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Archive for July 2016

Series 8 Episode 4: Catching Digby's Donkey


In which Howard pines for fishnet tights…

Bob: Our first glimpse of Howard! Blimey, the new characters are coming thick and fast now. Am I right in thinking that Robert Fyfe, Jean Fergusson and Juliette Kaplan were all drafted into the TV show after impressing in the Summer Wine stage production?

Andrew: Yes, that’s right. The play had actually debuted in Hillingdon in 1982 and then transferred to Eastbourne, but Alan Bell had only been mildly impressed. It wasn’t until he saw the show in Bournemouth, by which time it had been largely recast, that he saw some potential for characters crossing over into the television series. Roy Clarke obviously agreed, and so we ended up with not only Howard, Marina, and Pearl, but also Crusher. And this is par for the course here, but don’t they all look young?!

We also came very close to seeing Fulton Mackay join the cast at this point, as a replacement for Foggy! After reading the scripts for this series, Brian Wilde had insisted that he wouldn’t appear unless they were rewritten, but Alan Bell was very confident that there was nothing wrong with what Clarke had written. Cannily, he got in touch with Mackay, Wilde’s Porridge co-star, to see if he would be interested and available to join the series, and within half an hour Wilde was on the phone to confirm his own availability!

Bob: The wily old goat! Howard is great here, and instantly the dialogue and characterisation is back to its sparkling best. He’s up a ladder, washing the windows for Pearl (who we catch a first glimpse of, glowering from inside the house) and rueing the missed opportunities in his life… the lack of ‘glossiness’ and the older, exotic woman he failed to elope with as a teenager. ‘I was keen… idealistic… ready to devote my life to 30-year-old showgirls,’ he muses. ‘She had fishnet tights…’ He’s such a sad character, and suddenly his forlorn pursuit of Marina makes perfect sense. He’s spent his entire life trying to compensate for what he sees as a life-changing lack of teenage gumption.

‘You weren’t ready for a woman who played the mouth organ like that,’ Clegg ponders, which might just be the most erotically-charged statement he’s ever made. Clearly Clegg knew her as well, then! Do we assume this happened in the pre-war period, and said showgirl was part of a travelling circus that came to Holmfirth?

S8E4dAndrew: It’s very interesting to discover some of the characters’ backstories here and how tragic they are, in a way. As the years go by, Howard and Marina are definitely rounded off into cuddlier, more innocent, creatures. Howard certainly doesn’t possess the slight edge that he has here.

Bob: Oh, this is right back on form. Our trio are on the hills, discussing Howard… ‘His adolescence has gone on so long, it’s spilled over into his mid-life crisis’, claims Clegg. A phenomenon that I think is now the default setting for most modern British men! We don’t grow up and then regress, we just stay as overgrown children for our entire lives. I’m 43 years old and still live like a student. I have Star Wars figures on a shelf in the front room.

Some more sensational revelations about Foggy’s youthful exploits too… he ‘worked as an office boy in a ladies stocking factory’ – an occupation where I imagine he spent his entire working day in a state of perpetual embarrassment – and then, once again, he goes on to justify his wartime signwriting career. ‘After Dunkirk there was a critical shortage of frontline signwriters,’ he muses. ‘I’ve seen men’s curlicues and serifs go completely to pieces…’

Magnificent. And the truth is too hard for Foggy to face, isn’t it? He’s an elderly, unmarried man, without any of the compensations of old age… the comforting wife; the proud, successful children, the wide-eyed grandchildren listening to his stories of wartime endeavour. He HAS to invent this façade of lifelong military service to justify his painfully solitary lifestyle… ‘the way of the warrior’, and all that. Otherwise, he’d have to face the truth – that he’s just old, and lonely. It’s really bitter-sweet.

Andrew: This is a very character-heavy episode, and all the better for it. I love the depth that is revealed in episodes like this, even when it’s at the expense of the plot. Six minutes go by before Digby’s titular donkey arrives on the scene, and at this point one might be forgiven for expecting some slapstick chaos to kick off, but instead we take a diversion into the pub for some pint-side meditations.

Bob: A pub with dimpled pint glasses! When I was a kid, nothing was a more potent symbol of adulthood than the dimpled pint glass. I’ve just bought a load for the kitchen cupboard.

