Summer Winos»Archive for April 2015

Archive for April 2015

Series 7 Episode 4: Cheering Up Ludovic


In which Noddy Hargreaves boasts he has the biggest…

Andrew: Look at this opening shot of the trio. There really hasn’t been a sitcom before or since that puts this much thought into composition. Both directors – Lotterby and Bell – went above and beyond.

Bob: Lovely, isn’t it? And good to start with ANOTHER of my dad’s old jokes! ‘What has six legs, is slimy, and has a face under its feet?’… these old gags must have swept the playgrounds in the 1930s, when Roy Clarke was at school, and the 1940s, when my dad was a boy. Closely related to ‘What’s that?’ (offer the victim your hand with palm and fingers facing upwards) ‘A dead one of them’ (turn hand upside down). Oh, the winter evenings, etc…

Andrew: And, even better, said joke leads to what I think is an inspired moment of improvisation. Foggy, disgusted at the thought of a creepy crawly on his cap, throws it to the ground and begins thrashing it with his stick. This of course would have been in the script, but then Wilde catches the underside of the cap with the stick and accidentally flips it into the air. Instead of breaking character, he blusters and throws the stick after it. I’m convinced this was made up on the spot – I love these actors!

Bob: I can’t think of many other sitcoms that would open with a discussion about the Theory of Relativity. Yet again Clarke is not afraid to write intelligent, uncompromising dialogue. I’m pretty sure that, if a young comedy writer tried this now, it would be swiftly nixed by a script editor or producer who would be terrified of scaring off potential viewers in the opening exchanges. Like they’d scarper in horrified confusion to Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents.

Andrew: It’s also a very relatable moment. Of course Foggy can’t explain the Theory of Relativity when challenged, but we’ve all ended up over our heads whilst trying to sound more clevererer than we are… haven’t we?

Bob: Durrr… (scratches forehead). Hey, crank up the Names Database, Drew! In fact there’ll be steam coming off it by the end of this episode. Their old schoolmate Noddy Hargreaves was ‘always boasting he had the biggest’, and – during the war – Compo stayed in England, ‘guarding Gloria Quarmby’. Isn’t Compo’s wartime inertia very much contradicted in future episodes? But hey, come on! This series ran for 37 years. It’s a downright miracle that the whole thing is as remarkably consistent as it is. I think we’ve already seen that seemingly throwaway remarks in episodes can be expanded upon beautifully in dialogue years later, and that’s an incredible achievement.

Andrew: The trio venture down the pub, the Will’s O’ Nats to be precise. It’s still open if you fancy a swift one.

http://www.willsonatshuddersfield.co.uk/

Can I just take a moment to extol the virtues of outside conveniences for pubs? I bet the one seen in this episode has long since been replaced, but venturing outside for a Jimmy Riddle can have a very useful sobering effect. You hear that, Cameron? You’ve been going about tackling this so-called binge-drinking crisis all wrong!

Anyway, here our trio encounter the titular Ludovic.

Bob: Ludovic is a tour-de-force of comedy misery from the great Bryan Pringle. Men popping down their local pub by themselves is pretty much a dying art these days, isn’t it? There was a stage in British life when I think it was almost the accepted norm… you popped into the pub, alone, and would doubtless find yourself chatting to the other regulars who had also wandered in, accompanied. And thus it became a social hub… the starting point for your social activities. My dad used to pop down to our local on Sunday nights in the 1970s and ‘see who was in’. Whereas pub-going these days seems to have almost a gang mentality… I’ve known grown men who will steadfastly refuse to go into a pub by themselves, as it’s ‘sad’. Have we been lumbered with a generation of criminally under-confident milksops, who feel deeply insecure unless they’re with a gang of friends?

Bryan Pringle. Once you’ve popped…

Bizarrely, I’ve even known men who are uncomfortable going to the cinema by themselves. The CINEMA! You sit in the dark, in silence, for two hours. It’s the perfect pastime for the terminally solitary.

Andrew: I’ll happily go to the cinema by myself, although I drew the line and forced Emma to come along when I fancied seeing Winnie the Pooh. Then again, there was also the time I requested and received special dispensation from the manager to attend an OAP screening of The Whales of August. Double standards.

Unless I’m travelling, though, I do feel odd in a pub on my own. I also end up drinking faster, which can be a dangerous path.

Bob: Raymond Holcroft. Bought a boarding house in Maplethorpe. Names Database now spinning wildly out of control. Fetch the fire extinguishers, Drew!!!

