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Series / Last of the Summer Wine

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Just another day. (l-r) Clegg, Compo and Foggy, pursued by the formidable Nora Batty
"Did I lock the door?"
The final line of the final episode, as spoken by Clegg.

Last of the Summer Wine was a gentle, family-friendly TV comedy set in rural Yorkshire, Oop North in England, which became the world's longest-running Sitcom. First aired in 1973 and running almost continually until 2010, its remarkable longevity is starkly ironic in light of the fact that it centred from the word go upon a Comic Trio of elderly men who — as the show's title suggests — were meant to be living out the autumn of their years, and their friends and neighbours of a similar, erm, vintage. Frequently regressing to a kind of eccentric second youth, the trio routinely got themselves into comic scrapes, often while trying to help somebody or partake in a perfectly sensible-sounding Zany Scheme.

Just quite how old the characters were meant to be originally is unsure, but the actors were actually in their 50s when the show was first aired, and by the final episode the oldest surviving cast members were in their late 80s.


The original trio was Compo (scruffy and lazy, played by Bill Owen), Clegg (meek, quiet and sensible, played by ever-present Peter Sallis) and Blamire (pompous, opinionated conservative, played by Michael Bates); Blamire was replaced in 1976 by the first of several suspiciously similar substitutes, "Foggy" Dewhirst (pompous, ex-military), played by Brian Wilde and who quickly elected himself the leader of the other two, who put up with this arrangement because his schemes always went so amusingly wrong. Subsequent leaders, all pompous, were incompetent inventor and ex-teacher Seymour Utterthwaite (Michael Aldridge, 1986-90), a returning Foggy (1990-97) and ex-policeman 'Truly' Truelove (Frank Thornton, 1998-2010). Toward the end, a new trio took the central role, while Clegg and Truly receded into supporting roles.


Most of the characters had a Yorkshire accent, and exemplified many of the associated stereotypes. During its run, the show used the majority of Comedy Tropes, most commonly Zany Scheme. It also had many running gags: Howard and Marina's affair, Auntie Wainwright's shop, Nora Batty's stockings. The quintessential sight, at least in public perception, was someone – usually Compo – whizzing down a hill in some Homemade Invention like a tin bathtub with wheels on, crashing into a low drystone wall at the bottom and disappearing over it into a field. Despite their age, the characters appeared to have rubber bones, routinely suffering accidents like this which would leave most people severely injured, let alone someone of their advanced years.

Unsurprisingly perhaps, after decades on the air the show was frequently a target of those who saw it as stale and repetitive and wished to see it axed. The BBC kept producing new episodes, however, as it remained highly popular, in particular among older generations; several older members of The British Royal Family were known to have apparently stated Summer Wine was their favourite television programme, including HM The Queen and the Queen Mother. More bizarrely, so did President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan.

New seasons were broadcast most years of its run (1973, 1975-79, 1982-83, 1985-86, 1988-2010), as well as multiple holiday specials and a two-season Spin-Off, First of the Summer Wine, a Prequel broadcast in 1988-89. In August 2010, the show was finally concluded by the BBC after 31 series. Every episode ever was written by just one man: Roy Clarke.

Came fourteenth in Britain's Best Sitcom.

It would be easier to list the tropes this series did NOT use by the end of its epic run, but some of the more frequently invoked were:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Marina to Clegg. Supposedly Compo to Nora Batty, but there were increasing hints over the years that she secretly welcomed his attentions.
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: After Mitzi, a dog who Howard had left in Clegg’s care, chases Howard out of the house (long story), everyone present applauds the dog.
  • All There in the Manual: The novel (also called Last of the Summer Wine) was published in 1974 and centred on a series of actions — the trio ends up transporting a dead body to various locations across town — that had not taken place in any of the episodes that had been broadcast up to that point. It was eventually adapted as the feature-length 1983 Christmas special, "Getting Sam Home", which is somewhat darker in tone than the usual episodes, in addition to which it has no laughter track.
  • Anyone Can Die: Not worked into the show so much as it is the fact that many of the actors on the show were rather elderly. Despite this, the show had a very long run indeed.
