Summer Winos»Uncategorized»Series 3 Episode 1: The Man From Oswestry

Series 3 Episode 1: The Man From Oswestry

S3E1a

In which Compo and Clegg befriend the world’s deadliest ex-army corporal signwriter…

Andrew: Goodbye Blamire, hello Foggy! Losing one of the three main characters so early in the run could easily have resulted in the end of Last of the Summer Wine, but Roy Clarke is firing all cylinders here.

Bob: Absolutely, this is a fabulous episode – really top notch British comedy. Full of great lines and alternating lovely pathos with some brilliant laugh-out-loud comedy. And superb performances from everyone. It’s as though all involved felt they had to be really on top of their game for what’s effectively a relaunch of the whole series.

Andrew: Poor Compo. He’s devastated to have lost Blamire, and it’s totally believable. The opening scene in which Compo and Clegg visit the café and lament the loss of their friend to a Welsh widow is a very clever piece of writing. It reminds us how essential the ‘third man’ is to the series’ premise, and sets us up to welcome Foggy Dewhurst with open arms. Without Blamire, Clegg is reduced to fretting over oil stains on his trousers and some of the sparkle is gone from Compo’s impish eyes. Without a third man, the last of the summer is turning into autumn for the duo. They need an authority figure to push them out of their comfort zone and force them into diverting situations.

'I have a letter here from Joe Maplin...' (sorry, wrong sitcom)

‘I have a letter here from Joe Maplin…’
(sorry, wrong sitcom)

Bob: I love the opening scenes, with Compo idly kicking tin cans around the square outside the café as he waits for it to open. It’s the second childhood syndrome again, isn’t it? He’s absolutely the kid with no friends in the corner of an empty playground. In the previous series we saw Clegg and Blamire struggling to hold a conversation in the temporary absence of Compo. Clegg and Compo aren’t quite THAT bad, but in the scene in the café, it’s clear that their lives are going to be much less interesting without an authority figure to rail against. ‘It’s times like this, when I’m low on fags, that I really miss old Cyril Blamire,’ says Compo, which is as profound an outpouring of emotion as you’d ever get from a Yorkshireman in the mid-1970s.

Andrew: It’s nice to see that Blamire’s absence has been accounted for and that, rather than ignore his departure; Clarke has given the character something of a happy ending. Last episode we were talking about Blamire’s tragedy being routed in his lack of personal relationships, but he is now happily shacked up ‘a certain lady’.

Bob: Yes, great to see the unseen Blamire being given a happy send-off. The letter that he sends to them (as read out loud by Clegg, to a tittering Compo) is superb, and almost a pre-curser to the hilarious missives that the never-seen Joe Maplin would dispatch to the staff in Hi-De-Hi. ‘Thanks to the Labour government, when the Russians finally come, all we’ll have left to throw at them is one Welsh-speaking Alsatian,’ he writes, building up to the revelation that Foggy Dewhurst will soon be returning to Holmfirth and joining the merry gang.

We’ve talked before about how we’re constantly dropped into an established Summer Wine world that’s existed long before the series started. Even early in this episode, we hear Compo talk about characters that we’ve never met and probably never will… ‘Vernon Hislop broke his pelvis – I had an eyewitness account in the bookies from a bloke called Trigger’.

Operation Swordblade in action

Foggy is the most audacious example yet. In most other sitcoms, a new main character like Foggy would be as unfamiliar to the existing characters as he is to us viewers, and we’d get to know and appreciate his qualities and quirks together. But, as you’d expect in a close-knit community like Holmfirth, everyone already knows Foggy, and it’s us viewers that are on the back foot from the beginning. ‘A great long gormless streak from Arnold Crescent,’ as Compo describes him, ‘his mother wore brown boots’. Roy Clarke’s attention to detail in making Clegg and Compo’s memories -stretching back five decades to their collective childhoods – so complex and real is a joy.

Andrew: There’s a lot of buildup to Foggy’s arrival, and I love Compo’s recollection that, ‘He looked like a pencil with a rubber on the end’. When he does turn up, Foggy is a tempest in a green kagool; as Clegg says, ‘a genuine fourteen-carrot guilt edged barmpot’.  It’s lovely to see Clegg come to life at the sight of this maniac. It’s as if the character has regained his purpose; almost like the toys in Toy Story who are lost without somebody to play with them.

Bob: There’s a glorious moment when Foggy is rummaging maniacally in his pockets for his notebook, and Clegg turns to Compo and gives him a look of utter, heartfelt joy. It’s only a fleeting second or two, but you have to wonder if there’s a little bit of Sallis’ true feelings in that look – it’s a real ‘everything is going to be alright, after all’ moment, and Sallis seems to be genuinely revelling in Brian Wilde’s performance.

And quite right too, because Wilde makes an absolutely magnificent debut. From the first second he appears, marshalling the troops on the bus into Holmfirth, Foggy is a fully-formed, three dimensional character, and a brilliant one to boot. Bereft of Blamire’s self-confidence and brashness, it’s made clear even at this stage that Foggy’s military exploits are pure fantasy, scarcely concealing a timid and awkward man who lives largely inside his own mind. And yes, it’s played for laughs, but Wilde’s performance is so nuanced and perfect that all of Foggy’s tics and quirks (The meditative ‘planning sessions’, staring into space with a rigid expression of silent concentration, are my favourite) are never anything less than believable. We’ve ALL met the smalltown loners and dreamers that weave themselves a fantasy persona… it’s a fictional staple made famous by Walter Mitty and Billy Liar alike. Foggy is the latest in a long line of these characters, and it’s absolute TV magic from the off. A sensational creation and a stunning performance.

'Eee-zeh! Eee-zeh!'

‘Eee-zeh! Eee-zeh!’

Andrew: Even the supporting characters recognize the suitability of this new recruit, with Compo’s cousin Big Malcolm remarking, ‘If you can keep him alive, you might get some mileage out of him’. Clarke is almost winking at the audience at this point and whispering, ‘Yeah, this new set-up is going to work out’.

Bob: I was convinced for a couple of seconds that it was legendary TV wrestler Big Daddy making an appearance as Big Malcolm! Instead, it’s Paul Luty, who was indeed a professional wrestler in the 1960s before turning his hand to acting.  ‘I get these… murderous tempers,’ stammers Foggy, slamming a kung-fu palm onto the pub table, seconds after toasting the mysterious ‘Operation Swordblade’ with a heavenly-looking half-pint of bitter. I could watch him all day.

Andrew: ‘On the whole, you shouldn’t say anything to me that you couldn’t safely say to John Wayne’. What a line.

One comment

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    September 8, 2016 2:07 pmPosted 1 year ago
    Simon S

    Compo knocking Sid up (er…) is a metaphor for the viewers too, letting them know not to be complacent. Their scene about drinks leads to the glorious pay-off after Clegg joins in, and Sid goes “is he off tea and coffee an’ all?”

    Foggy the ace planner is lugging around huge, heavy sacks and chests without any serious grasp how he can actually transport them a long distance. The pratfall ending with the runaway chest is a harbinger of times to come.

    Big Malcolm being a wrestler seems plausible since he seems dressed casually for such work already, hat aside. Still, he’s part of this season arc (ho ho)

    Reply

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