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Series 7 Episode 1: The Frozen Turkey Man


In which Foggy becomes an object of lust…

Bob: 1983! The first episode of the tenth anniversary series, and you can tell that the show has gained national treasure status by this stage… there’s an extraordinary confidence to the writing, assuming that we already know all about Compo and Nora and their relationship. And, indeed, that we already know all about Dorothy Lamour!

For the benefit of our younger readers…

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

Andrew: There’s also a visual confidence to this episode that I really like. I know we often praise Alan J.W. Bell for injecting a bit of visual panache to the series, but Sydney Lotterby does an equally wonderful job here. The beautiful and long-sustained opening shot, in which our trio are gradually revealed from behind a grass verge, is very playful with the depth of field throughout the scene: Compo dips in and out of frame, popping up in unexpected places in a way that really complements Clarke’s lines. I’d be very interested to know if this physical business was written into the script or invented by the director.

Bob: I like Compo’s line, ‘She washes on Mondays’. When I was a kid, the idea of ‘washday’ was still firmly entrenched… a designated day of the week when the lady of the house did the entire family’s laundry in one fell swoop. And, in terraced streets, the whole street would often agree on the day; so that drying could be done in unison, with lines strung across the back alley from window to window. Can you imagine that, these days? I don’t even know what half the people in my street look like.

Andrew: And they’ve told me that they’d like to keep it that way.

Bob: Their fantasies about Dorothy Lamour living with Compo, and doing his washing, are almost entering Pete and Dud territory! ‘Tap tap tap, on the bloody window…’ But it’s beautifully done.

Andrew: There’s something charmingly sweet about it, though. All Compo would ask for, in return for taking Lamour into his home, is that she do a bit of washing and changes the flower in her teeth every now and again. There’s an innocence to that desire that I think is key to keeping Compo away from Dirty Old Man territory. It’s a little boy’s desire, if anything.

Bob: I like the old battleaxe cycling past too, a timely nod to the gap between their everyday and their fantasy lives, and a little nudge to remind us that – for all the fun – these are three men who are actually bored to tears by the mundanity of their existence.

This is a hoary old one-liner, but it never fails to make me laugh…

Compo: Quadrants, Norm.

Clegg: And the same to you.

Let’s get to the crux (and the same to you). Compo (and his friend ‘Thunder’ – NAMES DATABASE!) buried a tin of ‘Yorkshire remains’ (their equivalent of Roman remains) somewhere on the moors in 1932. And now he wants them back. And there are far too many brackets in this paragraph, but I’m not backing down. I’m with Foggy, and a line that made me absolutely laugh like a drain… ‘Marriage was never an option for me. I knew from an early age I was dedicated to the life of a Samurai’.

Brian Wilde’s delivery is just magnificent. If he’d overplayed by even a fraction, and gone for the laugh, it wouldn’t work. We have to believe that even Foggy believes this stuff. Peter Sellers used to say that Inspector Clouseau, despite the fact that we laugh at him, is actually a sombre and serious man. And so is Foggy, at moments like this. Wilde is so deadpan, and so understated, that lines liked this are both hilarious and poignant. Brilliant.

Andrew: It’s also revealed here that Foggy actually worked for Northern Dairies. It’ll be interesting to see if this is ever mentioned again, as I believe Clarke must like the incongruity of a man who sees himself as an action hero, but actually works with milk. Years later, Russ Abbott’s similarly delusional character, Hobbo, will be introduced in an episode entitled I Was a Hitman For Primrose Dairies.

'Gobble, gobble...'

‘Gobble, gobble…’

Bob: Drew, I know you were fond of a scene back in the early days, when Michael Bates heard church bells ringing, and improvised a little glance at his watch to check the time. There’s an equally nice bit here where Bill Owen, as they leave the café, just swings gleefully on a bollard. There’s no way that was in the script!

Andrew: By this stage, they’re all in tune not only with their parts, but the location of Holmfirth itself. I really do think the series is unique in that respect.

Bob: Fifteen minutes in here, and there’s not a hint of a plot! It’s brave, but lovely, and the dialogue here is as good as anything Clarke has ever written – with Brian Wilde once again benefiting the most. ‘High spirits?’ he snorts at Compo. ‘You were barely tall enough for low spirits’. And ‘that’s how the Black Death got underway’, as Compo plants a kiss on Foggy’s forehead. Wilde has got some great material to work with here.

