Last of the Summer Wine started off life as an episode of Comedy Playhouse, broadcast on 4 January 1973. The first series proper was screened on 12 November 1973. The show would go on to be the longest-running comedy programme in Britain and the longest-running sitcom in the world.
Last of the Last of
After a whopping 31 series (broadcast in over 25 countries) the BBC announced that we’d see the Last of the Last of the Summer Wine. The final episode was broadcast on 29 August 2010.
The show not only made stars of its shows, it also made a star of the village where it was filmed, Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, which was recommended to the production team by one-time Points of View host Bary Took. Coach trips ferrying fans to the location still operate today, even though the series has ended.
The original trio of pensioners were the tramp like Compo (Bill Owen), the thoughtful and cautious Clegg (Peter Sallis) and the leader of the pack, snobbish Cyril (Michael Bates). When Bates was forced to leave the series due to illness, after two series, he was replaced by Brian Wilde as Foggy Dewhurst. Brian was of course familiar to viewers as the Prison Officer Barrowclough in Porridge. After the death of Brian, Foggy was replaced Seymour Uttherthwaite (Michael Aldridge), and then former police officer Truly Truelove (Are You Being Served Frank Thornton).
Like father, like son
After the death of Bill Owen in 1999, his real-life son, Tom Owen sometimes joined the cast as the equally scruffy son of Compo, Tom. His character saw himself as a bit of a Robin Hood figure.
A clean sweep
A popular storyline in the show was Compo’s pursuit of Nora Batty (Kathy Staff). His attempts at wooing Nora were rebuffed – with the words ‘get off of my steps’ and the appliance of a stiff broom to the posterior. At the series height Kathy played another character keen on using the broom, cleaner Doris Luke in the soap opera Crossroads.
Not past it
Last of the Summer Wine was also popular for its stunts, such as a Compo and co careering round the country roads of Yorkshire in a bath-tub – and for portraying the elderly in a positive and non-stereotypical light.