Series Three (1976) Episode Reviews

David Piper

Dedicated Member
(S03 E01) The Man From Oswestry

Original Airdate: October 27, 1976

Cyril has left and taken up with a Welsh widow woman. He writes to Clegg and Compo, requesting they welcome their returning schoolmate, Foggy Dewhurst.

“You get depressed sometimes and begin to believe there aren’t any real, old-fashioned idiots left! And then, out of the blue, comes a genuine, fourteen-karat, gilt-edged barmpot like this!”

~Norman Clegg

It’s been a year and a half since the end of Series 2.

Bill Owen employs brilliant body language in the opening, dragging himself through the empty streets before dawn like a truant schoolboy who doesn’t know what to do with his newfound spare time. Though for a scruffy herbert, Compo’s trademark jacket looks rather well tailored!

Cyril’s departure has gutted Compo. The cafe isn’t even open yet, which begs the question: Has Compo been wandering around all night? Compo commiserates with Sid, who fires a broadside at the Labour Party, reflecting the United Kingdom’s tumultuous 1970s disillusionment.

Cyril and Foggy were stationed together in Oswestry for "several months in 1947."

Ivy is not in this episode. Nora Batty is also absent.

Norman Clegg, Holmfirth’s resident flat-cap philosopher, is listless and morose. Such is his state of mind that he’s been reduced to making perfunctory remarks regarding the state of his oil-stained trousers.

Cyril Blamire, now in Oswestry, happened into Foggy Dewhurst, who was set to be demobbed. The trio know Foggy from their school days though it doesn’t appear that the four were close friends, so perhaps Dewhurst was one of their many childhood schoolmates.

There can never be enough praise for Brian Wilde’s performance. One feels immediate sympathy for Foggy, who is, like Blamire before him, back in his hometown and redundant. No wonder Cyril wrote that epic letter to Clegg, as Blamire no doubt sympathizes with Foggy’s new circumstances and wants their old schoolmate to be looked after. Cyril's letter was so well written and consistent with his character that it was tempting to include it here in its entirety. Sallis' reading of the letter is excellent.

It’s sad the way that Foggy clutches the pathetic remnants of his military career in which he served as a mere sign painter. Foggy had pride in his craft. It's no wonder he is so protective of the 2 large duffle bags and massive foot locker which hold his every possession.

Big Malcolm (Paul Luty) is Compo’s cousin. Big Malcolm quickly puts Foggy away in their fisticuffs outside the pub, but it’s obvious that Malcolm has sized-up Foggy’s threat level, as it takes just a single tap to stop Foggy in his tracks. Big Malcolm says, “If you can keep him alive, you might get some mileage out of him!” Even the fellow who administers a beating can see that Foggy will fit in just fine.

Foggy, for all his devotion to his military colors, sure suffers for them.

Clegg mentions the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975:

“The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (c. 65) was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which protected men and women from discrimination on the grounds of sex or marital status. The Act concerned employment, training, education, harassment, the provision of goods and services, and the disposal of premises.” [Wikipedia]

Not only does one lament Blamire’s departure–and the real-life health troubles that befell Michael Bates–but also Foggy’s introduction, which is at times positively heartbreaking. So much of that vulnerability is courtesy of Brian Wilde’s brilliant performance. The viewer meets Foggy at what is the low point in his life, compounded by the fact that Foggy wasn’t exactly leaving a grand and glorious life behind him, but it was all he had.

Foggy fights back against those who would dishonor him, but his resistance is an ineffectual one. Everyone from the agitated bus conductors to the barmaid (Paula Tilbrook; Emmerdale Farm) to Big Malcolm show little respect for Foggy. The audience titters when Foggy goes into one of his “thousand-yard stares”, but there’s little to laugh about for the majority of its 30 minutes. That is, until the hilarious–and cathartic– scene in the last act, and boy, did this viewer need it.

The well-directed (by Sydney Lotterby) sequence of Foggy running helplessly behind the cart while attached to it with his scarf is a much-needed respite from the melancholy atmosphere and even then the viewer feels for the poor fellow. Clegg and Compo follow behind, laughing not so much at Foggy’s predicament, but rather out of the relief that they once again have a “third man.”

The Man From Oswestry is a great episode, though not for comedic reasons. The episode is steeped in sadness, and the laughs are few and far between. The episode shows that Compo and Clegg are essentially grief stricken at Cyril having left, but Foggy's calamitous, sad, and ultimately hilarious arrival has lifted them out of their doldrums and up into the gleeful mischief that embodies the best of Last of the Summer Wine.

