doug Simpson about the nature of the ‘popsicle’ scene…

Foggy: Lots of people swim in the North Sea.
Clegg: Only if they fall off a boat…
Compo: It’ll turn your popsicle blue!

It must have been a repeat, as I didn’t know Doug until 1983, but I clearly remember us debating whether Compo, when referring to a ‘popsicle’ was actually referring to… well… you know… he couldn’t be, could he? But now, 28 years on, I think I can safely say that – yes! He is! Filth, from Roy Clarke! Whatever next? Well… a semi-naked Brian Wilde, that’s what…

ANDREW: When Foggy decides to strip off (PHWOAR) and venture into the sea, he’s really not that old looking is he? In fact, Brian Wilde was only around fifty at the time. This struck me with Clegg in the first series as well. Summer Wine has this reputation for being, ‘that show about old people’ but for at least half of its run it isn’t anything of the sort.

BOB: Wilde was 48/49 during the filming of this series, so no – by today’s standards he’d barely be considered middle-aged. He’s only a decade older than me! Do we assume that the character of Foggy is meant to be considerably older than Wilde, given that all three of the main characters were clearly schoolfriends, and that Clegg and Compo are obviously closer to sixty than fifty?

Great scene anyway – there’s a studio audience member who’s absolutely howling with laughter as Foggy runs into the sea, and I love that kind of thing. It’s probably just me, but studio audience laughter these days seems much more smooth and generic than it used to be! There are lots of 70s sitcoms where you can pick out individual audience members laughing… lots of coughing and little outbreaks of applause as well. It’s very charming.

ANDREW: Absolutely. There’s one chap who yaks his way through a good chunk of Dad’s Army  and one particularly hysterical woman during Are You Being Served who, for me, have just about become series regulars.
And in terms of dialogue, I think Roy Clarke is absolutely on fire at this stage. I laughed heartily, by myself, all the way through this episode – it’s just full of little gems. His writing for Wally Batty in particular is magnificent…

Nora: Are you going to sit there while he insults me?
Wally: No, I thought I’d go and have a look at the lifeboats.
Nora: You talk yourself into being miserable.
Wally: No I don’t, I just have to listen.
Nora: I don’t know what people must think. You’re on holiday.
Wally: Not really. If you’d come by yourself, then I’d have been on holiday. Remember that smashing fortnight when you had to go and nurse your mother?

I could listen to this all day. Joe Gladwin is just extraordinary – nobody has ever made twisted, hangdog misery so sensationally funny.

Compo’s nephew Gordon is a pleasant addition as well. As our representative from the younger generation he’s clearly fond of his ‘Uncle Bill’ but has no interest in the trio’s time wasting activities. In fact, he’s not really interested in any silliness at all.

BOB: We’ve seen a few of Compo’s family in these early episodes, haven’t we? Surprising, as he always seemed to be much more of a loner in later series. Gordon’s another lovely, world-weary character – very nicely played by Philip Jackson, who’ll forever be the Abbot Hugo in Robin Of Sherwood to me! He still pops up regularly on TV, but this is one of his earliest roles.

I have to mention that extraordinary scene on the beach as well, where Sid and Ivy – and there’s no easy way of putting this – discuss their sex life!

Ivy: You never talk to me, not even when me make love…
Sid: Not much to talk about is there, the rate we go at it? You still do it as if your mother’s watching.
Ivy: You should try and rouse me more…

Given that they spend most of the programme at violent loggerheads, you’d be forgiven for being amazed that Sid and Ivy have a sex life at all… and, in broader sitcoms, great comic play would undoubtedly be made of them being trapped in a loveless, sexless marriage. But their relationship is nothing of the sort – at the beginning of this scene, Ivy is wistfully lost in a romantic magazine, dreaming of the lithe-limbed lotharios that inhabit its pages. She absolutely wants to be loved and to be seduced, and still dreams that Sid can be that dream-like hunk in real life.

I think we learn a lot about Ivy in this sequence… the fact that he falls so short of her ideals again and again is clearly the source of her constant anger and frustration at Sid. And, maybe, against the male gender as a whole? None of the idle, child-like men in Summer Wine are a match for the perfect, silky-voiced lovers in her books and magazines, and yet she can’t give up on the hopeless dream that, one day, Sid just MIGHT be. She really can’t. She has to keep dreaming… and just taking what she can from Sid in the hope that, some day, things WILL be perfect. 

An unexpected bit of sauciness at the end of the episode as well, when Compo heads out on the pull, and succeeds in bringing four women back from a local nightclub – one each for himself, Foggy, Clegg and Gordon! We only ever hear their screeching voices outside the boarding house door, but by crikey… you can just smell the gin-soaked breath and stale Benson and Hedges, and see the smudged lipstick and laddered fishnet stockings. And all in vain, because Gordon – bless him – is already enjoying a quiet game of chess with a charming redhead called Josie.

