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Last Of The Summer Wine: Farewell to the world's longest running sitcom

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Cheryl Taylor | 10:35 UK time, Friday, 4 June 2010

For a show that was about its characters' last hurrah even when it started in 1973, that really is some achievement. There are many other superlatives for Last Of The Summer Wine - surely this is the most decorated sitcom ever, with writer Roy Clarke OBE and several of the distinguished members of the cast receiving royal approval over the years.

It's almost certainly the only television programme in the world that, according to the press, can count both Her Majesty the Queen and the President of Afghanistan amongst its fans. Hamid Karzai likes to watch it with his son to unwind, apparently.

Nora Batty and CompoOver the years we've waved fond goodbyes to Compo, Nora and all the distinguished 'Third Men', and yet the series has endured.

That's because Roy and the team were smart enough to top up the Summer Wine with the very best British comic actresses and actors - Thora Hird, Jean Alexander, Bill Owen, Frank Thornton, Stephen Lewis, Burt Kwouk, Russ Abbot and many more.

But as you may have heard, after decades of the series' heartwarming, life-affirming comedy, we've decided that the next series, this summer, should be the last.

Accompanied by special episodes of Songs Of Praise and Countryfile, celebrating the hills and dales of Yorkshire, we're determined that Clegg and the oddball old folk who have populated the series down the years are celebrated as the series comes to an end.

We're sure that the coach parties who come to pay tribute at Ivy's tea shop and Nora Batty's front step in Holmfirth will be turning up for a few years yet.

When a show has run to nearly 300 episodes, it's impossible to pick out a favourite moment, but Nora Batty's stockings and Compo's wellies, as well as the almost mythical runaway bath-tub will live forever in the comedy pantheon. And Ronnie Hazlehurst's evergreen, evocative theme tune is now an established part of the nation's cultural soundtrack.

Brian Wilde as Walter Foggy Dewhurst, Robert Fyfe as Howard, Bill Owen as Compo, Peter Sallis as Norman Clegg

And let's not forget the series' heroes. Compo, Clegg, Foggy, Cyril, Truly, Seymour, Tom, Hobbo, Entwistle, Alvin... the reckless, feckless oldies forever young at heart, metaphorically and sometimes literally beaten by their formidable women, are proud upholders of a long tradition of northern British humour stretching back to music hall and beyond.

Deserving of a special mention are the iconic talents that have been there from the start alongside Roy Clarke - on screen Peter Sallis and off screen, producer Alan JW Bell.

It wasn't an easy decision to end a national institution, and we thought long and deep before we made it. But there are more than 30 series of the show to look back on and enjoy and they all bear testimony to the show's warm and whimsical appeal.

So let's join the show's millions of fans, including (if they'd care to partake!) both Her Majesty and President Karzai, in raising a final toast to this most enduring and loved of comedies, and drink deep of the Last of the Summer Wine. 1973 was obviously a very good year.

Cheryl Taylor is controller, comedy commissioning

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    You say it wasn't an easy decision to make, but nowhere is there any mention of WHY you (and Jay Hunt) made the decision. So, why?

    I'd also be interested to know why Last of the Summer Wine, unlike ALL other returning BBC One sitcoms, hasn't been trailed on-screen since the early part of the noughties.

    Lastly, do you think the majority of BBC One viewers appreciate a Sunday schedule with no sitcoms.

    At all?

  • Comment number 3.

    End of an era "Thank You" Summer Wine you have given myself and others a wonderful 40 years R.I.P

  • Comment number 4.

    Last of the Summer Wine is and was a superb programme. I thank the BBC for it. How ever if you are going to remove this from your schedule you really need to look for something of the same quality to replace it. The present amount of Garbage will not measure up the the BBCs Charter of to Inform, Entertain and Educate. Directors and Governors please note.

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.


    My origional Blog has been removed so I shall try again. So, Last of the Summer Wine, a gentle comedy, with no nastiness, profanities or violence is to be axed. It will, I suppose, be replaced by a multi-untallented, over paid. foul mouthed idiot who will present yet another so called 'reality show'

  • Comment number 7.

    No response to message 2, then Cheryl?

  • Comment number 8.

    I've been looking at the comments coming in from people who have read that the forthcoming series of Last of the Summer Wine will be the last.

