Series: Keeping Up Appearances
residence, lady of the house speaking!"
"My name is Bouquet, B-U-C-K-E-T."
"It's pronounced 'Bouquet'..."
A classic Brit Com
that aired on The BBC
from 1990 to 1995
The show centers around Hyacinth Bucket (apparently pronounced 'Bouquet
', as she's often heard correcting people
), social climber extraordinaire. Snobby, shallow, and blissfully unaware of how annoying she is, Hyacinth is desperately worried that she isn't upper-class enough. Which, considering her family (Rose
, Onslow, and Daisy
), she definitely isn't.
Obsessed with improving her social status, Hyacinth routinely rides roughshod over everyone unlucky enough to know her, assuming they are an admiring chorus who will do whatever she wants. No matter how firmly they tell her "No," she only hears "Yes, my lady." She's also blind to the abundant evidence that her son is anything other than her idea of perfect. Her numerous schemes to improve her social status and show-off to all around her, however, are often scuttled by her own lack of intelligent thought and planning.
Her husband, Richard, is long-suffering verging on sainthood. Her neighbour and reluctant confidante, Elizabeth, is a nervous wreck largely because Hyacinth routinely summons her over for coffee — and then details how rare and valuable her china is just
as Elizabeth's about to take a sip. Elizabeth's musician brother Emmet is not quite so cowed, but still hides from Hyacinth for fear that "she'll sing at me." Hyacinth tells Richard of Emmet's crush on Hyacinth. Emmet does not have a crush on Hyacinth, but instead delights in her absence and pain, and complains about her presence.
Hyacinth's other sisters, Daisy and Rose, are both much lower class, with a junked car permanently parked in their front garden. A dog lives in the car and barks only at Hyacinth, causing her to fall onto a hedge
. Daisy is a down-to-earth type rather in awe of Hyacinth's pretensions; Rose is the local Hard-Drinking Party Girl
whose sex-life provides much of the incidental comedy — especially her crush on Hyacinth's (very married) parish vicar
. Daisy's husband, Onslow, looks like a stereotypical lazy slob, and completely ignores all his wife's amorous efforts, but over the course of the series is revealed — in comic contrast with Hyacinth — as an armchair philosopher often seen reading graduate-level texts. He has a sort of survivor's bond with Richard, whom he occasionally tries to "rescue."
Hyacinth has another sister Violet who, in contrast to Daisy and Rose, is very wealthy. Hyacinth even boasts about her to guests when she is on the telephone with her ("It's my sister Violet! She's the one with the Mercedes, sauna, and room for a pony!
") Despite this, Hyacinth tries to keep at bay the cross-dressing antics of Violet's turf accountant (i.e., bookmaker) husband Bruce. At first an unseen character
for most of the show, Violet physically appears a number of times in the last series.
As well as running gags, the series employs a more subtle sliding scale to wealth, social status, and marital happiness - the poorest and unmarried sister, Rose, seems to be the happiest and also has the most active sex life. Daisy and Onslow seem to have a happy enough marriage despite their lack of social standing. Hyacinth and Richard are middle-class, with a testy but caring relationship. And Violet and Bruce are the most wealthy, but have a terrible marriage. Similarly, the three husbands have a sliding scale of laziness, with Onslow the worst, then Richard, who blithely accepts his wife's decisions without protest, while Bruce works very hard.
Came twelfth in Britain's Best Sitcom
This series provides examples of:
- Added Alliterative Appeal: Hyacinth pulls off a couple sentences with them.
Hyacinth: Beautiful day, Elizabeth!
Elizabeth: Yes, isn't it?
Hyacinth: Completely condusive to contemplating cozy, charismatic country cottages!
Hyacinth: Richard! What a thing to say to someone with her own solid silver self-cleaning sauce separator!
- The Alleged Car: Onslow's beat-up '78 Ford Cortina (the one that runs. Barely.)
- Ambiguously Gay: Hyacinth and Richard's son Sheridan, although the hints are so obvious this is almost certainly a case of Selective Obliviousness on Hyacinth's part.
- Amusement Park: Hyacinth takes some elderly people to one for 'charitable purposes'. You're not fooling anyone Hyacinth, one glimpse of you grinning on the merry-go-round and we've learned you actually love fun fairs.
- Awful Wedded Life: Zigzagged. In Hyacinth's marriage to Richard; he puts up with a lot, used to her snobbish behaviour and expensive attempts to climb the social ladder. But they do seem to care for each other.
- However tiresome Richard may find Hyacinth, it's nothing to the painful marriage between Violet and Bruce, which is one step away from a messy divorce, with Bruce being a cross-dresser implied to be having an almost in-your-face affair.
