Last of the Summer Wine first aired in 1973, in the United Kingdom. New seasons were broadcast most years since then (1973, 1975-79, 1982-83, 1985-86, 1988-2010), as well as multiple holiday specials, though it has now been cancelled. Should be noted that it is currently the longest-running sitcom in the world, although not the one with the most episodes - that would be The Simpsons.It centres on a Comic Trio of elderly men in rural Yorkshire, who routinely get themselves into comic scrapes, often while trying to help somebody. The actors, and presumably the characters, were in their 50s when the show was first aired. The surviving cast members are now in their 80s.The original trio was:
Compo - Scruffy and lazy, played by Bill Owen
Clegg - Quiet and sensible, played by Peter Sallis
Blamire - Pompous, opinionated conservative, played by Michael Bates.
Blamire was replaced in 1976 by the first of several Suspiciously Similar Substitutes, Foggy Dewhurst (pompous, ex-military). Foggy quickly elected himself the leader of the other two, who put up with this arrangement because Foggy's schemes always went so amusingly wrong. Subsequent leaders, all pompous, were incompetent inventor and ex-teacher Seymour Utterthwaite (1986-90), Foggy Dewhurst returned (1990-97) and ex-policeman Herbert Truelove (1998-2010). Toward the end, a new trio took the central role, while Clegg and Truly receded into supporting roles.Most of the characters have a Yorkshire accent, and exemplify many of the associated stereotypes.When the actor playing Compo died in 1999, his son joined the cast playing Compo's long lost son, while Compo himself was replaced by Billy Hardcastle, who models himself on Robin Hood. Many of the supporting actors have died during the show's run, with their deaths being written into the script. Over the years, many popular guest stars have become regular cast members; as a result, there are now Loads and Loads of Characters.Despite their age, the characters appear to have rubber bones, routinely suffering accidents which would leave most people their age severely injured.During its run, the show has used the majority of Comedy Tropes, most commonly Zany Scheme. It also has many running gags: Howard and Marina's affair, Auntie Wainwright's shop, Nora Batty's stockings.It has had one Spin-Off, a prequel, First of the Summer Wine (two seasons). In this, Clegg's actor played Clegg's father.Several older members of the British Royal Family once stated LOTSW was their favorite television program. More bizarrely, so has President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan.Writer Roy Clarke has some degree of character crossover: there are strong similarities between LOTSW's Edie Pegden and Hyacinth Bucket from Keeping Up Appearances, and between Auntie Wainwright and Arkwright of Open All Hours. Nora Batty's actress also played a very similar character, Mrs Blewitt, in Open All Hours.In August 2010, the show finally concluded after 31 series, around the same time that ITV's equivalent Long Runner, The Bill (which is actually about a decade younger than Last of the Summer Wine) was also canceled, which brought about the end of an era to many British television viewers (and, if you count in the end of the American Long RunnerLaw & Order, this gets global).Came fourteenth in Britain's Best Sitcom.
It would be easier to list the tropes this series has NOT used by now, but some of the more frequently invoked are:
Abhorrent Admirer- Marina to Clegg. Supposedly Compo to Nora Batty, but there were increasing hints over the years that she secretly welcomed his attentions.
Absentee Actor- Barry was gone for several years working on another show. Glenda mentioned him very frequently during that time in order to indicate that he hadn't just run off.
Anyone Can Die- Not worked into the show so much as it is the fact that most of the actors on the show are very old. Despite this, the show has had a very long run.
Apron Matron- This is perhaps THE Sitcom for Apron Matrons, as practically every female cast member has fit this trope. Clegg says of their town in the first episode: "This is God's number-one area for unpleasant women of strong character."
Those who didn't when they were introduced only needed a decade or two to assimilate.
The Artifact- Tom was initially intended to take his father's place in the trio. However, the result was awkward because Tom was so much younger than the other two. After a small number of episodes, Billy Hardcastle started to take Tom's place. But, Tom has stayed on the show, now in a much-reduced role as Auntie Wainwright's shop assistant.