Clegg, predictably, runs upstairs. ‘Supposing they’d raped us…’ he trembles, later, reminding us that Summer Wine isn’t ready to settle into cosy teatime whimsy just yet.

Anyway, I loved these episodes. Can you tell? Absolutely my favourite of anything we’ve seen so far, and I think the series has hit an extraordinary peak at this stage. I genuinely can’t wait to carry on. 

Summer Winos (2.7)

2.7 Northern Flying Circus

In which our trio get the motor running and ride out in the car park.

ANDREW: Unless I’m already forgetting things, I think this has to be our first example of someone going down a hill on an uncontrollable contraption, in this case Blamire on the unpowered motorbike. And we get Compo in a silly outfit to boot! Series two has definitely seen the series evolve in terms of the type of story the show likes to offer.

BOB: From the opening scenes, I actually thought this episode was going to be rather a thoughtful, talky instalment. The conversation about Blamire’s encounter with Mabel Duckinfield (‘She foisted herself onto me birdwatching expeditions’) takes on a slightly poignant quality when you realise that Blamire is talking about fleeting romantic trysts that happened – what, thirty years previously? Forty? He really is desperately clinging onto his youth, and you have to conclude that this might be one of the few romantic encounters he’s ever had in his life. Blamire rants to Compo about the ‘Clockwork Napoleon that you broke at school’… yegods, they’re living in the past so vividly that it’s almost painful.

ANDREW: Blamire’s lack of romantic entanglements goes right back to the pilot episode and Clegg’s line, “Sometimes, Cyril, I could swear that your idea of orgasm is a quick flick through Burke’s Peerage.” Despite the fact that Blamire is the most travelled and best educated of the three, they all recognise him to have lived the least. That’s his tragedy.

BOB: And, shortly after, we have Compo musing ‘I wonder what it’s like being dead?’ to Clegg in the library. And it isn’t especially played for laughs, it’s a melancholic conversation between two men rapidly approaching their sixtieth birthdays. It then transpires that their friend Little Billy Aubrey (who presumably carried his school nickname all the way through his life) has died.

From then on, the episode turns on a sixpence as our heroes decide to approach his widow with a view to buying Billy’s old motorbike! It really is – if you’ll pardon the pun – something of a gear change. And yet again it’s Clegg who initiates this, expressing an insatiable desire to travel! Even though ‘it’s not so much your gleaming speedbird, more your ruptured duck’.

Those thoughtful opening scenes aside, this is undoubtedly the most slapstick-heavy episode we’ve seen so far…we even get Compo attempting to eat a sandwich through his crash helmet visor. Although the whole motorbike caper is given a bit of an edge by the fact that we actually see some blood! Compo ends up with a nosebleed, and has a vivid crimson streak of blood running down his face… a scene that gave me a bit of a start, as Summer Wine usually occupies a world in which no real harm ever comes to our heroes.

ANDREW: I felt exactly the same way. Can you imagine if they had kept up this level of realism towards the end? Viewers would have been calling age concern in their millions!

I have to say, though, that the sandwich gag is the first time I would say that Bill Owen has missed the comedy mark. I don’t think it’s completely his fault, the staging is very awkward, but you can tell that even the studio audience recognise the gag as a bit of a clunker.

BOB: Other bits and bobs that struck me… Sid’s very 1970s flirting with the three giggly young shop girls in the café (‘I’d hate anything to run over your lovely little puddings’), the nosy traffic warden (delightfully identified by Clegg as ‘David Cogden, The Black Tulip’ without a further word of explanation), the fact that Clegg claims to have undertaken a night class in Western Philosophy and Wine-Tasting, and… wait for it…

At the end of the episode, Clegg is still the proud owner of a fully-functional motorbike! Do we ever see it again? I wonder if it’s still abandoned at the back of his shed, rusting away and covered in cobwebs…

ANDREW: And so we say goodbye to Blamire, as Michael Bates will be nowhere to be seen once series three commences.

BOB: These first two series have a gritty, rough and ready atmosphere that I think slowly begins to lessen from hereon, and lots of that feel is down to Michael Bates who brings a real edge to proceedings. Whereas future ‘third men’ tend to be buffoons, Blamire really isn’t to be messed with. His military bearing is genuine and impressive, and yet there’s a real air of melancholy and resentment about the character too… once his army career is over, Blamire has no option to return to Holmfirth to live alone, idling away his days with his old school friends – something that never quite seems to sit comfortably with him. Bates brings all of that to the character with some very subtle and studied performances, and it’s a shame he doesn’t get a proper onscreen farewell in the show. There’s nothing at the end of this episode to suggest we’ll never see him again.

ANDREW: Given the advanced years his co-stars would reach, Bates was really short changed when passed away in 1978 aged just fifty-seven. I wonder if he would have returned for a second run ala Foggy. A pie in the sky thought, but a nice one.