Andrew: I don’t think a dimpled glass is going to transform your drinking Nesquick in your pyjamas into a shortcut to adulthood. Have you considered getting a proper job?

Bob: No. I’ve seen what they do to other people. Hey, I love Ormeroyd, the swivel-eyed lunatic at the bar. ‘I’ll fight anyone for a quid!’ he rages. When I first started hanging around public houses in the late 1980s, men like this absolutely existed. I remember walking down Stockton high street late one night with a couple of mates, when a bloke just like Ormeroyd approached us from a pub doorway with the classic opening gambit ‘Howay lads, fancy a scrap? You and me?’ He followed us for five minutes, desperate for us to have a friendly ruck. And he was really polite about it! He had nothing personal against us, he just fancied a bloody good barney down a back alley! We had to jump into a taxi to get rid of him.

S8E4bActually, there’s a bit of Yosser Hughes about Omeroryd. I bet Roy Clarke loved Boys from the Blackstuff. And he’s played by David Hatton, who was a sitcom regular in the 1970s and 80s… and is still going strong! He’s in Sky Atlantic’s This Is Jinsy, which I’ve never seen – but it looks great…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/This_is_Jinsy

And so poor old Digby, clapped out from chasing his own donkey around the paddock, enters the pub… and takes Ormeroyd up on his offer! They head outside for a friendly fight. I swear this genuinely happened in my teenage years… there were middle-aged men around who just liked fighting. No tempers involved, they just got a lot of pleasure from hitting people. As Clegg says in this very episode, ‘It’s turning into a really good day for idiots’.

Andrew: That’s part of the delicate balancing act one enters into down the pub. You really want an entertaining idiot to turn up, but you’ve got to be careful not to cross over into becoming one yourself.

Bob: While Foggy heads off – carrot in hand – to bring Digby’s donkey under control, we get our first real glimpse of Pearl, in the café. And blimey, if there was ever any doubt that Summer Wine is now an ensemble sitcom… here’s Pearl, Nora, Wally, Ivy and Crusher all in the same scene! It’s like David Croft has suddenly taken control.

Andrew: The flavour of this series is quite different as a result. We’re definitely in a new era of the show and we touched upon the reasons for this when we chatted with the lovely Juliette Kaplan. To quote from her interview:

“I became very friendly with Jane Freeman – I still am – and I asked her once how everyone had felt about us all coming in, like usurpers. And she said that they’d had to expand the cast to give Roy Clarke more material to work with. It was fine with them. I wonder if I might have been a bit snotty in the same situation… although no, I don’t think so”

I really like the fact that this episode, which serves to introduce three key new characters, doesn’t actually focus on them. The temptation may have been to mine the stage play for its best material and put Pearl, Howard, and Marina at centre stage during their screen debut, but there’s something about the fact that our trio are off having an almost completely separate adventure that makes this feel a little more true to life. Howard’s disappearance is mainly played out amongst the supporting cast and, as such, the new characters are instantly aligned with the existing players in the audiences mind, rather than feeling like one-shot guests. It’s a very neat trick.

Bob: Pearl’s quite a sympathetic character here, too… ‘I left him cleaning windows,’ she says. ‘Turned me back, and he’s gone…’. Like all the Summer Wine women, despite everything, she loves her husband and wants him by her side.

And is it me, or for the first time ever, as our heroes lie back in the heather, does Peter Sallis let his accent slip, just for one line? ‘It seems to me we’re going to a lot of trouble,’ he says, and that’s not Clegg’s voice! Ha! First time I’ve ever noticed that. I think we can forgive him, eh? He’s pure Yorkshire again by the end of the sentence!

Andrew: It is rare! Actually, it has only just dawned on me how infrequently we talk about Peter Sallis as a performer. We’re far more inclined to comment upon something that Wilde or Owen is doing and I think that’s probably down to the fact that I can’t think of a better example of an actor merging with his character. At this stage in the show, Sallis just is Clegg – it’s effortless.

Bob: These café scenes, with Pearl desperately concerned about Howard, are really nicely done. And it’s interesting that, although she suspects he has another woman, she clearly doesn’t know about Marina at this point! ‘He won’t wear the same shirt for more than two days…’ she cries, unnecessary hygiene being a dead giveaway of extra-marital activity. It sounds hilarious now, but I think the idea of ‘bath night’ still extended well into the 1980s… many families only had one bath a week! Any advance on that was seen as unseemly decadence, and would spark off all kinds of suspicions.

