Filmed on location in and around Holmfirth in the Holme Valley, Last of the Summer Wine is the longest-running comedy programme in Britain and the longest-running sitcom in the world.
Centred around the activities and shenanigans of three elderly men, Last of the Summer Wine is a gentle comedy about the pleasures of growing old. The cast has changed my times over the years with the original trio
consisting of Bill Owen as the scruffy and child-like Compo, Peter Sallis as deep-thinking, meek Clegg and Michael Bates as authoritarian and snobbish Blamire.
Over the years the original cast has grown to feature a wide variety of supporting characters, with each helping to contribute to their own unique sub-plots and often finding themselves somehow involved in the daredevil stunts and boyish pranks of the trio.
Whilst the characters of Clegg and Compo remained a constant duo throughout the series, the third character in the trio was replaced numerous times. In 1976, Michael Bates (the actor who played Blamire) had to drop out of the show entirely due to illness, after two series on the show.
From series three right up to the 20th series, the ‘third man role’ in the trio was filled by various characters, one of the most popular being the quirky war veteran Walter “Foggy” Dewhurst (Brian Wilde). Brian enjoted two rather lengthy stints on the show and quickly established himself as one of the group – and a firm favourite among the fans.
Other characters that made up the third man of the trio include the eccentric inventor Seymour Uttherthwaite (Michael Aldridge), and former police officer Herbert “Truly of The Yard” Truelove (Frank Thornton).
Whilst the trio has changed over the course of the show, Peter Sallis as ‘Clegg’ has remained a constant character as was Bill Owen as Compo for some 26 years until his death in 1999.
Much to the division of fans of the show, Last of the Summer Wine returned following the death of Compo, with the Compo replaced at various times by Tom Simmonite (Bill Owen’s real life son Tim Owen), Billy Hardcastle (Keith Clifford), and Alvin Smedley (Brian Murphy).
Due to the age of the main cast, a new trio was created during the 30th series which featured relatively young actors, and this format was used for the final two instalments of the show.
The newly casted trio included Russ Abbott as former milkman/secret agen Luther “Hobbo” Hobdyke, Burt Kwouk as the electrical repairman, “Electrical” Entwistle, and Murphy as Alvin Smedley.
Peter Sallis and Frank Thornton continued on in the show as supporting to characters to the new cast, but their screentime was somewhat limited.
Despite many viewers and fans feeling that the quality of the show declined over time, Last of the Summer still continued to pull in large viewing figures for the BBC right until its end, and was often praised for its positive and refreshing portrayal of older people with its special touch of family-friendly humour.
Often seen as ageing delinquents, the three men have never seemed to have grown up. With their often youthful stunts and japes aimed at wooing their lady friends or getting male chums out of trouble.
Last of the Summer Wine continues to raise a large viewing audience on the BBC, and has been awarded in the past for it’s positive portrayal of older people and it’s family-friendly humour and content.
On the 26 June 2009 the BBC announced that it had recommissioned the show for its 31st series, consisting of 6 episodes to be broadcast in 2010.