BOB: It would have been fun to see him pop back for a guest appearance during the Brian Wilde years, especially as there are suggestions in Series 3 that Blamire and Foggy were very good friends with a strong mutual respect.

ANDREW: I have to use this instalment of our journey to express how sorry I am to have underestimated Bates in the past. Previously, I had dismissed Blamire a little as the proto-Foggy. I saw the character and the performance as a sign of a series that hadn’t quite hit its stride. Now this might well be true of the series, but not of Bates, who has delivered a fantastic performance throughout. From little character touches like checking his watch as a clock tower strikes on location, to setting a blustering template for ‘third men’ to follow, he really delivered. He was a breed of actor you don’t really find in TV comedy any more and I’m going to miss him.

Summer Winos (2.3 + 2.4)

2.3 The Changing Face of Rural Blamire

In which Blamire feels the pains of unemployment and our trio become the new faces of Shinyglow.

ANDREW: There’s a lovely scene at the top of this episode that sums up another of the series’ themes. Upon a hillside, the trio look down upon the Holm valley. Compo takes pride in the view and reckons it is scenery worth painting while Clegg seems comforted by its boringness. Blamire, on the other hand, has had enough.

BLAMIRE:  What this view lacks is a few factory chimneys. Then perhaps there’d be some work for our kind.

CLEGG: Nature lover.

COMPO: You try speaking for yourself. Some of us are idle enough to appreciate things like this.

There are three life philosophies wrapped up in a few lines. Lovely.

BOB: Yes, I like that scene as well. For all the show came to romanticise the Yorkshire countryside, it can also be extremely unsentimental about it, especially in these early episodes. Blamire’s attitude is probably fairly typical of the mid-1970s… there were mills and factories closing down left, right and centre at the time, and his concern is absolutely for the plight of the working man rather the splendour of nature.

And so we see Blamire actually looking for a job! The first suggestion we’ve had that any of our heroes are particularly dissatisfied with their idle, rambling second childhood.

I love his first attempt to secure work, in that cold, clinical office – Clegg is genuinely angry about the receptionist’s snotty demeanour towards them, isn’t he? ‘You ought to be out tending the dying with a whip,’ he snarls at her. It’s a rare opportunity for Peter Sallis to be genuinely unpleasant to someone in the series, and it’s quite a moment. We see Clegg as a man who actively despises the modern, impersonal approach to work… the ‘take a seat and I’ll see if he’s in his office’ attitude is absolute anathema to him. For the first time, we get a glimpse of a man who actually finds contemporary life quite distasteful.

ANDREW: Blamire is really a tragic figure in this episode, desperate to work for a living but completely oblivious to the fact that the world has moved on and no longer needs or desires his services. If anything, his time spent as a salesman for Shinyglow could be interpreted as a nervous breakdown!

BOB: Come on, let’s be generous… it’s a mid-life crisis! Yes, Shinyglow products, with their corrosive, face-destroying cleaning spray. I like the Shinyglow boss Oswald Green, about as stereotypically Welsh a character as you’ll find on 1970s TV – in fact, I spent the entire scene coming to the conclusion that the part had clearly been written with Harry Secombe in mind. And yet again, we see Clegg driving! This time taking control of the Shinyglow van, as Blamire embarks on his short-lived career as a door-to-door salesman. ‘He’s had my leg in neutral twice,’ grumbles Compo. Great line.

ANDREW: I didn’t pick up on that! My new theory is that he must run over a sheep in some unseen adventure between series four and five; that’s the only way I can explain his latter-day abject fear of getting behind the wheel!

BOB: The scenes with Blamire’s face gradually turning green and lumpy following an accidental coating of Shinyglow seemed, again, to be heading into much broader, traditional sitcom territory than we’ve been used to so far, although the scenes in Sid’s Café afterwards are great.

I loved Ivy’s new-found spirituality in particular, and it’s beginning to dawn on me that, despite the central trio’s best attempts, it’s actually Sid that consistently gets the funniest lines in the show…

IVY: Mrs Brocklesby’s going to take me to a lady in Retford who’s in touch with an angel called Kathleen.

SID: Can you call in at Abercrombie’s on the way back? We’re running short of crisps.

ANDREW: At times he gives of a working man’s comic vibe; but in a good way. John Comer actually started his career in comedy acts that toured social clubs and later the variety circuit, and his delivery certainly reflects that.

BOB: The spiritual stuff is a very authentically mid-1970s thing… there was a lot of that kind of stuff around. The Sunday papers were forever filled with table-rappers who had been in touch with Buddy Holly ‘on the other side’, and mediums like Doris Stokes were huge public figures. I imagine most families had an elderly friend or relative (always a woman) who would offer ‘readings’ and attempt to predict the future from tea leaves – I certainly did, and remember my Gran and Mum talking about such things quite a lot. It was a very uncynical age.

