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Last of the Summer Wine first aired in 1973, in the United Kingdom. New seasons were broadcast most years since then (1973, 1975-79, 1982-83, 1985-86, 1988-2010), as well as multiple holiday specials, though it has now been cancelled. Should be noted that it is currently the longest-running sitcom in the world.
It centres on a Comic Trio of elderly men in rural Yorkshire, who routinely get themselves into comic scrapes, often while trying to help somebody. The actors, and presumably the characters, were in their 50s when the show was first aired. The surviving cast members are now in their 80s.
The original trio was:
- Compo — Scruffy and lazy, played by Bill Owen
- Clegg — Quiet and sensible, played by Peter Sallis
- Blamire — Pompous, opinionated conservative, played by Michael Bates.
Blamire was replaced in 1976 by the first of several Suspiciously Similar Substitutes, Foggy Dewhurst (pompous, ex-military). Foggy quickly elected himself the leader of the other two, who put up with this arrangement because Foggy's schemes always went so amusingly wrong. Subsequent leaders, all pompous, were incompetent inventor and ex-teacher Seymour Utterthwaite (1986-90), Foggy Dewhurst returned (1990-97) and ex-policeman Herbert Truelove (1998-2010). Toward the end, a new trio took the central role, while Clegg and Truly receded into supporting roles.
Most of the characters have a Yorkshire accent, and exemplify many of the associated stereotypes.
When the actor playing Compo died in 1999, his son joined the cast playing Compo's long lost son, while Compo himself was replaced by Billy Hardcastle, who models himself on Robin Hood. Many of the supporting actors have died during the show's run, with their deaths being written into the script. Over the years, many popular guest stars have become regular cast members; as a result, there are now Loads and Loads of Characters.
Despite their age, the characters appear to have rubber bones, routinely suffering accidents which would leave most people
their age severely injured.
During its run, the show has used the majority of Comedy Tropes, most commonly Zany Scheme. It also has many running gags: Howard and Marina's affair, Auntie Wainwright's shop, Nora Batty's stockings.
Several older members of the British Royal Family once stated LOTSW was their favourite television programme. More bizarrely, so has President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan.
Writer Roy Clarke has some degree of character crossover: there are strong similarities between LOTSW's Edie Pegden and Hyacinth Bucket from Keeping Up Appearances, and between Auntie Wainwright and Arkwright of Open All Hours. Nora Batty's actress also played a very similar character, Mrs Blewitt, in Open All Hours.
In August 2010, the show finally concluded after 31 series, around the same time that ITV's equivelant Long Runner, The Bill (which is actually about a decade younger than Last of the Summer Wine) was also canceled, which brought about the end of an era to many British television viewers (and, if you count in the end of the American Long Runner Law & Order, this gets global).
Came fourteenth in Britains Best Sitcom.
It would be easier to list the tropes this series has NOT used by now, but some of the more frequently invoked are:
- Abhorrent Admirer- Marina to Clegg. Supposedly Compo to Nora Batty, but there were increasing hints over the years that she secretly welcomed his attentions.
- Absentee Actor- Barry was gone for several years working on another show. Glenda mentioned him very frequently during that time in order to indicate that he hadn't just run off.
- Anyone Can Die- Not worked into the show so much as it is the fact that most of the actors on the show are very old. Despite this, the show has had a very long run.
- Apron Matron- This is perhaps THE Sitcom for Apron Matrons, as practically every female cast member has fit this trope. Clegg says of their town in the first episode: "This is God's number-one area for unpleasant women of strong character."
- Those who didn't when they were introduced only needed a decade or two to assimilate.
- The Artifact- Tom was initially intended to take his father's place in the trio. However, the result was awkward because Tom was so much younger than the other two. After a small number of episodes, Billy Hardcastle started to take Tom's place. But, Tom has stayed on the show, now in a much-reduced role as Auntie Wainwright's shop assistant.
- Earlier on, the library's importance as a setting dwindled considerably from its original conception (the show itself was nearly titled "The Library Mob").
