Summer Winos»Uncategorized»Series 1 Episode 4: Spring Fever

Series 1 Episode 4: Spring Fever

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In which Compo’s sap rises…

Andrew: Even by this fourth episode, Compo’s character is so well-defined that the fact that he would start feeling romantic and choose to clean up his act sets up a real sense of mystery. As a viewer, you want to find out what’s going on just as much as his friends do.

And crikey, even when Liz Smith was young, she was old!

Bob: Liz Smith is startling in this… for those not joining us in this marathon Wineathon (come on in, the water’s lovely), she plays a classic ‘mutton-dressed-as-lamb’ old girl, resplendent in knee-length boots, red PVC coat and gigantic blonde beehive. My initial reaction was, oddly, that I could fully imagine this character being Denise Royle’s grandmother! Liz will have been in her early fifties when this was shot.

I was slightly baffled by the sexual politics here… Liz’s character responds to Compo’s advertisement for a ‘housekeeper’, but there seems to be a tacit acceptance by both parties that a bit of – ahem – hanky panky will be a small but crucial aspect of the job. Was that accepted practice back in the early 1970s? Maybe I shouldn’t be too surprised, this is, after all, an episode in which a clothes shop in a small West Yorkshire town has the bold slogan ‘IMPRESS THE CHICKS!’ proudly emblazoned in the window.

The young Nana Royle on the prowl...

The young Nana Royle on the prowl…

Interesting that we see Compo quite readily buying new clothes in this episode, and that it isn’t especially played for laughs. I’m sure there are scenes in future episodes where he’s shown to be virtually surgically attached to his moth-ridden jacket and woolly hat, and any new get-up is inevitably outlandish and inappropriate, but not here. He looks fairly smart in his new suit.

Ivy seems to be a little softer in these early episodes as well, and even compliments Compo on his new look.

Andrew: Compo’s advances don’t seem as affectionate or as innocent as they would later, at least not during the opening scene in which he pressures Nora to leave her husband… and especially so when he mentions wanting to get his date drunk and have his way with her! Then again, as his ‘sap rises’ (as Clegg so delightfully puts it), you sense that he has a real appreciation for what his love rival takes for granted. It’s not so much the companionship of a woman, it’s more just the being looked after.

We also see Compo polishing a bugle as he cleans the house! Amazingly, Clarke pays this off years later in the Millennium special, when the character takes it back to the scene of his wartime service in France.

Bob: I think Compo just wants his leg over, far more than you’re prepared to admit! And his washing done as well, admittedly. Take a look at the scene in which he’s lying in bed polishing that bugle… it’s riddled with unbridled sexual symbolism. I bet Mary Whitehouse was straight on the phone to Sir Charles Curran.

Andrew: I think I’ve figured out why these early episodes feel so strange. This might seem a bit weird, but although it was always broadcast on the BBC, these first samples of Summer Wine feel like ITV productions. There’s something of an emptiness to the studio scenes and the exteriors seem really roughly done… grotty, even. There certainly aren’t any of the production values that were bestowed upon the production later on, and that are seen as the hallmarks of prestigious BBC productions. I’m not sure any of the above would make sense to the kind of normal person who doesn’t feel the urge to subject themselves to things like Kinvig, Don’t Drink the Water and George and Mildred.

Compo's new look!

Compo’s new look!

Bob: Yes, you’re right… it’s the whole soot-stained streets thing again. It’s absolutely not an advert for Holmfirth, the place is portrayed as a rather rough, shabby Yorkshire town. I have a theory the ITV sitcoms of the 1970s are always a more authentic glimpse into British society than their BBC equivalents, particularly when it comes to the working classes… and I wonder if that’s due in part to the regional nature of ITV? A sitcom like Oh No, It’s Selwyn Froggitt! – set in working class Yorkshire – was made entirely in the county itself (even the studio scenes were filmed in Leeds) by authentic Yorkshire writers, cast and crew. It couldn’t NOT be reflective of its setting and social make-up.

