The great British sitcom: Last Of The Summer Wine

Discussion in 'TV Central' started by Mel O'Drama, Sep 17, 2016.

  1. Swami

    Swami Soap Chat Warrior

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    Yes, as Peter Sallis and Frank Thornton got older, the producers were getting more difficulty getting necessary insurance for location filming. And in addition Peter Sallis' eyesight was starting to fail quite dramatically.

    Swami
     
  2. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Taking a four month break randomly in the middle of a run is always a little risky. It was mid-series and mid-disc. Fortunately I knew which disc, as I left it in the player during a bit of a sabbatical from watching. But as I watched the first few episodes it highlighted the latter series' more humdrum nature. Most of it seemed familiar and there was an occasional fragment of awareness that I'd previously watched a scene, but for much of the time I couldn't tell if the familiarity came from the running gags and recurring storylines.

    Anyway, I've now finished the disc in question and so I'm definitely on to new ground. For the record, I think - though couldn't swear - that my first "new" episode was Series Twenty Eight's Variations On A Theme Of Road Rage.

    One significant thing that's changed the way I view the series is that I've now visited many of the locations used in the series. In October I had a day in Holmfirth and further afield to regular locations like Holmbridge and Jackson Bridge. Nora's steps, Compo's house, Sid's Cafe, Marina's supermarket(s), the library, Edie's home, Barry and Glenda's house, the White Horse pub and Cleggy and Howard's homes were among the key locales I visited. Understanding the area a little more and the distance between some of the places is always guaranteed to put a new spin on it, and doing the internal "I've been there" with each location on screen has brought a fun new dimension to viewing.

    While in Holmfirth I wandered up to pay a visit to the adjoining graves of Bill Owen and Peter Sallis. The splendour of Bill Owen's grave, with its two large headstones and abundance of welly plant pots juxtaposed with the simplicity of Peter's grave - with a few flowers and a simple wooden cross marker - was unexpectedly moving. The thing that really got me was a flat cap hung over the wooden cross, which said far more than any amount of words could. As part of a day in which I walked in their footsteps, this unexpected encounter with its window of quiet and calm gave me a few moments where I suddenly felt I'd "met" these two men.
     
  3. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Series Twenty Nine is now underway.

    Smiler's now vanished forever from the landscape. While I was never a huge fan of his gurning and groaning - too much caricature for my taste - one does get used to these characters being part of things and it's not the same when they're not there.

    Speaking of gurning, my Barry tolerance is right down once again. After the long break I started finding him tolerable, but his little mannerisms have quickly nixed that. There's far too much business going on in all Mike Grady's scenes: twitching with surprise, grimacing and mugging, smiling wistfully and that rapid multiple blink thing. It's a shame, because it comes across strongly that he's trying too hard to do comedy and he doesn't have to. The writing has everything he needs. Pretty much everyone else - even those playing larger than life characters such as Howard, Marina and Nora - plays their scenes for truth and they're so much funnier for it.

    Sad to think I'm now on the last series featuring Nora. She still feels very much like a vital part of the series and it will be a far less enjoyable series without her. We have another nine episodes together and I aim to enjoy them all.
     
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  4. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Oh - and while the series is certainly off the boil these days it can still make me laugh quite unexpectedly. For some reason a silly scene in which Alvin played a prank on Howard with a "speaking" frog in Clegg's living room was the one that did it here. And it happened right as I took a swig of a hot drink. Fortunately, most of it went up my nose rather than onto the sofa.
     
  5. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    And I've just discovered that Brian Murphy is married to Hi-De-Hi's Linda Regan. Which is a little mind-boggling. She's certainly a far cry from Mildred.

    [​IMG]
     
  6. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    For a sitcom to go for over three and a half decades, twenty nine series and more than 275 episodes on all original material is quite an achievement.

    For a sitcom to suddenly have a clip show after all those milestones is then perhaps a red flag that the end is nigh. As it turns out, the episode in question was passable. The best thing about it being that all the linking scenes featured only the main trio of Clegg, Truly and Alvin in various locations with their chemistry still firing. In that respect, it felt like a bit of a last gasp from this trio (the next episode for me to watch will be the final one before Sallis and Thornton step down into supporting status to satisfy the Beeb's insurers).

