Connect with us

Features

Everything you wanted to know about classic BBC sitcom Keeping Up Appearances

Published

on


Deflating pompous snobs has long been a comedy staple, especially in Britain, where class and social status have always played a keen role. Think of Basil Fawlty, Rigsby in Rising Damp or even Red Dwarf’s resident git, Arnold J. Rimmer.

However, there may be nothing that says snobbery better than the lines “The Bucket residence. The lady of the house speaking.” Of course, Bucket must be pronounced “Bouquet” (it’s French, you know) and the lady of the house is the epitome of social correctness and manners, Hyacinth Bucket. For those who aren’t of the proper socioeconomic status to have been introduced, just think of Hyacinth as Martha Stewart’s evil twin. However, she considers herself “just a typical British housewife living in a typical British detached house with net curtains, a well-behaved garden and Westminster chimes on the doorbell.”

For five series, Patricia Routledge ruled the roost as that prissy, proper monster in posh frocks Hyacinth Bucket. Keeping Up Appearances has also stayed perennially popular in the US on PBS as one of British comedy’s most enduring and popular imports and also gets regular re-runs around the world. So get out your best china and dress appropriately as we answer everything you wanted to know about Keeping Up Appearances and somethings you didn’t…

How many episodes of KUA are there?

There were 44 episodes made between 1990 and 1995. This includes 42 episodes of thirty minutes each, one hour-long episode and one fifty-minute episode. There was also a short special shown as part of a Children in Need charity telethon.

Who wrote this series?

KUA was written by the phenomenally prolific Roy Clarke, who at the same time was writing the classic Last of the Summer Wine. Clarke also wrote the successful Ronnie Barker sitcom Open All Hours and many other classics such as Last of the Summer Wine.

 

Where did Patricia Routledge get her start?

In the theater. Indeed, it may come as a shock to know that Ms. Routledge is actually from the gritty north of England. She was born in Birkenhead (near Liverpool), the much-loved daughter of a haberdasher named Issac and his wife, Catherine, who died when Patricia was just 20. She became a bit of a disruptive show-off at the local high school, but went on to study English at Liverpool University. She planned to be a teacher, but involvement with local plays and work as an unpaid assistant stage manager at Liverpool Playhouse caused her to change direction. She then left home to attend the Old Vic Theatre School in Bristol and the rest is history.

 

What kind of roles did she play before she became Hyacinth?

Her list of appearances is too long and varied to mention all of them here, but they include extensive work in theater, films and televison. One of her first starring role in a sitcom, however, was as Marjorie Belton in the 1985 series Marjorie and Men. Marjorie is a divorcee who returns home to live with her mother, who is determined to find her daughter another husband.

Ms. Routledge also had roles in the films To Sir With Love, The Bliss of Mrs. Blossom and appeared on the popular soap Coronation Street, as did her KUA co-stars Geoffrey Hughes and Josephine Tewson.

Can Patricia Routledge actually sing?

She certainly can. Her performance in the Jules Styne muscial Darling of the Day earned her a Tony Award in 1968 for Best Actress in a Musical. She has appeared in numerous other musicals, sang Leonard Bernstein’s Candide in 1998 with the London Symphony Orchestra and even recorded an album of her favorite songs called Presenting Patricia Routledge.

 

What kind of roles did Clive Swift play before he became Richard Bucket?

He appeared in a satirical series during 1963 and 1964 called (and I am not making this up) Dig This Rhubarb. DTR was a satirical program also featuring the great John Fortune and the performers would debate a current topic by way of historical writings.

Swift also played Ernie Nesbitt, the father of a roving band of crooks, in the 1980 ITV comedy The Nesbitts Are Coming.

 

Is Clive Swift any relation to the actor David Swift?

Yes, indeed. Clive is the younger brother of David, who showed off his own comedic chops as pompous newsreader Henry Davenport on Drop the Dead Donkey. Swift was also married to famed British author Margaret Drabble, and the couple had three children.

Who are the other members of Hyacinth’s family?

Hyacinth’s sisters Rose and Daisy are played by Mary Millar (who replaced the original Rose, Shirley Stelfox, after the first series) and Judy Cornwell respectively. Rose is a man-hungry vixen who goes through a string of boyfriends during the series. Hyacinth often gets her hopes up that Rose’s men will be men of proper social connections and status, but she’s inevitably disappointed. In one episode, Rose’s Greek boyfriend, Mr. Marenopoulous, comes to collect Hyacinth and Richard in hearse instead of the limousine Rose had promised, causing Hyacinth no end of embarrassment during her pre-dinner cocktail hour.