Earlier on, the library's importance as a setting dwindled considerably from its original conception (the show itself was nearly titled "The Library Mob").
Ascended Extra- probably one of the biggest culprits of this. The characters of Wesley, Smiler, Auntie Wainright, Billy and all three policemen were originally one off appearances, who later came back as regulars. Countless other minor characters were increased in importance (Alvin, Billy & Entwistle graduating to members of the main trio).
Beach Episode- A multi-parter was done in Scarborough early in the series, and another one, in France, just before Compo's death.
Call Back: Truly was introduced in a special about wacky hijinks leading up to a wedding, "There Goes The Groom" - as had Seymour years before in "Uncle of the Bride".
Cast Herd- Have been used increasingly since Seymour introduced the extended Pegden family in the '80s. Currently the major ones are the main trio (which Clegg and Truly have split off from, to be replaced by others); Howard, his wife Pearl, his would-be girlfriend Marina, and Pearl's friend Nellie; Barry and Glenda; Auntie Wainwright, Tom, and (until recently) Smiler; and the two policemen. There was formerly a prominent herd of female characters, but with the deaths of Edie Pegden and Nora Batty, they've become a bit less organized.
Eli Duckett, a popular recurring character for 15 years, was never mentioned again after the actor playing him, Danny O'Dea, died.
Ros was never mentioned again after her actress left following the 26th series.
When Tom first arrives in town, he is accompanied by Mrs. Avery, a potential love interest and foil for Nora Batty, and her niece, Babs. Both characters were unpopular, and Babs disappeared after only three episodes, while Mrs. Avery was around for a series. Neither character has been mentioned since their departure despite their former relationship with Tom.
Earlier on, the librarians, Mr. Wainwright and Mrs Partridge, were regulars during the first series but disappeared completely during the second series without mention or explanation. Mr. Wainwright would return for a few episodes during the third season but disappeared completely following the third series and was never mentioned again.
Comic Trio- Less so in recent years; following Compo's death, the series has tinkered with pairs, quartets, quintets, and mobs without matching the success of the original trio.
Commuting On A Bus- In the most recent season, Clegg and Truly no longer receive top-billing, and it appears they will only be making brief appearances from now on.
Due to age, obviously; so this is not a bad thing.
Convenient Replacement Character- Often, when a main trio member bowed out, a replacement character showed up to fulfill that very same role. The famous example is Seymour's last episode, where he was called out of retirement and left town; Foggy moved back into town on the very next bus. The two just barely missed one another.
A less-remembered example was when Truly replaced Foggy. In this case, Truly is already hanging out with the trio (and Foggy, played by a stand-in slung over a wheelbarrow, is too badly hung-over to speak). By the end of the episode, Foggy has suddenly married and moved away, and Truly simply carries on in his place.
Cousin Oliver- Babs, a brooding teenager who is Mrs. Avery's niece. She arrives in town at the same time as Tom and Mrs. Avery but quickly disappears after only three episodes due to negative reaction to the character.
The Danza- Tom Simmonite (Tom Owen), following in the footsteps of his dad William "Compo" Simmonite" (Bill Owen).
Darker and Edgier- The original novel by Roy Clarke was noticeably darker in tone than the resulting sitcom; it was adapted fairly faithfully as a special halfway through the show's run, with Foggy instead of Blamire, and the change in tone from a usual episode is quite jarring. (It uses all the usual Yorkshire themes, like adultery- and death-based plot, but does so in a much more serious manner).
Daydream Believer: Referenced by Clegg when Howard is trying to get him to judge the quality of a disguise, and Clegg says he wouldn't be any use because he's too gullible:
Driving Stick- Edie ("This stupid stick thing! It's your father, he keeps moving the pedals around!"). Not that she'd be any better in an automatic...
An inversion with Clegg, who's terrified at the prospect of driving an automatic. But then, he's terrified of driving anyway...
Everyone Went To School Together- True of almost the whole cast, except maybe second-generation people like Barry and Glenda. Ignores the sometimes wide age disparity between actors, or the fact that some characters were introduced as newcomers.
