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Keeping Up Appearances Keeping Up Appearances


Classic TV Revisited: Keeping Up Appearances



Written by Roy Clarke Keeping Up Appearances was a sitcom starring Patricia Routledge that ran on the BBC from 1990-1995.

What was it all about?
Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced ‘Bouquet’) was a snob of the first order. Residing in Blossom Avenue, she forced callers to take their shoes off at the front door for fear of muddying her shag-pile and sipped tea out of nothing less than Royal Doulton.

To her intense irritation, her phone number was similar to an establishment as common as the local Chinese takeaway which meant that she regularly received calls ordering a 69 or whatever. An interfering busybody, she delighted in organising other people’s lives, not least that of her long- suffering husband Richard who yearned for a peaceful existence. As a result, he seemed to derive precious little pleasure from life since, to Hyacinth, sex was something the coal came in.

When was it on?
From 1990 to 1995 – 40 episodes plus four Christmas specials. Roy Clarke recently wrote a prequel called Young Hyacinth for BBC’s Sitcom Season celebration.

Who were the star turns?
Patricia Routledge played Hyacinth with Clive Swift as the hen-pecked Richard. Josephine Tewson was the Buckets’ nervous neighbour Elizabeth, who was forever spilling the tea in Hyacinth’s presence, and David Griffin was Elizabeth’s musician brother Emmet. Two of Hyacinth’s sisters — Rose (Shirley Stelfox then Mary Millar) and Daisy (Judy Cornwell) — lived on a nearby council estate where even the muggers went around in pairs for safety. Rose, whose short skirts made Liz McDonald look like Mary Whitehouse, and Daisy were an intense disappointment to Hyacinth, Daisy having the added social disadvantage of a beer-swilling, vest-wearing layabout husband in Onslow (Geoffrey Hughes). Hyacinth also had a third floral sister, the wealthy Violet (Anna Dawson), and an unseen son, Sheridan, the apple of her jaundiced eye.

Who wrote it?
Roy Clarke, creator of ‘Last of the Summer Wine.’ ‘Every neighbourhood around the world has a Hyacinth Bucket type,’ he said. ‘She’s a monster but she also has character traits to admire, like clinging to genteel values that have been discarded.’

Was Patricia Routledge instantly hooked?
She read the script at one o’clock in the morning and said afterwards that ‘Hyacinth just leapt off the page. It was the very stuff of character comedy and so very English.’

Who watched it?
Up to 13 million people. The Queen Mother was said to be a fan of Hyacinth but when Patricia Routledge went to collect her OBE in 1993, the Queen simply asked her: ‘Are you anything to do with television?’ Perhaps Her Maj. used to watch You’ve Been Framed on the portable.

Did it sell abroad?
Viewers in New England hailed it their favourite programme and it also went down well in Australia and New Zealand. Onslow’s hat, bearing the initials FH, was actually a gift from New Zealand. Geoffrey Hughes was promoting the show there when he was given the hat by a lorry driver for Fulton Hogan Ltd, a New Zealand asphalt company.

Any catchphrases?
‘The Bouquet residence, Lady of the House speaking’

Any real-life resonance?
Patricia Routledge claimed to be almost as nosey as Hyacinth and was not averse to knocking on neighbours’ doors to ask them to keep the noise down. She found that shopkeepers became wary of her, terrified that she was going to boss them about, a la Hyacinth. To counter this, Routledge used to sneak out in a disguise of woolly hat and glasses. Even the rest of the cast treated her like Hyacinth and would dutifully hold doors open for her, just as Richard did in the series.

Any distant cousins?
The snob has long been a staple character in British comedy, from Hancock to Basil Fawlty, Captain Mainwaring to Rigsby. But perhaps the closest female character to Hyacinth was Thora Hird’s Thora Blacklock in the Sixties sit-com Meet The Wife. Remember how she used to answer the phone… ‘Yaysss’? Well, you had to be there at the time.



Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess




Xena Warrior Princess

What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.

Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.

Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.

Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.

Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?

Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.

Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Character: Xena

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Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife




McMillan And Wife

Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.

Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.

And wifey?
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.

Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.

Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.

Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.

What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.

Other characters
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.

Famous guest stars?
Kim Basinger

The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.

Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.

Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.

Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.

The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.

A winner?
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.

Distinguishing features?
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.

Do say
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.

Don’t say
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.

Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.

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Classic TV Revisited: The Royal




The Royal

The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.

The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.

Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.

Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.

Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”

A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.

First broadcast: 2003

Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden

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