Andrew: You’re not wrong about the plot, although there are a deceptive number of threads being woven. This episode feels like a welcome throwback to the Blamire years. There’s a listless quality to it. It isn’t that it feels disjointed or that it drags at all, just that it’s simply content to ramble towards its conclusion at its own charming pace.

Bob: Compo has a mark ‘where Eileen Watkins got me’. She was mentioned in Series 5 Episode 6, Here We Go Into the Wild Blue Younger. She was in love with Chunky Rumbelow and looked like King Farouk of Egypt!

Andrew: I know, I know!

Bob: This is a glorious glimpse into the world of the early 1980s boozer. Look how grotty the pub is! The walls are absolutely filthy, and the whole place just reeks of nicotine and stale, split beer. And there’s a bloke at the bar doing a Rubik’s Cube! Good grief. That’s absolutely spot on – the bloody things were everywhere. I love the look of utter disdain that Foggy gives him, that combination of ‘Oh, you facile idiot, giving your time over to such pointless fads’ and ‘actually, I bet I could solve that thing in five minutes flat’. It’s exactly the look that my dad gave me back in 1982 when I first brought my own cube into the house!

Andrew: Ah, but did you ever manage to master it? Mine always ended up being chucked across the room.

Bob: I bought a book in the end. You Can Do The Cube, by Patrick Bossert. And even then my Uncle Trevor had to do it for me.

I was wondering when the title of this episode was going to come into play, and it’s barely a passing reference… our heroes try to set up Foggy with the buxom barmaid, telling her that he’s an eccentric millionaire in the frozen turkey business. Amazingly, she’s interested! ‘Gobble gobble’, indeed. The barmaid, incidentally, is played by Gaye Brown, who has a fine film pedigree – she was in A Clockwork Orange, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd! Does this make her the only actor to have worked with both Brian Wilde and Johnny Depp? (Actually, I’m guessing not… but we’ll come to that in later series)

And, like all great sitcom characters, Foggy is absolutely terrified of sex. Just as Basil Fawlty slept in a separate bed to Sybil, each with their airport paperbacks, and George Roper broke out in a cold sweat whenever Mildred puckered her lips, Foggy reverts to a being a tongue-tied schoolboy at the slightest hint of female attention. And yet… we’ve seen him enjoy an ACTUAL romance before, haven’t we? Maybe it’s just the highly-sexed vamp type that puts him off. He needs to be courted by a demure old maid who likes a bit of crochet on the side.

Maaaarching on together...

Maaaarching on together…

Andrew: Once Foggy has been suitably terrified, it’s back to the hills we go in search of Compo’s ‘Yorkshire Remains’. Keen to apply logical thinking to the search, Foggy comes up with the idea of recreating the scene when the remains were actually buried. Now, this really got my mathematically-challenged brain straining – it is said that Compo was twelve years old when he squirrelled them away in 1932. This means that he was born in 1920 and thus was only fifty-three years old when Last of the Summer Wine started in 1973! Does this sound right to you?

Bob:  It’s curious, as it means Compo is six years YOUNGER than Bill Owen, who was born in 1914! And I always thought that, if anything, the main actors were playing characters slightly older than them. Oh, I don’t know. My brain hurts as well. I suppose it’s possible that Compo was only 53 when the show started.

And hey, right at the end, we get a stunt! On a scooter! Do kiddies’ scooters like that even exist any more? I had one in the late 1970s, but I haven’t seen one for years. They were the natural middle ground between walking in a straight line (which I still haven’t fully mastered) and cycling. But it’s a nice idea to have Compo use them to emulate his 1932 roller skates, and try to find his missing tin from the perspective he’d have had back then. It reminds me of a lovely bit in Oliver Postgate’s autobiography, when – as an old man – he revisits his childhood home and is shocked to discover it holds no sentimental feelings for him whatsoever. But then he realises he’s simply seeing it from the wrong height! When he gets down on all fours, and sees the front door from the perspective of his five-year-old self, he’s overcome with a powerful rush of nostalgia.

Andrew: As far as slapstick finales go, this works very nicely for me. Unlike certain previous episodes, there is a sense of logical progression here. It makes a crazy sort of sense that Compo ends up strapped to two children’s scooters. Basically, I’m just happy he’s not dressed up like a sodding pigeon.