"When I had to be written out of the series because of this damned leg, in the first programme they read a letter supposed to be from me, and introducing Foggy. I must admit that when I saw the programme and heard the letter, I had tears in my eyes."

~Michael Bates

My Rating: 10/10
(S03 E02) Mending Stuart’s Leg

Original Airdate: November 3, 1976

The trio listen for “clicks” in their ailing friend Stuart’s leg. Failing that, they attempt to replace tiles on the cafe roof.

“When I press his knee, his mouth opens! Watch!”

~Compo Simmonite

In the opening scene as the trio crosses the busy town road, a Homepride Bakeries delivery truck is seen. Homepride is a flour company founded in 1920. In 1974, the company branched out into sauces.

That’s one treacherous curve on that two-lane street! In videos It looks like there’s near-constant, fast-moving traffic speeding by.

Mr. Wainwright (Blake Butler), the “left-wing, lecherous librarian” who “Spends his days dreaming of revolution” and “his nights dreaming of other men’s wives” from Series 1 is back. An obviously forgetful Compo says, “Hey, let’s pop in and explain our rules to the new librarian.” Wainwright mentions that before he was transferred back to this town’s library, he used to “indulge in a little dream. That he [Compo] might have emigrated, or stumbled in the path of an articulated vehicle!” Compo refers to Wainwright as “old shagnasty.”

Wainwright immediately throws the trio out of the library. Foggy says he’d never thought he’d see the day when a Dewhurst was “unwelcome from a seat of learning.” Clegg is amused that Wainwright remembered Compo.

Miss Moss (Kate Brown), the new assistant librarian resembles her predecessor, the lovely Mrs. Partridge (Rosemary Martin). Miss Moss seems quite taken with Mr. Wainwright.

Wainwright and Miss Moody eat lunch in the cafe, where a still-raging Ivy drops their plates on the table. With Ivy’s attitude, no wonder the cafe is always empty of customers.

The trio’s wandering-in-the-countryside scene is beautifully shot from afar, with the silhouettes of our heroes framed along the skyline. Foggy says the episode’s title.

At the cafe, an enraged Ivy throws dozens of saucers out the door at Sid. It boggles the mind as to how a “passionate” marriage such as theirs failed to produce any children. Watch for the funny bit with the fellow passing by, well aware of the domestic disturbance, says good morning to Sid, who’s sweeping up all the broken plates; just another day in the life of Sid!

Ivy has been quite angry and upset at Sid and the trio in her two most recent appearances. She even fires a broadside at a workman customer (Roy Sampson), referring to the “English male siesta. You know, the one that lasts from 9 ‘til 5.” The workman and Sid then have a funny exchange:

Workman: “Yours?”
Sid: “Aye.”
Workman: “Wouldn’t it be quicker just to cut your throat?”

Later, Ivy lets loose a man-hating barrage for the ages:

“Women's lib! You think we need an act of parliament to be the equal of you lot! Ooh, it makes me poorly. The only distinguishing factor about the male sex is that it's got more in its trousers than he's got in its head!. What it's got in its trousers it can keep!”

With Ivy’s outbursts one has to wonder if Roy Clarke is either 1) Playing up Ivy for comedic effect, or 2) Creating a chronicle of Ivy as a deeply unhappy woman. Given these early seasons’ penchant for pathos giving way to broader comedy, this viewer is inclined to believe the former.

Stuart (Reginald Barratt) doesn’t trust doctors, so he has relied on the trio to help mend his leg, much to his considerable physical agony.

Actor Reginald Barratt would die aged 57, on June 10, 1977; seven months after this episode aired.

The funny silent, visual gag of filming at knee level when Ivy confronts Stuart is a bit of inspired directing by Sydney Lotterby.

Sid and Ivy’s domestic discord notwithstanding, Last of the Summer Wine has already begun to soften its edges. Clegg is less pointed in his philosophical remarks, and he has also stopped smoking. Foggy doesn’t “approve” of cigarettes, and even Compo is not seen smoking.

There’s a wrestling poster on the cafe wall: “Steve Logan vs. Black Kwango.”