  • Apron Matron: This is perhaps THE Sitcom for Apron Matrons, as practically every female cast member fell under this trope. Those who didn't when they were introduced only needed a decade or two to assimilate. Clegg says of their town in the first episode: "This is God's number-one area for unpleasant women of strong character."
    • It's implied that most of the female cast were quite good-looking in their younger days, and strongly implied that given the nature of their respective menfolk, their subsequent character development is entirely understandable
  • The Artifact: A close miss with the name of the show itself – it was nearly titled The Library Mob, in anticipation of the location being central to the core characters' lives and Zany Schemes. Early on, however, the library's importance as a setting dwindled considerably from its original conception.
    • The character Tom Simmonite was initially intended to take his father Compo's place in the central trio. However, the result was awkward because Tom was so much younger than the other two. After a small number of episodes, the character Billy Hardcastle started to take Tom's place. But, Tom stayed on the show, now in a much-reduced role as Auntie Wainwright's shop assistant, for the remaining ten years of its run.
  • Ascended Extra: Probably one of the biggest culprits of this, increasingly so as the series went on, as previous mainstays died off or had their roles reduced due to age.
    • 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, with Alvin, Billy & Entwistle graduating to members of the main trio.
    • Auntie Wainwright appears to be a case of Throw It In, completely unrelated to the original set-up but much too good a joke and actress to be allowed to let slip.
    • A spin-off has been announced, centering around Those Two Guys Police Constables Cooper and Walsh, of all people.
  • Bait-And-Switch Performance: A variation occurs in "The Man Who Nearly Knew Pavarotti" when the group encounter Billy Ingleton, an unsuccessful but self-proclaimed expert musician who demonstrates it by masterfully playing the opening notes to a symphony on a piano several times. Excited Foggy decides to make him the staring act of a charity concert he's organising. Unfortunately for them right before curtain call Billy comes clean that the opening notes are all he ever learned and has absolutely no idea how to play the rest of the piece.
  • Beach Episode: A multi-parter was done in Scarborough early in the series, and another one, in France, just before Compo's death.
  • Birthday Episode: To celebrate his, Clegg just wants a quiet meal with Truly. Unfortunately, it's in a venue where a wedding is being held and everyone in town is attending.
  • Blind Mistake: Eli's whole shtick.
  • British Brevity: ...Well. Utterly destroyed the traditional limits with its grand total of 295 episodes, which is hardly anything to sneeze at even by American standards, but still a relatively low number for a show that ran for 37 years. Most seasons, per the Anglo norm, were 7-10 episodes long. (For comparison, the definitive Long Runner of 1-hour American television, Law & Order, posted 456 episodes in a "mere" 20 years.)
  • Brits Love Tea: The cast would frequently have a cuppa at Ivy's cafe. Seymour would sometimes revive Compo after being injured by one of his inventions with "hot sweet tea" – which to Compo was never sweet enough, being a 'take one spoonful out of the bowl, tip the rest of the bowl into your cup, then return the spoon' type of fellow.
  • Bungling Inventor: Seymour.
  • The Bus Came Back: Foggy (literally!) – his character returned in 1990, after a five-year absence, on the next actual bus after the one his replacement Seymour had just left on.
  • Call-Back: Truly was introduced in a special about wacky hijinks leading up to a wedding, "There Goes The Groom" – as had been Seymour years before in "Uncle of the Bride".
  • Cast Herd: Began appearing increasingly once the extended Pegden family was introduced in the '80s. This mostly broke down into a female herd (which always stuck pretty close together) and a male herd, which would include the main trio and any other blokes they would pick up throughout the episode. After Compo died, the herds of men became less cohesive, as did the female herd after Edie's death.
  • Catchphrase
    • Howard to Marina: "I think we've really cracked it this time, love!"
    • Ivy: "What the blood and stomach pills—?!"
    • Edie to Glenda to shut her up after an Armour-Piercing Question: "Drink your coffee!"
    • Clegg, after coming out of Auntie Wainwright's: "I didn't buy an (X), I was sold an (X)!"
    • Marina referring to Clegg as "...Nnnorman Clegg that was!"
    • Clegg philosophically complaining about something: "It's flying in the face of nature!"