    It's always good to hear positive and negative feedback especially over issues that are close to viewers' hearts. As I said the decision to bid farewell to Last of the Summer Wine was a very hard one to make - albeit one that actually has been under discussion for several years.

    The simple truth to our decision is, like many great series it was felt that the show has now reached a natural end, and we wanted to bring this record breaking series to an elegant close rather than risk it petering out without any kind of fanfare.

    There is a huge affection for Last of the Summer Wine and also a sincere recognition of Roy Clarke's amazing achievements in terms of penning every single episode and we plan to celebrate in style with Roy, cast and crew when the series is transmitted shortly.

    I am really delighted that some of BBC One's other heritage brands - Songs of Praise and Countryfile are also giving a well deserved nod to the series and Roy, Alan JW Bell and others will be contributing to these shows.

    I don't believe that Last of the Summer Wine can be 'replaced' in so many words - it's likely there will never again be such a long running narrative comedy. We do have other titles coming down the line which we feel will appeal to a similar audience - Old Guys (with Roger Lloyd Pack, Clive Swift and Jane Asher) returns for a second series on BBC One soon (a mere babe compared to Last of the Summer Wine), as well as Mrs Brown's Boys starring veteran comedian Brendan O'Carroll. If it's the gorgeous scenery you are after then do check out Accidental Farmer later this year - starring Ashley Jensen. Outnumbered and My Family are also still very much on our agenda.

    Pizza - in response to you question around why Last of the Summer Wine has not had trail support for sometime - it is often the case that trails for long running series are only broadcast when there are sizeable changes to cast or format of the show. Last of the Summer Wine has not been singled out, there are a number of other long running shows that wouldn't normally get trail support either.

  • Comment number 9.

    It is a sad day to hear that the BBC's longest running sitcom is going to be canceled. With 37 years and 31 series on its record, there should be some reason it has lasted long. Quality? Entertainment? (compared to the vulgarity and reality-show nonsense out there now) Could it also be that it hadn't met the match of a trigger-happy person that has been waiting to cancel it? Which leads me onto another subject.

    Apparently there are no more sitcoms during the Sunday lineup. There is also a scarcity of comedy shows. Are the people that pay their license fee getting what they're being paid for? Also, check the BBC Trust document on BBC1's service license and what the BBC should offer the public.

    Mrs. Taylor, you also say that the episodes airing in August will be a "fitting ending" to the show. I really don't see how that is possible, because when the cast and crew filmed these 6 episodes for this year it was still up in the air and a lot of flip-flopping on whether the show would continue or not. So the episodes were not written as a final series. I DO hope with the support that Last of the Summer Wine is getting from the fans worldwide, that maybe Roy Clarke will be commissioned deservedly to do one or two episodes that will be a TRUE ending to this wonderful show.

    Last of the Summer Wine has been canceled. What is going to be put in its place? More reality shows to try and be trendy? What else will be canceled?

    Finally, I'd like to end with an editorial comic that I have drawn that express my feelings as well as the feelings of other fans of Last of the Summer Wine on this decision.

    http://i16.photobucket.com/albums/b2/MST3Claye/lotsw-cancel.jpg

    Thank you Roy Clarke, Alan J. W. Bell, Peter Sallis, Frank Thornton, Juliette Kaplan, Robert Fyfe, Jane Freeman, Tom Owen, Jean Fergusson, Stephen Lewis, Brian Murphy, Burt Kwok, etc.. and those that have passed: Bill Owen, Kathy Staff, Brian Wilde, Joe Comer, Joe Gladwin, Gordon Wharmby, Thora Hird..

  • Comment number 10.

    First, if the decision to axe LOSW was so hard to make who wanted to make the change? Second, why did the BBC renege on it's published plan to wait until the current series had been aired before any action or final decision was made? Third, although you have said there are more than 30 series to look back on and enjoy why is there so few DVDs being released? Why not release the complete series? Fourth,why is a mention in Countryfile and a Songs of Praise from Holmfirth considered to be a fitting finale to such a well loved and internationally popular show? Would it not be more sensible to commission Roy Clarke to write an hour long Christmas special to bring a proper closure? I am quite sure that it would be inconceivable to axe Eastenders in this way, (although I wish someone would,)so please at least give us a proper ending. One hour in a year won't break the bank, and I am sure even the anti LOSW youth demographic could spare that.

  • Comment number 11.