Andrew: The trio are absolutely aghast at the idea of anybody wanting to buy a boarding house, but it strikes me as a rather lovely idea. Apart from the getting up early every morning, of course… and the cleaning… and the talking to people…

Bob: Bryan Pringle makes a great comic drunk, but there’s a lot of physical comedy here trying to get him upright, and I always prefer Summer Wine when it relies on the dialogue for its humour. Thankfully there’s some classic Foggy business to get me laughing… he’s acting ‘in the finest traditions of Bushido’, and warns the others that ‘if you see me adopting one of the killing postures, try to restrain me’. I think Foggy’s assertion that he is a trained assassin, unable to control his honed killer instincts, is THE funniest thing the series ever does. It’s underplayed to absolute perfection by Brian Wilde, and I think the key factor is that we never see THAT much to contradict it. Obviously it’s nonsense, but Foggy is rarely called upon to actually prove his claims… meaning that, in our minds, just a sliver of it might be true. Which makes it all the funnier.

Andrew: I fear this is one of those rare instances where we disagree. Pringle is broad, but just the right side of broad for me. In fact, I’d go so far as to say he’s one of my favourite guest actors of the run so far. There’s something about his face that just fits in with the series and, in a very weathered Northern sense, the landscape. The studio audience seem less keen, though. There’s one moment where Ludovic pops into frame and shouts “Why?!” into Foggy’s ear, and where the actor leaves a pause for laughter, none is forthcoming – I think the audience are a bit scared of him!

Normally, I’d agree with you about preferring dialogue over the more physical comedy, but in this instance it’s expertly woven into the fabric of the episode. The mishaps here stem from the characters. A million miles away from a pigeon shaped hang glider!

Bob: I’m always slightly fascinated by unwitting participants in TV shows. Passers-by, and distant traffic. While Ludovic shows off his dilapidated van, we see a steady stream of cars passing on the moorland road behind. Who were they? Where were they going on that ordinary day in the summer of 1982? Were they courting couples on their first holiday together? Kids being taken to the country for a birthday treat? Harried businessmen dashing to a meeting? And were they aware that, for a second, their everyday journey was captured forever on 16mm film and stuck into a prime-time BBC sitcom? Just little moments in time, frozen for eternity.

Andrew: I know exactly what you mean. I’m always fascinated by shots of motorways in old films and TV shows. All of those people. Where were they going? What has become of them?

Bob: I’d love to think that, somewhere, a second or two of a 1982 car journey that I made as a nine-year-old, with my parents, is caught in perpetuity like this. That something that exists only vaguely in my head, lost to the ravages of time, is actually tangible and real on a dusty can of film.

Andrew: Trapped for all eternity in a telecined film insert? Very Sapphire and Steel.

But look, Wally and Nora! What an unexpected pleasure so late in the episode!

Get your motor runnin’…

Bob: Is this the first time we’ve seen Wally on his motorbike, and Nora grumbling in the sidecar? It’s great to see them. What a classic British attitude to the countryside as well: ‘We’ve come to look at the view’… without actually leaving the vehicle. There’s something terribly noble about sitting in a stationary car, on bleak, windswept moorland, ‘looking at the view’ as sweeping torrents of rain crash against the windscreen. It’s made us what we are as a nation*

‘You’re bored already’, moans Nora, to Wally. But she’s KNITTING, the cheeky mare! Poor Wally should have brought his pigeons to keep him company.

Andrew: The moment where they watch in stunned silence as the driverless van trundles past is fantastic, but more importantly is a prototype for many similar moments to come. From what I remember of the 1990s episodes, I can’t think of a single example where something comparable to this doesn’t happen!

Bob: There’s a great Yorkshire love of language, isn’t there? Ludovic could have talked about ‘why I liked this van’, but no – he wants to discuss ‘a factor that pre-disposed me towards this vehicle’. A sentence that, oddly, I can only imagine a Yorkshireman saying. I’m sure I remember Alan Bennett saying that, when he was young, his grandfather ran a corner shop, and – when asked if he had a particular item in stock – would reply ‘I shall assertain’. It’s a love of florid vocabulary that I was brought up with, too… which probably explains why I rabbit on so much on here.

Andrew: With Clegg nudged out of the van by a contraption designed to provide privacy in the cab, Compo, Foggy and Ludovic are all trapped as the driverless vehicle slowly makes its way down the road. This is about as high-octane as I like my Summer Wine chases and it’s beautifully done. I could do with Ronnie Hazlehurst’s funky chase music being a little higher in the mix, though – it’s barely audible!

And look! As the van crashes through a field gate a bit of mud flies up and hits the camera lens – we’re in Tarantino territory now!

Bob: Reservoir Ferrets. I’d also like to point out, in the interests of balance, that I quite like Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents.

Andrew: All in all – and I’d never have expected to say this about an episode without Sid and Ivy – this has been my favourite of Series 7 so far.

*miserable.