‘They always want more than their share of everything… including original sin’, grumbles Nora. I always forget she’s really religious, but it’s good to have the odd reminder. I can’t imagine Wally has ever had much original sin in his life, though. Werthers Original Sin, possibly.

And so we end with our donkey-chasing trio catching Howard and – yes – Marina dancing the tango in a remote field! Good grief, how young does Jean Fergusson look? Marina is clearly a substitute for the exotic showgirl that Howard has spent his whole life mooning over, and the whole thing makes perfect sense now. Is there a hint that she has a bit of history with Clegg as well? Blimey! I’ve never picked up on this before! ‘Norman Clegg that was…’ she breathes, clearly overcome with dormant lust. ‘That once dallied with my affections…’

Oh please, let’s NEVER have this explained. I love the intrigue and ambiguity of it all. ‘Norman Clegg that was…’ is a real phrase from my childhood too, along with using ‘as I live and breathe’ as a formal greeting. ‘As I live and breathe! Drew Smith that was…’. It’s all very Yorkshire, and I think Middlesbrough in the 1970s had more of its culture in common with the White Rose County than anyone in the modern town would ever care to admit.

Andrew: Interestingly, when our trio first spy Howard and Marina in the distance and realise who it is they have caught out, Clegg also exclaims ‘Not that Marina he once got us mixed up with?!’ Given that we’ve never seen these characters before, this must be a reference to the events of the stage play – and I’m sure that must be against some sort of BBC guideline! If anybody can point me in the right direction I’d love to get my hands on a copy of the script to said play, because – based on this little quirk of continuity – I’m guessing that there’s a lot of material contained within it that wasn’t actually recycled for the series.

Bob: That was a great episode. Quite old school in many ways, with the donkey and the pub fighting, but also forward-looking, as the new ensemble cast begins to quickly take shape.

Andrew: In quite an achievement for a half hour comedy, we learn something new about almost every single character on screen. Not in a direct way either, but through little hints at their back-story and the ways in which they choose to present themselves to the world. It’s a master class of world-building.

Series 8 Episode 3: Enter the Phantom


In which Compo’s winged ferret takes flight…

Bob: This opening shot looks bloody freezing! It’s blowing a gale up there.

Andrew: Look at Brian Wilde’s trousers go!

Bob: ‘Look at Brian Wilde’s trousers go!’ is the best sentence either of us have ever written on this website. Clegg is decidedly grumpy about the prospect of walking in these conditions… ‘Don’t tell me we’ve walked all this way and God’s not in,’ he grumbles. And I’m slightly surprised to see that Foggy has an Ordnance Survey map on him! Are they that far from home? I always assume they know these hills like the backs of their proverbial hands, but maybe they have been on a bit of an expedition here.

Andrew: I think Compo and Clegg know exactly where they are. If Foggy wants to over-complicate things and play at being the leader, they’re quite happy to let him.

Bob: As a kid, I was always intrigued by Foggy’s wartime occupation as a ‘Corporal Signwriter’… and I still am! Does this military position actually exist? I can find plenty of evidence of army signwriters, but Googling for ‘Corporal Signwriter’ just brings up hundreds of references to Foggy. Are there any military historians out there who might be able to help?

Anyway, not for the first time, I’m with Foggy here. He’s exasperated at Compo and Clegg’s reluctance to explore that beautiful countryside, and I would be too. Why wouldn’t you want to spend a brisk and breezy day finding new bits of Yorkshire? A similar thing happened when I watched Mike Leigh’s Nuts In May recently. Ever seen it, Drew? It’s fabulous, but my attitude towards the main character, Keith Pratt, has completely changed over the years. When I saw it as a teenager, he was just a figure of fun – an uptight nutcase who railed against the world. But I watched it last year, and… Keith is right! About everything! He has a genuine love of the countryside, he’s passionate about animal rights and folk music, he likes a bit of peace and quiet and expects people to respect his privacy. I feel the same about Foggy. I laughed at him when I was young, but now… I think we’d get on.

Andrew: I think Ronnie Hazlehurst’s score is on Foggy’s side as well. There’s a beautifully wistful cue that plays beneath his defence of these outdoor pursuits.