    Well its goodbye to the best comedy show ever made.I myself understand that it cant have been an easy decision to make to end it.Instead of slating the BBC we should be thanking them for making and broadcasting Last of The Summer wine for so many years.There have been many dvds released and hopefully will be many more over the coming years.So we can watch it again and again.Cheryl Taylor made a decision and we should all respect that.A decision that no doubt took a lot of thought and not one made lightly.So i say to everyone involved in making Last of the summer wine a big thank you for the years of enjoyment you have brought to so many people.

  • Comment number 12.

    8. At 10:24am on 11 Jun 2010, Cheryl Taylor wrote:

    "I am really delighted that some of BBC One's other heritage brands - Songs of Praise and Countryfile are also giving a well deserved nod to the series and Roy, Alan JW Bell and others will be contributing to these shows."

    I really do get feed up with all this management speek, neither of those programmes are heritage brands, both are now very much corruptions of the originals and quite frankly are being promoted on the back of this sad and (in many TVL fee payers views) wrong decision to kill off LOTSW, not a 'celebration' of LOTSW. Whilst everyone acknowledges that cast, crew and writers are not as young as they once were there is no reason why the concept of LOTSW should be lost.

    Whilst I don't share the tone of "sthenno" comments I do share his/her sentiments as to the future of BBC One weekend scheduling...

  • Comment number 13.

    Hi Cheryl,

    Thanks for replying to some of the above comments. At least you have the guts to answer your critics and I applaud you for that.
    I actually have no problems in the series coming to an end as I too think it has run its course. However, I am slightly confused over why the decision to axe LOTSW was taken after the last 6 episodes where made? Please can you tell me why you could not have allowed Roy Clarke to make one final episode knowing that this would be the last? He could have then tied up the series and allowed this last episode to be a celebration of the past 37 years. Perhaps a final 1 hour episode could be made? If this was done I am sure you will win back the respect and trust of so many people that you have now lost.

  • Comment number 14.

    8. At 10:24am on 11 Jun 2010, Cheryl Taylor wrote:

    "The simple truth to our decision is, like many great series it was felt that the show has now reached a natural end, and we wanted to bring this record breaking series to an elegant close rather than risk it petering out without any kind of fanfare.

    There is a huge affection for Last of the Summer Wine and also a sincere recognition of Roy Clarke's amazing achievements in terms of penning every single episode and we plan to celebrate in style with Roy, cast and crew when the series is transmitted shortly.

    I am really delighted that some of BBC One's other heritage brands - Songs of Praise and Countryfile are also giving a well deserved nod to the series and Roy, Alan JW Bell and others will be contributing to these shows."

    I join with many of my friends in denigrating how BBC is treating what has been for it a "Good and Faithful Servant" over many years.

    Ms Taylor says "we wanted to bring this record breaking series to an elegant close rather than risk it petering out without any kind of fanfare."

    Where is the "elegant close"? It is concluding with a very short series which was filmed without cognisance of the fact that it is to be the last one. Please do not insult our intelligence, Ms Taylor. Some of us have been around longer than "Last of the Summer Wine" itself.

    And where is "any kind of fanfare"? I do not share Boilerplated's (12) views on Countryfile (well, might query its being "heritage" exactly) and Songs of Praise. But their "giving a well deserved nod to the series" do not constitute an "elegant close" or "any kind of fanfare".

    I noted recently ITV finished another long standing favourite, "A Touch of Frost". But I would suggest that unlike BBC's simply ditching "Last of the Summer Wine" that was done elegantly and fittingly with a two-parter aired over a weekend. Main point might be that it was produced knowing it was to be the last.

    Some of my friends have suggested a fitting "fanfare" would be a final Christmas Special. I'll go along with that. But an alternative would be a documentary "37 Years of Last of the Summer Wine" which could reprise right back to the beginning and particularly cover the final years since "30 Years of Last of the Summer Wine".

    Ms Clarke says, "There is a huge affection for Last of the Summer Wine and also a sincere recognition of Roy Clarke's amazing achievements in terms of penning every single episode". Sorry, Ms Clarke, we ain't seen any affection by the upper echelon of the BBC for "Last of the Summer Wine" in recent years and there is no recognition of Roy Clarke's amazing achievement if he is not allowed to pen a fitting closing to his great creation.

  • Comment number 15.