Bob: Is Compo wearing a Leeds Utd scarf? I’ve gone off him.

Andrew: Inevitably, Compo’s trip down the hillside sees him come to crashing halt where he discovers… Yorkshire Remains!

Bob: Compo’s landing in the cowpat reminds me of an odd riddle that swept my school at the time… ‘What would you rather do – run a mile, jump a style, or eat a fresh country pancake?’ With much derision following if you unwittingly plumped for the latter option. Because it’s a cowpat. See? Hur, hur. You said you’d eat a cowpat. Urrrrgh.

Andrew: I think you’re showing your bumpkin roots, there. Now, sniff my cheese…

Bob: By the standards of much that we’ve seen recently, that was an oddly aimless episode… but for that reason, I loved it! A cracking series opener.

Andrew: I couldn’t agree more, but I’m amazed we’ve yet to touch on the fact that this episode features yet another pitch pefect Wally Batty scene! I love the idea that his sole weapon against Nora is to annoy her with a well-timed sulk. How on Earth is one meant to tell when Wally Batty is sulking?

11 comments

  • Visit site
    April 27, 2015 3:54 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Austin Hendricks

    Hi, just great you guys are continuing doing this project. I only saw LOSW for the first on out public telivision maybe four years ago. It pulled me in, I now own all commercial dvd’s, even bought a region 1 dvd player so I could buy from amazon.uk. Your insight is wonderful, I have just found your site recently and have decided to rewatch all episode, decided to read your commments on each episode first. Thanks again, Austin. Pittsfield, Ma. USA

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    April 28, 2015 9:32 amPosted 2 years ago
    Bob Fischer

    Hi Austin, that’s really kind of you to say so… thanks for coming along for the ride! Has the show got a big US following then? I’m really interested, as it always strikes me as a very British-feeling comedy, and I’m fascinated that it still works Stateside.

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    April 29, 2015 1:37 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Austin Hendricks

    Hi Bob, I am located in the NE, near Boston Ma., Albany NY. , a pretty populated area of the US. We only get one episone on Saturday night on out Public Television channels, but it seems to be gaining popularity. I only know one other person in my immediate circle who watches regularly. It does work stateside. Something about this program resonates in me, it is my treat to myself. I just watched Spring Fever again after reading about the episode on your site. I was struck by the diffeence in some of the humor, definetly adult oriented. I loved the episode anew. The only difficulty I have is with the accents and no cc available I miss some of the dialog! The British references to the local culture I have learned a lot over the course of watching all episodes, so each time I rewatch one I appreciate it more. Thanks again for the effort, it is really enriching the enjoyment of rewatching the series, Austin

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    April 29, 2015 6:20 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Bob Fischer

    Yes, the early episodes are much more adult! I think it was broadcast in quite a late timeslot in those early days… it was only after the first five or six years that it began to be shown earlier in the evening, eventually moving to an early Sunday evening slot in the 1980s, where it stayed for the rest of the run. The humour started to become much more family-friendly around that time.

    And yeah, I wondered if the accents might cause you problems! Compo in particular has a REALLY strong Yorkshire accent… which is amazing, as Bill Owen was from London and spoke completely differently.

    Anyway, a pleasure… thanks again for the kind words. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts as we go along!

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    April 29, 2015 7:39 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Austin Hendricks

    Hi Bob,
    Been thinking why really Last of the Summer Wine is so like visiting the better parts of my life-that may not ever have fully been! Why do I laugh so many times, feel moved so much at times thinking, Oh Yeah! Been there, done that! I am 67 years old and lived through the same years and most of each decades particular culture. I am in second year of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, a terminal disease, no remisions, no cure, maybe one or two years left in a constantly diminishing physical ability state. So I have been doing a lot of revisiting my past life experiences last couple years, and the show is like a good companion on the journey. From laughing at Sids wide suede like watchband in the first series, sawthat and remembered mine! The references to forced military service in wartime, that famous cluster F vietnam was mine,I hear unsaid things like then when Cleggy talks about a little birds blood and little Timmys(think that was the name) blood on a foreign field in France it touches me deeply. The many old mills in the landscape, me I was a textile dyer and colorist for years and worked many old mills in our new england towns. The sooty drab colors of everything in the early series, the 70’s, in my Ameriica my seventies are remembered as all gray subdued colors, from back home to wide coolars, here may 4 1970 Kent State starting it, our country torn apart from the war, nixon, my inability to fit back in to society, Jobs gone, recession, so much, a filthy decade.It took me till the 80’s to feel I was seeing full color, full life. Probably too much detail for you, but think this is what it is about for me. I love the humor, the characters, and the depth Roy Clark has written. Thanks for listening, wanted to explain why LOTSW is healing as well as entertainment, Austin

