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Case Number 04869

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Keeping Up Appearances: Hyacinth Springs Eternal

Warner Bros. // 1995 // 700 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Erin Boland (Retired) // July 28th, 2004

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All Rise...

Judge Erin Boland's review tries very hard to impress all the other reviews on the block.

Editor's Note

Our review of Keeping Up Appearances: The Full Bouquet, published November 17th, 2004, is also available.

The Charge

Oh no! It's that Bucket (pronounced "bucket") woman!

Opening Statement

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"
Elizabeth: He's been acting strangely ever since they gave him early retirement.
Emmet: I should think he has, the poor devil. Imagine, all day at home with Hyacinth…every day. I'd call Amnesty International.
Richard is heading off for his last day at work before retirement. Hyacinth has invited a food industry millionaire over for an elegant tea so she can try to find Richard a new, more executive position. Then a rather large black dog arrives on her front porch.

• "How to Retire Early if You're Not Careful"
Onslow: "She looks like the bride of Frankenstein."
Daisy: "Bride…that's a nice change. She never usually gets past 'girlfriend.'"
Onslow: "What with that and your Hyacinth, I'm glad you're normal."
Daisy: "Never mind normal, try desirable."
Onslow: "I told you, I have a headache."
While eagerly awaiting her invitation to the Royal Garden party, Hyacinth decides that she and Richard should take a trip to the country to study "local history and antiquities." Meanwhile, Rose finds herself at the crossroads of her life when another affair of hers ends tragically.

• "A Portrait of the Artist as a Hen-Pecked Man"
Hyacinth: "Are you wearing that dear?"
Elizabeth: "What's wrong with it?"
Hyacinth: "Oh nothing dear, I'm sure it's…charming."
Elizabeth: "I can change if you like."
Hyacinth: "No. No. No. I wouldn't dream of asking you to do that. No…I'm sure it looks perfect. . How long will it take you to change?"
Hyacinth has decided Richard needs a hobby to occupy himself during his retirement, and the only one classy enough for her is film. After sending Richard out to film something, Hyacinth prepares to have Mrs. Councilllor Nugent over for afternoon tea.

• "The French Lieutenant's Daughter"
Elizabeth: "What about inviting some of your other friends?"
Hyacinth: "Oh I do dear, but for some reason, they're never able to come."
Hyacinth has obtained an invitation to an art exhibition for herself and Richard. Then, Hyacinth receives a phone call from Daisy saying their father has left to join the French foreign legion.

• "How to Go on Holiday Without Really Trying"
The Vicar's Wife: "Guess who's on the list of volunteers for church cleaning today."
The Vicar: "The Bucket (pronounced 'bucket') woman…Just keep her out of my way."
One-upmanship is one thing Hyacinth cannot stand, especially since it makes superiority so difficult. When she hears of Delia Wheelwright's plans for an opulent vacation, she plans to teach her a lesson with some well-placed and equally opulent travel brochures of her own.

• "What to Wear When Yachting"
Emmet: "If I hear the word 'yacht' from that woman just once more, I swear I'll buy a U-boat."
Hyacinth and Richard have been invited to spend the weekend on a cruiser…err…yacht. Positively delighted by the invitation, Hyacinth outfits Richard properly for the outing and plans the perfect seaside candlelight supper.

• "Violet's Country Cottage"
Daisy: "Onslow, this is Mrs. Zbbpt…Thing. She doesn't speak much English."
Onslow: "How much is much?"
Daisy: "None"
Onslow: "And this is what your father fancies?"
Hyacinth's sister Violet has lent them her country cottage for the weekend. An eccentric neighbor looking for a gun-shy dog and the arrival of her family ruin her carefully planned weekend barbeque.

Best on the Disc: "A Portrait of the Artist as a Hen-Pecked Man"
Worst on the Disc: "Half A Camel"

Album 6: Some Like it Hyacinth

• "Hyacinth Tees Off"
Daisy: "Why would she want you at all for golf?"
Onslow: "She knows I have sporting interests."
Daisy: "You watch racing on telly."
Onslow: "I don't just watch it, I put bets on it."
After seeing an advertisement for a senior management position, Hyacinth decides that Richard should show off his executive qualities on the golf course during an "accidental" meeting with the company's president.