    • Compo, whenever Seymour needs someone to test his latest prototype: "He's looking at me, Norm! Why's he looking at me, Norm?"
  • Chew Toy: Smiler, the gentle, elderly, lugubrious assistant to the fearsome Auntie Wainwright.
  • Christmas Episode:
    • 1978's "Small Tune on a Penny Wassail" - Christmas arrives and the trio visit a friend in hospital, before opening their presents.
    • 1979's "And a Dewhirst Up A Fir Tree" - Foggy decides to start his shopping early, but is surprised the shops aren't selling Christmas cards in the summer. He then takes up an offer of buying some Christmas trees.
    • 1983's "Getting Sam Home" - the lads visit Sam in hospital, and agree to help him spend one last night with his 'other woman' ... where he dies. The trio then have to move Sam's body several times before the funeral — enlisting Sid's note  help which in turn makes Ivy suspicious.
    • 1984's "The Loxely Lozenge" - Wesley needs some help. He's found an old racing car, and wants the lads to help him get it home.
    • 1986's "Merry Christmas Father Christmas" - Seymour attempts to instil some magic into the festive season by dressing a reluctant Compo as Father Christmas.
    • 1987's "Big Day at Dream Acres" - there's a big fete at Dream Acres, but why is a tramp so interested in one of the donkeys?
    • 1988's "Chums" - Barry intends to buy Glenda a water bed, the trio dress as Father Christmases for a charity event, and Howard looks for someone to guard Auntie Wainwright's shop.
    • 1989's "What's Santa Brought for Nora Then?" - Compo is trying to earn some money to buy Nora a Christmas present. Surely Auntie Wainwright will have something suitable...
    • 1990's "Barry's Christmas" - Glenda's so upset because Barry didn't come home the night before. The trio find him, passed out under a table in a pub dressed as Father Christmas. They then try to help Barry sober up before Glenda finds out. Foggy's Christmas present to himself, a bleeper, doesn't help matters when the ladies start following the signal.
    • 1991's "Situations Vacant" - Foggy decides to start up a motorbike courier service.
    • 1992's "Stop That Castle" - the trio visit Auntie Wainwright, to rent a bouncy castle for the Christmas parade. The ladies are reluctant to take part, Smiler makes a very unhappy Noddy, and Howard, dressed as a sheep, looks for his "Bo Peep", and gets a shock when he does!
    • 1993's "Welcome to Earth" - the trio join Darren's friend in expecting a visitation from outer space (or maybe even Huddersfield).
    • 1995's "A Leg up for Christmas" - while trying to get himself fit for Christmas, Howard ends up with a broken leg and can't leave the house.
    • 2005's "Merry Entwistle and Jackson Day" - Auntie Wainwright dresses Smiler as Father Christmas and Tom as an elf.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: While most characters were given at least passing mention when they departed, there were a few notable exceptions:
    • Billy Hardcastle, who ascended from minor character to a member of the trio, disappeared after the 27th series without explanation or mention.
    • Not much is made of Crusher's departure (apparently necessitated because his actor Jonathan Linsley, opted to lose a lot of weight), and one Christmas episode afterwards has a scene where he is said to be in the other room but never appears. His absence following that is never acknowledged.
    • Eli Duckett, a popular recurring character for 15 years, was never mentioned again after the actor playing him died, as noted just above.
    • Ros was never mentioned again after her actress left following the 26th series.
    • When Tom first arrived in town, he was 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 was 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: The core of the series for the great majority of its run, with several decades centred around the characters of Compo, Clegg and A.N. Other – sequentially Blamire, Foggy, Seymour, Foggy (again) and Truly. Less so in the later years following Compo's death, when the series tinkered with pairs, quartets, quintets, and mobs without matching the success of the previous trios.
  • Commuting on a Bus: In the final season, Clegg and Truly no longer received top-billing. Actors Peter Sallis and Frank Thornton were no longer covered by insurance to shoot outdoor scenes due to their age -– born days apart in early 1921, both were pushing 90 -– and since the series mostly consisted of outdoor scenes, they were limited only to brief cameos (mostly at Clegg's flat) from then on.
  • 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 kept facing away from the camera, 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.
