Judge Erin Boland's review tries very hard to impress all the other reviews on the block.
Our review of Keeping Up Appearances: The Full Bouquet, published November 17th, 2004, is also available.
Oh no! It's that Bucket (pronounced "bucket") woman!
A smashing BBC hit comedy of manners, Roy Clarke's aptly named Keeping Up Appearances aired on the BBC1 from 1990-1995 and won Patricia Routledge a British comedy award for her portrayal of Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced "bouquet"). The Brits put their comic personality in the spotlight with Keeping Up Appearances, and for the five series the show ran, it gained a faithful audience on both sides of the pond.
Facts of the Case
Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced "bouquet"), also known as "the Bucket (pronounced 'bucket') woman" to many of her neighbors, is the ever-conscious social climber with an uppity, overbearing demeanor and a piercing voice. She knows more about etiquette than "Dear Abby" and Martha Stewart combined and never misses a chance to rub her elbows with the well-bred social upper class. Keeping Up Appearances chronicles Hyacinth's adventures in housekeeping, playing the perfect hostess, and attempting to be the envy of everyone else in the neighborhood. All the while her poor hen-pecked husband Richard just smiles and nods.
In addition to Hyacinth and Richard, the show introduces their neighbors, Elizabeth and Emmet; her slovenly sister and brother-in-law, Daisy and Onslow; Rose, her sister of ill repute; a dishy Vicar; and a host of other minor characters who find themselves reduced to nervous pieces in the wake of Hyacinth and her social machinations.
Album 5: Everything's Coming up Hyacinth
• "Half a Camel"
• "How to Retire Early if You're Not Careful"
• "A Portrait of the Artist as a Hen-Pecked Man"
• "The French Lieutenant's Daughter"
• "How to Go on Holiday Without Really Trying"
• "What to Wear When Yachting"
• "Violet's Country Cottage"
Best on the Disc: "A Portrait of the Artist as a Hen-Pecked
Album 6: Some Like it Hyacinth
• "Hyacinth Tees Off"
• "The Nautical Speaker"
• "Indoor/Outdoor Luxury Barbeque and Finger Buffet"
• "Rural Retreat"
• "Beacon for the Best in Hospitality"
• "Please Mind Your Head"
• "Let There Be Light"
Best on the Disc: "Let There Be Light"
Album 7: Living the Hyacinth Life
• "Seaside Fun"
• "The Fancy Dress Ball"
• "Hyacinth is Alarmed"
• "Riparian Entertainments"
• "Sister, Sister"
• "Country Estate Sale"
Best on the Disc: "Riparian Entertainments"
Album 8: Hats of to Hyacinth
• "General Bucket"
• "A Bon Vivant Buffet"
• "A Crafts-Woman Scorned"
• "Scintillating Socializing"
Best on the Disc: "A Crafts-Woman Scorned"
Keeping Up Appearances is a refreshing step back to the sitcoms of the 1950s. The show probably has much more in common with I Love Lucy then the sitcoms gracing the primetime of networks today. In fact, in an interview with British Television Magazine, Josephine Tewson (Elizabeth) had said of Keeping Up Appearances: "It's like watching I Love Lucy performed by The Royal Shakespeare Company." The show centers itself on the social machinations of Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced "bouquet"). Though she falls into the tradition of British Comic Snobbery Greats like Basil Fawlty (Fawlty Towers) and Rupert Rigsby (Rising Damp), Hyacinth is the mother hen of them all. Between her brightly colored floral attire and her um…fashionable…hats, Hyacinth brings out that masochistic sense of humor in all of us as she leaves her victims shaking in their shoes at the thought of another candlelight supper, or laughing when her plans go awry. While Patricia Routledge is a talented comedic actress, it's the chemistry of the entire cast that made Keeping Up Appearances a smashing success.
