Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The last of The Last of the Summer Wine

Breaking news: the BBC's longest running "comedy" (and I use the term loosely) series is finally being axed, after 37 years. If you have the good fortune to live outside the UK and not know anything about "The Last of the Summer Wine", it's about a trio of retired Yorkshiremen who, no longer constrained by the need to make a living, discover their inner child and become increasingly eccentric.

The series is much loved by the sort of people who like the poem "When I am an Old Woman I shall Wear Purple" and whilst there is something to be said for raging against the dying of the light, the cloying sentimentality of "The Last of the Summer Wine" is one of the most convincing arguments I've come across for euthanasia.

Apparently the last episode will be accompanied by special, Yorkshire-based editions of Countryfile and Songs of Praise.

The controller of BBC One, Jay Hunt, said "I am delighted some of the channel's other heritage brands will be helping to say goodbye in style."

Heritage brands? Where do people find phrases like this?


Julia said...

Intolerably dreadful. Nothing made me (American) feel more foreign than sitting with my (British) inlaws in gales of laughter watching this.

on site said...

well, we have some sort of fortune to live outside the UK, but we get hours of elderly British comedies: Summer Wine, yes, years of it. Also Keeping Up Appearances, Waiting For God, To the Manor Born, even The Good Life. They are funny, sort of, the first time, but increasingly shocking the second and by accident the third time: so much about class, keeping up, not going native despite one's relatives.
I'm sure that in Canada Are You Being Served is on an endless loop, always running somewhere. I worked in Liberty's in 1973: was it like Are You Being Served? Well, actually, yes, it often was.

Steerforth said...

I was surprised by how often Are You Being Served was shown in the US, years after it stopped being broadcast in Britain.

With the exception of The Good Life, I don't know why anyone outside the UK (or even inside) would want to watch these programmes. What have the Canadians done to deseve Keeping Up Appearances?

Julia, I felt foreign too, watching my parents roar with laughter as Compo raced down a hill on a go-kart.

on site said...

closet snobs, the lot of us.
Summer Wine, from what I have heard, is loved here by aging xenophobes who call the Qu├ębecois 'blacks'.

I can't begin to describe the layers of affiliations of Canadians of British ancestry.

Keeping Up Appearances: the eldest sister syndrome, the feckless middle daughter and the drop-out youngest sister. Can't remember the name of the fellow is who is always in his undershirt, but he has a recognisable Bob & Doug MacKenzie aspect, thus Canadians lodge themselves with him. Hyacinth is horrible Toronto, Rose is English, the sloppy sister is Vancouver. You see, it all makes sense to us.

Jim Murdoch said...

My wife’s father, who lives in California, has a great affection for the show, as did my own father, neither of whom is anything like any of the men – who are all hen-pecked, every one of them, to a man. I’ve watched it on and off over the years but it lost a lot after Bill Owen died and I’m surprised it staggered on without him for as long. So I can’t pretend I’ll miss it. When I was young we watched a lot of sit-coms, On the Buses, Love Thy Neighbour, Rising Damp but I couldn’t tell you the last British sit-com I followed religiously. Probably Red Dwarf actually.

Steerforth said...

I'm fascinated by the idea of K.U.A as a metaphor for Canadian society! Why is Toronto horrible? As for Vancouver, didn't it top a poll as the best city to live in? Please tell me more.

Jim, I also used to watch the programmes you mentioned and it's interesting how badly some have aged, whilst others are even better than I remember.

I can't imagine that the DVD sales for On the Buses will ever trouble the bestseller lists - I saw an episode on ITV3 recently and it was breathtakingly awful. However, Rising Damp is brilliant. Not only is it very well written, but the cast are really strong.

I think the greatest comedies are always about the gap between who we'd like to be and who we actually are. Whether it's Hancock or Frasier, the theme's always the same - the main character thinks they've discovered something that's going to improve their social standing or personal life, but of course they always end up with egg on their face. The humour comes out of the fact that they take themselves so seriously.

Tim Footman said...

I think 'heritage brands' means 'programmes for old people'. Granted, Last of the Summer Wine is pretty tedious, but if you've ever seen the grotesque BBC3 teen comedy Coming of Age you'll be rushing back to Holmfirth, laughing merrily at the senile reprobates and their hi-lar-i-ous going-downhill-in-a-bath antics.

sukipoet said...

Well, I must admit that I love many British sit coms including mysteries. the ones with Judi Dench for example. And my dad loved "Keeping Up Appearances." The guy on the left, I've seen him in many shows. I think he was quite good in the Vicar of Dilby (which was sometimes not very good but a few times truthfully had me rolling on the floor with laughter.)

sukipoet said...