As for Sid, it’s just struck me that he bridges the gap between the ‘real’ world and the strange, fantasy existence our three heroes occupy, doesn’t he? He’s the only character so far that has a foot in both camps… he’s married, with a job and a mortgage, but he’s utterly envious of the main trio and their idle drifting and occasionally manages to escape for long enough to join them in their daydreams.  I actually think he’s the character we’re meant to identify with the most… the Summer Wine everyman figure. It’s a great performance from John Comer as well.

The closing scene is lovely… sleeping, under a tree, in the afternoon sunshine. You can’t blame Sid for being jealous.

2.4 Some Enchanted Evening

In which Wally Batty makes his entrance and beats a hasty retreat.

ANDREW: For this episode, I’ve decided to take a risk. Ever since moving in with me, my partner Emma has been exposed to far more wrinkled stockings that she signed on for. Still, she’ll happily accommodate Ronnie Hazlehurst blaring through for the living room and even professed to enjoy our trip to Holmfirth (although I’m still not 100% convinced of that). Would asking her to review an episode alongside us be a step too far? There’s only one way to find out – say hello Emma.

EMMA: Hi. And I did enjoy Holmfirth, even if your Stephen Lewis impressions nearly sent me mad. Oh, It was funny watching you and Bob wee on a school field.

BOB: I remember being caught short under a tree on a long walk back from the pub, but it wasn’t a school field was it? We were in the woods! I feel bad about that now. Although undoubtedly Compo would be proud of us.

Pulling a Lewis

ANDREW: Yeah, anyway, what’s your background with Summer Wine?

EMMA: I used to watch it with my Granddad on Sunday afternoons. We’d have tea, pickled onions, egg and salad. I’ve got mixed emotions I suppose; happy memories, but it makes me miss my Granddad.

ANDREW: This is our first, full-on taste of the Compo/Nora dynamic that will dominate much of the series from now on. He’s truly in heat!

EMMA: He’s really seedy isn’t he? And the thought of him and Nora? Urgh! I’m actually struggling to understand his accent as well. Does it soften as the series go on?

ANDREW: It softens as the episode goes on!

BOB: Does it? I always thought Compo’s accent was really consistent – especially considering that Bill Owen was a rather well-spoken Londoner. I remember being fascinated as a kid by his archaic Yorkshire vocabulary… all those ‘thees’ and ‘thous’. I’ve always been intrigued by language and the way it varies through the generations… when I was a kid, I had an elderly next-door neighbour called Jim Cogan, who had been a coal miner in his working days and spoke with a very thick County Durham accent, and used vernacular that clearly dated from his youth… which, amazingly, was probably around the time of the First World War. I struggled to understand him sometimes when I was very small, and that both baffled and fascinated me. It’s a different accent, but the way that Compo speaks always reminds me a little of Jim.

ANDREW: I definitely think there is a slight difference between his accent during the location filming and the studio sequences. Perhaps his accent naturally softened a little when performing in front of a London studio audience. As you say, though, he’s completely convincing throughout.

BOB: A couple of nice 1970s references in these early scenes as well… Compo’s TV delivery man ‘caught the manager adjusting the horizontal hold on her from the record counter’ and Blamire mentions whooping cough as well! I don’t suppose anyone encounters horizontal holds or whooping cough much these days, but it’s nice to know their legacy has been immortalised.

EMMA: My Mam had whooping cough just the other month! I didn’t hear her whoop that much, just cough. She’s fine now.

ANDREW: And here he is, Wally Batty; Bob’s idol.

EMMA: Why? He’s a bit boring isn’t he? Just muh muh muh (Emma is attempting her own Stephen Lewis impression) He reminds me of Drew. No, not really!

ANDREW: I don’t think I’d mind! Besides, I should remind you that in our first six months of living together, both of us ran home to our Mams’ houses for a bit of respite. Admittedly, we didn’t sneak out during the night, pants in hand, but the principle is the same.

BOB: Wally is brilliant! It’s a fabulous performance from Joe Gladwin – so downtrodden and gloomy, and yet with a fabulous rapier wit. He’s Eeyore in a flat cap and britches.

NORA: (Pointing to Compo) Are you going to let him do what he likes to me?

WALLY: What’s there to like about it?

Brilliant. Again, I see a lot of Jim Cogan in him. Men who had married young, worked like a bastard every single day for fifty years, and now just wanted to eke out their remaining days with pipe, pigeons and ale. Bodies absolutely knackered by decades of back-breaking graft… I don’t know if it’s ever specified what Wally did for a living, but it was clearly bloody hard going and you can see every second of it etched into that face, and piled on top of those hunched shoulders.

When I see Wally Batty, I realise that I really did grow up in a very different era, even to you two fine people. I saw men like Wally all over the place in the 1970s… they were there, I absolutely knew them. But I don’t see them anymore.