  • Correspondence Course: Seymour ran one of these, known as the Utterthwaite Postal University. Compo read its logo as "Up You!", to Seymour's consternation.
  • Cousin Oliver: Babs, a brooding teenager who arrived in town in the care of Tom and Mrs. Avery but quickly disappeared after only three episodes due to negative reaction to the character.
  • Curse Cut Short: Used from time to time, mostly with crude Compo. One example is "Full Steam Behind", where Compo's curse is censored by a train whistle, which may count as rare auditory Censor Steam as well.
  • Cut a Slice, Take the Rest: Compo does it with sugar and tea. He doesn't so much take sugar with his tea as the inverse.
  • 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 without a laughter track; the change in tone from a usual episode is quite jarring.
  • 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:
    Clegg: I thought Sooty was real!
  • Deadpan Snarker: Clegg and Ivy both spoke sarcasm like it was a second language.
  • Demoted to Extra: Clegg and Truly in the last couple of seasons, because they could no longer be insured for outside scenes. So the reduced to having one scene together inside Clegg's house.
  • Distinction Without a Difference: 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)!
  • 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...
  • Due to the Dead: The focus of a three-episode arc centering on Compo's death and funeral, the final shot of which was the funeral procession taking Compo on one last hillside stroll on the way to his final resting place.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: All part and parcel thanks to the show's longevity:
    • The tone was bleak and gritty. As a result, the humour was noticeably cynical in comparison to the lighthearted, sillier episodes made later on.
    • Before the days of Edie, characters would openly talk about sex. It's particularly jarring to hear Clegg say "orgasm" in the pilot, or hear Ivy complain about Sid not talking when they make love.
    • If the trio has any leader in the early shows, it's Clegg, who generally comes up with ideas for what to do and talks the others into following along. Foggy becomes the leader once he settles in, however, and Clegg becomes a follower for the duration of the series.
    • In an episode from the second series, Nora invites Compo to live with her and essentially replace Wally as her husband when it seems the latter has abandoned her.
    • Relatively little is seen of the female characters until Edie debuts in the '80s and the coffee circle segments become a regular part of the programme. Nora Batty only appears occasionally in the series' earliest years.
    • It was established that the Simmonite family bred like rabbits, and we saw Compo's son, his grandchildren and his nephew throughout the '70s. When Compo died nearly thirty years later, his horde of family members were retconned out and his long lost son Tom was said to be his only living relative.
  • 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.
  • Expansion Pack World: It’s really a cast-specific version of the trope, but after the show had been on for over a decade, the show introduced a group of new characters through the new third man, Seymour. This includes his sister Edie (whose husband Wesley was already an occasional character, now seen more often), as well as Glenda and Barry; his niece and her husband. Gradually, we begin visiting with these new characters more and more often until Once an Episode, we have a scene or two with them, even after Seymour’s departure. As the other cast members aged and died off, the series relied more on the comparatively young Glenda and Barry for storylines. In this way, Edie’s sitting room and Glenda and Barry’s smart middle-class neighborhood became regular settings for scenes.
    • On the heels of this came the introductions of Auntie Wainwright and her shop, which quickly became a setting the characters regularly stopped in. It also became a “home” to the periphery characters of Smiler and Tom.
  • 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. Nora Batty's actress also played a very similar character, Mrs Blewitt, in Open All Hours.
  • 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". Marina, despite appearing for 25 years as Howard's continual extramarital love interest, never gained a surname. Of the 'central trio', most were known by nicknames (e.g. Compo, Foggy, Truly) or surname (Clegg), but Seymour is always referred to as such – possibly because 'Utterthwaite' is a little unwieldy, even for Yorkshire folk.
    • Perhaps the most extreme example of this trope is Ivy, the only character besides Clegg to last through the series from beginning to end, appearing in 291 of 295 episodes, and never once being given a surname.
  • Five-Man Band: The "Trio" 2002-06 was arranged as follows:
  • 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".
    • Foggy, too (see Multiple-Choice Past).
    • In fact, all of the characters were eventually reduced to their best-known personality trait, if only for expediency's sake and all that.
  • Forgotten Theme Tune Lyrics:
    • Only used in the adaptation of the original novel (see above).
