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Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The Last of the Summer Wine - Charming and wonderful comedy



The Last of the Summer Wine was a long running and very delightful British comedy series about a group of retired old men living a sort of second childhood. They are like little boys that refuse or never bothered to grow up.

Compo
The type of humour this series produced was not stomach aching laughs but more charming and touching amusement. These men are like the big kids of the charming little Yorkshire town and the old ladies gossip about them as though they are an entirely different species of wild uncontrolled human being when, in reality, they are as tame and harmless as hamsters.



Every week our gang of heroes get up to some new hair brain scheme that they regard as daring. Usually, the character called Compo tries his hand at some dashing thing or other, while the old ladies of the village talk of the intrepid trio and the influence their wild ways have on the married and controlled men of the town.

I say wild ways on a loose basis. This is because the people of the town are used to a modest and simple way of life and usually rather mundane things get hyped up to appear wild and carefree. This is part of the charming and subtle humor of the show.

It started in 1973 and ran until 2010 for a total of 37 years. In the first two seasons the trio of men consisted of Micheal Bates as the authoritarian and snobbish Blamire, Bill Owen as the scruffy child like dare devil of the group - again dare devil is pretty modest really, but rather daring within the company he keeps. Then there is Peter Sallis as the deep thinking, on rather minuscule things; Norman Clegg. He can make any mundane task seem like an epic over the top trial and tribulation.

After the first two seasons, Blamire (Micheal Bates) left the show and Brian Wilde replaced him as Foggy - the ex corporal sign writer that has an over inflated opinion of himself and exaggerates about his past military exploits as a sign writer in the army.  

The show grew over the years into a little gem of exquisite entertainment and as the years rolled by and the characters of Compo, Clegg and Foggy matured and seasoned; they delighted us all.

Nora Batty
There were others that fringed the show as wonderful characters too. Nora Batty who Compo lives next door to. The lady is a formidable and determined housewife who thinks Compo needs nothing more then a good bath and taking in hand, though not by her as Compo would like. She is married to Wally Batty - a delightful and inoffensive old man who lives for his pigeons. There is also Sid and Ivey who run the Cafe where our intrepid trio always go to have a cup of tea and a bun.

For a while, Brian Wilde left the show and another eccentric character stepped in called Seymour Utterthwaite - an ex headmaster and inventor of useless contraptions. This character was played by Micheal Aldridge. Then Brian Wilde returned for a few more seasons as Foggy.


In this clip we see Howard and Marina and the other ladies gossiping in the Cafe about our intrepid trio.

Other Characters were Perl and Howard who lived next door to Norman Clegg. Howard is the down trodden married man who feels his life is being stifled by the intense scrutiny of his formidable wife Pearl. He secretly yearns to do adventurous things and tries to have an affair with the slightly 'past it' town brass Marina - a super market lady who yearns to be swept off of her feet by a knight in shinning armour. Howard is always trying to be that knight but wants to be far too secretive about it all because of his wife Pearl finding out. It is the worst kept secret in town.

These wonderful little comical endeavours go on through out the serious over the thirty seven years and in parts it got sad too. This is because some of the actors passed away in real life and their characters were dismissed through passing away too. When Bill Owen (Compo) died, it was particularly moving.

Compo, Foggy and Clegg

Sometimes the comical show had a beautiful sadness about it and I enjoyed this from the age of twelve until I was fifty. I grew to appreciate this fabulous slice of life comedy and it made me unafraid of getting old. If I could indulge in half of what our trio of old adventures did then I would look forward to my twilight years and my last of the summer wine. 


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