Sometimes you just have to sit down and work out the important things of life. Such as, with my new-found ability to watch UK Gold at all hours, my favourite ten episodes of Last of the Summer Wine. Now I realise other people may disagree with my categorisation, but here – in order of my personal preference – are my top 10 Summer Wine episodes.
- A Quiet Drink – a smashing early episode, with dirtier humour, drunken behaviour, dodgy characters and one of the first angry landlords. It’s Blamire rather than Foggy, and MIchael Bates is in fine form. Cleggy and co work out how to get the tight-fisted Mouse to buy a round.
- Earnshaw strikes back. From the times of the classic line-up, first time round. Clegg complains about Yorkshire beer. Foggy goes further and offends the ancient Yorkshire gods. Will they be able to placate Earnshaw before something terribly wrong happens? You can probably guess.
- Short back and Palais Glide – The first “proper” episode of the first series. Amazing amount packed in – probably because they had no slapstick that early on, Blamire gets his hair cut by the death-obsessed Judd the barber. Compo loses his house key after being turned upside down to shake the demons out. And they have to break into the dinner-dance to try and get it back.
- Of Funerals and Fish – The pilot. The first sight of the lads, the caff, and “Mrs Batty” – treated with slightly more respect in those days. There’s a sub-plot involving two librarians which, decades later, re-emerges as Howard and Marina.
- Catching Digby’s Donkey – An absolute joy. Apart from introducing Howard, Pearl and Marina (the latter two attempting to do a tango in a field), it also has the smashing David Hatton as the famous pub fighter who’ll fight anyone for a quid. Oh yeah, and there’s a donkey in it as well.
- Northern Flying Circus – After their friend Billy dies, Compo ends up with his motorbike and leathers. He spends an inordinate amount of time riding it round the car park of the Star, in Huddersfield. The Star, by the way, is a brilliant pub, And nothing like the TV set in this episode.
- Here we go (again) into the Wild Blue Yonder – Classic line up again, a two-parter featuring giant pigeon hang-gliders, much shouting of “Geranium”, and a lot of getting stuck up trees.
- Come Back, Jack Harry Teesdale – Seymour attempts to direct Jack Harry’s caravan into his drive – a manoeuvre that has nearly brought about a divorce when Mrs Jack Harry has tried it.
- There goes the Groom – Foggy’s last, and Truly’s first. The groom wakes up with a hangover and cold feet, and Truly has to get his man. While Foggy heads to Blackpool in the post van.
- When you take a good Bite, Yorkshire tastes Terrible – Old Bill Henry has died, having fallen out of an airplane in the USA while delivering Chicken Kiev. Legend has it that he married a Hinchcliffe from Alderson Street. To mark his passing, the lads set off to cycle between 3 far-flung pubs, drinking 3 pints at every pub. A certain amount of climbing trees and falling off gates ensues.
There is a certain amount of reflection in reading these, of course. I can’t help but notice a total lack of episodes from the last fifteen years or so of the series, and that’s not surprising. Sure, there was still the Yorkshire charm, but as the three-man set up dissolved into five or six blokes in various combinations, and as Clegg slowed down and Compo ceased to be with us, the magic had sadly gone.
A disproportionate number of episodes with Blamire are in this list. I was too young to see those early series at the time – but I get a lot of nostalgia for the 70s watching them – scenes of formica-topped pub tables, fizzy beer and boxy little cars. They take you right back.