• "The Nautical Speaker"
Stranger: "Is she mad?"
Richard: "She's my wife."
Stranger: "You have my deepest sympathies."
Having just what it takes to entertain and make an impression, Hyacinth volunteers to escort the retired Commodore from the train station to the Ladies' Club Luncheon, where he is to be the guest speaker.

• "Indoor/Outdoor Luxury Barbeque and Finger Buffet"
Daisy: "I bet she's cheap and common. Have you noticed how they all go for cheap and common?"
Rose: "Don't knock it, I've had some of my best moments being cheap and common."
In order to keep up with the Barker-Finches and their barbeque reputation, Hyacinth decides to throw the first "outdoors-indoors luxury barbeque" and invites the local Garden King as her celebrity guest of honor. Meanwhile, Daisy accuses Onslow of having an affair.

• "Rural Retreat"
Hyacinth: "Would you like thatch?"
Richard: "When I could easily have corn flakes?
Hyacinth: "Richard, pay attention dear. I am speaking of our cottage. Should it be thatch do you think?"
Richard: "You mean as well as heavily mortgaged."
Hyacinth decides that she and Richard need a country cottage. Richard, who must be facing a midlife crisis when he can't decide on a hat for Hyacinth to wear, finds out that her idea of small is actually not so small.

• "Beacon for the Best in Hospitality"
Hyacinth: "I'm sure Daddy wouldn't steal your rotor arm. He probably had instructions to commandeer it for military purposes."
Hyacinth decides to take another outing into the country to find a suitable social setting for her country candlelight suppers. To Richard's chagrin, an emergency involving her father arises. Since her husband is unable to go, Hyacinth has Elizabeth drive instead.

• "Please Mind Your Head"
Hyacinth: "Now, imagine it's the middle of the night…all right? Why aren't you answering me Richard?"
Richard: "I'm imagining I'm asleep and can't hear you."
Richard and Hyacinth are spending their first evening in their brand new (but small) country retreat. With Elizabeth and Emmet in tow as guests, Hyacinth decides it is only appropriate that they partake in country leisure activities and throw an afternoon country tea.

• "Let There Be Light"
Richard: "Me? What do I know about electrics?"
Hyacinth: "Now Richard, you repaired our Christmas tree lights."
Hyacinth has volunteered Richard's stellar executive home improvement abilities to help repair the church's lights. Richard, of course, having no experience with home improvement, mucks up the project.

Best on the Disc: "Let There Be Light"
Worst on the Disc: "Hyacinth Tees Off"

Album 7: Living the Hyacinth Life

• "Seaside Fun"
The Vicar: "If she's already feeling ill, she's obviously the ideal person to put in a mini-bus with Mrs. Bucket."
The Vicar's Wife: "That's wicked."
The Vicar: "Yes isn't it? I'll make up for it on Sunday."
Hyacinth volunteers for a seaside amusement park outing with the elderly church members. The Vicar decides that the lusty Signor Farini would be the perfect companion for Hyacinth for the day.

• "The Fancy Dress Ball"
Emmet: "If that's Hyacinth, tell her I've got rabies…and my bite is fatal."
Hyacinth is quite upset when her invitation to the Mayor's fancy dress ball does not arrive. She decides to have Richard run down to the Mayor's office to have them placed on the guest list immediately. But things don't go as Hyacinth planned when she finds she can't get a Marie Antoinette costume.

• "Hyacinth is Alarmed"
Hyacinth: "I want you to be the first to know Elizabeth: I'm going to be alarmed."
Elizabeth: "Oh you needn't be alarmed Hyacinth, I haven't touched it yet."
Hyacinth: "No dear…Richard is going to alarm me for our wedding anniversary."
Elizabeth: "Well you have to admire his spirit after all these years."
Hyacinth: "It's his surprise for me."
Elizabeth: "To alarm you for your wedding anniversary."
Hyacinth: "Yes, he's getting a firm of specialists in to do it."
Hyacinth wakes up bright and perky…Richard wonders why…then he discovers he has forgotten their wedding anniversary, and Hyacinth is anticipating her surprise. Inspired by the recent burglaries in the neighborhood, Richard decided that he will have a security system installed.