My Dad, by the by, went to Yale and Johns Hopkins and was a pathologist and very intellectual. Perhaps that was the appeal of KUP, it was so far out of his ken that it was funny. Also, he was a tad henpecked in his home life self.

on site said...

Hyacinth: Conrad Black's Toronto.
Rose: Vancouver, lovely Vancouver where no one cares if they work, or keep up with anything, or indeed if anyone else even knows about them. Oblivious and happy.
Daisy: no equivalent.

Hannah Stoneham said...

Good grief, i didn't know that this was still on, I thought that it had gone out with the ark. This is one advantage of not having a television.

John Self said...

I wonder if they ever actually went downhill in a bath, or if it's just one of those pieces of received cultural wisdom that we all believe?

It's interesting that Keeping Up Appearances has been mentioned several times as a comedy to rival Last of the Summer Wine for badness. It too was written by Roy Clarke, who also gave us the ever-disappointing Open All Hours. Clarke's talent seems to be to get good comedy performers - Ronnie Barker, Patricia Routledge, David Jason - and give them nothing funny to do or say.

Clarke is now 80 years old. Do you reckon he's got one more shit sitcom in him before he pops off?

Steerforth said...

That's a good question, but even if there was no bath, the fact that so many people believe that there was one is testament to Roy Clarke's reliance on crude slapstick, rather than poignant observation and wit.

Why did everyone love Compo? My parents thought he was great, but whenever they met anyone vaguely eccentric in real life, they were usually appalled.

I really hope that Roy Clarke calls it a day.

Tim Footman said...

Laugh? I... er, didn't.

Richard de pesando MA(RCA) said...

Episode 9876.

Scene 1.

Nice Dr Shipman and his kindly wife finally move into the Old Grange and open up the new surgery on the dot of 9am.

"feeling a little off colour, Compo? - the Dr Will see you now" says the smiling receptionist " you were lucky to get an appointment - we're fully booked today"

Scene 2.

"Oh Harold... not again...."

Steerforth said...

Thanks for the clip Tim. So, there really was a bath scene.

I see they love it on YouTube!

Steerforth said...

Yes Richard, that would be a fitting end, although I wouldn't mind a Tarantinoesque bloodbath, or grand Bond-style climax.

I was going to suggest one outcome, but it would be in very poor taste.

sarangkot said...

Curiously, Last of the Summer Wine was one of the first programmes made in widescreen, and one of the first made in HD, before both services had officially launched. All the landscape shots were ideal for trying the new technology.

Richard de pesando MA(RCA) said...

Now that I think of it - "When I Was An Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple" was the reading I gave at my mothers funeral - I could think of nothing more appropriate for a 73 year old manic depressive alcoholic X-librarian, safe in the knowledge that not a single person there had ever heard the piece before - but then, living in a tiny, backward, Welsh village surrounded by troglodytes was probably what drove he mad in the first place.

If they felt it appropriate to end 'One Foot In The Grave" with the bizzare image of the saintly Hannah Gordon tossing asside her watercolour brushes and mowing the star down in a road rage 'accident' - it's quite suitable to unleash the dogs or war on "Summer Wine" - how about a "Masque of the Red Death" finale - Alan Bennet in a black robe - slowly drifting through the Yorkshire Countryside venting death and pestilence in his wake - the Four Horsemen of Harrogate at his heels...

You will have to excuse me today - my back has 'gone' and the massive doses of painkillers are making me hallucinate.

Steerforth said...

I love the fact that a casual remark about LOTSW results in four times as many comments as normal! Now I know where I've been going wrong.

David said...

I used to watch LOTSW years ago but not so much recently. My impression is that the slapstick has increased over the years (didn't they actually introduce a "mad inventor in a shed" sort of character in recent years whose contraptions have tended to promote this?) As I recall things it was much more the three old buffers wandering the moors and chatting to each other.

Anonymous said...

I've just discovered this show and did also receive a dvd collection from Santa. It is REFRESHING, and I LOVE it.

No cops, cold cases, special victim units, talking/lying heads, propaganda spitting, gratuitous nudity, pregnant teens, or obesely jiggling, drunken, fake-nail, fake-hair, fake-tan, fake-boobs, fake-friends and/or housewives..."reality".

..Just three witty, fearless little old men wandering around, deciding what trouble to get into.

What's not to love?

Martin said...

For those who live elsewhere in the world, who don't `understand' T.L.O.T.S.W., GOOD! Now they understand how we feel about the endless Yank cops'n'robbers and CSI's, we are subjected to on UK TV!! Ironsides, Colombo, and Perry Mason ad nausium, NCIS? Oh NOOOOOO! Compared to all that, the Last of the summer wine is wonderfull, c/w First of the summer wine of course.