    Oh dear and whoops! In free flow in my last posting (#14) and muddled names. In two places in last paragraph "Ms Clarke" should, of course, read "Ms Taylor". Mea culpa.

  • Comment number 16.

    i have read the above posts and have also come to the conclusion that the show may have been near its natural end. however i feel it deserves at least a 1 hour special to 'sign off' as it were . i for one will miss it's gentle humour , having watched '8 out of 10 cats ' etc with my grandsons and seen the excuse for humour on such shows ,i feel old. that is the problem , most fans of L O T S W have grown old with the show and its actors and have greived at the loss of another stalwart of the show from time to time. SO COME ON BBC ,let us have a proper 'goodbye'' show and put it to rest properly not with other progs that did not have anything to do with the show in the first place.

  • Comment number 17.

    Thank you, Cheryl, for your reply.

  • Comment number 18.

    Ms. Taylor ... it is gratifying that you would respond to the inquiries on this matter over here in 'States such inquiries to the media even our ersatz "public media" would fall on deaf ears and be ignored. I do have to second grumpyuncle's question regarding the DVD's. We have every one of the series that has been offered through Amazon.uk by "Auntie". There are colossal holes in the releases that one could drive lorry through. (we actually bought and dedicated a DVD player to that region so we could get the releases directly from Auntie.) Is there any reason not to press ahead -immediately- (and announce same) and release the remaining missing episodes on DVD??? You could well imagine the fan base in several countries would snap them up as fast as you could press them. I have seen many inquires on this matter but no responses anywhere.

    As for all of us I'm sure, the show will be terribly, terribly missed. We have NOTHING to compare to it on TV over here, absolutely NOTHING. And it evokes an instinctive understanding for and admiration of a time and place, and what has always been the straight-forward nature of British character that will be lost to the world when the show is forgotten by succeeding generations. Ken Kitson (PC Cooper) had an observation, he said: "If the BBC has finished with it, we'll have to see if another independent company would like to follow it up."
    Have their been any inquiries that you are aware of? jccampb

  • Comment number 19.

    Just a quick point i would like to to make is that Roy Clarke did say,that if Bill Owen had died between series then Summer Wine would have ended then.So all the episodes that have been made since Bill Owens death have been a bonus.Also it was never going to be the same without Compo.It was all down to the excellent writing of Mr.Clarke that the series was able to go on.But its not going to be the same without Summer Wine.But i would rather it ended with the series still loved rather than just fade away.Instead of getting upset we should remember all the great actors and actresses whom have passed away since Summer Wine began,and thank them for the joy they brought to so many over the years.

  • Comment number 20.

    I see my comment were binned,looks like I hit a nerve

  • Comment number 21.

    What I can not quite comprehend is that these final six episodes are said to a "fitting finale". As they were filmed in 2009 when there was still a chance of a further series my own logic finds this difficult.

    What would be really good, and might suggest the BBC actually listens to comments,is an additional ending to the very last episode that rounds it all off. This has been done in some Christmas episodes where there is a concluding party with everyone happy and relaxed. Roy clarke could write it! Or have I been drinking too much wine over the last 37 years?

  • Comment number 22.

    19. At 08:19am on 13 Jun 2010, mick wrote:
    "Just a quick point i would like to to make is that Roy Clarke did say,that if Bill Owen had died between series then Summer Wine would have ended then.So all the episodes that have been made since Bill Owens death have been a bonus.Also it was never going to be the same without Compo.It was all down to the excellent writing of Mr.Clarke that the series was able to go on.But its not going to be the same without Summer Wine.But i would rather it ended with the series still loved rather than just fade away.Instead of getting upset we should remember all the great actors and actresses whom have passed away since Summer Wine began,and thank them for the joy they brought to so many over the years."
    I do agree with a lot of what you say, mick. It is probably time the programme wound up whilst still loved. But there are dignified ways of winding it up and the one being used by the BBC is not one of them. It does need a fitting finale of a Christmas Special or "37 Years of Last of the Summer Wine" variety where Roy Clarke and Alan Bell have the last word. As it is, the BBC is leaving us with a sour taste in the mouth which sadly the BBC is getting very good at of late.

  • Comment number 23.

    worse luck ... apparently Ms. Taylor only made one pass over the questions -sigh- Had hoped she'd address the more than half of the episodes that have never made it to DVD out of Auntie's vaults ..
    jccampb

  • Comment number 24.

