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Keeping Up Appearances; English Comedy at its Finest

Updated on August 31, 2014

I will always remember the first time I saw Keeping Up Appearances. It was on a spring afternoon back in 1993, I tuned into PBS, and suddenly I saw the ending of an episode where Hyacinth is assigned to clean the church toilets. I thought the whole scene was so hilarious; I just had to see this program. I started seeing this gem of British comedy on a regular basis and I was hooked. I then decided to share this with my mother and she became a dedicated viewer as well. We just couldn't get enough of Hyacinth Bucket, Richard Bucket, their neighbors Elizabeth and Emmet, Hyacinth’s sisters, and her brother in law Onslow.

Keeping Up Appearances is in some ways like I Love Lucy , but with a British flare. This program is British humor at its finest. Writer Roy Clark, who is now retired from BBC, did a fantastic job of writing a script that was hilarious and never missed a beat. I never forgot one episode where Hyacinth calls the Vicar and the Vicar’s wife answers the phone. The Vicar is away ringing the church bells. The Vicar’s wife goes out to tell the Vicar that the Bucket woman is calling. In this scene the Vicar is ringing the bells and they sound in tune, but when his wife comes to the bell tower and says “it’s the Bucket woman!” the bells then suddenly go into a cacophony of sounds. I couldn’t stop laughing when I saw that scene.

Keeping Up Appearances centers around Hyacinth Bucket (played by Patricia Routledge), who is an upper middle class lady, who dreams of rubbing elbows with the aristocracy. She does everything she can to fit in with the upper class, much to the financial detriment of her husband Richard (played by Clive Swift), who has a hard time coping financially with all of her exorbitant demands. She’s fond of her Royal Daulton teacups and giving candlelight suppers. Her household includes Richard, who is a victim of most of Hyacinth schemes and obediently yields to all of Hyacinth’s demands. They have a son named Sheridan, who never appears in the series, but often calls when he needs money.

Hyacinth’s has her two neighbor’s Elizabeth (Josephine Tewson) and Emmet (played by David Griffin). Poor Elizabeth lives terrified of Hyacinth’s coffee invitations and the threat of dropping yet another expensive cup, from Hyacinth’s precious set of Royal Daulton cups with the hand painted periwinkles. Emmet on the other hand lives terrified of being sung at by Hyacinth. She does this to get a part in one Emmet’s plays. Emmet heads what is known as the amateur operatic society, and Hyacinth wants to put her “singing talents” forward in hopes of getting the part.

Even though Hyacinth exerts her best efforts at being aristocratic, she has one really rather large problem, her sisters Daisy (played by Judy Cornwell), Rose (played by Shirley Stellfox and Mary Millar) and her brother in law Onslow (played by Geoffrey Hughes). Daisy and Onslow live on the dole and are rather laid back, with a house that is such a wreck, that Hyacinth would rather climb walls (literally) than show her neighbor Elizabeth where Daisy lives. Onslow is the antithesis of everything Hyacinth regards to be respectable. On one episode, Onslow describes himself as being: "out of shape, bone idle and work shy." Onslow is very fond of watching racing on his tely. His wife Daisy is also a slob and is an avid reader of romantic fiction novels. She often tries to get Onslow to show more interest in the bedroom, with very little success, despite her best efforts. Daisy even says the following in one episode: “Most people have foreplay, I have to grill bacon.”

Also living with Daisy and Onslow is her sister Rose and her father (played by George Web). Her sister Rose is very fond of her male friends, and is not above being called cheap and common. Finally, there is Hyacinth’s senile father. Hyacinth’s father is a World War II veteran, who often has fantasies of his old army comrades. He is also rather fond of the ladies, and often runs away to be with his female friends.

