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

Friday 4 June 2010, 11:35

Cheryl Taylor Cheryl Taylor Controller of CBBC

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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 Compo
Over 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

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