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Keeping Up Appearances; English Comedy at its Finest
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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