- Ascended Extra- probably one of the biggest culprits of this. The characters of Wesley, Smiler, Auntie Wainright, Billy and all three policemen were originally one off appearances, who later came back as regulars. Countless other minor characters were increased in importance (Alvin, Billy & Entwistle graduating to members of the main trio).
- Beach Episode- A multi-parter was done in Scarborough early in the series, and another one, in France, just before Compo's death.
- Blind Mistake- Eli's whole shtick.
- British Accents- Most characters naturally have a Yorkshire one, and Edie tries to put on an absurdly exaggerated posh southern one (which often breaks down).
- Brother Chuck-The show was usually good about providing some explanation if a character left the series, but a few slipped through the cracks. A noticeable one was the departure of Billy Hardcastle, who worked his way up to being one of the central trio, then vanished and was never spoken of again.
- Bungling Inventor- Seymour.
- Cast Herd- Have been used increasingly since Seymour introduced the extended Pegden family in the '80s. Currently the major ones are the main trio (which Clegg and Truly have split off from, to be replaced by others); Howard, his wife Pearl, his would-be girlfriend Marina, and Pearl's friend Nellie; Barry and Glenda; Auntie Wainwright, Tom, and (until recently) Smiler; and the two policemen. There was formerly a prominent herd of female characters, but with the deaths of Edie Pegden and Nora Batty, they've become a bit less organized.
- Catch Phrase
- Chew Toy- Smiler.
- Comic Trio- Less so in recent years; following Compo's death, the series has tinkered with pairs, quartets, quintets, and mobs without matching the success of the original trio.
- Commuting on a Bus- In the most recent season, Clegg and Truly no longer receive top-billing, and it appears they will only be making brief appearances from now on.
- Due to age, obviously; so this is not a bad thing.
- Complaining About Shows You Don't Watch The show was reguarly derided in the media, and critisised by people who constantly bring up the "Compo in a Bathtub" moment, and talk about the show as if it was a regular occurance. As any actual fan will tell you, said moment is only a single scene from one episode- rolling bathtubs do not appear in the other 294 episodes (or indeed in around 95% of that episode) yet it's referred to as if it's all the show was ever about. The episode in question didn't even air until 20 years into the show's run either.
- Correspondence Course
- Cut a Slice, Take the Rest- Compo does it with sugar and tea. He doesn't so much take sugar with his tea as the inverse.
- The Danza- Tom Simmonite (Tom Owen), following in the footsteps of his dad William "Compo" Simmonite" (Bill Owen).
- Darker and Edgier- The original novel by Roy Clarke was noticeably darker in tone than the resulting sitcom; it was adapted fairly faithfully as a special halfway through the show's run, with Foggy instead of Blamire, and the change in tone from a usual episode is quite jarring. (It uses all the usual Yorkshire themes, like adultery- and death-based plot, but does so in a much more serious manner).
- Driving Stick- Edie ("This stupid stick thing! It's your father, he keeps moving the pedals around!"). Not that she'd be any better in an automatic...
- An inversion with Clegg, who's terrified at the prospect of driving an automatic. But then, he's terrified of driving anyway...
- Everyone Went to School Together- True of almost the whole cast, except maybe second-generation people like Barry and Glenda. Ignores the sometimes wide age disparity between actors, or the fact that some characters were introduced as newcomers.
- Expy- Series writer Roy Clarke has pulled a number of Expies on his own shows. Auntie Wainwright is a female variation of Arkwright from Open All Hours, while Hyacinth from Keeping Up Appearances took Edie Pegden's pretentions to a greater extreme.
- Fake Nationality- Peter Sallis, a southerner, as Norman Clegg. His accent was convincing enough for Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park, upon calling him to ask him to voice Wallace, refused to believe that Sallis' natural accent was his own.
- Bill Owen as well.
