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Christmas Special 1982: All Mod Conned

In which Christmas is cancelled.. again!

Andrew: It’s time, once again, for a not-quite festive Christmas Special and, this year, Foggy has decided the best thing the trio can do is whisk themselves away for a quiet holiday by the sea. Have you ever been away for Christmas, Bob? I know a few people who have, but the idea has always been completely unappealing to me.

Bob: I don’t like going away even when it’s NOT Christmas! I’m with Clegg all the way… ‘Don’t you think the only thing worse than Christmas,’ he muses, ‘is going away for Christmas?’ Roy Clarke is really not a fan of the season at all, is he? Still, I’ll forsake a few baubles and a bit of tinsel for black exchanges like this…

Foggy: We’re going to have to cover him up with something.

Clegg: Like what?

Foggy: Six feet of earth springs to mind…

Andrew: When Compo whips out his mistletoe, Nora demonstrates that, deep down, she quite enjoys his attention. And when these little cracks in her battleaxe exterior are shown, you can see why people really took to her character. And of course Wally’s blank stare is a perfectly played reaction – Joe Gladwin was a genius.

Wally seethes with festive jealousy...

Wally seethes with festive jealousy…

Bob: Yeah, there’s a kind-hearted woman lurking in there somewhere, isn’t there? And it’s played beautifully, with just a hint of warmth. Kathy Staff wanted more of this, didn’t she? She was right, but it needs to be used sparingly… we need to like Nora, but still be rather fearful of her.

Which seems to be Wally’s attitude, at least! ‘He’ll be staying indoors to enjoy himself with his family,’ barks Nora, when asked about Wally’s plans for Christmas. ‘I’ll be staying indoors to enjoy meself with me family’, repeats Wally, with a lifetime of glum acceptance dripping from every sarcastic syllable. You’re right – Joe Gladwin is untouchable for this kind of put-upon resignation. He really is. Such an underrated actor, and very sorely missed.

Andrew: And it  wouldn’t have been a very special Christmas Special without an appearance from Sid and Ivy, so I’m glad our favourite café owner is the man tasked with driving our trio out to the railway station. We’re also treated to another hint of Compo’s unexpected sexual prowess, as he pounces on Ivy and puts some colour into her cheeks.

Bob: The scene in the station waiting room is a charming insight into Foggy’s character. ‘Thankyou, driver,’ he says to Sid, desperate to (ahem) keep up appearances in front of his fellow travellers. ‘We take a little cottage,’ he continues, with the stiff, hoity-toity vagueness of Dad’s Army-era John Le Mesurier. Do people still put on a ‘posh voice’ when keen to impress? I’m slightly (but only slightly) embarrassed to admit that I actually do. It’s a legacy passed down from my mother, who would speak in a full blooded Teesside accent around the house… until the phone rang, and she’d answer in a voice that was part Dame Edith Evans with just a hint of Cicely Courtneidge. ‘H’aim terribly sorry, he’s not hair at the mow-ment…’

'I wonder if Argentina's claiming this lot...'

‘I wonder if Argentina’s claiming this lot…’

Anyway, the holiday begins! With the trio being dropped into the bleakest-looking countryside imaginable, beside a dark and desolate-looking beach. ‘I wonder if Argentina’s claiming this lot…’ ponders Clegg, starkly reminding us that this was broadcast on Christmas Day 1982, when the Falklands conflict was still fresh and raw in the nation’s consciousness. Last of the Summer Wine is often said to exist in a kind of timeless limbo, but I’ve actually been surprised at how many topical references it contains in this first decade. At this stage at least, it’s not at all divorced from the concerns of contemporary Britain.

Andrew: Absolutely. You only have to look at Holmfirth in these early episodes to realise that these shows come from a very particular time and place. It’s run down, grubby and very, very working class during the early years – a complete reflection of 1970s economic hardship and later Thatcherite abandonment. It’ll be interesting to see when this ‘timeless’ quality kicks in though, because that’s certainly how I remember the series being when I was a child.

Bob: ‘Beachview Holiday Cottage’ transpires to be a derelict caravan on the beach, and becomes the setting for some very broad slapstick, as Compo topples over the WC. The dialogue doesn’t seem up to the usual standard in this episode, but these scenes at least work as a nice character study of Foggy; surviving and relishing the challenges of a pretty desolate adventure.

Andrew: As with Full Steam Behind, I find myself feeling rather sorry for Foggy during the course of this episode. Yes, he’s being a prat, but his heart is in the right place. He’s genuinely trying to give Compo and Clegg a nice Christmas and all they do is throw it back in his face.

Bob: What a lovely scene between Sid and Wally! We cut back to the pub, and have a rare chance to see John Comer and Joe Gladwin working together; and both are acting their proverbial socks off. ‘If I had my time over again, I’d be a hippy’, muses Sid… and I half-expect a Reggie Perrin-style cutaway to John Comer in beads and long hair, dancing around a totem pole to the strains of Jefferson Airplane. It’s a beautiful scene, full of wistfulness and regret… probably the stand-out moment of the episode.