Steve Logan (1922-2002)
John Kwango (1920-1994)

“The prefix ‘Black’ was added to the name in 1950 and it was not uncommon for matches to be advertised as Black v White contests.” [Wrestling Heritage UK]

Nora Batty doesn’t (yet) demonstrate a similar unhappiness to Ivy’s. Speaking of Nora, she makes a welcome, but brief, return in this episode. She clubs Compo with her handbag after the two run into one another in an alley. Despite Compo’s claims to the contrary, Nora’s stockings don’t look so wrinkled! Is that even Kathy Staff walking away in that scene?

The most interesting part is what Compo shouts after (a giggling!) Nora when she pushes him away:

Compo: “Hey, it wasn’t so bad like this on VE night!”
Nora: “One night? The world was upside down!”

This leads the viewer to believe that a young Compo and Nora celebrated enthusiastically the day World War II in Europe ended. It begs the question: Will this momentous Compo-Nora event ever be mentioned again? The VE night encounter would certainly put their behavior in Some Enchanted Evening into clearer perspective!

The amusing, unfinished oddness of the Stuart story gives way to a tacked-on bit–though it stems from Ivy and Sid’s argument–in which the trio “help” Sid replace some tiles on the cafe roof. A crewman holding a boom microphone can be seen reflected in the van when Sid is driving the van to pull Compo up the ladder.

The trio are observed bringing out the long ladder by what appears to be non-actors, who look genuinely confused by the boys’ antics! The sooty city gets quite the showcase in these scenes.

Compo figuring in the physical stunts pays off with a couple of laugh-out-loud moments: Compo being hoisted up the ladder as Sid drives the van, and best of all, the view from inside the cafe as Compo’s legs are lowered down and then up as though he were being attached to a rope being pulled by Quasimodo himself. LotSW has entered a less philosophical, more slapstick era. The 1960s hangover that was 1970-75 has given way to a less abrasive mindset, both in this program and in popular culture in general.

My Rating: 8/10
(S03 E03) The Great Boarding-House Bathroom Caper

Original Airdate: November 10, 1976

The trio, along with Sid and Ivy, go on a seaside holiday to Scarborough.

“The world is full of social reformers, and nothing irritates your social reformer more than finding some damned fool who’s happy!”

~Norman Clegg

That's a nice transition from seaside film shot to foggy holding a postcard at the cafe in the episode's opening.

In the cafe, Ivy’s posture and clothing call to mind her demeanor and appearance in the John Smith’s Yorkshire beer TV adverts.

Sid and Ivy have been married for 30+ years.

There’s great energy among the cast in the opening scene at the cafe as everyone awaits Compo’s arrival so they can all head out for a long-awaited holiday to Seahaven in Scarborough.

Peter Sallis is in superb form and gives one of his most energetic performances. He names another one of his “awards.” This time, he proclaims Foggy the winner of the “Norman Clegg Award for Outstanding Services to Human Lunacy.”

Sid is dapper in his suit and tie and Ivy looks elegant in her hat and coat.

Ivy is noticeably tense throughout the episode for reasons unexplained.

Compo’s aftershave is called “Biceps.” Sid says it smells more like footsteps.

Bill Owen’s performance is as comfortable as an old pair of wellies. Compo is the essence of child-like glee and mischief and is a joy to watch.

Foggy buys his holiday postcards at home because they’re cheaper. Foggy displays his own brand of enthusiasm about traveling to the seaside.

The gang are driven to Scarborough by Compo’s nephew Gordon (Philip Jackson), whose first appearance this is. Other than a faintly amusing line about how he likes the toilets at the pub where they stop for a pint, Gordon is given nothing interesting to say or do in this episode. Philip Jackson will appear in two more episodes in Series 3 and would go on to have a prolific career in British television.

Ronnie Hazlehurst provides a lovely, jaunty musical cue as the group head out on the road. The memorable music continues through a tire change and other unplanned stops along the way.

The seaside weather is idyllic, with plenty of sun and blue skies. The location crew were fortunate.

A jaunty, instrumental version of “Scarborough Fair” is heard during the boardwalk souvenir shop montage, with our heroes trying on hats and playing arcade games. The tune gives way in almost a melancholy fashion as the trio arrive at the dockside.

The scene on the beach calls to mind late Saturday afternoons of long-ago summers.

At the restaurant, Ivy affects a posh accent for the waitress, who’s called Rose. Rose (Jeanne Mockford) looks to be made from the same mold/mould as librarians Mrs. Partridge and Miss Moody.

Foggy is reading a book about French Marshal Ferdinand Foch (1851-1929), who became, in March 1918, the Supreme Allied Commander during World War I.