- Backseat Driver: Hyacinth. A bad one at that.
- Brilliant but Lazy: Onslow.
- Camp Straight: Emmet. Catty, terribly fey, organises the local musicals... very appreciative of Rose's 'friendly legs'.
- Catch Phrase:
- "Oh, nice!" (Onslow)
- "Bog off, our Onslow!" (Rose)
- "It's 'Bouquet', dear." (Hyacinth)
- "The Bucket woman!" (The vicar and his wife)
- (Answering the phone) "The Bouquet residence! The lady of the house speaking!" (Hyacinth)
- "It's my sister Violet. She's the one with a Mercedes, swimming pool, sauna, and room for a pony."
- "It's my sister Daisy. She's not the one with a Mercedes, swimming pool, sauna, and room for a pony."
- Character Tics: Characters on the show have a tendency to repeat phrases over and over. In fact, all Roy Clarke's characters tend to repeat phrases over and over. They do. They repeat things. Over and over.
- Clip Show: The Memoirs of Hyacinth Bucket (Rare for a British Show).
- It's also unique as it was produced directly for the American market and broadcast on PBS complete with breaks so that PBS stations airing the program could take time out to ask for viewer support.
- Cloud Cuckoolander: Hyacinth just has no idea how hard time she's giving everyone, or that people generally either fear her or laugh at her, and most of all, that all of her efforts to appear upper-class only indifinitely underline her very common standing.
- Coitus Ensues: Once, between Daisy and Onslow, in a wrong place.
- Comedy Series
- Compromising Memoirs: Rose plans to write hers in one episode. She begins by asking Daisy and Onslow how to spell "memoirs."
- Deadpan Snarker: Onslow and Richard.
- Determinator: Give Hyacinth credit, she never fails from lack of effort.
- Give Richard credit too, for living with Hyacinth. Although you can't be sure if he's still with her out of determination or severe lack of such...
- Dirty Old Man: Hyacinth's father.
- The Ditz: Emmet and Elizabeth on occasion. In one episode, Emmet checks the temperature of an heating iron by touching it.
- Dreadful Musician: Hyacinth
- Drop-In Character: Elizabeth, against her will.
- Extreme Doormat: Some say Richard is a saint. Others say he just lets himself be pushed around by his domineering wife, putting up only mild protests even when she is wasting money, since it's easier than taking any responsibility himself.
- Fat Bastard: Onslow a good deal of the time, though he often subverts this trope.
- Fee Fi Faux Pas: Elizabeth is practicing her excuse to Hyacinth that she can't come to coffee because she has to visit her solicitor (lawyer). But when she answers Hyacinth's call, she instead says "I can't today, Hyacinth, I'm soliciting!". Cue Oh, Crap face.
- Femme Fatale: Rose
- The Ghost: Hyacinth and Richard's son Sheridan, who is mentioned in almost every episode, and who phones regularly to ask for money, yet is never actually seen. Also, Elizabeth's husband, who is working abroad. Hyacinth's other sister Violet, who is married to "turf accountant" Bruce, started out as a ghost but became an occasional on-screen character for the final season.
- Gold Digger: Hyacinth encourages this behavior in others, pointing out the advantages of Violet's husband Bruce's new Mercedes (and the large house with the swimming pool and room for a pony) when Violet muses splitting off from Bruce. She also tries to help Rose land a rich husband, although very few of her beaus are ever wealthy - it's just Hyacinth's social climbing-colored glasses getting in the way.
- Grande Dame: What Hyacinth aspires to be.
- Henpecked Husband: Poor Richard.
- He Who Must Not Be Seen:
- Hyacinth's son, Sheridan, although he does eventually put in a brief and wordless appearance dressed in full motorcycle kit including face-concealing helmet.
- Elizabeth's husband, who is said to be working in Saudi Arabia, and her daughter, Gail.
- Hyacinth's sister and brother-in-law, Violet and Bruce, are often mentioned during the first four series. However, Violet is never seen while Bruce makes occasional nonspeaking cameos, often doing something that embarrasses Hyacinth. This is averted in the final series when they become recurring characters.
- Heroic BSOD: The one time Richard ever dares to speak up to her, Hyacinth shuts down completely and mindlessly does what he asks without protest...for a little while. (bystanders, who either knew Hyacinth or happened to witness her immediate behavior, applauded and suggested Richard deserved a medal)
- Hilarity Ensues: Hyacinth tricks Richard into stealing a car, and then she blames him, but neither of them is known to suffer any legal consequence. As in this page's entry for Mood Whiplash, stuff blows up and a car chase happens, but no one is hurt or killed.