    My worry going in was that the clips of Compo's heyday would highlight the deterioration in the series which although subtle and incremental is certainly a fact. Actually it didn't feel that way. If anything, I enjoyed the linking material more than the clips shown which seemed a little arbitrary.

    But the clip show's objective was unclear to me. It was a tribute to Combo, and in turn Bill Owen (according to the script it's ten years since he's died although it's actually eight). Certainly it's nice that the show hasn't forgotten Compo. But as a tribute it's very late coming when the series has moved on so much (and considering what a great tribute the funeral episodes were, some years earlier). And it's a couple of years premature for series' end. It felt suspiciously like Roy Clarke was an episode short and this was a way to run out an episode with minimal writing and to save a bit on paying the rest of the cast.
     
  7. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Series Twenty Nine is now over. It's sad to think there'll be no more Nora Batty.

    With every departure a little more of the series has died. More recent additions to the supporting cast, such as Nellie, Miss Davenport, Entwistle and even Alvin are reassuring presences due to the familiar actors playing them. But they lack a certain something that was present in earlier episodes. It's still not bad by any stretch. But there's a pall of fatigue that hovers over the series. Even Barry and Glenda - the series' token "young" characters - are considerably older by now than the older demographic were when they first joined (it's mind-boggling to think that Sarah Thomas at this point is almost twenty years older than Jane Freeman was when we first met Ivy).

    Some of the edge has gone now. Characters like Pearl and Ivy have mellowed. Pearl in particular now elicits as much of the viewer's sympathy as Howard. It's happened organically, from seeing her interact with gentler characters (most of her screen-time these days is shared with June Whitfield's Nellie), but it makes it harder to sympathise with Howard, running round on the freezing Yorkshire hills with less just cause than he had when his harridan wife oozed venom. I find myself wondering why he doesn't just stay home in the warm.

    The locations continue to look beautiful and the cast very likeable.

    Another sign of the times is an increased role for supporting players. The policemen even have names now, which feels slightly wrong. Nora's final episode was a Cannon and Ball heavy episode which, perhaps unsurprisingly, is not a good thing. And the Eighties Saturday teatime spillage reaches a zenith (or perhaps nadir) with the addition to the main cast of Russ Abbott. I'm not greatly looking forward to it, but I'm curious all the same.
     
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  8. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Series Thirty is underway, with the first two episodes run in the O'Drama household this evening. It's actually a little better than I expected. But I did go in with very low expectations.

    Russ Abbott as Hobbo - Clegg's hitherto unseen next-door neighbour - is the new addition. I was surprised to find he's an ersatz Foggy. Certainly the largest part of his character is his big talk about his previous life as a spy. It's very true that Abbott is no Brian Wilde, but he's likeable enough for Hobbo not to grate, even when throwing in some Jack Douglas in with Hobbo's twitches and jerks. All the same, it does seem wrong for Russ to take top billing from his first episode, particularly with the screen credentials of his co-stars.

    Speaking of billing, I wondered how they would do it with Peter Sallis and Frank Thornton's changed status. I'd thought they might end up at the very end ("With Frank Thornton as Truly and Peter Sallis as Clegg"), but no... they're just randomly squished in the middle of the other lowly cast. It's very odd seeing them there.

    The new triad of Hobbo, Alvin and Entwistle is a competent one - if unexciting. I find myself imagine previous trios during their scenes. If Hobbo is the Foggy, and as we've already established that Alvin is a Compo replacement, then Entwistle must be the new Clegg. What that makes Clegg I've no idea. It is good to be seeing some of Clegg and Truly. I have no real issue with them being studio bound in all their scenes so far. In recent series they've stepped back from the action and become observers of the insanity rather than in the thick of it, so it's an organic move. Actually, there's a cosiness to the two of them chatting in Clegg's living room that lends itself nicely to the proceedings.

    Barbara Young as Stella is the other new addition. I'm glad they've gone a different route with Nora's sister rather than making her an out-and-out battleaxe. There are shades of Ros Utterthwaite in there, I think.

    So the news is at least partly good. All the same, I think the remaining fifteen episodes could end up feeling like more.
     
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