Expy- Series writer Roy Clarke has pulled a number of Expies on his own shows. Auntie Wainwright is a female variation of Arkwright from Open All Hours, while Hyacinth from Keeping Up Appearances took Edie Pegden's pretentions to a greater extreme.
Fake Nationality- Peter Sallis, a southerner, as Norman Clegg. His accent was convincing enough for Wallace & Gromit creator Nick Park, upon calling him to ask him to voice Wallace, refused to believe that Sallis' natural accent was his own.
Bill Owen as well.
First Name Basis: Barry and Glenda. Barry's surname, Wilkinson, was only given in the special that introduced the two and saw them married, "Uncle of the Bride".
Flanderization - Clegg went from being the acerbic, logical one to being the lily-livered coward of the trio. It started with him pointing out flaws in Foggy's schemes and snowballed into him desperately seeking any excuse to "give up and go home".
Alternative, more specific but equally poignant lyrics were used in the episode where Compo dies.
The Friend Nobody Likes- Foggy. He's pompous, delusional, hypocritical and sometimes seems to have a desire to get Compo killed. In fact, the only reason Compo and Clegg hang out with him is because Blamire asked them to, so their whole "friendship" is a favor to their real friend.
Compo:(about Foggy) Nice fella. Nobody likes him.
Subverted with the other third men (Blamire, Seymour and Truly), who are genuinely well-liked by Compo and Clegg.
Glad I Thought of It- Foggy tended to do this very frequently, but he was so unsubtle about it that most people just pitied him and went along with it.
To a lesser extent, Brian Wilde (Foggy Dewhirst) a.k.a. Mr Barrowclough and Stephen Lewis (Smiler) a.k.a. Blakey from On the Buses. And of course Thora Hird (Edie) recognisable as herself from Songs of Praise.
Iconic Outfit- Compo's trousers and wellies. Nora Batty's curlers and wrinkled stockings.
Idiosyncratic Episode Naming- Nearly every episode name just adds to the eccentricity of the show but there are some that stick out more then others such as "The Inventor of the 40ft Ferret," "When You Take A Good Bite, Yorkshire Tastes Terrible," and "The only Diesel Saxophone in Captivity."
In fact a lot of the more unusual episode names are actually a line of dialogue from the episode- being done many years before TwoAndAHalfMen had the idea!
I Meant to Do That- Most times when Foggy would really mess something up he would find a way to boast about it. Examples include being put in his place by an angry bystander (he claims he stopped it escalating into actual violence), falling off a cart (into a paratrooper roll), and completely misunderstanding what a Loxley Losenge was (he claimed he was trying to imply it's too important to discuss in public)
Informed Attribute- When Tom Owen first joined the cast, the other characters frequently made a point of remarking that he was "just like his father", the recently departed Compo/Bill Owen. Even though there were some mild similarities, the comments seemed more intended to convince viewers to embrace the younger Owen as a replacement for the older one.
In-Series Nickname: Compo often called Foggy by the insult "Tha gret long dollop", while Seymour commonly referred to the other two (and Wesley, etc.) as 'you boys' and Compo specifically as 'small person'.
Last Kiss- Compo had a heart attack when woken up by Nora Batty, who was dressed as a cabaret dancing girl. She later recounted giving him mouth to mouth and his last words of "Can we try this again when I'm feeling better?"
Loads and Loads of Characters- With the exception that all the characters usually appear in every episode. This seems to have been done so as to have plenty of characters to fall back on if one of the cast members dies, retires, or becomes too infirm to participate. Similarly, having such a large supporting cast reduces the strain on the principle actors, who by now are well into their 80s. Of course, this means an episode can only afford to have the tiniest shred of a plot so they can fit in enough scenes to accommodate all the players.
Long Runners- The BBC claims it as the longest-running sitcom in the world, ever. If they had known how long it would go, one wonders if they would've started the main characters out as preteens.
Mars and Venus Gender Contrast: One of the main drivers of humor. Usually approached by the women, but occasionally the men would weigh in as well, such as Norman Clegg stating the reason why women scare him is that they don't like The Goon Show.