- She wanted a ride in a Rolls-Royce and conned the dealer into a test drive. Richard was nervous about driving a car pricier than their house. Why didn't he just ask the salesman to drive as they intended to be chauffeured anyway?
- Because Hyacinth goaded him into it with her directions, Richard as usual taking the easy route of compliance.
- Holiday Volunteering: The Christmas Special sees Richard forced to dress up as Father Christmas as he hands out gifts to the old people at the Church Hall. Only he gets drunk on cherry and Emmet has to take over.
- Hollywood Tone-Deaf: Hyacinth.
- House Wife: Hyacinth, Elizabeth, Daisy and Violet.
- Humiliation Conga: Many of the episodes are basically set-ups for humiliation conga lines targeting Hyacinth.
- Hypocritical Humor: Whenever Hyacinth claims that she's not the sort of person who puts on airs or who boasts about her social connections or who orders people around.
- She has stated that she hates snobbery in several occasions.
- Informed Attractiveness: An unusual number of men over the course of the series get the palm sweats over matronly, post-menopausal Hyacinth. It's usually Major Wilton Smythe, whose advances Hyacinth tolerates to some extent because he's very-well-connected-socially. Rule of Funny, really, and usually Lampshaded.
- Same goes for Onslow. His wife Daisy is unaccountably fascinated with his body. Even Onslow is at a loss to comprehend it.
- Insane Troll Logic: Hyacinth's social-climbing attempts and rationales can sometimes take on this edge. She once asked Richard to smile while doing the gardening so that if any people she was trying to impress happened to drop by they'd assume that they could afford a gardener but choose not to because Richard enjoyed it so much.
- Irony: All of Hyacinth's upper-class "friends" much prefer her poorer relatives to her.
- It Is Pronounced Tro PAY: It's not 'Bucket', it's 'Bouquet', as Hyacinth will insistently claim. However, Richard claims "It was always Bucket until I met you," and Hyacinth herself, upset at the time, once pronounces it "Bucket" before quickly correcting herself, suggesting this is a bit of Selective Obliviousness on Hyacinth's part.
- Jerkass: Hyacinth.
- She does veer into Jerk with a Heart of Gold terriotory, albeit very rarely. The 1991 Christmas Episode is a good example, in which she invites all her friends and family around for a party, regardless of their social status.
- For all her oppressive treatment of Richard, she does at least mean well usually and treats him an affectionate demeanor despite her demands. Naturally, this usually only came to bite Richard in the back (for example, she turned down a high potential job opportunity because she didn't have the heart to leave him at home all alone, he is coherently sobbing). She also is shown to have a resented love for her slobbish relatives (particularly 'Daddy').
- Just Eat Gilligan: For some reason, it's never an option to just refuse to do whatever Hyacinth says. When Hyacinth ignores a "No," the characters appear resigned to obey her.
- It gets turned into a running gag when Emmet tries to coach Liz into refusing coffee. She's just. that. SCARY.
- Richard tried to put his foot down a few times during the series. Bless his heart, he does try. Hyacinth simply walks over him.
- Large Ham: Most of the women, especially Hyacinth.
- Lazy Bum: Onslow and Daisy.
- Limited Wardrobe: Onslow, who (except for the odd occasion when Hyacinth or Daisy force him into a suit) apparently only has one outfit.
- MacGuffin: The infamous "Candlelight Suppers" are never shown in all their glory underway. In a few episodes we see Hyacinth preparing food and her dining room for them, but the actual event is never shown. Much of what drives Hyacinth's schemes and pestering up the social ladder revolve around inviting someone to one of these events.
- Mood Whiplash: Hyacinth shops for a second car. A crime thriller ensues. Hyacinth tries to help her sister fix her marriage. A foot chase ensues. Her father is often disoriented, playful, and prone to fainting, and once takes the Bucket car for a drive in the country. An enormous car chase ensues. Hyacinth goads Richard into repairing some electrics and babysits dogs. The dogs run away when the church is turned into a virtual war zone and explodes.
- No Accounting for Taste: Hyacinth could more-than-conceivably have married Richard for the slight class upgrade, but what he thought he was getting is a mystery.
- Richard himself once lampshaped the fact by saying something to the effect of "you never know who you'll end up falling in love with." Of course, that comment went completely right over Hyacinth's head.
- No Name Given: The Vicar's wife, despite the fact she is a recurring character during the entire run of the show. Also, to a lesser extent, the Major.
