Tuesday, January 04, 2011
On this day in 1973 began the longest-running sitcom in television history in terms of consecutive years on the air, Last of the Summer Wine; written by comedy legend Roy Clarke - who has to date written all 295 episodes! - Of Funerals and Fish originally aired as part of the BBC's Comedy Playhouse. Set in the West Yorkshire village of Holmfirth, the show concerns a group of late middle-aged eccentrics whose cast has changed over the years as costars have died or otherwise left, even as the antics of their group have remained consistently amusing.
The original trio consisted of Bill Owen as the scruffy and child-like Compo, Peter Sallis* as meek philosopher Clegg, and Michael Bates as authoritarian and snobbish Blamire; they are joined in this episode by Rosemary Martin as Mrs. Partridge, Kathy Staff as Compo's perennial love object Nora Batty, Blake Butler as the librarian Mr. Wainwright, John Comer as Sid, and Jane Freeman as Ivy.
Everything about the show has militated against its success - its un-vulgar humour, its elderly cast, its northern setting, even its low-key music by Ronnie Hazlehurst; clearly the best way to succeed is to try and fail, then, for its 31st consecutive annual appearance aired in 2010, as dark rumours set a-swirling by producer Alan J. W. Bell were later confirmed... Never ones to let a pesky thing like popularity get in the way of their whim, executives pulled the plug; the show's final appearance, entitled How Not to Cry at Weddings, was aired in August 2010.
*Who went on to greater fame as the voice of Wallace in Aardman Animations' Wallace and Gromit films.
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