Summer Winos»Uncategorized»Series 7 Episode 4: Cheering Up Ludovic

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.

 

6 comments

  • Visit site
    April 30, 2015 2:54 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Chris Orton

    “Hand glider”?

    Reply
    • Visit site
      April 30, 2015 2:58 pmPosted 2 years ago
      Bob Fischer

      I’m leaving that in. It’s vaguely erotic.

      Reply
      • Visit site
        April 30, 2015 2:59 pmPosted 2 years ago
        Andrew T. Smith (Author)

        I’m not… fixed 😛

        Reply
  • Visit site
    April 30, 2015 3:01 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Bob Fischer

    Boooooooooo! Stalinist revisionism!

    Reply
  • Visit site
    April 30, 2015 3:46 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Darren Stephens

    “There’s a great Yorkshire love of language, isn’t there?”

    I love the verbal contortions, but don’t think of them as Yorkshire-specific. I do think of them as uniquely Northern though (which is why Alan B could only be from the North) – that kind of working class ability to throw in something rather beautifully literate to undercut the prosaic and the quotidian is a wonderful thing. I think it’s closely related to the idea of misery you mentioned, and was a common thing with the mills and the mines: we may be working in a miserable place, and be wage slaves with a grim life and no sign that it’ll ever be any better, but..inside, we’re poets and artists and aesthetes. And no one can take that away from us. Much more subversive.

    A lot of that value of self-improvement and love of learning (and the libraries) came from that, i think. And of course, there’s more than a hint of it in Les Dawson, and before him people like the great Will Hay. And of course it meant there were things like the Ashington school of painters, where the so-called upper orders would never have suspected much things to happen.

    It depresses me a bit today, actually, that that spirit of autodidactism is looked down on a bit and pushed out a bit. It’s certainly rarer. We’re progressively elevating the inane, instead dog valuing the good stuff. Like wordy comedy. And music that’s not sold like baked beans, only less artfully.

    Nurse! the screens…I’m rambling…

    Reply
  • Visit site
    August 21, 2017 2:47 pmPosted 2 months ago
    Simon S

    It’s a wonder Foggy falls for Clegg’s riddle, though as you say, his violent over-reaction makes up for it.

    CLEGG: You think you don’t understand the question – wait until you hear the answer!

    It’s a pity that relativity doesn’t succeed where infinity did.

    Compo berates Foggy for not buying the drinks, but he’s just as reluctant (though with somewhat better excuse). I see that County Fair notice (from the café three weeks ago) is up in the pub too.

    Bryan Pringle gives a strong guest star role, disliking Wednesdays as much as going home in shame, though the van from Hell seems a good motive. Foggy and Compo goad him into action and cast Clegg out (a pretty drastic design flaw). Lucky that Wally & Nora are already there to save the day.
    The slow burn of Foggy and Compo realising the Clegg’s double might be the real thing is nicely done.
    Another out of control vehicle, it’s really the series for them (and with no other traffic on the road), while a moderately safe conclusion seems like an anti-climax.
    PS Alan Bennett’s father would have “ascertained”.

    Reply

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