Bob speaks from experience.

ANDREW: Joe Gladwin is fantastic. I’d like to believe that he just was Wally Batty as I can’t imagine him playing anything else. Character isn’t just written onto his face, it’s chiselled.

I find this whole episode a bit weird overall. Again there’s a bit of a nasty streak that one wouldn’t expect of the shows later years. I guess it also proves that Roy Clarke never had a master plan, as the whole Nora/Compo plotline is played out in it’s entirety in the space of one half hour. This is as close as they come to getting together, but both will be going through the motions for years to come.

BOB: Compo occasionally seems rueful about his bachelor status here… there a couple of moments when it’s clear his longing isn’t just about the pleasures of the flesh. He’s envious of Wally having a woman to care for him, and look after him. We see him in bed, in his long johns, drinking brown ale and reading ‘True Romances’ magazine as the radio plays out his request for Nora! Sent in under the pseudonym ‘Lonely Brown Eyes…’ its rather touching.

ANDREW: But brilliantly undermined when the DJ refuses to read out Compo’s list of things he’d like to do with Nora and advises him to seek a solicitor before attempting any of them. It’s a list you don’t want to spend much time contemplating!

BOB: There’s a nice bit of slight of hand from Roy Clarke in this episode as well… for a while we’re genuinely led to believe that Wally has left home for good, and Compo is sparking up a fully blown relationship with Nora. At this stage of the series we haven’t seen that much of their cat-and-mouse games, so we’ve no reason to believe that it couldn’t actually happen.

I love the scene in the café, where Blamire and Clegg contemplate life without Compo as part of their regular routine… Blamire has a rant about the unions, Clegg muses about the possibility of God returning to Earth as an insect, and the conversation just doesn’t work at all. They both as much as admit that they don’t actually have much in common… they need the common factor of Compo to bounce off and unite them as a trio. It’s very tight and disciplined characterisation from both writer and actors.  And a neat twist on the time-worn cliché of the teenage boy getting his first girlfriend and abandoning his mates at the drop of a hat. Here the ‘teenagers’ are all pushing sixty, but the same principle applies.

ANDREW: Emma, as a lady of the female persuasion, what did you make of the representation of women here?

EMMA: Well they’re all lesbians or husband abusers. There are no desirable women, at least not by normal standards. Then again, going back to when I first saw Summer Wine, I can recognise a bit of my Grandma and Grandad in the relationships depicted here. A bit less abusive, but with a lack of love on surface and something more underneath. My Grandad wasn’t a Wally, though, and gave more back in return!

ANDREW: What did you think overall then?

EMMA: It was fine. A bit slow though, not much seems to happen.

ANDREW: That’s part of why we like it.

EMMA: Yeah, but you’re weird.

BOB: I’ve been trying to shoehorn this in for a while, but you’re right… Summer Wine works very differently from most other sitcoms of the era. You watch most 1970s sitcoms and they’re very formulaic… you have a small bunch of regular characters in a recognisable place, and every week there’s a plot device that’s set up in the first five minutes, spirals out of control to comedy effect with hilarious consequences, and is resolved in the last five minutes… often with some kind of grand finale… a stunt, or a special routine, or some other way of hammering home a grand punchline. Then the reset switch is pressed so we can do the whole thing again next week.

Early Summer Wine isn’t like that at all… lots of episodes have no real plot at all, they just… drift. Especially in these early series, our three heroes usually aren’t facing any particular problem or pursuing the kind of quest that would normally drive the plot along, they’re just wandering idly through town and countryside, and we follow them. Guest characters drift back and forth through the episodes, often contributing nothing whatsoever in traditional plot terms, but simply adding colour and depth to the world we’re being presented with. There’s often no natural end to the episodes… they just fade out with a gentle fizzle. It’s all about character and atmosphere at this stage, and it’s a breath of fresh air. It feels real, like we’re eavesdropping on randomly-selected thirty minute segments of these characters’ lives and daydreams. It’s absolutely why I like it.

ANDREW: Summer Wine land definitely feels like it has existed long before the cameras start rolling and I think it is mainly the multitude of acquaintances and passersby who drift in and out the episodes that contribute to this. It’s just a lovely place to spend some time, even if it can be grim. Will you come back for more, later?

EMMA: I guess I wouldn’t object too much. I’ll go back to Holmfirth if we can stay at the same place with the nice breakfasts and mad dogs.

BOB: I’d forgotten about the dogs! I’d love to go back. We need to stay somewhere with a TV and DVD player so we can watch a couple of episodes while we’re there!

Summer Winos (1.5+1.6)

1.5 The New Mobile Trio

In which our three friends take up motoring.