Whereas the BBC might make the occasional foray into the provinces for location filming, but their production team and studio work would all have been London-centric. I think it’s testament to the early Summer Wine team that they managed to transcend that so successfully.

Some nice 1970s touches in this episode as well… Compo idly leaves his door unlocked while he’s out, there’s a tantalising glimpse of the TV’s famous Test Card F, and the references to Home Help and Milk Stout both warmed the cockles of my heart. And Kathy Staff looks so young! Just checked, and she was only a few years older than me when she made these episodes. Amazing. Or maybe not, I probably seem just as ancient to your youthful eyes, Mr Smith.

9 comments

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    May 2, 2011 4:24 pmPosted 6 years ago
    Chris Orton

    Terrific stuff again chaps. LotSW really was an entirely different series back then wasn’t it? The early years really are the essence of the series for me. I always say it, but the show started to go off a bit for me following the first departure of Foggy (possibly even as far back as Alan Bell becoming involved.)

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    May 2, 2011 7:48 pmPosted 6 years ago
    Barry Delve

    Interesting analogy with ITV comedies. I wonder if the reason the early series feel like ITV rather than BBC is because they weren’t set in the home counties and they’re also ‘working class’ without being about class divisions. I’m struggling to think of any other BBC comedies of that time that weren’t based on class struggles. All the Perry/Croft/Lloyd stuff was about it, – even the Liver Birds and Whatever Happened to The Likely Lads had aspirational characters, and a lot of the comedy came from that. I know it’s superficial, but a lot of ITV comedy from the early 70s seemed to be based around sex.

    This makes George & Mildred the one comedy that could have shown on either channel and you need to ignore Only When I Laugh completely for this theory to have any legs at all…

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      May 10, 2011 9:32 pmPosted 6 years ago
      Andrew T. Smith

      I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there, Barry. There’s no sense of any of the characters in Summer Wine wanting to ‘rise above’ their working class routes. Blamire possibly comes the closest to that attitude, but he doesn’t actually do much about it.

      George and Mildred shouldn’t have been shown on any channel.

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        August 17, 2016 5:21 pmPosted 1 year ago
        Bob Fischer

        I’ve only just noticed this. George and Mildred is BRILLIANT, you heretic.

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    May 4, 2011 8:38 amPosted 6 years ago
    David Cook

    I think that the first episode I ever watched was, aptly enough, Foggy’s debut. Somehow I was aware of Michael Bates (perhaps because of It ‘Aint Half Hot, Mum) and I seem to remember that they showed a Bates episode when he died, as tribute.

    At that time I think that they showed the series at a surprisingly late slot (post-Nine O’Clock News) and I have comfy memories of eating Bakewell Tart as my supper when watching it!

    Shame that the Michael Bates era is so obscure (little repeats, edited videos/DVD’s, no mention of the character in First Of The Summer Wine….)

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    August 16, 2016 1:42 pmPosted 1 year ago
    Simon S

    In case there’s any doubts who the lead character is, this is Compo front and centre, in a dodgy plot only ameliorated by a typical sitcom solution – his proposed fancy woman is awful. The café meal of mushy peas is fittingly horrid. He must like stripey suits.
    It’s melancholic to see Clegg and Blamire missing him so much, though the closing scene makes up for a lot of this – what was the appeal of abandoned oil drums to make a raft (cf. Top Gear again)? Kids these days, they don’t know what they’re missing…

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      August 17, 2016 5:24 pmPosted 1 year ago
      Bob Fischer

      There’s nowt wrong wi’ mushy peas, Simon.

      Are you working your way through from the start as well? Been interesting to read your thoughts as you go! You’ll probably catch us up before too long…

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        August 27, 2016 1:53 pmPosted 1 year ago
        Simon S

        Cheers. I hope to try. You’ve done such a good job with it.

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          August 27, 2016 1:56 pmPosted 1 year ago
          Bob Fischer

          Thanks! Appreciate it.

          Reply

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