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Series 2 Episode 3: The Changing Face of Rural Blamire

In which Blamire feels the pains of unemployment, and our trio become the new faces of Shinyglow…

Andrew: There’s a lovely scene at the top of this episode that sums up another of the series’ themes. Upon a hillside, the trio look down upon the Holme valley. Compo takes pride in the view, and reckons it’s scenery worth painting, while Clegg seems comforted by its boringness. Blamire, on the other hand, has had enough.

Blamire:  What this view lacks is a few factory chimneys. Then perhaps there’d be some work for our kind.

Clegg: Nature-lover.

Compo: You try speaking for yourself. Some of us are idle enough to appreciate things like this.

Three life philosophies wrapped up in a few lines. Lovely.

Bob: Yes, I like that scene as well. For all that the show later came to romanticise the Yorkshire countryside, it can also be extremely unsentimental about it, especially in these early episodes. Blamire’s attitude is probably fairly typical of the mid-1970s… there were mills and factories closing down left, right and centre at the time, and his concern is absolutely for the plight of the working man rather the splendour of nature.

And so we see Blamire actually looking for a job! The first suggestion we’ve had that any of our heroes are particularly dissatisfied with their idle, rambling second childhood.

This woman drives Clegg WILD...

This woman drives Clegg WILD…

I love his first attempt to secure work, in that cold, clinical office – Clegg is genuinely angry about the receptionist’s snotty demeanour towards them, isn’t he? ‘You ought to be out tending the dying with a whip,’ he snarls at her. It’s a rare opportunity for Peter Sallis to be genuinely unpleasant to someone in the series, and it’s quite a moment. We see Clegg as a man who actively despises the modern, impersonal approach to work… the ‘take a seat and I’ll see if he’s in his office’ attitude is absolute anathema to him. For the first time, we get a glimpse of a man who actually finds contemporary life quite distasteful.

Andrew: Blamire is really a tragic figure in this episode, desperate to work for a living but completely oblivious to the fact that the world has moved on and no longer needs or desires his services. If anything, his time spent as a salesman for Shinyglow could be interpreted as a nervous breakdown!

Bob: Come on, let’s be generous… it’s a mid-life crisis! But yes… Shinyglow products, with their corrosive, face-destroying cleaning spray. I like the Shinyglow boss Oswald Green, about as stereotypically Welsh a character as you’ll find on 1970s TV – in fact, I spent the entire scene coming to the conclusion that the part had clearly been written with Harry Secombe in mind. And yet again, we see Clegg driving! This time taking control of the Shinyglow van, as Blamire embarks on his short-lived career as a door-to-door salesman. ‘He’s had my leg in neutral twice,’ grumbles Compo. Great line.

Andrew: I didn’t pick up on that! My new theory is that he must run over a sheep in some unseen adventure between Series 4 and 5. That’s the only way I can explain his latter-day abject fear of getting behind the wheel!

Bob: The scenes with Blamire’s face gradually turning green and lumpy following an accidental coating of Shinyglow seem, again, to be heading into much broader, traditional sitcom territory than we’ve been used to so far, although the scenes in Sid’s Café afterwards are great.

I loved Ivy’s new-found spirituality in particular, and it’s beginning to dawn on me that, despite the central trio’s best attempts, it’s actually Sid that consistently gets the funniest lines in the show…

Ivy: Mrs Brocklesby’s going to take me to a lady in Retford who’s in touch with an angel called Kathleen.

Sid: Can you call in at Abercrombie’s on the way back? We’re running short of crisps.

Andrew: At times he gives off a working man’s comic vibe… in a good way. John Comer actually started his career in comedy acts that toured social clubs and later the variety circuit, and his delivery certainly reflects that.

Oswald Green. There’s lovely…

Bob: The spiritual stuff is a very authentically mid-1970s thing… there was a lot of that kind of stuff around. The Sunday papers were forever filled with table-rappers who had been in touch with Buddy Holly ‘on the other side’, and mediums like Doris Stokes were huge public figures. I imagine most families had an elderly friend or relative (always a woman) who would offer ‘readings’ and attempt to predict the future from tea leaves – I certainly did, and remember my Gran and Mum talking about such things quite a lot. It was a very uncynical age.

As for Sid, it’s just struck me that he bridges the gap between the ‘real’ world and the strange, fantasy existence our three heroes occupy, doesn’t he? He’s the only character so far that has a foot in both camps… he’s married, with a job and a mortgage, but he’s utterly envious of the main trio and their idle drifting and occasionally manages to escape for long enough to join them in their daydreams.  I actually think he’s the character we’re meant to identify with the most… the Summer Wine everyman figure. It’s a great performance from John Comer as well.

The closing scene is lovely… sleeping, under a tree, in the afternoon sunshine. You can’t blame Sid for being jealous.

6 comments

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    May 28, 2011 9:16 amPosted 6 years ago
    David Cook

    ‘Changing Face’ is one of my favourites of the early shows, with Blaimar’s “depression” being a nice bit of characterisation. It’s not that he need to work (Compo’s comments make it clear he’s quite well set up), but after an active life he just wants to feel he’s still needed.

    I must second the John Comer praise. As a kid in the ‘seventies he always seemed to look like my dad (!) and he added a bit of magic to whatever he appeared in.

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      May 28, 2011 10:49 amPosted 6 years ago
      Andrew T. Smith

      Is anything else available that John Comer appeared in? I’d love to see more of his work.

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        May 28, 2011 2:12 pmPosted 6 years ago
        David Cook

        He has a largish part in The Family Way (1966), as the father of Hayley Mills (it’s a smashing little film with a great performance by John Mills).

        Comer also stars in the BBC’s other Northern comedy I Didn’t Know You Cared (which I have strong childhood memories of watching).

        He also pops up in a Tara King-era Avengers (Take-Over) and can be glimpsed in I’m Alright Jack.

        I’m pretty sure he also popped up in a few ‘seventies childrens shows – Potters Picture Palace etc.

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          July 6, 2015 6:12 pmPosted 2 years ago
          Nick Griffiths

          He’s sadly killed off early on in the Avengers episode. It’s a great episode but really jars as it is very different to the episodes around it.

          Back on topic, I just love the silent rage Bates portrays when he sees his face in the mirror, the throbbing in his eye sells it. This is a guy who really doesn’t want to lose it in public.

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    September 1, 2016 2:59 pmPosted 1 year ago
    Simon S

    “There’s a bloke out here with the Huddersfield Strangler, looking for a job” – hilarious rather than creepy.

    Gerald James is masterful, his deceitfully covering up his desk and opening monologue are uncannily believable. Dodgy job outfits in seedy offices remain a sad side to unemployment, only Oswald Green is probably too charming. Zap! Pow! Kaboom! indeed 🙂

    Clegg’s poor parking and manoeuvring fit his dislike, and I can’t believe they leave the van on a slope – it probably rolled away in the next shot.

    The moment where Blamire sees his face in the mirror is a wonderful punchline to that whole café scene, from Clegg indicating to Sid to play along, to Ivy’s short-lived calmness. I can only echo the love for Sid, one of the other great triumvirate of regulars.

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    January 23, 2017 8:44 pmPosted 9 months ago
    Tice

    The part I treasure in this one is when Clegg says “I used to work for (*mutters*) Shmmny-Glmmmw”, and he does an embarrassed little echo of the grand hand gesture that Oswald Green always did when he mentioned Shiny-Glow.

    Oswald Green is so close to a W.C. Fields character type, it’s a wonder his ghost didn’t sue the lot of them.

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