In Hyacinth’s world there is also the Vicar (played by Jeremy Gittins) and his wife (Marion Barron), who often refers to Hyacinth as the Bucket woman. She often appears unannounced, much to the Vicar’s detriment and he has to do favors for Hyacinth, like driving her halfway across England to pick up a commodore. Then there is her poor milkman (played by Robert Rawles), who even gets up an hour earlier to deliver the milk, in hopes of avoiding Hyacinth’s inquires. Her mailman (played by David Janson) is also a victim of Hyacinth’s tedious inquires and is often seen tiptoeing to her letter box in hopes of avoiding Hyacinth, with very little success.

There are also other characters that add a special flavor to this amazing program. The Major (played by Peter Celleir), who is rather fond of Hyacinth in a rather naughty way and even says she reminds him of the Governor’s wife. He has chased Hyacinth around his greenhouse and at the grounds of a famous golfing hotel. She may be trying to run away from the major, but she is often seen trying to be part of Mrs. Councilor Nugent’s (played Charmian May) social circle. Mrs. Councilor Nugent is a rather stern woman, who is keen on suppressing all romantic behavior. She often catches Hyacinth in her most embarrassing moments, in order to save face Hyacinth even fakes an accent when Mrs. Councilor Nugent stops by to return, what she feels are “no go underwear.”

We mustn’t forget Hyacinth’s rich sister Violet (played by Anna Dawson) and her brother in law Bruce (played by John Evitts), who has an acceptable financial position, but is a transvestite, who loves to wear all of Violet’s gowns, leaving poor Violet with only the trousers to wear. He wants to play Maid Marion and pretend he’s in Sherwood Forest, facts about the family, which Hyacinth tries desperately to conceal from her neighbor Elizabeth. Violet often calls Hyacinth to complain about her eccentric husband while Elizabeth is over for coffee, and Hyacinth is petrified, should Elizabeth overhear Violet’s complaints. Violet might have room for a pony, but she has to contend with Bruce’s eccentricities, as well.

Some Facts on Keeping Up Appearances

Keeping Up Appearances first aired on October 1990, the first episode was titled “Daddy’s Accident.” It ran for five seasons, and had forty four episodes set in different locations around the Midlands and the English countryside. Patricia Routledge is now starring in a television murder mystery title “Hettie Wainthropp Investigates” Roy Clark also wrote “Open All Hours” and Last of the Summer Wine.” The program was produced by Harold Snoad.

If you would like some more information on this amazing program, here a couple of excellent links for your convenience:

Keeping Up Appearanceis one of the funniest shows around. It is English humor at it best. I have seen other British sitcoms, but my favorite has always been Keeping Up Appearances. On this wonderful show, one gets to see the English countryside, the streets and suburbs of London and inside the Q.E. II. The writing is first rate you keep laughing from beginning to end. The acting is supreme, and the casting is fantastic. This program showcases some of England most talented actors. Roy Clark does a fantastic job in the writing; every scene is simply a masterpiece of comedy. The production staff does an amazing job of presenting the show. Every detail from Hyacinth’s house, to all the venues that they go to are all meticulously presented, right down to the last detail.

If you want to watch some of the best of English comedy, then watch an episode of this amazing show. It will have you rolling of your chair with laughter. Celebrate the month of April with some wonderful English entertainment and watch a good British sitcom. Humor is after all, the best medicine, and Keeping Up Appearances will put a smile on your face almost instantly.

This episode is titled" The Charity Shop" This is one of my favorites and one of the funniest.


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    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 

      6 years ago from Germany and Philippines

      Wow! This British sitcom is indeed very hilarious. I love it and it´s my favorite. Whenever I need to laugh, I looked at the Keeping Up Appearances in you tube even if I have seen the episodes many times. It´s still laughable. I just felt pity everytime I saw Richard being commanded by his wife. Thanks for sharing. Voted up and funny;-) Have a great day!

    • Gillchan profile image


      6 years ago

      I agree, Hyacinth Bucket is hilarious. Ive recently got Netflix and am reliving all of my old favourites. Do check out "Fawlty Towers" with John Cleese; The zvicar of Dibley: Little Britain, and of course, the talented Catherine Tate Show. I love British comedy. Especially the vintage ones. Also some for inclusion would be: "are you being served?" And "watch your language" Really side-splitting. Enjoy!

