Follow TV Tropes


Series / On the Buses

Go To

"No wonder you want me to take sleeping tablets, you're a sex maniac!"

Seventies Britcom centred on workers of the Luxton & District Traction Company. The main characters are Stan Butler (Reg Varney), a bus driver, and his best mate and conductor, Jack Harper (Bob Grant). Their arch-nemesis is pen-pushing bureaucrat bus inspector Cyril "Blakey" Blake (Stephen Lewis). Recurring characters include Stan's mum Mabel (Cicely Courtneidge, then Doris Hare), sister Olive Rudge (Anna Karen) and brother-in-law Arthur (Michael Robbins). Olive and Arthur are unhappily married, which is often joked about. Seventy-four episodes were made from 1969 to 1973. Three spinoff films were also made between 1971 and 1973.

On the Buses was one of the earliest British sitcoms to centre on working-class people's lives. Much of the humour comes from Stan and Jack's attempts at chatting up women, while trying to get out of doing any work. Critics derided the show as being vulgar, but it was hugely popular with audiences. Some episodes were watched by 16 million viewers, a figure unknown today, due to the splintering of the British televsion market.

Came fifty-third in Britains Best Sitcom.

This show provides examples of:

  • The Alleged Car: Arthur's combination motorcycle and sidecar that he bought used in the second series.
  • All Men Are Perverts: Jack and Stan are forever skirt-chasing, much to Blakey's disgust.
  • Animated Credits Opening: The series had two different animated openings. While both showcase the characters in various antics, one uses cut-out style animation and the other takes a more surrealist approach with exaggerated body proportions.
  • Beauty Inversion: Olive was presented as frumpy and uncaring of her appearance, though in real life Anna Karen had been a model and dancer prior to the series. When she showcased her natural look during a magazine shoot in the 1970s, viewers were shocked at just how different she appeared from her character.
  • Blind Without 'Em: Olive loses her glasses on a regular basis, and of course can see nothing without them.
  • Camp Straight: Jack shows shades of this, to the point where a guest star explicitly calls him 'Twinkletoes'.
  • Catchphrase: Blakey's "I 'ate you, Butler!"
  • The Chew Toy: Poor Olive, destined to be dumped on and have fat jokes told about her, despite being played by a former model who also appeared as various scantily-clad characters in sex comedies and Carry On films.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: Look-In (a magazine aimed at children) serialized the series in comic strip form between 1971 and 1974. Notably, the show's raunchy style of humour was toned down, due to the fact that it was aimed at a younger audience.
  • The Corrupter: Whilst by no means a respectable person, Stan would be less likely to resort to illegal means without Jack's influence.
  • Double Entendre: A mainstay of the humour.
  • Everybody Smokes: Including on buses, and at the dinner table.
  • Foreign People Are Sexy: The infamous episode where the boys pull a couple of Swedish birds. Fatima the snake dancer also deserves a mention.
  • Godwin's Law: Jack and Stan regularly cracking gags comparing Blakey to Hitler is a big case of Values Dissonance for modern viewers, particularly since all he wants them to do is be on time and do some work.
  • Introductory Opening Credits: The Movie has captions giving the names and occupations of the lead characters, though at this point most of the audience would be familiar with them from the TV series.
  • Karma Houdini: For the most part, Stan and Jack always seem to get away with almost everything they do. Up to and including several acts of theft, defiling a cemetery, attempted benefit fraud, getting otherwise innocent co-workers fired, stopping the Equality Act in its tracks ... and, of course, being highly unprofessional whenever they deign to do their actual jobs.
  • The Movie: Actually three - On the Buses (1971), Mutiny on the Buses (1972), and Holiday on the Buses (1973). The first movie is notable for being the most successful film that Hammer Film Productions ever made. Yes, that Hammer.
  • Naughty by Night: Olive would like to be, but Arthur's not keen.
  • No Accounting for Taste: Olive and Arthur are a brilliantly ghastly combination.
  • Politically Correct Villain: Inspector Cyril Blake; sure, there's the odd derogatory comment, but for the most part, he's the most progressive character on the show.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: It would be difficult to find a character who dosen't fit this trope. It is most common in Stan's mum.
  • Popcultural Osmosis: "Blakey from On The Buses" is sometimes referred to in conversation (as a comparison to people) by other people who've never seen the series.
  • Protagonist-Centred Morality: Stan and Jack are depicted as the protagonists and the show plays on the idea that they are in the right. Despite the fact that they preform several illegal or at least morally wrong actions. Casual dialogue in the seventh series opener insinuates that they're willing to go so far as to defraud a divorce hearing.
  • Put on a Bus: Rather amusingly for Tropers, Stan leaves the series for Oop North, on the grounds that bus drivers make more money there, thus he literally was put on a bus.
  • Retool: Necessitated by Michael Robbins and later Reg Varney leaving the show. The premise changed to allow Olive a job at the depot and Blake to move in with her and Mrs Butler.
  • Ship Tease: One episode depicts a drunk Stan attempting to snog both Blakey and Jack, within five minutes of each other. In series seven, as part of a joke, Jack explicitly kisses Stan's cheek.
  • Shotgun Wedding: To all intents and purposes, the reason why Arthur married Olive in the first place after a Bedmate Reveal.
  • Sitcom Character Archetypes: Jack and Stan are Wisecrackers, Blakey is The Bully, Arthur is The Stick, and Olive is The Dork.
  • Spin-Off: Don't Drink the Water ran for thirteen episodes across two series in 1974 and 1975 and saw Blakey retire to Spain with his sister only to find himself beset by just as many problems as he was in Britain.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Olive and Mrs Butler. Subverted in the final series when Olive is forced to get a job at the depot to maintain the double income household after Arthur leaves.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: With everything Arthur had to deal with regularly, it is impossible not to see why he left.
  • Transatlantic Equivalent: NBC adapted it in the 1973-74 season as Lotsa Luck, with Dom De Luise as the lead.
  • Wardrobe Malfunction: Leading to Disaster Dominoes at the beginning of the third movie.
  • With Friends Like These...: When it came to work matters (e.g. payment, the union, etc.) Jack would always throw Stan under the bus for his own personal gain.
  • Written-In Absence: Reg Varney left the series in the final season, after "Goodbye Stan", so he isn't in the last six episodes. His absence was explained by Stan moving to the Midlands, to work in a bus manufacturing factory.