 

Series 7 Episode 3: The Waist Land


In which Foggy gets physical, physical…

Andrew: As they take their usual stroll through the countryside, our trio stumble across a health farm and a parade of reluctant joggers. Is it just me, or does the first appearance of the fitness fanatics mark the point at which Last of the Summer Wine suddenly feels very, very 1980s?

Bob: Absolutely! We’ve already had Rubik’s Cubes, and now it’s time for a withering look at the fitness craze that swept the country. And, from about 1981 onwards, it suddenly seemed to be everywhere. In the 1970s, there were no such thing as ‘gyms’. There were ‘gymnasiums’ and they were occupied solely by amateur boxers and ‘body-builders’… men with large moustaches who spent their days lifting long poles with a dumbbell on each end. But suddenly, new, swanky gyms were occupied by middle-class executives popping out to do treadmills in their lunch hours. And paying a fortune for the privilege. There was one near my house called ‘Gym and Tonic’! With a little crowd of amateur boxers outside it, shaking their heads and weeping.

I remember my Dad finding it hilarious, as he spent pretty much my entire childhood lugging heavy things around building sites. No gym (or tonic) required.

Andrew: What’s our excuse, then?

Bob: We’re natural athletes. We don’t need to work at it. And hey, it’s hard to imagine an exchange like this taking place in a modern sitcom…

Compo: It’s where they come to get slim.

Clegg: It’s nearer than Bangladesh.

Harsh, but put it into context… well into the 1980s, I definitely remember an attitude of ‘finish what’s on your plate, and be grateful for every mouthful… there are people abroad starving to death’. I think to my Gran’s generation, idea of actually dieting to lose weight felt like an incredible indulgence, and rather ungrateful. She’d grown up in the East End of London during World War I, and food was scarce. And she’d raised a family in the midst of World War II rationing; and the subsequent austerity years. You didn’t turn down food; you were thankful for it. You said grace. And Clegg – a man of a similar generation – would have had this attitude, too. He’s not laughing at the starving of Bangladesh here, he’s bemoaning the self-indulgence of a new generation of Brits.

Andrew: You’re spot on, but I bet the BBC would still make a kneejerk decision to cut that if the show was repeated on BBC2 today!

While we’re on the subject of notable lines, there’s also this:

Foggy: I wish I knew the tormented history of this old barn.

I love these men!

Bob: I’m slightly surprised that Foggy believes the barn is haunted, as I’d always had him down as a rationalist man of science! Or is that just part of his front? Like his fictional military derring-do, is it a façade to hide the nervous, timid man underneath? Either way, this scene of him telling ghost stories from his army days is beautifully played. It’s actually quite chilling. I could listen to this all day.

You can't get the Staff...

You can’t get the Staff…

Andrew: Oh, I think it’s perfectly in character. It’s a side to his fantasy life we haven’t really seen before, but a valid side nevertheless. From the beginning, this series has been about a bunch of displaced blokes staving off boredom and I think this is just another coping mechanism on Foggy’s part! They’ve stopped for lunch in old barns before, so what can his brain come up with to make this feel less humdrum? Ghosts!

Something else I’d never picked up on before is that Foggy has what today might be described as a social disorder. He obsesses to his heart’s content about the idea of the barn being haunted, but he isn’t having a conversation. This is something that happens a lot – he goes off on one, but doesn’t really pick up on the fact that Clegg and Compo are either mocking him or just not interested. He just bulldozes his way through the scene.

Bob: Any psychoanalysts out there want to have a crack at Foggy? And hey, some more early 80s loveliness – Clegg drops Adam and the Ants into his musing! I like the way Compo wonders if the health farm refugees are ‘a group’ as well… a word you NEVER hear in that context any more! Are One Direction ever described as a ‘pop group’? Never. It’s all ‘bands’ these days. I miss the days of the ‘group’.

Andrew: You mean the good old days of earnest groups like The Archies and The Banana Splits?

Bob: Don’t diss the Splits, man. Clarke has utter disdain for the 80s health craze, doesn’t he? His fitness fanatics are pale, speechless zombies, driven so such extremes of feebleness by their diets that they can barely operate as human beings. A life wasted in pursuit of ‘carrot juice, sauna and manipulation’. And a delightful contrast to Compo with his doorstep sandwich and Foggy with his ‘Normandy pate’! We’ve talked before about how Summer Wine is a celebration of the freedom that old age brings… the indulgence of the second childhood, unfettered by passing fads and expectations; and this is virtually a battle line drawn up between that attitude and the neurotic, hyperactive madness of the young professionals. We’re left in no doubt as to who has the healthier approach to life.

Andrew: Sorry, what was that? I was too busy salivating over Compo’s sarnie.