Andrew: Clegg being keen to have a go on the driving simulator would seem at odds with his later fear of getting behind the wheel. Then again, the way in which even playing this children’s game gets him agitated does seem to point towards his latter day nerves. Despite the fact that he still wants to buy a car you can put this down to him looking back on his past as a motorist with rose (or toffee) tinted spectacles and the trio’s lack of success during this instalment might be seen to scar him for life. Some would say that this isn’t the sort of series I should be inspecting for watertight continuity of characterisation but… actually, they’re probably right.

Bob: No, it is slightly jarring seeing them buying a car, as I think a big part of the appeal of the show is that they’re NOT mobile. It’s a certainly a big part of the ‘retirement as second childhood’ theme… yes, childhood is a gloriously liberating time, with no real responsibilities, but it can also be a frustrating time. When you’re a kid, you’re effectively trapped in your home town and its surroundings, bound by the limits of how far you can walk (or at least cycle) during the day. ‘We had to make our own entertainment,’ to coin a phrase. Our three heroes are equally trapped and similarly making do with their lot.

By the way, I’ve NEVER seen anything like that driving simulator, even in the 1970s. How did it work? It just seemed to be seamless footage filmed through a car windscreen, it can’t have responded to the controls, surely?

And £30 for a car! Even a knackered old one.

Andrew: Clegg on his expired partner, “My dear wife, God rest the silly bitch…” I know I keep pointing out these lines, but bloody hell!

Bob: He’s nasty to the kid on the driving simulator as well, (‘Ever heard the phrase, suffer the little children…?’) and – amazingly – it’s Clegg’s initiative to buy a car and get out on the open road. Very much at odds with his ‘not getting involved’ persona that was firmly in place by the end of the 1970s. You’re right, Drew… let’s keep within the spirit of the show and say that Roy Clarke deliberately lightened Clegg’s character as he got older, mellowing his temper but narrowing his ambitions. I like that.


A classic ‘dotty old lady’ turn from the fabulously-named Mollie Maureen in this episode. She pretty much made a career out of similar roles, I remember her popping up in Kenny Everett’s various TV shows in the 1980s. And Ronald Lacey as well! No-one does a greasy, seedy leer quite like Ronald Lacey. He even does it in Raiders of the Lost Ark. I wonder if any other of the Lucasfilm family pop up in Summer Wine? Do we get to see Michael Sheard or Leslie Schofield at any point? Oh, the anticipation…

Another 1970s flashback for me… the kids with the grimy hair, sitting on the stone steps in their vests. It just took me back, for some reason. A tiny snapshot of nothingness that just encapsulates Northern England of the mid-1970s. It’s the little things that set me off.

1.6 Hail Smiling Morn Or Thereabouts

In which Blamire whips out his brownie and asks Compo for a better exposure.

Andrew: I had no idea Clegg had two houses during the series. This first one doesn’t seem as fitting somehow. That sofa is far too seventies for a start.

Bob: You’re right, but… it’s not just Clegg’s house, is it? It’s his marital home. We’re not sure how long it’s been since his wife died, but it’s clearly still HER house… the patterned wallpaper, the plush sofa, the ornaments and soft furnishings. Clegg’s later house is a single man’s home, but this one has seen a woman’s touch. It’s nicely done.

Andrew: During this episode, I think we get the one and only time we ever get of Mrs. Clegg. Compo says, “She were always ugly, then?” but to be fair to the woman, the fleeting glimpse we get off her wedding picture reveals a slim and fairly attractive bride. Perhaps she was just ugly on the inside? But just check out the lingering look Clegg gives her photograph at the end of that scene. Despite all of his bravado, he does seem to miss her, or at least to have admired her.

Bob: I love Clegg’s lengthy anecdote of his and his wife’s aborted camping expedition, where she wept and ‘pined for her draining board’. Lovely writing again, and superbly played by Peter Sallis. And yes… the passing look that he gives the photo is very touching. You could blink and you’d miss it, but the love and the loss is all there in a brief, beautiful moment. I wonder if that second of silence was scripted, or if it’s pure Peter Sallis? A gorgeous character moment.

Andrew: I’d love to get hold of some of the photographs that Blamire takes during the course of this episode. More-so than the staged publicity shots, they seem to capture the playfulness of our trio when they get to mucking about. It would seem unlikely, but it would be nice to think that those negatives are still locked up in a BBC archive somewhere.

Bob: That’s a fab little sequence. The gentle pastimes that they pursue in these early episodes are far more effective and believable than the stunts that came in later years. There’s actually a scene in the ‘Spring Fever’ episode, two weeks earlier, where they’re idly drifting down the river on a raft made from planks and empty barrels. And it’s just casually dropped into the episode as an incidental feature… a bit of background to the REALLY important stuff – the dialogue. Same with the photography here… it’s very nicely done.

BLAMIRE: She married a University lecturer!

CLEGG: Well don’t hold that against her, anybody can make a mistake.