    • Alternative, more specific but equally poignant lyrics were used in the episode where Compo dies.
  • The Freelance Shame Squad: Any time one of the main characters did something even remotely out of the ordinary, you could count on a huge crowd of people to come and openly gawk at them.
  • 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.
    • Howard, who is constantly badgering Clegg to be the go-between for him and Marina -— the woman he's cheating on his domineering wife with. He's misogynistic, whiny, cowardly and always ready to leave Clegg holding the bag if they're ever caught. Even Foggy finds him annoying, and the trio is always willing to drop Howard in his own mess in return.
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral": Episodes throughout the show’s run have the trio attending a funeral, usually including a blasé widow, Compo doing something noisy and inappropriate at the burial, and the trio musing on the temporary nature of life. Even in the opening of the pilot, we see a biking Clegg hitch a ride on the back of a hearse as it carries a casket to a gravesite.
    • Best remembered is Compo’s funeral, which was the only one given for a main character on the show, and a bit less farcical than those seen in other episodes.
  • 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.
  • Henpecked Husband: Practically all of them, but especially Wally, Howard, and Wesley.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Compo and Clegg were virtually inseparable for the first twenty seasons of the show's run, right up until Compo's death in Series 21, which devastated Clegg. Then, when Truly helped Clegg through his grief, he and Clegg were almost always seen together.
  • Hollywood Geography: Holmfirth is actually a fairly large town; the locations such as the cafe, the row of houses, Compo's flat and the moorland road all exist but their implied proximity is an artefact of the format and editing.
  • Homemade Inventions: The fuel for umpteen plots and mishaps through the series' long run. Chief sources were Seymour, Foggy and Wesley.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Personified by Howard - he cheats on Pearl with Marina, but gets jealous of anyone else he sees with Marina. He also constantly badgers Clegg for help, but won't return the favour.
  • 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 Two and a Half Men had the idea!
  • I Know Karate: Foggy, or so he claims.
  • 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'.
  • It Makes Sense in Context: The pay-off of many, many gags was the baffled, open-mouthed reaction that invariably ensued when people (often but not always the two policemen) who had no idea of what the trio were up to encountered them at an advanced stage of whatever the latest Zany Scheme was.
    • Memorably, the 1990 Christmas Special saw Howard and Marina talking about how Christmas was over, upon which they saw a hearse drive past with what looked like a dead Father Christmas laid out in the back. Actually, it was a drunk, comatose Barry in a Santa outfit, and the hearse was the only vehicle the trio and Wesley could find to drive him away in order to sober him up.
  • Last Kiss: Following actor Bill Owen's death, his character Compo was killed off, off-camera – we hear that he 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?".
  • Last-Name Basis: Clegg, Entwistle and others. See also Only One Name below.
  • The Last Title: The title of the series.
  • Long-Runner Cast Turnover: Due not just to the length of the show's run, but to the advanced age of most of the cast.
  • Long-Runners: Defied its premise – a trio of elderly men enjoying the autumn of their years — to set the boundaries for its genre, with a span of 37 years: 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: ever-present Peter Sallis was in his early fifties when the show started and nearly 90 when it ended. Despite its extraordinarily long run, it is not the sitcom with the most episodes overall – that would be The Simpsons – due to British Brevity meaning there were 6-12 episodes in most seasons, resulting in 'only' 295. This gives it easily the most for any Brit Com, naturally.
  • Made of Iron: Despite all the potentially dangerous scrapes the main characters get themselves into, they always avoid serious injury.
  • Mars-and-Venus Gender Contrast: One of the main drivers of the humour. 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.
  • May–December Romance: Well, perhaps August-December – it's not quite certain how old Marina is, though she's of 'a certain age', but still considerably younger than her lust object Howard.
  • Mistaken Nationality/Inscrutable Oriental: Subverted with Entwistle, a deeply Yorkshire-sounding name, played by the Chinese-ethnicity actor Burt Kwouk and apt to come out with gnomic aphorisms. When questioned about where in the Far East he comes from, he says he's from ... Hull, on the Yorkshire coast: "You can't get further east than Hull." His original surname was McIntyre, but he changed it so that people wouldn't mistake him for a Scotsman.