    • Internetwriter62 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Marco Island, Florida

      Thank you English T, for your kind words and hardy approval of my hub. I am so glad that this wonderful show not only brought you laughter, but also relieved you of your headache, they say "laughter is the best medicine'' and yes that is true, especially with wonderful comedies like "Keeping Up Appearance" I'm glad you enjoyed my article and that we both share a great fondness for a truly amazing show.

    • profile image

      English T. 

      7 years ago

      Thank you for putting a smile on my face with your review. No other comedy brightens my mood like Keeping up Appearances. Last night I had a terrible headache and couldn't sleep. I put on series 4, wrapped myself in my Union Flag blanket and cupped a steaming hot cup of tea, then began to watch the antics of the Bucket woman and her long-suffering family and neighbours. By the time I had finished watching (and laughing), I had forgotten about my headache and was ready to drift into blissful sleep. There will never be another comedy that even comes close to this wonderful non-offensive bundle of fun. Once again, thank you! x

    • profile image

      English T. 

      7 years ago

      I loved your article! Thank you for putting a smile on my face. A few days ago I watched an episode where Hyacinth only goes in to a travel agency tn collect some holiday brosures for trips on the Orient Express and thn QE2 but when Hyacinth tried in her own unique subtle way of showing Elizabeth, she wasn't interested. . . This is such a great comedy that keeps me chuckling throughout the day. Once again thanks for a lovely, heart-warming article. x

    • Internetwriter62 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Marco Island, Florida

      Thank you Miss, I will try to change that piece of info in my article.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      the great comedy that is KuA is NOT filmed up north but in the midlands - where I live. Northampton is NOT a northern town. And the funniest comedies from the UK comes from the south of England.

    • Internetwriter62 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Marco Island, Florida

      Yes Sherlock221b I have seen Patricia Routledge play Kitty and I really enjoyed it. I've seen her do some monologues as Kitty as well. She's fantastic, I also love the rest of the cast of Keeping Up Appearances as well, they are all excellent actors.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I love this show, and think Patricia Routledge one of the finest comedy actors we have in the UK. Have you seen her as Kitty, on Victoria Wood's TV show? Just one thing, the show isn't set in London, but in the north of England, and the comedy is very Northern. Northern comedy is I think the funniest of English humour.

    • Internetwriter62 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Marco Island, Florida

      Hi Mamelody,

      Thanks for stopping by and yes I agree why doesn't Emmit and Elizabeth move away, then again I guess they needed a couple of masochists next door to Hyacinth to make the the show even funnier. I have watched many of the episodes over and over again and I still don't get tired with them. It is truly destined to become a classic.

    • Mamelody profile image


      8 years ago

      I named my aunt Hyacinth because she is exactly like her.. always trying to fit in with the upper class and her husband is exactly like Richard.. tormented by his wife hahaha. I cant understand why Elizabeth & Emmet don't move to another neighborhood!!!

      I love this show, have all the series on DVD. Brilliant Review hun!

    • Internetwriter62 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Marco Island, Florida

      Thank you Cedar Cove Farm, I'm glad reading this brought back good memories, Keeping Up Appearances brings back great memories for me as well. I hope you find some other programs worth watching.

    • Cedar Cove Farm profile image

      Cedar Cove Farm 

      8 years ago from Southern Missouri

      I used to love this show, back when we had TV. Thanks for the memories.

    • Internetwriter62 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Marco Island, Florida

      Thank you epigramman. I was wondering about that beautiful cat in the picture. I am very fond of cats, haven't had one in a long time, but my first cat was a calico and your cat reminded me of Melissa, she got hit by a car.

      I am glad you like the hub and the show, Keeping Up Appearance for me is some of the best of British entertainment, well acted and well written. I am glad you and your mother got to enjoy this wonderful program, this is one of my mother's favorite shows to, by the way.

    • epigramman profile image


      9 years ago

      well my Mum was my best friend - the cat in my picture by the way is her cat - and Little Miss Tiffy has taken to me in a big way - I also have another cat - he is younger - Mister Gabriel and he is a white cat who is deaf.