Bob: Oh, a brilliant scene in the café here. Nora is working there! In a maid’s outfit! And plum duff has been replaced by treacle tart on the menu. NOTHING escapes my beady eye, Drew. So watch yourself.

We HEART Seabrooks!

Andrew: All credit to the BBC Costume Department here. As wonderful as Kathy Staff is, the moment she gets into something other than her usual wrickled stockings and pinnie, Nora all but disappears for me. It’s like when I see you without your crop-top.

Bob: When you’ve got abs like us natural athletes, it’s a crime not to show them off. I bet Kathy Staff got ‘letters’ after this.

This is just a perfect scene between Ivy, Sid and Nora – lovingly written, and with three fine actors all bouncing off each other. ‘If their mouths are hanging open it’s lust, if they’re clamped tight shut it’s larceny’, snaps Ivy, delivering her withering judgement upon the male species. She’s in fearsome form here… she’s even tearing a strip off Nora, and Nora is incredibly insecure in her presence! It’s not the first time we’ve seen genuine tension between these two characters, but I can’t remember Ivy being so dominant before. Nora is a part-time battleaxe, but Ivy is the real deal.

Andrew: Yes, I love that. Until this point, Nora has been superhuman in her power of intimidation, but Ivy is a real force to be reckoned with. It makes her less of a caricature, somehow.

And can I just take a moment to appeal for help with my new obsession? I want the bullfighter poster than can be seen on the café wall in this episode. After innocently wondering whether I could track down the same print online, all I was able to turn up were a plethora of similar, but not quite right, items. I’m obsessed. Also, does anybody recognise the seaside scene on the postcard pinned to the wall behind the counter? I want to know where Sid and Ivy holidayed after Scarborough!

Bob: Bullfighting?! Really? Who are you all of a sudden, Gateshead’s answer to Ernest Hemingway?

And so Foggy decides to make a fortune by flogging illicit pies and packets of crisps to the half-starved Health Farm mob. Initially, I thought this was a bit out of character for Foggy… surely he’d approve of people trying to improve their physical fitness? But I suspect it’s the middle-class, executive, resolutely ‘modern’ nature of it all that he disapproves of. If the nation wants to get fit, then bring back National Service! Harumph.

HUGH LLOYD KLAXON

HUGH LLOYD KLAXON

Actually, Foggy does seem a bit odd here… his schemes are usually borne out of a misguided desire to help and improve society, but here he’s just out to make a few quid. Mrs ‘Fatcher’s Free Market Economy finally hits Summer Wine country! Great to see that the crisps are Seabrooks, though… the KING OF ALL CRISPS. Fiercely independent and non-corporate, and delightfully crinkled. And they once sponsored Captain Sensible’s political campaign ‘The Blah Party’, so I’m with them all the way.

Oddly enough, the deputy leader of the Blah Party, Boney Maroney, stood in the Holme Valley North Council Elections in 2008. Foggy could have voted for her.

Andrew: I can see your point about Foggy, but what I find more off-putting than his plan being out of character is that it feels like all-too-familiar sitcom fayre. Maybe it’s just me, but I find that’s very little about this plot that feels specific to the Last of the Summer Wine that we’ve grown to love. This is reinforced by a supporting cast who, while fun, look and sound like they could have wandered in from the set of another show entirely. I can quite imagine a pleasant early 1980s sitcom about these characters stuck in a health farm, with our trio lending support as the B-plot to one of the episodes.

Don’t get me wrong, this is still very enjoyable; it’s just not what I would describe as… Summer Wine-y.

Bob: Hugh Lloyd, though! Over to you, Drew…

Andrew: Hugh Lloyd! Television character actor stalwart Hugh Lloyd can improve anything by up to 50%. His presence even made the execrable Doctor Who story Delta and the Bannermen watchable… kind of. He only appears in one scene here, in which he dithers over whether or not her should treat himself at Foggy’s tuck shop and covets a pork pie, but he’s an absolute joy to watch. However, his character still feels like he’s walked off the set of an entirely different series. This is such an odd episode!

Bob:  Delta and the Bannerman is bleedin’ magic, you heathen!  I thought that was a fun episode, and resolutely of its time. But I like that! Archive TV fans often complain about old telly looking ‘dated’ but that’s what I want from it. TV should reflect the times in which it was made, and I can fully imagine Roy Clarke rolling his eyes at the The Kids From Fame and Olivia Newton John’s Physical video and sitting down to write that episode. And good for him.

Anyway, these are the two cafe nick-nacks that Andrew is keen to identify. Can anyone help? First up, the postcard… any idea where this is? (NB We don’t think it’s Gran Canaria)

 

 

 

 

 

 

And secondly, where can old Torero T. Smith here get hold of this bullfighting poster?