Compo wears a robe with “Property of Huddersfield Public Baths” printed on the back. Clegg comments that the robe-wearing Compo looks like Henry Cooper (1934-2011):

Sir Henry Cooper OBE KSG was a British heavyweight boxer, best remembered internationally for a 1963 fight in which he knocked down a young Cassius Clay [Muhammad Ali] before the fight was stopped because of a cut eye from Clay's punches. Cooper was undefeated in British and Commonwealth heavyweight championship contests for twelve years, and held the European heavyweight title for three years. In 1966 he fought Clay [sic] again, by then world heavyweight champion, and again lost with an eye injury. Henry was twice voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year, and after retiring in 1971 following a controversial loss remained a popular public figure. He is the only boxer in the UK to have been awarded a knighthood.” [Wikipedia]

Compo is seated outside the bathroom door, if only to make comical situations possible and to provide the episode’s punchline. Otherwise, it could be dismissed as just more patented Compo craziness. The scruffy herbert is reading The Hotspur Book for Boys:

The Hotspur Book for Boys was a British annual published by DC Thomson that came out in September before the year on the cover, in time for being bought as Christmas presents by parents and grandparents, and forward dated so it wouldn't appear "old" when opened on Christmas Day. Sometimes bound in cardboard, sometimes in hardcover it included features and stories, the latter usually based on series running in the weekly comic.

"In 1959 Hotspur was restarted as a comic strip title, with the numbering resetting back to #1, and a few years later, in 1965, the Hotspur Book for Boys resumed annual publication. Twenty-nine annuals were released before the line again ended, in 1991.”

Nora Batty makes an unexpected appearance, since Compo had previously said that Nora always looks after his ferrets when he’s away, but it all ties in nicely with the reveal that Compo has brought his ferrets with him on holiday.

The Great Boarding-House Bathroom Caper is a perfectly-paced episode (directed by Ray Butt) with enthusiastic performances from the cast along with some lovely seaside scenery and a fine musical score from Ronnie Hazlehurst. It’s as relaxing an episode as there’s been at this stage of the program. Great fun, like a holiday should be (with a touch of tension, courtesy of Ivy).

My Rating: 10/10
(S03 E04) Cheering Up Gordon

Original Airdate: November 17, 1976

The gang are still at Scarborough. The trio encourage the lonely Gordon to pursue girls, and Gordon teaches the trio how to fish.

"In a jungle, I could have crept up on you and cut your throat from ear to ear. Come on, wake up, man! It’s a beautiful day outside!”

~Foggy Dewhurst

Ray Butt once again directs.

It looks like Bill Owen has a partially-missing pinky on his right hand.

Compo is in full holiday attire. He wears a striped (Cricket?) blazer, nice charcoal gray trousers, white sneakers, and it’s all topped off with a wide-brimmed straw hat. His green wool cap is nowhere to be seen.

Harold, yet another relative of Compo’s, is mentioned.

Foggy runs off onto the studio beach and then out into the real, filmed beach and into the frigid surf is a scene reminiscent of the opening of The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (1976-79). The subsequent cut of a frozen, shivering Foggy rattling his tea cup is funny.

Foggy is far more military obsessed than his predecessor Cyril Blamire ever was. Corporal Dewhurst is much more the caricature of a military man, but that is intentional, as it plays into the broader comedy situations for which the show would become famous.

Nora and Wally Batty once again appear, both in the studio and filmed segments. Nora’s hair is in fine form, with nary a curler to be seen.

Clegg namedrops the apparently heavily-advertised music show of Max Jaffa:

“Max Jaffa OBE (1911 – 1991) was a British light orchestral violinist and bandleader. He is best remembered as the leader of the Palm Court Orchestra and trio, with Jack Byfield (piano) and Reginald Kilbey (cello), which broadcast on BBC Radio. His career lasted 70 years, before retiring in 1990.” [Wikipedia]

A portion of the studio audience applauds during the scene of Gordon riding the donkey on the beach; the applause carries over into the golf scene.

Among the studio audience, there’s a woman with forced, high-pitched laughter who only makes herself heard when no one else is laughing.

Wally Batty mentions “the zoo at Marineland.” Marineland is the name of various, unrelated water animal theme parks in Europe, Canada and the United States. Wally and Nora have a scene at a sparsely-attended Marineland dolphin show. The scene is not particularly amusing. The weather is overcast, but points go to the production for including more location footage. Nora and Wally are later seen golfing.

