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Last of the Summer Wine Last of the Summer Wine


Classic TV Revisited: Last of the Summer Wine



Last of the Summer Wine saw a trio of pensioners behaving badly proving that you don’t need your own teeth to be a delinquent.

Who were the star turns?
Of the three central characters, two were with the show from the very start — wry widower Clegg (Peter Sallis), the former manager of a Co-op furniture department, and the fearless, shameless, brainless Compo (Bill Owen). The original third man was Blamire (Michael Bates), a retired Royal Signals sergeant, but when Michael Bates was taken ill in 1976 (he died shortly afterwards), a new character was introduced in the form of ex-army signwriter Foggy Dewhurst (Brian Wilde). With his attention to military detail, Foggy planned their adventures over the next nine years until, when Brian Wilde wanted to leave, Foggy departed for the sunnier climes of Bridlington, having inherited his uncle’s painted-egg business. Retired teacher Seymour Utterthwaite (Michael Aldridge) arrived to complete the trio, only to leave in 1990 when Brian Wilde returned to the fold. In 1997, Foggy was replaced again, this time by the gang’s old school pal, Truly (Frank Thornton).

What about the supporting cast?
Enough to fill a volume of Spotlight. Principals have included the inimitable Nora Batty (Kathy Staff), she of the curlers, pinny and wrinkled stockings who is forever fighting off Compo’s lusty advances — proof that beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder; her hen-packed husband Wally (Joe Gladwin) who wished she’d take Compo up on his offers; formidable cafe owner Ivy (Jane Freeman), a woman blessed with an expression which could curdle milk; her mild-mannered husband Sid (the late John Comer); Wesley Pegden (Gordon Wharmby) and his sister Edie (Thora Hird), the local Mary Whitehouse; Auntie Wainwright (Jean Alexander) who runs an antiques emporium; and the love triangle of Howard (Robert Fyfe), wife Pearl (Juliette Kaplan) and his bit on the side Marina (Jean Fergusson).

Any guest stars?
Ron Moody, Norman Wisdom and John Cleese (using the pseudonym Kim Bread) all made guest appearances.

How did it come about?
Yorkshire-based writer Roy Clarke was asked to come up with something about three old men. He had met women like Nora Batty in his previous incarnations as household goods salesman and policeman and decided to set his series (working title: The Library Mob) in back-to-back terraced houses in Rotherham. But then comedy guru Barry Took suggested switching the action to the Pennines.

Where was it set?
Among the cobbled streets of Holmfirth, near Huddersfield. A mecca for fans of the series, the town even has an eaterie called the Wrinkled Stocking Cafe.

What are the running gags?
Compo gleefully accosting Nora Batty on her front steps, only to be fended off with her broom; Edie inviting Ivy, Nora and Pearl round for afternoon tea (which they drink in unison) so that they can pull men apart; Howard constantly thinking up new disguises for his clandestine meetings with Marina, including dressing up as a hippy, a spy, a fisherman and half of a pantomime horse.

Who watched it?
18.8 million viewers in 1985, some of whom used to send Bill Owen woolly hats to wear as Compo. It is another show which the boasts the title of being the Queen’s favourite programme — she was said to video it when she went abroad.

Any complaints?
Few and far between although in 1991 Nora Batty was accused of giving elderly people a bad name. She didn’t do a lot for stockings either.

Any off-screen friction?
It was rumoured that Brian Wilde and Bill Owen didn’t get on too well at first.

Did the cast do their own stunts?
Younger actors doubled up for bike-riding stunts.

Have there been any spin-offs?
In 1988, there was a prequel series, First of the Summer Wine, featuring Clegg, Compo and Seymour as teenagers in 1939. David Fenwick played Clegg, Paul Wyett was Compo and Paul McLain was Seymour. Peter Sallis appeared as Mr. Clegg, the father.



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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