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24 September 2014

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Keeping Up Appearances

Richard and Hyacinth Bucket peering over a fence

British sitcom has always been fascinated by snobs, but few were ever as monstrous as Hyacinth Bucket (who insists it's pronounced "Bouquet"), the central character in Roy Clarke's Keeping Up Appearances.

Played with aplomb by Patricia Routledge, Hyacinth is a character with few, if any, saving graces. Her pompous, self-serving attitude makes life miserable for all around her.

Patricia Routledge as Hyacinth Bucket

Long-suffering husband Richard (Clive Swift) gets the brunt of it, with Hyacinth quick to chastise if he steps out of line ("I don't like you making decisions unilaterally", she tells him).

But there are others in the firing line, including nervous neighbour Elizabeth (Josephine Tewson), her brother Emmett (David Griffin) and Michael the Vicar (Jeremy Gittins).

However, the real ire is reserved for the snob's council estate dwelling sisters: Rose (Shirley Stelfox/Mary Millar) and Daisy (Judy Cornwell).

While the former irks with her man-eating ways, the latter absolutely appalls thanks to her slobbish lifestyle and indolent, scruffy husband Onslow (Geoffrey Hughes).

Geoffrey Hughes and Judy Cornwell

Sofa-bound, unshaven and absolutely unbowed by his harridan of a sister-in-law, he remained Hyacinth's nemesis across the show's five series.

Deeply formulaic, most episodes involved a phone call from Hyacinth's unseen sister Violet (who turns up in the final series played by Anna Dawson), you know, "the one with the Mercedes, sauna, and room for a pony!" and, at some point, a telephone conversation with off-screen son Sheridan, who's always the cadge for money to pursue his homosexual lifestyle (although that's never recognised by his proud mum).

The series found a large audience in the UK and America, with production only ceasing in 1995 when Routledge wanted to move on to other projects.

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