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      April 30, 2015 8:55 amPosted 2 years ago
      Andrew T. Smith (Author)

      Thank you for sharing, Austin. I’m looking forward to reading your perspective on episodes to come.

      As far as cultural differences go, did you know that Mickey Rooney was once rumoured to be interested in starring in a US remake of the series?! That’s mentioned in one of the Summer Wine documentaries, I think.

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        April 30, 2015 9:28 amPosted 2 years ago
        Bob Fischer

        Even I didn’t know that!

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    April 29, 2015 10:29 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Bob Fischer

    Austin, that’s not too much detail at all. It’s fascinating, and incredibly touching. First of all, I’m so sorry to hear about your illness… I hope at least you’re comfortable at the moment, and I’m really moved by how Last of the Summer Wine is helping you along the way.

    And yes, I see so much of my younger days in those early episodes, too. I’m a little bit younger than you (I’m 42), so the 1970s was where my childhood took place. And I have exactly the same impressions of it as you… the greyness, the sootiness of the buildings, the men whose bodies had been destroyed by decades of working amongst heavy industry. I grew up about 60 miles from where Summer Wine was filmed, but we still had those abandoned buildings on the moors, and a feeling that the country was in decline.

    And yet… I miss it. I miss the simplicity of that life. And the people like Foggy and Clegg and Compo and Sid, because men like that absolutely filled my childhood, but I’m not sure they really exist any more. And it’s interesting what you say about Vietnam, because my memories of growing up in the 1970s are of the British still fighting World War II… in our heads, at least. Thirty years on, I don’t think the country had really recovered, it was something that was still talked about every day, and lots of our towns and countryside still bore the physical scars back then.

    But I’m thrilled that life turned around for you, and I’m really honoured that you’ve shared your story here. It’s lovely to chat. Thanks, Austin.

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    July 28, 2016 4:15 pmPosted 1 year ago
    Delt

    Has the gobble sequence gone over your heads?
    I can’t believe it got into the episode let alone uncommented upon.
    Extremely rude of her to offer such a thing. I think the foggy reaction
    Entirely appropriate!

    Enjoying the blog, thank you chaps.

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      July 28, 2016 4:18 pmPosted 1 year ago
      Bob Fischer

      She’s just talking about turkeys! I can’t imagine how anyone could infer any other meaning…

      Cheers, Delt… good to have you along.

      Reply
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    August 18, 2017 1:30 pmPosted 2 months ago
    Simon S

    I’m not enamoured of vague throwaway titles, and I feel the series is beginning to go off the boil around now.

    That opening skit seems pretty indulgent, with Compo appearing and disappearing like it’s open-air panto.

    The plot with a quest for a buried tin after 50 years reminds me this time of the recent metal detecting episode, and how any of them seriously expect to find a random bush is anyone’s guess.

    I like the poster in the café for “Holme Valley Beagles Annual County Fair, Sun 13th June, 1982 – Kennels, Upperthong, Holmfirth”.

    The idea that Wally punishes Nora by sulking on his step suggests there’s more to their relationship than can make sense in words, much as Compo’s passion for Nora makes no apparent sense. Capped by the subtle “I’ll come when I’m ready… as it happens, I’m ready now” 😉

    The pub scene, which from the outside might be one they’ve been to before, but it seems redecorated for the worst, and the silly subplot with a barmaid. I can see why Compo is up for mischief, but what spurs Clegg on so fervently?

    I like the occasional way Compo clouts Clegg with his hat for bad puns.

    The finale seems like Foggy getting revenge for the pub scene, although there is a shred of wisdom in trying to recreate an experience. But really it’s just that old standby, going downhill on wheels. And if it isn’t funny enough the first time, do it again. At least there’s a soft landing.

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