Bob: Rudely interrupted by scramblers on motorbikes! Churning up the moors! That’s a real 1980s thing… suddenly, whenever my Dad and I walked in the hills, we’d see gangs of these pillocks scattering sheep and making a bloody racket. I’m surprised Foggy takes it all in his stride, I thought he’d be outraged. Keith Pratt would never have stood for it all.

Andrew: And, back in the café, the scramblers even provide Foggy with some inspiration. He suggests that, while Nora would be able to resist Compo’s charms, she would be defenceless when faced with ‘The Phantom’.

Bob: Are your ‘stunt finale’ senses tingling, Drew? Foggy seems inexplicably determined to turn Compo into this mystery stunt rider… ‘The Phantom’, indeed. Since when did Foggy like to encourage Compo’s amorous intentions? He’s normally desperate to drag him away from her!

Still, I love Ivy’s pep talk to Crusher in the café. ‘They’re not wicked… they’re not bad… and only one third of them could be said to be unhygienic. What they are… is irresponsible’. And yet again, she expresses her theory that men, without women in their lives, turn – in an nutshell – daft. And again, I think that’s true. Left to our own devices, we end up sitting up at 1.30am writing detailed critiques of 31-year-old sitcoms.

Nice to hear a Barry Sheene reference, too! It’s easy to forget how massive he was, but Sheene was a huge celebrity in the early 1980s. He suffered horrendous injuries in a crash in 1982 and the X-rays of his pinned-together limbs made the front pages of EVERY newspaper. Actually, motorbikes in general were a big thing amongst my generation of schoolkids! Fascinated by Sheene, Eddie Kidd and Evel Kneivel, we dreamed of racing around the streets on the latest Kawasaki, and jumping over the No 294 bus to Eaglescliffe. And everyone knew an older brother or a neighbour who, at the age of 16, immediately starting tootling around on a 50cc Honda, posing outside the corner shop with a tinted crash helmet and a battered leather jacket. Wanting to be Eddie Kidd, but looking more like Tucker Jenkins.

Andrew: For once, I think I’ll stick up for the laboured incorporation of a stunt here. After the way Clegg and Compo have demoralised him for trying to broaden their horizons, Foggy is trying to win their favour while getting a vicarious taste of adventure for himself. He knows the only way to motivate Compo is to dangle Nora in front of him and that Clegg enjoys watching Compo making a tit of himself. Quite canny, really! What I find more difficult to swallow, is the idea that Foggy has a motorbike to hand, and even the vaguest understanding of how to tinker with one!

Bob: Yeah, where DOES Foggy get that bike from? Anyway, Compo is swamped in Crusher’s leathers, and a winged ferret is painted haphazardly onto his crash helmet. You can play Summer Wine bingo with this one!

Andrew: It’s all very familiar. Does Car and Garter ring a bell?

Bob: A lovely scene with Wally in the pub here, mind… I don’t think Joe Gladwin has ever put a foot wrong in this programme. ‘I’m under strict instructions to avoid Tom Fools or unaccompanied women,’ he deadpans, and I laughed my socks off. Nobody says ‘Tom Fools’ any more! Where is all the Tomfoolery? And where does it come from? Hang on…

http://uk.ask.com/question/origin-of-tomfoolery

Andrew: OK, stay with me here, but I think Wally might secretly be an omnipotent super-being. Think about it… he appears at will and disappears almost as soon as he does; and unlike the other characters in this week’s episode, he seems to be totally clued into the fact that the events unfolding are adhering to an unspoken formula. ‘I wish I could help you,’ he says, before Foggy even begins roping him into the scheme.

Bob: I like it! Can we have Wally in a tight jumpsuit with a big ‘W’ on the front of it? Anyone any good with Photoshop? Wally was right, too… the last third of the show is pretty much taken up with pure Tomfoolery. There’s a lot of messing about with that bike.

Andrew: It’s all a bit, ‘let’s throw some pratting about at the wall and home some of it sticks’ this week, isn’t it? Not very co-ordinated at all. Keep your ears open for a suspiciously To The Manor Born-styled musical cue from Ronnie at one point, though!

Bob: Blimey, you’re right! I was expecting Audrey Forbes-Hamilton to come marching over the hill there! Some nice little interludes with Wally and Nora too, as Compo gears up to impress her. ‘You’re spoiling for a fight,’ barks Nora, at the not-entirely-aggressive-looking Wally. ‘There’s no point in bringing you out if you can’t be pleasant’. I really wish we’d had just one episode as a Wally and Nora two-hander. They’re amazing together.