    BigUnc I do agree with you that it would be a very good idea to have a final Christmas episode to bring it all to an end.That would be a very fitting end.That way we could all happily say goodbye to the best series ever made,properly.I think it would also be a fitting tribute to all those who brought us so much joy and are now no longer with us.

  • Comment number 25.

    Well why axe it then????

  • Comment number 26.

    to decide to axe a great local comedy show is just plain wrong. it is clearly a well loved show yet the bbc still wants it off the air just so they can show more cheap boring tv such as reality shows. shame on you bbc. you do not deserve your license fee thats for sure. you do not even repeat the older episodes. i am very disappointed in you all at the bbc for ending this great loved comedy show. its about time you axed eastenders as this as been on air now far too long yet is nowhere near as good as last of the summer wine.

  • Comment number 27.

    Hiya - my dad is desperate to collect all Last of the Summer Wine series on DVD but so far I've only been able to get him up to series 15-16 and I know there are around 31 series. Any idea where I can buy these?? Many thanks

  • Comment number 28.

    You can't help but thinking that if the BBC believe this show has come to a "natural end", then so has the BBC....

    Unfortunately, it is too late to bring the BBC to "an elegant close" and it has been "petering out without any kind of fanfare" for quite some time now...

  • Comment number 29.

    After reading that Summer Wine is to be axed by the bbc and watching adverts on programs that are to replace it the humour of them is out of this world by that I mean they should all be sent mars, In stead of getting rid of Summer Wine get rid of that useless program called Eastenders as the program has nothing to do with the real world

  • Comment number 30.

    I agree with all the other comments about there not being a fitting end.
    Surely 31 years deserves a LOT more respect than what we are getting.If the BBC really cares they will do that, either as a Christmas special or an extended one off episode. If the Americans can do it for MASH after 11 years( which apparently brought America to a standstill ) then I am sure that the BBC can understand why the viewing public feel so upset and short-changed. And this by the supposed Grand Old Lady of Television.
    Maybe Cheryl Taylor can come back and give us a definitive answer on this and also why we are losing it anyway. I have a letter beside me from BBC Audience Services which tells me that this site will tell me why, but they obviously not read it themselves because there is no answer from anyone giving us the reason. If what we are getting in place of Summer Wine is My Family and Outnumbered then I for one will be watching another channel, because to my mind both of them (seen only from trailers I might add) celebrate everything that seems to be wrong with families today and gives todays children terrible ideas of behaviour. No doubt if they were told off they would say that it is OK on the TV so I can do it.

  • Comment number 31.

    Please can we have repeats or the release of more series onto DVD, thanks, Rob

  • Comment number 32.

    Dear Cheryl

    Thank you for a singularly iconic and heart warming show over the years. I think it is wonderful that a major contemporary television series survived into the 21st century where all the characters still wore hats. That said, I am glad you have taken the decision to close the series before it ran out of steam and wit. Too often, programmes are dragged out long after the expiry of their sell-by date; however, I do hope that the BBC will be re-running the series from the beginning on BBC4 or similar. There must be a huge audience, which never saw the earlier episodes, and I am sure I cannot be alone in thinking how delightful it would be to begin all over again..!

  • Comment number 33.

    As a fan of the show since seeing the original pilot, I have to ask, where was Jane Freeman (Ivy) in the last episode? Peter Sallis and Jane Freeman were the only two original cast members from 1973 and it seems such a shame that we could not see her in the last episode.
    On a positive note I'd like to express my gratitude to all the those involved in writing, producing and acting in the series. Over thirty seven years there have been many classic moments, but one for me stands out.
    Nora Batty," I sometimes wonder if you would miss me if I left"
    Wally, "We could give it a try."

  • Comment number 34.

    Whatever people say Last of the Summer Wine will be greatly missed.Although I originally did not think new characters being introduced would be as good in the main I have been wrong. My feelings are that the B.B.C have made a big big error. I only hope that some independant production company might take it on I am sure it would be a winner for them.

  • Comment number 35.

    Bring back last of the summer wine instead of tripe such as come fly with me,the bbc has been found guilty of ageism against presenters,but still practises it as far as the programme schedules.All the so called comedy shows are targeted towards the young with their toilet humour filled rubbish much loved by the untalented people who commission these so called comedies.

  • Comment number 36.

    Never found it funny, but oddly sad to see it go!

 

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