Wally and Sid share a joke

Wally and Sid share a joke

Andrew: It’s very strange isn’t it? We should be wanting to get back to the exciting, location-based adventure story, but these scenes with the series’ secondary characters are the ones that save this years festive outing from being a bit of a downer. They’re absolutely lovely. The only problem is that I now have no interest in returning to our trio.

Bob: This exchange between Nora and Ivy is oddly melancholic, too. ‘He’s no trouble… scarf and gloves’, says Nora, of Wally. Which makes me sad in so many ways – because again, there’s such a ring of truth about it. Nora and Wally have been married for… what? Forty years? Fifty? And still, the only thing she can think to buy him every single Christmas is a scarf and a new pair of gloves. It’s not just the penny-scrimping modesty of it, it’s her total lack of appreciation for all of the things that Wally enjoys. Could she not buy something for his pigeons? Or a few bottles of beer? Or anything that would make them both laugh and enjoy a little moment together? But no… scarf and gloves. It’s so depressingly impersonal, and yet you know she buys them love in her heart, and that Wally accepts them every year with good grace. And life – and their marriage – trundles on, regardless.

Meanwhile, Ivy claims she gets tired of skimpy nighties – not last year, she didn’t… she was clearly very thrilled and excited!

Andrew: You know it’s all just a front. And what a front!

Bob: Cheeky! All of this is so well-written and thoughtful, and multi-layered that, like you, I’m a bit disappointed when we head back to the slapstick on the beach, with Compo falling through the roof and the caravan going up in smoke. And finally, our threesome attempt to paddle home along the coast in the outhouse. Come on! They’d die!

Andrew: I found this one to be a bit of a damp squib. I’m all for a comedy of disasters, but the whole thing started started to seem a little mean-spirited and contrived around the mid-point. The last visual gag just leaves me cold, I’m afraid. Right, that’s it – Christmas ruined!

Bob: That had its moments, but I honestly don’t think Roy Clarke enjoys writing ‘Christmas’ at all.

Andrew: I wonder if this is the true curse of Last of the Summer Wine’s popularity; Roy Clarke being forced to put the effort into a festive special… over and over and over again.

Bob: Happy Christmas, readers!

All Mod Conned For Web

 

6 comments

  • Visit site
    February 17, 2015 12:57 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Chris Orton

    ‘I’ll be staying indoors to enjoy meself with me family’

    And you just know that Nora IS Wally’s family. Just her. Nobody else.

    Although I quite like the idea of there being a family gathering where all of the men are *exactly* like Wally and all of the women are *exactly* like Nora.

    Reply
  • Visit site
    February 17, 2015 4:00 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Bob Fischer

    That’s pretty much my idea of heaven.

    The scenes where Wally just glumly repeats what Nora tells him to do are some of the funniest in the whole series. I really, really love Joe Gladwin.

    Anyone know what he did in the early part of his career? IMDB has no mention of him at all before 1959, by which time he was already 53 years old.

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  • Visit site
    October 22, 2015 2:50 amPosted 1 year ago
    L. Grey

    With regard to Joe Gladwin, a cursory Google books search tells me that in 1950 he worked as a ‘feed’ for Dave Morris, a Northern comedian, seemingly on a BBC radio show called ‘Variety Feature’- this presumably being the Dave Morris in question: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Morris_(comedian)- so the implication (to me) is that he was always on the outskirts of showbusiness, even if it took him a while to achieve his well-deserved stardom!

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    October 26, 2015 2:41 pmPosted 1 year ago
    Bob Fischer

    Thanks Mr G… that’s an odd bit of serendity! A couple of weeks ago, I did a little phone interview with Ken Dodd for BBC Tees, and – knowing that I was from Middlesbrough – he mentioned Dave Morris as a comedian that he really admired. It was only when I looked Dave up that I realised he’d worked with Joe.

    Fabulously, Jonathan Linsley has managed to fill us in on lots of Joe’s early career… he used to sit next to Joe on the locations bus, and Joe told him lots of stories about his adventures in Music Hall. I’ll get all of this on the site as soon as I can!

    (And apologies for the shameless namedropping in this message) 🙂

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  • Visit site
    October 26, 2015 10:17 pmPosted 1 year ago
    L. Grey

    Ah, excellent! I hoped more of Mr Gladwin’s career would come to light, certainly because as you observed he seemed to almost appear from nowhere! I’d be very interested to know more about how he started out in the business, since even 1950 is relatively late in his life. At least he came to fame as Wally Batty in the end.

    I hadn’t heard of Dave Morris before (probably because my knowledge of music hall etc is woefully limited!) but it’s great to hear Jonathan Linsley had a lot of reminiscences to share. I always liked Crusher!

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    October 11, 2016 2:09 pmPosted 8 months ago
    Simon S

    Compo’s bedroom window is by his front door? Oh, the man is totally unreasonable…

    Foggy never learns from his mistakes with cheap bargains, does he? It’s as well that the true picture of their destination is held back as long as possible, because it seems the worst advert for going away there could be. I suppose it’s a forerunner of The Truman Show in that respect.

    Nice to see Billy Dainty was on Paul Daniels’ show.

    Reply

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