In addition to Patricia Routledge's brilliant physical comedy, Clive Swift (Richard) plays her hen-pecked husband to the tee. With his cowed "yes dear," his subdued manner easily generates as much laughter as Routledge's vociferous personality. If Hyacinth is the ever neat and tidy, if a bit snobbish, hostess ("Oh, now don't lean too close to my expensive piece of porcelain. You know, very few people realize how expensive that was"), then the rest of her family are very much her utter antitheses (and rather large embarrassments). While Hyacinth is busy polishing the bushes outside her door (yes, I did say the bushes), Daisy and her husband Onslow are usually lazily lying in bed or in front of the telly while Rose (who lives with them) dramatizes another affair. If any facet of Keeping Up Appearances makes the show worth watching, it is the interaction between Hyacinth and her family. Poor, sexually frustrated Daisy spends her days trying to reignite a spark in her marriage, while Onslow, her bone-idle husband, would rather do…anything. The two are often seen kibitzing in their bedroom—while Daisy reads a romance novel and Onslow reads The Principles of Condensed Matter Physics. (If you knew what the man looked like, that last bit would be hilarious.) Hyacinth spends her time either keeping her relatives cleanly out of view or pretending that they are local riff raff. She does however make an exception for her third sister, Violet, proudly announcing with each phone call: "It's my sister Violet, the one with a sauna, swimming pool, and room for a pony."
Onslow (Geoffrey Hughes), my personal favorite, is definitive proof that as far as intelligence is concerned, appearances are very deceiving. The bone-idle man would like nothing more then to be left alone to watch (and place bets on) racing on the telly. Occasionally, when fighting off Daisy's…desires…the man makes some rather profound comments. If Daisy and Onslow are, in appearance, foils to Hyacinth's lifestyle, then Rose is her moral opposite. Simply put, Rose is a tart; she would put Blanche of America's The Golden Girls to shame, though she will insist that she is "not that type of girl." Undoubtedly, Keeping Up Appearances would not have succeeded without these three.
The video quality on the DVD is overall quite commendable. There is a slight graininess that appears on many of the episodes; however, this is noticeable in the original episodes as they appear on the telly. The show is shot with the traditional BBC stock, so it does have the appearance of being about 15 years behind the times, but this doesn't really detract from its charm. The stereo sound provided on the disc is more then adequate to show of Hyacinth's wide range of vocal talents.
Outtakes from any comedy are amusing to watch and the Keeping Up Appearances outtakes sections are indeed no disappointment. For as domineering a character as Patricia Routledge (Hyacinth) plays, the outtakes do much to humanize her as an actress. Characters that normally tremble in her aristocratic opera-singing wake appear candidly in the outtakes and very obviously enjoy working with her. If anything, the short outtake sections, in addition to being worth a good laugh, heightened my respect for Routledge as a comic actress and separate her, in the mind's eye, from the annoying, domineering Hyacinth Bucket.
The Second Change short is a UK exclusive commercial featuring Hyacinth and Elizabeth. The commercial is an amusing bit; however, it is only likely to be familiar to anyone from Great Britain. Nevertheless, it is a nice testimony to Hyacinth's popularity, and a cute little short that nicely complements the set for any Keeping Up Appearances Fan.
The Pebble Mill interview with Patricia Routledge and Clive Smith is an interview from a British talk show. The show discusses what both Patricia and Clive are doing outside of Keeping Up Appearances and also mentions the Keeping Up Appearances: Hyacinth Bucket's Book of Etiquette for the Socially Less Fortunate, kind of a "Dear Abby" book with references to the show.
The Memoirs of Hyacinth Bucket is an hour-long "best-of" program that relives some of the funniest moments of Keeping Up Appearances. Daisy and Onslow have gotten their hands on Hyacinth's memoirs and have a jolly good time reliving Hyacinth's "Most Embarrassing Moments" through the eyes of Hyacinth herself.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Keeping Up Appearances is sometimes a bit larger than life (though, in its defense, I do suppose you have to be, if you want to be accepted into the social upper crust). Since the show's plot is rather simple—distilling to Hyacinth better her social position or show-up a neighbor—the episodes can get old after a bit. The only real reason to keep watching the show is the comedy. Unfortunately, the disc set does leave the Christmas specials, the Kitty monologues, and the QEII double episode to the first boxed set. But, I suppose one can't have everything.
Keeping Up Appearances: Hyacinth Springs Eternal is a delightfully hilarious (in the dry British humor sense of the word) comedy about manners. I wouldn't recommend it for anyone who isn't a fan of British humor.
For anyone not familiar with the show, the set (or even just one of the DVDs) is a great rental, but for the fan of Keeping Up Appearances, the boxed set is a must.
Would you want to tell the Bucket (pronounced "bucket") woman that she only getting second place?
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Cast Bios
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