      Little Miss Tiffy is at least 14 years old I would say.

      ...well that leads me into saying that my mum loved this show - the Partricia Routledge character reminded me of the English 'Lucy' and I saw her in another show where she played a sleuth (I believe) in a serious part and that makes her quite a good actress to be believable in both parts.

      Anyway - we would watch KEEPING UP APPEARANCES on a saturday night on PBS - happy memories were those.

      Thanks for the great tribute and your excellent research and homework.

    • Internetwriter62 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Marco Island, Florida

      Thank you Jen, and it great to know that we are both part of the Hub Pages and Redgage Communities. I really love this program. I sometimes take out DVDs from the library of this program, just to have a good laugh. It's nice to know that it is still a well loved show.

    • Jen's Solitude profile image

      Jen's Solitude 

      9 years ago from Delaware

      I just read this link on Redgage, I have watched this show so often I know most of the lines by heart. lol Nice hub!

    • Internetwriter62 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Marco Island, Florida

      Thanks TnFlash, It nice to know that this show is still so well loved. It's been fifteen years since the last episode and yet they still seem as fresh as if they were filmed yesterday.

    • TnFlash profile image


      9 years ago from Tampa, Florida

      Great Hub! I found an episode of Keeping Up Appearances" on YouTube and I thought it was really funny! Thanks for information.

    • Internetwriter62 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Marco Island, Florida

      Thank you Sandyspider, Patty Inglish,MS and Astra Nomik,

      Sandyspieder: As to there being an American version, I always thought of I Love Lucy as kind of an American version.

      Patty Inglish: I have never really seen president Taylor, but it would be interesting to see his facial expressions to see how many similarities they have to Patricia Routledge.

      Astra Nomik: I know that this show is not for everyone, but you have to admit it does have some choice moments. I never forgot the scene where Hyacinth climbed the walls of a strangers house to avoid having Elizabeth see the front of her sister's home. I couldn't stop laughing. I know that comedy is a matter of personal taste. For example I adore Jim Carrey, yet my sister in law does not care for him. I'm glad you liked my hub. Thanks for your comments everyone

    • Astra Nomik profile image

      Cathy Nerujen 

      9 years ago from Edge of Reality and Known Space

      My parents love this show and watch it whenever it comes on the tv. It annoys the hell out of me, because the main female character is so utterly silly, that you could only invent her stupidity. It verges on forced humour, and I find some of the jokes are too forced. But the suffering husband and the ancillary characters are very funny. It's passable. It helped the careers of some of these actors too. Great hub. : )

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      US President Taylor (Cherry Jones) on "24" has the facial expressions of Patricia Routledge as Hyacinth Bucket to a lesser degree and it makes me feel like laughing in the Twilight Zone amid all the mayhem.

    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 

      9 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      I'm sure it will just be a matter of time for this to be the American version. Interesting show.

    • Internetwriter62 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Marco Island, Florida

      Thank you RedElf, I really appreciate your comment. Keeping Up Appearances is one of those shows that have put a smile on my face, even when I'm having a bad day. It's true there are people who make a big deal of how their name is pronounced. I only wish they would have continued making episodes of that wonderful show.

    • RedElf profile image


      9 years ago from Canada

      OMG this is one of my all-time favorite shows! Mrs. Bucket is so funny - all the worst moments of my mom and grannies and a few aunties all rolled into one - on steroids! She is SOOOOO funny it hurts.

      I worked with a lady whose last name was Kravetz, a good name; a perfectly good, old and honorable, straight-forward last name. Pronounced with a short "a", accent on the first syllable: Krah'-vetz

      She, alone of her family, did not care for her name. She was a bit like Mrs. Bucket/Bouquet, and pronounced her last name with the accent on the second syllable: Kre-Vetz' -thereby changing her name into something that sounded like the French word for "shrimp".

      Ah, well...I guess there's one in every crowd :D


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