Daisy, on the other hand, lives her romantic life vicariously through one of the Harlequin type novels she’s often seen reading. She has a husband, Onslow (Geoffrey Hughes), but he’s a tremendous couch potato/slob who is much more interested in the races and drinking beer than in his wife.

Daisy, Rose and Onslow all share the same dilapidated house with the broken fence and take care of the girls’ Daddy. Though he is beloved by all, especially Hyacinth, Daddy isn’t quite all there and keeps the family in continual chaos chasing him down after one of his escapades.

Finally, there is Violet (Anna Dawson), the one sister Hyacinth is actually proud to claim due to her Mercedes, sauna and a home that has room for a pony. Hyacinth loves mentioning Violet in the proper social setting, but leaves out the fact that her husband Bruce (a turf accountant) enjoys wearing Violet’s clothes.

All of the sisters were named after flowers since “Mummy loved flowers and chose to name her daughters after the blooms that appeared in our splendid garden.” A Hyacinth, as she explains, is “flower of exquisite perfume which blooms best indoors” and that suits her because she “blooms in the social environment.”

Which character is often spoken about but never seen?

Sheridan, who is Hyacinth and Richard’s son. The only way his character is established is through telephone calls and one brief glimpse of the back of his head. The fact that we get such a strong impression of him despite his absence is a tribute to Clarke’s talent as a writer and Routledge’s delivery of the lines.

In short, Sheridan (named after famed writer/politician Richard Brinsley Sheridan) is his mummy’s pride and joy, a student at the Poly who shares her artistic leanings. She continually shows pictures of him and brags incessantly about his accomplishments. However, viewers are shown that Sheridan isn’t exactly what Hyacinth thinks, and poor Richard is often exasperated at his son’s constant pleas for money.

 

Who else lives on the Avenue?

Hyacinth’s next door neighbor is Elizabeth (Josephine Tewson) who turns into a shaking, nervous, cup- breaking wreck when invited chez Bucket. She is too weak and polite to stand up to the domineering Hyacinth, but at the start of the second series she gets a sympathetic ear in the form of her brother Emmet. Emmett moves in after his divorce and becomes the object of Hyacinth’s “affection” due to his musical ability. He then divides his time trying to avoid Hyacinth (she always sings at him to demonstrate her musical prowess) and feeling sorry for Richard. Also parts of the “Avenue set” are the Barker-Finches, live at number 23. They feature prominently during the episode when the Buckets get new furniture. Hyacinth is desperate to make them jealous and does everything she can to make sure they see the delivery van, which has the royal warrant decal on both sides.

 

What avenue do they live on?

The happy couple lives on Blossom Avenue.

Where does Richard work?

Until his retirement, Richard was a “power in Local Authority Circles” a.k.a. a senior manager within the Finance and General Services department of the Local Authority.

 

What is “The Memoirs of Hyacinth Bucket?”

A compendium of KUA clips shown on PBS in 1997, but never screened in Britain. The clips are linked by Judy Cornwell and Geoffrey Hughes, in character as Daisy and Onslow. They have somehow come across Hyacinth’s “memoirs,” which lead into clips of her most memorable moments.

 

What is Hyacinth’s Bucket’s Book of Etiquette for the Socially Less Fortunate?

The introduction sums it up well when it calls this book “the definitive work on modern social behaviour.” This tie-in (written by Jonathan Rice) is the ultimate guide to good manners from the lady herself. Chapters include Etiquette in the Home, Family, Relations and Friends, The Perfect Hostess, Social Obligations and A Healthy Mind in a Healthy Body.

Originally written with “a gold- nibbed found-pen containing a blue-black ink by appointment to Her Majesty,” this important volume was put into type (I’m sure, of only the highest standards) and published by BBC Books in 1993, with a paperback version released the following year.

 

Why did Richard marry Hyacinth in the first place?

Clive Swift stated in an interview that Patricia Routledge thought Richard might’ve been orphaned, leaving him in need of a strong, motherly figure to look after him. However, he himself thought of Richard as a bit of a “lazy sod, really. His penance was that he had to put up with her personality.” In the end, though, he figures that Richard and Hyacinth stay together because they’re a bit like Tom and Jerry – ‘it’s a joke,” he said.

Hyacinth herself describes the marriage as “the perfect partnership of organizational skills, social connections and good looks, combined with Richard’s willingness to learn.”