• "Riparian Entertainments"
Postman: "You posted a letter that's only going as far as next door…why didn't you just push it through their letterbox?"
Hyacinth: "Because I like people to know that I use first class stamps. Can I see it?"
Postman: "No no, I'm sorry Mrs. Bucket (pronounced 'bucket'). Bucket (pronounced 'bouquet')."
Hyacinth decides to throw a seaside supper for the Vicar, his wife, Emmet, and Elizabeth. Then Onslow, Daisy, and Rose show up with her well-to-do sister Violet, and Hyacinth shows everyone what Riparian Entertainment is all about.

• "Sister, Sister"
Richard: "It seems a bit odd buying skis not to ski."
Hyacinth: "Oh Richard, you don't imagine everyone who has skis on his car actually skies. Good Heavens no."
Hyacinth buys Richard a pair of skis for his birthday, even though he doesn't ski. Although Richard protests, Hyacinth decides to cultivate the image by strapping the skis to the roof of their car.

• "Country Estate Sale"
Lord: "I see you bought old mumsy's dynamite."
Hyacinth: "I always had an eye for quality."
Lord: "One way to ruin your eye is drinking too much of that stuff."
Hyacinth is very excited about attending a country estate sale. Richard is rather worried that Hyacinth will outspend their limits, that is, until she sets her sights on the some of the Lady Ursula's handmade gooseberry wine.

Best on the Disc: "Riparian Entertainments"
Worst on the Disc: "Seaside Fun"

Album 8: Hats of to Hyacinth

• "General Bucket"
Elizabeth: "She's out. Let me be the first to congratulate you on your timing."
Emmet: "That is possibly the most beautiful phrase in the English language. She's out. Rings like music to the ears."
Elizabeth: "They've gone out in the car."
Emmet: "Was she singing anything? Especially anything 1920s?"
Elizabeth: "She was giving Richard his instructions as usual. Wasn't singing."
Emmet: "Oh, she will be. Once she learns I'm rehearsing the boyfriend. She'll not only be singing at me. She'll be singing 1920s at me."
Hyacinth finds out that Emmet is rehearsing the boyfriend and hatches a plan to show of her singing skills so she can be cast for a part. Then Daisy phones—apparently their Daddy has been given instructions to defend Daisy and Onslow's house to the last man standing.

• "A Bon Vivant Buffet"
The Vicar's Wife: "You think under the stage in the dark is really appropriate for a vicar?"
The Vicar: "Darkness is clerical territory."
The Vicar's Wife: "You're supposed to fight it, not join it."
Hyacinth decides to invite Emmet, Elizabeth, the Vicar, and his wife to her sister Violet's (the one with the Mercedes, sauna, and room for a pony) for a nice buffet. Hyacinth is convinced that shy Emmet will rethink his decision not to cast her in his musical.

• "A Crafts-Woman Scorned"
Rose: "Why is Onslow reading the Financial Times?"
Onslow: "I like to keep an eye on the economy. A bloke in my position has to wonder how long the country can afford him. If we don't get the economy right, people like me are gonna be in trouble. It's the duty of all of us to be concerned about the shrinking pound."
Daisy: "And when I married him, I thought he was just a sex symbol."
Hyacinth's freestyle floral arrangement has won second prize instead of first prize at the local crafts fair. To make matters worse, it is none other then Lydia Hawksworth who has defeated her. To regain her dignity, Hyacinth has Richard test drive a Rolls Royce.

• "Scintillating Socializing"
Richard: "Thitting with my penthil at the ready."
Hyacinth decides on a new career as a businesswoman. She believes it is her duty to educate the nation on gracious entertaining and etiquette. And of course, Hyacinth's very own candlelight suppers will be the classroom.

Best on the Disc: "A Crafts-Woman Scorned"
Worst on the Disc: "General Bucket"

The Evidence

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.

Closing Statement

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.

The Verdict

Would you want to tell the Bucket (pronounced "bucket") woman that she only getting second place?

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Scales of Justice

Video: 95
Audio: 95
Extras: 88
Acting: 100
Story: 80
Judgment: 96

Perp Profile

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 700 Minutes
Release Year: 1995
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Comedy
• Foreign
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Cast Bios
• Outtakes
• Second Chance Shorts
• Pebble Mill Interview with Patricia Routledge and Clive Smith
• The Memoirs of Hyacinth Bucket

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Review content copyright © 2004 Erin Boland; Site design and review layout copyright © 2016 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.