Multiple-Choice Past- Foggy. Although he always had the attribute of 'exaggerating his military experience', in his first run he seemed to have some such experience and exaggerated it a little, whereas in his second run this was Flanderised into apparently never having seen action at all, but claiming to be a master of martial arts, trained silent killer and having been offered the crowns of several native tribes.
And then there's Clegg, who was married for a couple of decades, despite an apparently life-long record of asexuality.
No, Except Yes- Every time Clegg walks out of Auntie Wainwright's having been bullied into buying something useless.
Another character: Why did you buy an (X)?
Clegg: I didn't buy an (X), I was sold an (X)!
Put on a Bus- Mostly when one of the cast would die, the show quietly killed off their character, but mentioned the death in passing. However, when Kathy Staff died, her character, Nora Batty, packed up and moved off to Australia, and was never mentioned again, despite having been one of the show's iconic characters.
Real Life Writes the Plot : Younger characters became the protagonists towards the latter end of the series as the BBC was having major difficulty finding insurance cover for Sallis (Clegg) and Thornton (Truly), who were both well over eighty, for location shooting so the actors were restricted to studio shooting only.
Reality Subtext- Most cast deaths have been written into the series, and Clegg appears in fewer scenes these days due to Peter Sallis's macular degeneration.
The ladies over at Edie's house for tea and buns had two: always sipping their tea in an unconscious synchronized movement, and having a Politeness Judo contest over the big cream eclair.
Edie laying down newspapers for Wesley to walk on whenever she calls him into the house due to him being covered in oil.
Howard's many complicated plans for ensuring that his adultery with Marina wasn't discovered (despite it being The Not Secret) - "I think we've really cracked it this time love!" It was sometimes implied that he was more interested in coming up with the Zany Schemes than the adultery itself.
Sadist Teacher- Seymour. When he is called back to work after years of retirement - "What do you mean, you're not allowed to hit small boys? That's what they're for!"
Scenery Porn- Yorkshire is pretty. Yorkshire is very pretty.
Seinfeldian Conversation- Initially the show was almost entirely devoted to this. Now it's mainly limited to token scenes, but it's still always there.
In the Foggy years, this usually consisted of Foggy carrying a thread about his heroic war experiences/how the other two needed to get into shape, while Compo monologues about Nora Batty, and Clegg mused on something randomly philosophical, such as the implications of the fact that all men are equally purple on the inside.
Serious Business: In a recent interview, Peter Sallis noted that the show almost never got off the ground, as Owen and Bates had been cast a little too well as political opposites and were forever having violent political arguments during the pilot and early series. No, really.
Spot of Tea- All the time in Ivy's cafe. Seymour sometimes revives Compo after being injured by one of his inventions with 'hot sweet tea' (which to Compo is never sweet enough).
Strictly Formula- The beginning of most of the '90s Foggy episodes followed a very set routine. Each show would start- not necessarily in this order- with a scene of Compo trying to romance Nora, a scene of Foggy boring/revolting a stranger with a made-up war story, and a scene of Howard bursting into Clegg's house to ask a favor. Once Foggy left, the openings became a little more varied, although there were still many scenes of Compo pursuing Nora and Howard bothering Clegg.
Suspiciously Similar Substitute- Burly, dark-haired Crusher certainly appeared to be this, because of his resemblance to burly, dark-haired Sid (John Comer). Although oddly, Crusher was supposed to be related to Ivy's side of the family.
All the characters referred to as the "third man" are physically similar, and have a bossy temperament, but are not without their own quirks.
Vitriolic Best Buds- Blamire and Compo's relationship, to a tee. They constantly bicker and snipe at one anothers' politics and personalities, but nonetheless spend tons of time hanging out together (even in the absence of Clegg).
Your Cheating Heart- The Howard/Pearl/Marina is the second-most prominent storyline on the show, but even before they came along, many of the plots surrounded the trio blackmailing some fellow they'd caught fooling around in the hills.
Before Howard and Marina were introduced, there was the librarian and his female assistant in the earliest episodes.