- Flanderization — Clegg went from being the acerbic, logical one to being the lilly-livered coward of the trio. It started with him pointing out flaws in Foggy's schemes and snowballed into him desperately seeking any excuse to "give up and go home". In fact, all of the characters have been reduced to their best-known personality trait, if only for expediency's sake...LoadsAndLoadsOfCharacters, and all that.
- Forgotten Theme Tune Lyrics- Only used in the adaptation of the original novel (see above).
- Alternative, more specific but equally poignant lyrics were used in the episode where Compo dies.
- Glad I Thought of It- Seymour and Foggy are prone to this.
- Henpecked Husband- Practically all of them
- Hey, It's That Guy!- Frank Thornton (Truly Truelove), a.k.a. Captain Peacock.
- To a lesser extent, Brian Wilde (Foggy Dewhirst) a.k.a. Mr Barrowclough and Stephen Lewis (Smiler) a.k.a. Blakey from On the Buses. And of course Thora Hird (Edie) recognisable as herself from Songs of Praise.
- Possibly less known is Micheal Bates, who played Rangi Ram in It Ain't Half Hot Mum.
- Aunty Wainwright was played by Jean Alexander, who was Hilda Ogden.
- Hey, It's That Voice!- Peter Sallis, the actor who plays Cleggy usually is more known to many non-british as the voice of Wallace in Wallace and Gromit.
- Homemade Inventions- Seymour, Foggy, Wesley
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming- Nearly every episode name just adds to the eccentricity of the show but there are some that stick out more then others such as "The Inventor of the 40ft Ferret," "When You Take A Good Bite, Yorkshire Tastes Terrible," and "The only Diesel Saxophone in Captivity."
- In fact a lot of the more unusual episode names are actually a line of dialogue from the episode- being done many years before Two and A Half Men had the idea!
- I Know Karate- Foggy, or so he claims.
- I Meant to Do That- Most times when Foggy would really mess something up he would find a way to boast about it. Examples include being put in his place by an angry bystander (he claims he stopped it escalating into actual violence), falling off a cart (into a paratrooper roll), and completely misunderstanding what a Loxley Losenge was (he claimed he was trying to imply it's too important to discuss in public)
- Informed Attribute- When Tom Owen first joined the cast, the other characters frequently made a point of remarking that he was "just like his father", the recently departed Compo/Bill Owen. Even though there were some mild similarities, the comments seemed more intended to convince viewers to embrace the younger Owen as a replacement for the older one.
- Last Kiss- Compo had a heart attack when woken up by Nora Batty, who was dressed as a cabaret dancing girl. She later recounted giving him mouth to mouth and his last words of "Can we try this again when I'm feeling better?"
- Loads and Loads of Characters- With the exception that all the characters usually appear in every episode. This seems to have been done so as to have plenty of characters to fall back on if one of the cast members dies, retires, or becomes too infirm to participate. Similarly, having such a large supporting cast reduces the strain on the principle actors, who by now are well into their 80s. Of course, this means an episode can only afford to have the tiniest shred of a plot so they can fit in enough scenes to accomodate all the players.
- Long Runners- the if you believe the BBC, the longest-running sitcom in the world, ever, in fact.
- Grandma, What Massive Hotness You Have!- At least, Howard thinks so about Marina. Based on her wardrobe, Marina thinks so also.
- Compo claims this about Nora Batty.
- Iconic Item- Compo's trousers and wellies.
- Last-Name Basis: Clegg.
- Mars and Venus Gender Contrast: One of the main drivers of humour. Usually approached by the women, but occasionally the men would weigh in as well, such as Norman Clegg stating the reason why women scare him is that they don't like The Goon Show.
- Multiple Choice Past- Foggy. Although he always had the attribute of 'exaggerating his military experience', in his first run he seemed to have some such experience and exaggerated it a little, whereas in his second run this was Flanderised into apparently never having seen action at all, but claiming to be a master of martial arts, trained silent killer and having been offered the crowns of several native tribes.
- No Accounting for Taste- Just about all the aforementioned Apron Matron & Henpecked Husband pairings. Aw, Look — They Really Do Love Each Other sometimes applies.