Andrew: I suppose I should be offended by Clegg’s comment, but to be honest I can sort of see his point…

Bob: Yeah, but university lecturers were GENUINELY weird in the early 1970s. Most people would never have actually seen one outside of the Open University on BBC2. The nearest things to universities anywhere near me in the 1970s were Teesside Polytechnic and Cleveland Art College… and even those were seen as dangerously subversive refuges for hippies, communists and other similar beardy-weirdy types. Breeding grounds for potential Mr Wainwrights! It was only in the 1990s that ‘going to uni’ became the almost universal experience that it is now.

Some more lovely long-forgotten vocabulary in this episode… Compo says ‘Speak up, we can’t hear you in the Fourpennies’ to an arguing Sid and Ivy – presumably a reference to the cheap seats at a theatre? And Ivy delivers a classic put-down to Sid… ‘Three pints of ale, and you think you’re Jack Benny’. I wonder how archaic that sounded in 1973? The height of Benny’s popularity had arguably been thirty years earlier, and yet… it’s same as making reference now to someone who was popular in 1981. Kenny Everett, or Russ Abbott, maybe? Wibbly wobbly, timey wimey.

Andrew: Are there many abandoned farm buildings scattered along the countryside these days, or have they all been converted into stylish apartments and getaway cottages by the team from Grand Designs?

Bob: No, they’re out there. I walk a lot on the North Yorkshire Moors, and there are still some gloriously rugged and desolate little places. Fancy watching Series 2 in one of them? I’ll bring my laptop…


Summer Winos (1.3+1.4)

1.2 Pâté and Chips


In which our trio visit a Stately Home with Compo’s nephew and family.

ANDREW: A very rare trip out of Holmfirth in this episode. Actually, from what I’ve read of your childhood, this is how I imagine your family outings. Just with fewer kids. Any truth to that?

BOB: Yes. I find all of these early episodes staggeringly evocative of my early childhood. The black, soot-stained buildings, the chugging, unreliable cars, and the security of family life, for better and for worse. We get to meet unspecified relatives of Compo in this episode – the charming Chip and Connie and their kids – and they reminded me so much of the young-ish relatives that surrounded my childhood in the mid 1970s. The uncles, aunts and cousins who – by the time they hit 25 – were securely married with a small army of kids and a job that they’d reasonably expect to hold for the next forty years of their lives.

It’s gone now. Look at me, for crying out loud… I’m 37, single, childless and spend my working life effectively messing about. And most of my friends have similar lifestyles. And yet a significant chunk of me pines for Chip and Connie’s life. There’s a great moment in the pub towards the end of the episode where they exchange a loving look and a very tender peck on the lips. I’ve no idea if it was scripted, but it’s a lovely, lovely touch.

ANDREW: There’s a lovely little moment of melancholy in this episode that I didn’t actually spot the first time I watched it. Just before they are about to set off for the country home, Ivy is holding Connie and Chip’s baby.

IVY: We’ve got none you know. All I can do is mother him.

(GESTURES TO SID)

Chip cracks a joke about letting her have one of theirs and says how he thinks everyone should be sterilised, but as Ivy is waving good-bye to Compo’s extended family there’s a very poignant music cue that seems to suggest there is something to the fact that she and Sid never had kids? It’s quite a beautiful little moment combining fine writing, acting and composing that adds depth to the supporting characters. Taking this into consideration really sheds new light on their relationship.

BOB: Oh, I didn’t spot that at all! Eagle-eyes Smith strikes again. I do love the way we’re slowly discovering more about these characters, but at a charmingly slow pace. I think this is the first episode to suggest that Compo carries a torch for Nora Batty, isn’t it? He’s stolen her washing line to hold up his trousers, and says ‘I thought I’d wear it close to me skin’.

And Ioved the scene in the café, where Compo and Chip both eat bread and dripping. Again, just gloriously evocative of its time… I don’t suppose anyone under the age of 30 has any idea about ‘dripping’ any more (do you, Mr S? Come on, be honest) but I vividly remember it being a staple part of the North-Eastern diet at least up until the late 1970s. It was edible, so it got eaten. Waste not, want not.

Another sign of the times… the ripple of excitement amongst the stately home tour party when it seems as though His Lordship is about to make an appearance! Hushed deference, and Clegg even frantically combs his hair. I remember the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, when every street around my house was bedecked in red, white and blue bunting, and the high street became a carnival, complete with a float procession and a fairground. Unthinkable in 2010, the world is just that tad too cynical.

ANDREW: Taking of charming moments, during one scene where the trio are walking towards the café, Michael Bates checks and adjusts his watch when the church bell goes off. Now that’s either good dubbing or fine improvising and I can’t imagine that the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop went anywhere near Last of the Summer Wine.

BOB: Sensational! I missed that as well. Such a fine actor. It’s lovely little touches like that that show you how quickly they began to inhabit these characters.

ANDREW: Classic line “I should fetch a shovel old lad, he’s crapped all over t’capet.”