  • Mr. Fixit: Wesley, sometimes bordering on Gadgeteer Genius, though he had to be roped in to whatever Foggy or Seymour's latest Zany Scheme is.
  • 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 Flanderized into apparently never having seen action at all, but claiming to be a master of martial arts, a trained silent killer and having been offered the crowns of several native tribes.
  • Naughty Birdwatching: Subverted in one episode when Howard hits upon the idea of claiming to have taken up birdwatching as a cover for meeting up with Marina in secluded, out-of-town locations. However, in order to have ready answers to any questions Pearl might ask about his new hobby, he spends most of the time actually birdwatching, much to Marina's disgust.
  • No Accounting for Taste:
    • What DOES Marina see in Howard?
    • Clegg was married for a couple of decades, despite an apparently life-long record of asexuality.
  • Noodle Implements: Compo occasionally opens a matchbox in front of various people which causes then to have reactions ranging from terror to disgust. What exactly is in the matchbox is never fully revealed.
  • Noodle Incident: During the season 2 episode "Some Enchanted Evening" Compo enters a request for the eponymous song to a late night radio show, dedicated to Nora. Along with the dedication he apparently included a list of his 'Secret Desires' which the host refuses to read out and advises him to get a good solicitor before attempting to embark on any of them.
  • Not So Similar: While the 'Third Men' filled the same character niche and were all full of themselves, there were pretty big differences between them
    • Blamire mostly served as a political opposite to Compo, and less inclined to zany adventures.
    • Foggy was the bossiest, least capable and also least liked.
    • Seymour was an inventor who liked to use Compo as a Guinea Pig, but otherwise was amiable.
    • Truly was the nicest, his big ego only really causing embarrassment to himself.
    • Hobbo (the bossy guy in the new trio) was a conspiracy theorist.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname/Only One Name: Quite a few of the male cast in particular, with many characters referred to habitually by only one name, from Blamire to Entwistle – sometimes a real name, often not. Clegg was usually called 'Cleggy' and only rarely 'Norman', Seymour was in contrast referred to by his first name only. Compo's real name of William (Bill) Simmonite was very rarely indeed referred to: you'd be able to watch for years without ever divining his surname, let alone his real first name. Foggy's full name was Walter C. Dewhirst, Truly's Herbert Truelove. Smiler's real name, Clem Hemingway, was only given in his introductory episode. The practice was more or less de rigeur by the end of the show's run, hence 'Hobbo' (Luther Hobdyke), while Entwistle's only extant first name appeared to be 'Electrical'.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Played for laughs with Edie, who would often put on an exaggerated posh southern accent that quickly broke down.
  • Oop North: So very much - the show's Yorkshire setting was a big part of its appeal.
  • Ostentatious Secret: Compo's matchbox, with its unknown but terrifying contents. Joke shops in England used to stock matchboxes exactly like that one, each containing a rubber severed penis.
  • Pantomime Dame: Inverted by Marina and Nora Batty, at times. Marina's appearance verged at times on the grotesque or parodic, and Nora Batty's views regarding Compo come very close to Aside Glance at times.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Fierce as the ladies were, they were all given their tender-hearted moments. This mostly happened for Pearl, arguably the meanest female on the programme, who noticeably kept an eye out for the widowed Clegg, particularly after Compo died.
    • It might be inferred that Pearl and Clegg might have been quite fond of each other at some earlier stage of their lives, and Pearl still carried a torch for him to some extent — quite possibly because she may well have regretted marrying Howard.
    • Pearl's "mean nature" is really an artefact of her basic role as foil to the absurd Howard; she has the basic problem of defending an untenable position and deals with this by treating her husband as the fool he is, rather than be treated as a laughing-stock by the other Apron Matrons.
  • Phony Veteran: Foggy, although whether his war stories were exaggerated or invented varied over the course of the show. In his first run (1976-85) he seemed to have had some military experience (although he exaggerated it), which was to some extent backed up by his portrayal in the prequel when he was seen to be wearing military uniform. However, in his second run (1990-97) he was Flanderized to the point where it was implied that he had no military experience at all.
  • The Pig-Pen: Wesley, being continuously covered in motor oil. On one occasion when Edie actually managed to get him clean, the others pretended not to recognise him.