- And then there's Clegg, who was married for a couple of decades, despite an apparently life-long record of asexuality.
- No Except Yes- Every time Clegg walks out of Auntie Wainwright's having been bullied into buying something useless.
Another character: Why did you buy an (X)?
- Put on a Bus- Mostly when one of the cast would die, the show quietly killed off their character, but mentioned the death in passing. However, when Kathy Staff died, her character, Nora Batty, packed up and moved off to Australia, and was never mentioned again, despite having been one of the show's iconic characters.
- Reality Subtext- Most cast deaths have been written into the series, and Clegg appears in fewer scenes these days due to Peter Sallis's macular degeneration.
- Only Known by Their Nickname- Quite a few of the male cast.
- Compo's real name of William (Bill) Simmonite was very occasionally referred to.
- Foggy's full name was Walter C. Dewhirst.
- Truly's is Herbert.
- Smiler's real name, Clem Hemingway, was only given in his introductory episode.
- Oop North
- Ostentatious Secret — Compo's matchbox, with its unknown but terrifying contents. Joke shops in England used to stock matchboxes exactly like that one, each containing a rubber severed penis.
- Running Gag
- The ladies over at Edie's house for tea and buns had two: always sipping their tea in an unconscious synchronised movement, and having a Politeness Judo contest over the big cream eclair.
- Howard's many complicated plans for ensuring that his adultery with Marina wasn't discovered (despite it being The Not-Secret) — "I think we've really cracked it this time love!" It was sometimes implied that he was more interested in coming up with the Zany Schemes than the adultery itself.
- Sadist Teacher- Seymour. When he is called back to work after years of retirement — "What do you mean, you're not allowed to hit small boys? That's what they're for!"
- Scenery Porn- Yorkshire is pretty. Yorkshire is very pretty.
- Seinfeldian Conversation- Initially the show was almost entirely devoted to this. Now it's mainly limited to token scenes, but it's still always there.
- In the Foggy years, this usually consisted of Foggy carrying a thread about his heroic war experiences/how the other two needed to get into shape, while Compo monologued about Nora Batty, and Clegg mused on something randomly philosophical, such as the implications of the fact that all men are equally purple on the inside.
- Serious Business: In a recent interview, Peter Sallis noted that the show almost never got off the ground, as Owen and Bates had been cast a little too well as political opposites and were forever having violent political arguments during the pilot and early series. No, really.
- Spot of Tea- All the time in Ivy's cafe. Seymour sometimes revives Compo after being injured by one of his inventions with 'hot sweet tea' (which to Compo is never sweet enough).
- Strictly Formula- The beginning of most of the '90s Foggy episodes followed a very set routine. Each show would start- not necessarily in this order- with a scene of Compo trying to romance Nora, a scene of Foggy boring/revolting a stranger with a made-up war story, and a scene of Howard bursting into Clegg's house to ask a favor. Once Foggy left, the openings became a little more varied, although there were still many scenes of Compo persuing Nora and Howard bothering Clegg.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute- Burly, dark-haired Crusher certainly appeared to be this, because of his resemblace to burly, dark-haired Sid (John Comer). Although oddly, Crusher was supposed to be related to Ivy's side of the family.
- All the characters referred to as the "third man" are physically similar, and have a bossy temperment, but are not without their own quirks.
- Tantrum Throwing: A stock gag; crockery is generally the projectile of choice.
- Those Two Guys- The two policemen who sit in their car and just watch the main characters with baffled expressions.
- Unreliable Narrator- Foggy's war stories.
- Unusual Euphemism- Ivy's "What the blood and stomach pills?!-" exclamation.
- Your Cheating Heart- The Howard/Pearl/Marina is the second-most prominent storyline on the show, but even before they came along, many of the plots surrounded the trio blackmailing some fellow they'd caught fooling around in the hills.
- Before Howard and Marina were introduced, there was the librarian and his female assistant in the earliest episodes.
- Zany Scheme- Every single episode.