Appellate Judge James A. Stewart is lost somewhere in the Yorkshire dales.
"Three stars for barmy, no problem."
Perhaps you'd rather watch some science-fiction thriller about armageddon than a comedy about three older gents in the Yorkshire countryside, but Last of the Summer Wine: Vintage 1997 does pay homage to Hammer horror films and does include an end-of-the-world story.
Not to worry, though. Nobody gets bitten by vampire clowns and Last of the Summer Wine continued for a while after 1997. There are pratfalls, though, as Foggy, Compo, and Clegg keep rambling.
Facts of the Case
Last of the Summer Wine: Vintage 1997 contains ten episodes on two discs:
• "The Love Mobile"—Sad-faced Smiler buys a tandem. On a ride, he happens on a mobile lonelyhearts agency stuck on a rural road. He'll soon be sharing the bike with a woman.
• "A Clean Sweep"—Foggy decides to find a down-on-his-luck sweep a chimney to work on. Adulterous Howard takes his cap off to check for spiders, which makes Marina (his mistress) think he's fooling around on her.
• "The Mysterious C.W. Northrop"—C.W. Northrop's in love with cafe owner Ivy, but who is the mystery man?
• "A Double for Howard"—Howard's idea of a double date is to send a lookalike out with Marina to fool wife Pearl. Meanwhile, the barmy trio bedevils an unsuccessful magazine salesman.
• "Deviations with Davenport"—Foggy decides to give a walkers' guidebook writer some guidance, and Foggy, Clegg, Compo, and Davenport are all wandering around lost.
• "According to the Prophet Bickerdyke"—A disciple of the not-so-famous prophet tells the barmy trio that Bickerdyke said the world would end on a Wednesday. Guess what? It's Wednesday.
• "Next Kiss Please"—Howard is stuck at home with Pearl and can't make a tryst with Marina. Compo tries his luck being neighborly to Nora Batty.
• "Destiny and Six Bananas"—Compo asks Nora to accompany him to the Citizens Advice Bureau, where he asks if their relationship as neighbors constitutes a common law marriage. Foggy investigates a report of apes on the loose.
Fans of Last of the Summer Wine will probably smile at some of those episode descriptions, but if you haven't seen the British comedy, you might be scratching your head, even with descriptions such as "sad-faced" and "adulterous."
The comedy comes from a large cast of familiar characters. The central trio is Foggy (Brian Wilde, Porridge), a vet who always takes charge and shares his dubious war stories; Compo (Bill Owen, Carry on Cabby), a disheveled former poacher who's always chasing his widowed neighbor Nora; and Clegg (Peter Sallis, Wallace and Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit), a timid commentator on life in general. None of them take life seriously; even believing themselves destined to starve in the field, they laugh about it. Although they might try to play a trick on someone once in a while, they're usually trying to be helpful, even if their help seems more like a trick than the actual tricks.
Among the supporting characters in this set are Howard (Robert Fyfe, Coronation Street), who's trying to find a safe place for his tryst with Marina (Jean Fergusson, Coronation Street); Aunty Wainwright (Jean Alexander, Coronation Street), an antique shop owner who never lets a customer get away; and Smiler (Stephen Lewis, On the Buses), a sad sack. Aunty gets some of her best bits working with Smiler, taking him on as an apprentice and explaining the nastier aspects of the antique world.
If you stumble on Last of the Summer Wine for the first time, you'll probably be lost until you get to know the characters—or reach a moment of pure silliness, such as Compo posing as a farmer's scarecrow. You don't get those moments all the time, but when you hit one, it's very, very funny. I've seen one other set of Last of the Summer Wine and I can say that it improves a bit the second time around.
The DVD set is plagued with minor glitches such as flecks and lines through the picture. Still, the Yorkshire scenery is beautiful, making for one of the best-looking sitcoms on TV.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Last of the Summer Wine does rely on stock characterizations, such as the wife who sends her husband out in a frilly apron to do the windows or Nora, who'd club Compo over the head with her handbag. Generally, the men are eccentric, while the women are stern and suspicious.
If you've seen Last of the Summer Wine on TV a couple of times, you know whether you want to ramble further. Newcomers are in for a sitcom that's a bit old-fashioned but generally well-done and agreeable.
Three stars for barmy. Er, not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
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