I also was intrigued by the song that Compo sings a snippet of when he’s gearing up for his big stunt. It’s taken a bit of hunting down, but I think he’s singing his own variation on this…

http://monologues.co.uk/musichall/Songs-J/Just-Like-The-Ivy.htm

It’s an old Music Hall favourite, written – as far as I can see – in 1903, so I guess it might have been a favourite from Compo’s childhood? I love these little gems being dropped into the show, they’re SO full of character. I wonder if this example came from Roy Clarke or Bill Owen? I’m going to hazard a guess at the latter… it looks like an adlib.

Andrew: And so to the big climax of the episode… Compo rides the bike straight into a lake, splashing Nora before running away… and she’s not the only thing that’s a bit damp about this ending.

Bob: Yeah, that had some nice lines, but didn’t quite match up to the previous two episodes, which both felt very fresh and funny and broke lots of new ground for Summer Wine. A bit of a mid-season wobble for me!

Series 8 Episode 2: Keeping Britain Tidy


In which Ogden has a mid-life crisis…

Andrew: There’s an odd little title sequence in this one. Our trio wander up a lane and observe a bloke cleaning a window, who in turn looks down and observes them. Its so brief, and has so little to do with anything else in the episode, that I wonder about the reasoning behind it, rather than just doing the usual ‘credits over countryside’ sequences that we usually see on episodes that begin in the hills.

Bob: I was just excited at seeing one of my favourite free car-parking spots… we’ve parked up in that street a couple of times on our visits to Holmfirth. I like the trademark whimsical musing at the start here, with Compo wanting to be an insect trapper, ‘Big Bill Simonite… I’d ride into town with me load of priceless bluebottle pelts’. This is gloriously barmy surrealism – it’s worthy of Eddie Izzard! In fact, didn’t Izzard do a live routine about tiny ‘bee cosies’, years later? He owes everything he has to Compo. Apart from possibly his dress sense.

Andrew: Clegg is still in a state of evolution, transforming from the pro-active character of the early episodes to the timid and reluctant adventurer he will settle into. He seems to have plenty of energy here – I love the mock swordfight he and Compo engage in – but he still squirms when he realises that Foggy is conjuring up a scheme.

Bob: I’m with Foggy all the way in this episode… he’s disgusted to find an abandoned mattress rotting on the moorside, and pledges to found ‘The Dewhirst Campaign for a Cleaner Countryside’. I’m right behind you, comrade! I’ll get the T-shirts printed up! I spend a lot of time tramping around hills, woods and moors in North Yorkshire, and nothing gets me more annoyed than the sight of beer cans and biscuit wrappers chucked into hedgerows or blowing around the trees. Have some respect, you grunting halfwits! If you’ve ever dropped litter in the countryside, I hope a crack squadron of giant badgers come round to your house one night and crap all over your front room carpet. See how you like it. And believe you me, badger crap STINKS.

Andrew: And believe me, readers, he’d know! Clegg’s enthusiasm soon fades when he spies the arrival of the magnificently described, ‘Ogden Butterclough, demon insurance man’.

Bob: BRIAN GLOVER KLAXON! I’m watching most of these episodes for the first time since their original broadcasts, and I genuinely don’t look ahead to see what’s coming, so it was a brilliant surprise to see Glover appear, narrowly missing squashing Compo with his car. Given that he’s such a prominent Yorkshire actor, and had done tons of sitcoms by this stage, it’s amazing it took so long to get him into Summer Wine!

Andrew: He’s certainly the type of actor who can elevate a part – or even a show – simply by turning up to appear. I think my personal favourite is his gloriously OTT appearance as Mr Rottweiler in the Gas episode of Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson’s Bottom.

Bob: Do you get independent, travelling insurance men any more? Of course you don’t. We all just do it online, being bossed about by a truculent hound. A friend of mine used to work for Churchill, and said he fielded about a dozen calls a day from giggling pillocks asking to speak to the dog.

Andrew: What was the company policy with that? Transfer the call to Vic Reeves’ personal number?