BOB: Indeed! Swiftly followed by a lovely poignant exchange in the pub, as they drunkenly recall their wartime romantic exploits.

BLAMIRE: It soon passes, doesn’t it?

CLEGG: Aye. You don’t get a lot of time given for being 19.

Roy Clarke at his best, and a finely-timed moment of melancholy. Has Blamire been perennially single? I had the impression he’d been married, but this episode suggests his entire romantic life consists of a few chaste exchanges over three decades earlier. It’s a very downbeat ending.

1.4 Spring Fever

In which Compo’s sap rises.

Andrew: Even by this fourth episode, Compo’s character is so well defined that the fact that he would start feeling romantic and choose to clean up his act sets up a real sense of mystery. As a viewer, you want to find out what’s going on as much as his friends do.

Crikey, even when Liz Smith was young she was old!

Bob: Liz Smith was startling in this… for those not joining us in this marathon Wineathon (come on in, the water’s lovely), she plays a classic ‘mutton-dressed-as-lamb’ old bird, resplendent in knee-length boots, red PVC coat and gigantic blonde beehive. My initial reaction was, oddly, that I could fully imagine this character being Denise Royle’s grandmother! Liz will have been in her early fifties when this was shot.

I was slightly baffled by the sexual politics here… Liz’s character responds to Compo’s advertisement for a ‘housekeeper’, but there seems to be a tacit acceptance by both parties that a bit of – ahem – hanky panky will be a small but crucial aspect of the job. Was that accepted practice back in the early 1970s? Maybe I shouldn’t be too surprised, this is, after all, an episode in which a clothes shop in a small West Yorkshire town has the bold slogan ‘IMPRESS THE CHICKS!’ proudly emblazoned in the window.

Interesting that we see Compo quite readily buying new clothes in this episode, and that it isn’t especially played for laughs. I’m sure there are scenes in future episodes where he’s shown to be virtually surgically attached to his moth-ridden jacket and woolly hat, and any new get-up is inevitably outlandish and inappropriate, but not here. He looks fairly smart in his new suit.

Ivy seems to be a little softer in these early episodes as well, she even compliments Compo on his new look.

Andrew: Compo’s advances don’t seem as affectionate or as innocent as they would later, at least not during the opening scene in which he pressures Norah to leave her husband and especially so when he mentions wanting to get his date drunk and have his way with her! Then again, as his “sap rises” as Clegg so delightfully puts it, you sense that he has a real appreciation for what his love rival takes for granted. Not so much the companionship of a woman really, but more the being looked after.

You spot Compo polishing a bugle as he cleans the house. Amazingly, Clarke pays this off years later in the millennium special, when the character takes it back to the scene of his wartime service in France.

Bob: I think Compo just wants his leg over, far more than you’re prepared to admit! And his washing done as well, admittedly. Take a look at the scene in which he’s lying in bed polishing that bugle… it’s riddled with unbridled sexual symbolism. I bet Mary Whitehouse was straight on the phone to Sir Charles Curran.

Andrew: I think I’ve figured out why these early episodes feel so strange. This might seem a bit weird, but although it was always broadcast on the BBC, these first samples of Summer Wine feel like ITV productions. There’s something of an emptiness to the studio scenes and the exteriors seem really roughly done, grotty even. There certainly aren’t any of the production values that were bestowed upon the production later on and that are seen as hallmarks of prestigious BBC productions. I’m not sure any of the above would make sense to the kind of normal person who doesn’t feel the urge to subject themselves to things like Kinvig, Don’t Drink the Water and George and Mildred.

Bob: Yes, you’re right… it’s the whole soot-stained streets thing again. It’s absolutely not an advert for Holmfirth, the place is portrayed as a rather rough, shabby Yorkshire town. I have a theory the ITV sitcoms of the 1970s are always a more authentic glimpse into British society than their BBC equivalents, particularly when it comes to the working classes… and I wonder if that’s due in part to the regional nature of ITV? A sitcom like Oh No, It’s Selwyn Froggitt! – set in working class Yorkshire – was made entirely in the county itself (even the studio scenes were filmed in Leeds) by authentic Yorkshire writers, cast and crew. It couldn’t NOT be reflective of its setting and social make-up.

Whereas the BBC might make the occasional foray into the provinces for location filming, but their production team and studio work would all have been London-centric. I think it’s testament to the early Summer Wine team that they managed to transcend that so successfully.

Some nice 1970s touches in this episode as well… Compo idly leaves his door unlocked while he’s out, there’s a tantalising glimpse of the TV’s famous Test Card F, and the references to Home Help and Milk Stout both warmed the cockles of my heart. And Kathy Staff looks so young! Just checked, and she was only a few years older than me when she made these episodes. Amazing. Or maybe not, I probably seem just as ancient to your youthful eyes, Mr Smith.