  • Precision F-Strike: Billy gets one in "Little Orphan Howard" after seeing Alvin fail to fly with his kite.
    Billy: I think he's fallen on his aery arse.
  • 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.
    • Averted in the case of Compo, whose in-universe funeral following the real-life death of Bill Owen formed a complete episode.
    • When Stephen Lewis's declining health forced him to leave the series for good, Smiler's absence was only acknowledged once, by Tom, who very casually mentioned that Smiler had disappeared. No other explanation was ever given.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: After yet another failed invention: "Why? What have you got against Seymour Utterthwaite?"
  • 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.
    • When Bill Owen, the actor playing Compo died in 1999, his real-life son Tom joined the cast playing Compo's long lost son... Tom.
    • Many of the supporting actors died during the show's run, with their deaths being written into the script.
    • Michael Aldridge had no desire to quit as Seymour, but was forced to by the need to care for his wife, who had dementia.
  • Remember the New Guy?: How several characters were introduced over the years.
    • Despite being Clegg's next-door neighbor, not to mention constantly invasive, Howard was not seen nor mentioned for the first seven series (nor was his wife, Pearl).
    • One could easily assume Auntie Wainwright's shop had been a fixture in the town for years, but she and the shop are unseen until more than a decade into the programme's run.
    • The 1986 New Year special "Uncle of the Bride" saw the introduction of Seymour (another of Clegg and Compo's old classmates), his sister Edie and his niece Glenda; the latter was clearly already known to Clegg and Compo as they'd been invited to her wedding. Wesley, her father, had previously been a one-off character but would henceforth be a regular one.
  • Running Gag
    • The ladies meeting over at Edie's house for tea, buns and gossip — always sipping their tea in an unconscious synchronized movement, and having a Politeness Judo contest over the big cream eclair.
    • Edie laying down a trail of newspapers for Wesley to walk on whenever she called 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 (even though Everybody Knew Already) – "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. Indeed, it's sometimes implied that no actual infidelity ever takes place.
    • Compo going to Nora Batty's house and her answering the door with her mop, forcing him away.
  • 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. Latterly it was mainly limited to token scenes, but it was 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 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. It took the producer threatening to replace them both to stop.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Silver Vixen:
    • Howard considers Marina to be one, even though Marina is blonde, bordering on yellow. Marina tries to dress up as one, but her outfits are usually more outlandish than seductive.
    • Compo claims this about Nora Batty.
  • Sixth Ranger: It wasn't uncommon for Wally, Sid, or Wesley to join the trio's antics.
  • Smith of the Yard: Not that he was ever recognised for any great detective skills, but retired policeman Herbert Truelove liked to give himself the epithet "Truly of the Yard".
  • Special Guest: Among those who made guest appearances were John Cleese, Ron Moody and Eric Sykes.
  • 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/repelling a stranger (or Barry) 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:
    • Ivy's burly, dark-haired nephew Crusher certainly appeared to be this because of his resemblance Ivy's burly, dark-haired husband Sid (who died when his actor, John Comer, passed away). Although oddly, Crusher was supposed to be related to Ivy's side of the family.
    • All the characters referred to as the "third man" of the central trio were physically similar – usually much taller than the short Clegg and Compo, as well as tending to be of a higher social class – and had a bossy temperament, but are not without their own quirks.
  • Tantrum Throwing: A stock gag; crockery was generally the projectile of choice.
  • Those Two Guys: The two policemen who appeared as regular supporting characters in the later series, who'd sit in their car and just watch the main characters with baffled expressions.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Foggy's war stories.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Ivy's "What the blood and stomach pills—?!" exclamation.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Seymour has shades of this, even in his last name: Utterthwaite.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Blamire and Compo's relationship, to a tee. They constantly bickered and sniped at one anothers' politics and personalities, but nonetheless spent tons of time hanging out together (even in the absence of Clegg).
  • Written-In Absence: The actor who played Barry, Mike Grady, was gone between 1990-96 working on other shows. Glenda mentioned him very frequently during that time, in order to make it clear that he hadn't just run off.
  • Zany Scheme: Every. Single. Episode.