Bob: ‘I’m sorry, the dog’s not available at the moment. Can I help?’ Genuinely. You know what, I was expecting Ogden to be a traditional Angry Sitcom Bloke, but he’s not! He’s actually quite jaded and sympathetic. He wants to abandon his humdrum existence and life the life of a travelling itinerant! ‘Gauguin did it… he went to the South Seas to paint dusky maidens’, he muses. Oddly enough, an argument also used by Bob Ferris to justify his mid-life crisis in the Likely Lads movie! The male mid-life crisis is a comedy goldmine, though. Show me a 40-year-old bloke who hasn’t, in some idle moment, dreamed of packing a few bottles of Badger Golden Glory into a rucksack and walking into the sunset to seek spiritual enlightenment (and possibly a few dusky maidens) and I’ll show you a man without a soul.

Andrew: I can imagine it now, scores of fifty-year-old linoleum salesmen hitchhiking to freedom down the A1, with scruffy mattresses strapped to their backs.

Bob: ‘I hate it when people spill blood’, winces Clegg. ‘Why can’t we be filled with a nice, fragrant powder?’ That made me laugh. And is the angry cyclist who punctures Ogden’s car tyre former Doctor Who stuntman Derek Ware? Yes! Yes it bloody well is! Brilliant. Last spotted croaking ‘Ooooar?’ and riding his bike into a quarry outside the Axon spaceship.

Andrew: It’s quite rare to see Ware enjoying such a meaty role. For those not in the know, he’s probably best known as a stuntman and the founder of HAVOC, a team of daredevil blokes with grizzled late 1960s features and later 1970s chest hair, to be found gracing the more dangerous scenes in television series like Adam Adamant Lives!, Doctor Who, and Dick Barton: Special Agent. He had an amazing career in film, television, and on stage, but more often than not can only be glimpsed while doubling for another actor’s character.

Bob: Actually, was it Ware cleaning the windows in that opening sequence that confused us? I think it was! That explains it! That sequence was just a nifty bit of foreshadowing.

This is turning into a meditation on the tensions and tempers of modern living. Everyone is being driven mad by life’s little annoyances! As REM once poignantly sang, ‘It’s the little things that can pull you under’. And it’s true. Give me a day with one huge, single, sorrowful problem to deal with it, and I’ll stick my jaw out and deal with it manfully. Give me a day filled with dozens of utterly pointless niggles and I’m ready to head to the South Seas myself. Fire up the dusky maidens, Drew.

Andrew: By the way, it’s well over 14 minutes before our trio retreat to the café and therefore the television studio. Is that a record for filmed sequences in the series? I know we’ve had an entire feature-length special on film, but I can’t stress how unusual this is for a sitcom of the period. Not that I’m complaining; as much as I appreciate the live studio audience, I think the best material is increasingly to be found amongst the on-location scenes.

Bob: Crusher is working in the café! Our first glimpse of him! Ivy refers to him as her nephew, so do we assume he’s the son of Sid’s brother? They’re clearly designed to look alike, even down to the slicked-back hair!

Andrew: I think we have to assume he’s Sid’s relation rather than Ivy’s, hence the familiar distain with which she treats him! Had he been a blood relative, I doubt he could have done anything wrong in her eyes.

Bob: He’s not a direct replacement for Sid, though… whereas John Comer’s dialogue was filled with razor-sharp one-liners, Crusher is – as my Dad would say – ‘thick as a NAAFI table’. I’ve been watching The Young Ones recently, and he actually wouldn’t be out of place in it – there’s a real air of post-punk menace about him! Is this Roy Clarke’s little nod to alternative comedy, do we think? Whatever, Jonathan Linsley does a great job, and I like Compo’s line – ‘Who rubbed a lamp?’. And Foggy’s – ‘Yegods, the Egon Ronay Armoured Division’! You can tell the series is growing older, and broadening out a little now… with first Wesley, and now Crusher joining the regular cast.

Mind you, I don’t believe Brian Glover would be intimated by Crusher. Glover was a champion wrestler… Leon Aris, the Man from Paris! He was nails! He’d have Crusher in a headlock and be slamming him against the café counter before Ivy could safeguard the chip butties (still 25p)

Andrew: His fear of Ivy is completely understandable, however. She’s even more formidable, now that we see her dominating the likes of Crusher!