- Noodle Incident: Hyacinth's Candlelight Suppers are never shown. Presumably the reason why they're so terrible and nobody actually likes going to them is because of the presence of Hyacinth herself.
- Not This One, That One: Hyacinth has rented a boat, and she is delighted with the beautiful yacht she thinks it is; then it turns out to be the floating nutshell next to it. Her solution? Let's move it a bit further, it will look better on its own. Who am I to contradict Hyacinth, but it would have helped if any of them had actually known how to steer the thing?
- Oh, Crap: "It's that Bucket woman!"
- One Steve Limit: Averted.
- There are two minor characters named Michael: The Vicar and the postman.
- There are also two Hawksworths: Emmett and one-off character Lydia.
- Only One Name: Daisy, Onslow, Rose, and Michael the Vicar.
- The Other Darrin: Rose was played by Shirley Stelfox in the first series and then by Mary Millar in all later series.
- Parental Obliviousness: Hyacinth in regards to Sheridan's sexuality. Some of Richard's reactions indicate that he does know (or at least think) Sheridan is gay.
- Percussive Maintenance: Onslow and Daisy turn their TV on and off by giving it a whack on the top.
- More impressively, Daisy once changed the channel this way.
- Really Gets Around: Rose.
Hyacinth: It's indecent. A skirt should go to the floor.
Onslow: Bet that skirt's gone to the floor a few times.
- Received Pronunciation: Hyacinth, Up to Eleven, most naturally my good man.
- Reluctant Retiree: Richard Bucket, mostly because he'll then have to spend more time with his wife.
- One of the jokes in the pilot is people congratulating Richard on his upcoming retirement... only to then immediately switch to condolences as they realize what this'll mean for him.
- Repeating so the Audience Can Hear: Hyacinth's phone conversations.
- Running Gag: It's safe to say that at least 50 % of the entire show consists of running gags. They get Played With fairly often, too.
- Every time Hyacinth approaches Onslow's front door, the dog living in the car on the driveway startles her, and she falls into the hedge behind. In one episode she creeps past the car, expecting the dog, and it startles her from a front window of the house.
- People call Hyacinth's house to order Chinese food, thinking they called the Chinese Takeaway (they have the same number as Hyacinth's, but one digit removed).
- Hyacinth is delighted when her son Sheridan calls her and he immediately asks for money. "Oh Sheridan, darling—how much?"
- Hyacinth's seeming compulsion to constantly namedrop things, such as Sheridan's pearl button collection (which she thinks is wonderfully valuable), her Royal Doulton porcelain set with the handpainted periwinkles, her sister Violet, "the one with a Mercedes, a pool, and room for a pony", and perhaps most infamously, her "elegant candlelight suppers". Some items or connections appear only in single episodes—one such occasion was in Country Estate Sale, where Hyacinth ends up buying Dowager Lady Ursula's homemade gooseberry wine, drinking the stuff, and getting the litany more and more wrong each time she mentions it again.
- Hyacinth insisting on singing, and the pained reactions of everyone else.
- Hyacinth is chased by varying amorous men and later ponders they haven't "seen an attractive woman for quite a long time."
- Emmet's suggestions for excuses when he wants Elizabeth to tell her he's not available.
- The very manual control of Onslow and Daisy's TV.
- Elizabeth breaking Hyacinth's china, later mugs, and the ways she tries to avoid this.
- Hyacinth's senile Daddy runs away to cause chaos at the worst of moments.
- Also, Daddy's discreetly off-screen adventures.
- Hyacinth's habit of telling Richard what to do while he's driving, and her opinions on what things are worth a "For goodness' sake Richard, watch out".
- Daisy being in amorous mood, and Onslow being decidedly not.
- Rose's manifold romantic adventures, especially with men who should not be chasing skirts to begin with.
- Hyacinth turns every instance of her son or father doing something unsightly into virtues. Thusly, Daddy was riding a bike buck naked because he was practicing for the biannual Senior Bike Marathon when he encountered a poor homeless person and valiantly gave away all his clothes, and so on.
- Every time Onslow and Daisy park their old, run down car, its exhaust pipe explodes with clouds of smoke.
- Selective Obliviousness: The source of much of the show's comedy. There are occasional hints that Hyacinth knows full well what other people think of her, or that her last name really is pronounced "Bucket", or that her son is gay, but just refuses to accept them due to her Pride.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Hyacinth has a strong tendency to call a spade something entirely more elegant: some memorable examples include "waterside supper with riparian entertainment" (which everyone else calls a "riverside pique-nique"), and "distributing gifts to the poor". It's sometimes made fun of (you know, even more than usually) when she needs to describe something but struggles to come up with expressions worth her standing.