 

What do the letters FH on Onslow’s hat stand for?

The hat was a present to Geoffrey Hughes from Fulton Hogan Ltd., a New Zealand asphalt and roadbuilding company.

 

Which KUA actors were guest stars on Doctor Who?

Clive Swift, Geoffrey Hughes, Jeremy Gittins (the Vicar) David Griffin (Emmet) and Judy Cornwell all appeared in episodes of the popular sci-fi series.

 

Why did KUA cease production?

Mainly due to Patricia Routledge’s desire to concentrate on Hetty Wainthrop Investigates, in which she plays a housewife/detective. Hetty lasted for five series.

and this just in

Interviews1 hour ago

Cobra : Cyberwar Series Two | Interview with Richard Pepple (Joseph Obasi)

Were you familiar with COBRA before you came on board? I watched series one when I knew I was doing...

Interviews2 hours ago

Cobra : Cyberwar Series Two | Interview with Robert Carlyle (Robert Sunderland)

What are the big themes for series two of COBRA: CYBERWAR? The first thing Sutherland has to deal with is...

Interviews3 hours ago

Cobra : Cyberwar Series Two | Episode Guide

EPISODE 1 Prime Minister Robert Sutherland, his Chief of Staff Anna Marshall and new Home Secretary Joseph Obasi assemble the...

Interviews4 hours ago

Charlene White : Empire’s Child | Interview with Charlene White

How did the documentary come about? My auntie Eleanor had been looking into our family history but had reached a...

News6 hours ago

Doctor Who series 13 guest actors and monsters revealed

The trail for the show’s thirteenth series, entitled Doctor Who: Flux, has revealed a first look at the guest actors...

News7 hours ago

Parental Guidance Premieres Soon on Channel 9

Parenting. Everyone’s got an opinion. But which way is the right way? Ally Langdon and Australian parenting expert Dr. Justin Coulson team up with...

The Block 2021 Logo The Block 2021 Logo
News7 hours ago

The Block 2021 Episode 46 – Josh and Luke are fuming at the judges

Josh and Luke are still furious about the last night where they scored a seven, one of the lowest scores...

Episodes7 hours ago

Jamie Foxx, Ricky Gervais, Bill Pullman and Eve Headline Guest Lineup for the Week of Oct. 18–22 On ‘Live With Kelly and Ryan’

Nationally syndicated morning talk show “Live with Kelly and Ryan” announces the lineup of guests appearing on the show the...

EPISODES

Episodes8 hours ago

Highlights for ‘Tamron Hall,’ Week of Oct. 18–22

‘Tamron Hall’ Tackles Today’s Meaningful and Important Topics – So Let’s Talk About It Following are highlights for “Tamron Hall” for...

Episodes8 hours ago

Highlights for ABC News’ ‘Good Morning America,’ Oct. 18–23

The following report highlights the programming of ABC’s “Good Morning America” during the week of Oct. 18-23. “Good Morning America”...

Episodes8 hours ago

Highlights for ABC News’ ‘GMA3: What You Need To Know,’ Oct. 18–22

The following report highlights the programming of ABC’s “GMA3: What You Need to Know” during the week of Oct. 18-22....

Episodes8 hours ago

Annika Season 1, Episode 2 airs Fri 22 Oct on ABC TV

When a body is found on a boat drifting in the Clyde, the case takes Annika and her team to...

Episodes8 hours ago

Hard Quiz Season 6 Episode 27 airs Wed 20 Oct on ABC TV

This week Tom Gleeson tests the contestants’ knowledge of King Henry VII, Shaquille O’Neal, dinosaurs, and The Adventures of Priscilla,...

Episodes8 hours ago

Taronga Whos Who In The Zoo: Naomi’s Baby airs Fri 22 Oct on Channel 9

Zoo staff embark on an ambitious, year long undertaking, in an effort to help Naomi the chimpanzee, overcome a complicated...

Episodes8 hours ago

Christmas Sail Premieres Sun 31 Oct on Hallmark

Katee Sackhoff (“The Mandalorian,” “Battlestar Galactica”) and Patrick Sabongui (“Firefly Lane,” “The Flash”) star in “Christmas Sail,” a new, original...

Episodes11 hours ago

The Love Trap Premieres Wed 20 Oct on Channel 4

Joel Dommett presents this brand-new reality game show that keeps us all guessing to the end. One eligible bachelor looks...