Bob: There’s a nice little snapshot in time here, as they exit the café… what’s very obviously a coach full of holidaymaking tourists slowly chugs along the main road past the square. I wonder how many people on that bus had come to Holmfirth purely because of Last of the Summer Wine? You’d have to suspect most of them, really… the show was a huge success by this point, and they’d have been desperate to catch a glimpse of some filming. And they got it! As soon as they arrived in town! We’ve been to that café a few times now, Drew… imagine how exciting it must have been to drive past it and see Compo, Clegg and Foggy being thrown from the door. Oh, I’m all a-quiver. Cancel my flight to the South Seas, I’m staying put.

Andrew: Far be it from me to stop you mid-quiver, but I think that bus is empty. We’ll have to order up HD copies from the BBC archive to make sure, though. Nevertheless, it won’t be long before the effects of tourism generated by the show are in many ways felt upon the series itself. It must have become an absolute nightmare having to heard ogling bystanders out of view of the camera, and even more difficult to get them to keep their mouths shut!

Bob: ‘It’s a bad time for children,’ muses Foggy. ‘You get ‘em to fourteen, and their hair turns green’. Not in 1985, granddad! It were all blond highlights and mullets by then.

Andrew: Yes, but before the digital revolution, wasn’t it a safe bet to say that a small Yorkshire town like this was operating at least five years behind a bustling metropolis like your own Stockton?

Bob: Stockton? How dare you. I have dual nationality: born in Middlesbrough, raised in Yarm. Hey, I love the fact that Brian Glover has carried his punctured tyre EVERYWHERE in this episode! It’s a great little touch of low-key surrealism. A proper McGuffin. It’s Summer Wine’s version of the glowing briefcase in Pulp Fiction.

Andrew: I love the fact that the trio have carried Brian Glover around for the duration as well! There’s something about the way in which they’re inducting him into their world and introducing him to the various characters that populate it that makes it feel like the series in preparing us for him to join full time. I know that this isn’t going to happen, but based on this one appearance I would have welcomed Glover with open arms!

Bob: Absolutely, he’s great. And wow, does Foggy actually STAND UP to Nora on her doorstep here? Just for once, he’s not intimidated at all by her aggressive brushing! And she actually gives in, and lets them in to see Wally! The tide is turning here, Drew. It’s a watershed moment. Nothing can ever be the same again.

Andrew: I can only assume that Foggy briefly feels that Nora is manageable, following his brush with Crusher. She soon ensures that the natural order of things is restored, however; by the time Foggy is settled into her front room he’s back to being a quivering jelly.

S8E2aBob: I love Wally Batty, though. I may have mentioned this before. When I head for the South Seas, can I take Joe Gladwin with me as well?

Andrew: Although, of course, Wally isn’t allowed to assist the trio with a lift up the hill with his motorbike. Perhaps that’s part of what makes the character so intoxicating to us; Nora keeps him rationed – Wally Batty, forbidden fruit!

Bob: And so Ogden’s car is fixed, and the mattress attached to the roof rack as Foggy’s clean-up campaign starts in earnest. It looks insane, but do you know what? It’s so true to life. My Dad never had any qualms whatsoever about strapping all manner of insanely large objects to the roof of our car. We were once driving along the A66 when a wardrobe – yes, a WARDROBE – that he was transporting from my Nana’s house slipped off into the hard shoulder. How’s that for a stunt? Even Derek Ware would head for the South Seas if you told him that.

Andrew: I refuse to be impressed until you reveal you were inside the wardrobe at the time.

Bob: The first episode of this new series was very much ‘business as usual’, but this feels like the start of a new era already. Brian Glover’s Ogden was almost the main character in this, the first time I think we’ve encountered a visiting, big-name guest star who gets that kind of treatment. And with the introduction of Crusher too, it feels like we’re now entering a wider world. And I think that’s fair enough… as brilliant as the three lead actors are, the show had been running for 12 years at this point, and I don’t blame Clarke at all for wanting to take it in new directions. Something I’d felt a bit uneasy about before we watched these shows in order, and in context, but now I think it’s completely the right decision.

Andrew:  Yes, so far so good! It’s a significant tonal shift from Getting Sam Home, but then again that film was a big shift from what preceded it. I’ve mentioned before that the popular conception of the show as unchanging is wrong, and this kind of change of direction demonstrates why – for a good portion of its run, the series never rested on its laurels.