- Sexual Harassment As Comedy: Hyacinth being not infrequently pawed and chased around by overly amorous men. Somehow manages to be funny because Hyacinth most certainly qualifies as an Asshole Victim.
- Hyacinth's father also occasionally pushes his skirt-chasing into this territory.
- Sexy Priest: The new Vicar. His wife knows this, and has to remind him (and put up a sign) to keep away from the ladies. Of course, she always finds Rose wrapped around him.
- She's Got Legs: Emmett's description of Rose: "The one with the friendly legs."
- Ship Tease: Richard and Elizabeth might have been much happier people if they'd married each other.
- There's some between Hyacinth and Onslow: When Onslow kisses Hyacinth, mistaking her for Elizabeth, Hyacinth's mood improves considerably. Then, on the QE2, Hyacinth leaves Richard sitting to go dance with Onslow.
- A Simple Plan: Hyacinth's attempts at raising her social status.
- Single-Target Sexuality: Another interpretation of Daisy's attraction to Onslow: despite the odd flourish here and there, she never shows any indication that she even finds other men attractive let alone possessing the desire to leave her pretty neglectful husband.
- Skirts and Ladders: Invoked by Daisy in a Christmas Episode when she refuses to climb up a ladder to see a lifeboat on these grounds.
- Slobs Versus Snobs
- Small Name, Big Ego: Hyacinth. In the final episode, she presumes to tell God how to pronounce her name, yelling to Richard, "Tell God it's 'Bouquet'!"
- She's this to a lesser degree in the Cruise Special. She gets paranoid if the crew somehow have left the captain stranded. Richard tells her it's unlikely they would have done that, she replies "they left me!! Notice that she said "me" and not "us".
- Social Climber: Hyancinth fits this trope to a T. She probably will not stop until she becomes queen, noting how fitting it is for her to act out a role as one in a play.
- Stepford Smiler: Hyacinth sort of... but not really. She constantly puts on a show of being idyllically happy in order to make people think they're high class, but she's never really shown to be particularly unhappy in any way.
- Just about everyone, but especially Emmet is this when Hyacinth is around.
- Stuff Blowing Up: A church blows up, and in another scene, the aftermath of a long-ago car repair session is treated as the aftermath of a recent silent explosion.
- Theme Naming: Hyacinth and her sisters are all named for flowers. Is that why she insists on pronouncing it "Bouquet"?
- The Three Certainties in Life: One gag compared being invited to one of Hyacinth Buck... err... Bouquet's candlelight suppers to the inevitability of death and taxes.
- Trademark Favorite Food: Onslow and Daisy love Bacon Butties. Onslow is also partial to Beer and Crisps (potato chips)
Daisy: I remember when I used to interest you far more than crisps...
Onslow: Weren't as many flavors back then!
- Unnamed Parent: Hyacinth, Daisy, Rose, and Violet's father, who is only referred to as "Daddy" throughout the series and never given a name.
- The Unpronounceable: Rose's Polish fiance, whom Rose, Daisy, and Onslow settle to call "Mr. Whatsit."
- Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Hyacinth. Big time. Although her relatives are by all accounts lazy slobs, they look like saints in comparison.
- The Vicar: Michael the vicar, who is terrified of both Hyacinth and Rose.
- Video Inside, Film Outside: Averted; inside and outside, almost the entirety of the series was shot on video, with only occasional bursts of film.
- Westminster Chimes: The Buckets' doorbell plays the first notes of this tune. Upon hearing the doorbell, visitors inevitably roll their eyes as though they're thinking, "Good God, even Hyacinth's doorbell is pretentious!"
- What Does She See in Him?: This is Hyacinth's attitude towards Daisy and Onslow. However, it's probably more applicable to her marriage to Richard, as an inversion.
- In Richard's case, one gets the impression that they fell in love and married before she began her social climbing in earnest. It's also suggested (and the actor has said in interviews) that Richard is quite lazy, (but nothing like as bad as Onslow) and appreciates having decisions made for him. Routledge herself once emphasized this by stating that Hyacinth never fails to cook, clean and iron for her husband.
- Women Are Wiser: Inverted; Richard is a lot nicer, more practical and likable than Hyacinth. He also has the common sense thing going on, while Hyacinth... not so much. The trend continues with Daisy and Rose, who have common sense but are often Distracted by the Sexy, and Michael-the-vicar's wife, who's having trouble understanding why everyone dreads Hyacinth.
- Your Cheating Heart: Rose always has relationships with married or otherwise committed men, to the point where Onslow and Daisy are surprised when one of her boyfriends turns out to be single.