The trio attend church, though they are thrown out by the vicar because Compo brought his ferrets inside. The ferrets are ostensibly under Compo’s jacket, but they are never seen. The church scene is merely a static shot of the building with voiceover and no footage of the church interior.

Clegg is seen wearing Compo’s straw hat.

Compo is once again reading the Hotspur magazine.

Ivy excitedly reads a My Love magazine romance story, which Jane Freeman reads in a voiceover. Ivy complains to Sid about his romantic inadequacies, which Sid brushes off with ineffectual wisecracks. It’s an uncomfortable scene–especially for Last of the Summer Wine–and includes some bold dialogue that may have made similarly-aged 1976 audience members glance accusingly at one another.

Are the Ivy and Sid scenes supposed to be played for laughs? Their rows now come off as sad and depressing and Ivy has become tension and unhappiness personified. The couple do get a scene in which Sid takes Ivy around in a boat, making for a refreshing change from their verbal fisticuffs.

Clegg is saddled with the groan-inducing line: “I suppose they need effeminate bread men for people who like effeminate bread.” Thankfully, Clegg later gets a nice comeback line to Compo:

Compo: “Well don’t blame me for the peace coming so soon, I wasn’t fighting all that hard.”

Clegg: “That’s not what Nora Batty said on VE night!”

There's an artfully-framed shot of Gordon fishing at the pier in the foreground as the trio walk up from the distance while conversing.

Compo gets the episode’s funniest slapstick moment when his fishing reel line gets hooked on a passing car. Compo runs behind the speeding car while the trio head to the pub!

Gordon meets Josie (Liz Goulding), a girl from Linley Street back home. Actress Liz Goulding would later appear as “Pat” in series 3 and 4 of I Didn’t Know You Cared (1975-79), another Northern-based comedy co-starring John Comer.

The nighttime revelry of drunken holiday makers is heard outside the boarding house where the trio are staying.

The episode ends with Compo’s delightfully-mad laughter, which makes even Foggy laugh.

Cheering Up Gordon makes good use of the filmed outdoor scenes in Scarborough. However, a few “outdoor” scenes shot at the studio at times give the episode a distracting, patchwork look. For the most part, however, the episode flows well and is enjoyable due to the extensive location filming.

My Rating: 9/10
(S03 E05) The Kink in Foggy's Niblick

Original Airdate: November 24, 1976

Foggy talks up his golf game, but his skills are even worse than his clubs.

"Yes, it's funny, isn't it? We went to school all them years. We got the three Rs and a bit of woodwork, but not a word about how to fight the Third Reich.”

~Norman Clegg

The opening scene is of the trio playing football on a gloriously sunny day. However, it looks to be freezing if Clegg and Compo’s actions are any indication.

Foggy says “Football is a very physical game.” He then proceeds to throw out his back after kicking the ball straight in the air. Foggy stiffly lowering himself to pick up the ball is all too familiar to some of us! Clegg clutches his calf in cramped agony after Compo moves Allan Clarke-like around him.

The best joke in the scene is when Compo’s wellie flies off his foot and hits Foggy in the proverbial bread basket, which hardens Foggy’s opinion of football:

“It’s a crude, unpolished game” which “lacks finesse, it’s very much the rough, knockabout sport of the working classes.”

Foggy spends a lot of the episode talking about the different social classes, claiming that golf is the “queen of sports” which has an “indefinable social prestige.” He says he hasn’t played golf since 1939, when “that fool Hitler invaded Poland” and the war put the kibosh on his golf-playing.

Compo’s wristwatch somehow ends up in the cafe sugar bowl. This leads to a series of good sight gags, such as Compo stirring tea with his sugar-coated watch and a good line from Clegg about the tea stripping off the watch’s plating. This is the kind of madcap sequence that makes this program so appealing…if only “real life” were like this.

Foggy was once stationed in the Suez Canal Zone.

Sid is breathing heavily–or nervously–when Ivy confronts him about his going off with the trio (“those three idiots”) for golf. Ivy’s chastising of Sid is rather subdued–for her–up until she brains him with the serving tray three times. Only a small portion of the studio audience laughs at the conclusion of the Sid and Ivy row.

The attic of Foggy’s landlady is seen; it’s a fine set, too. Clegg thinks it “looks like the den of the Great Wardrobe Spider”; sounds like a Jon Pertwee-era Doctor Who serial. Clegg and Foggy muck about, to Foggy’s annoyance.

Clegg tows Compo to the golf club on his bicycle. A common promotional photo of Peter Sallis-as-Clegg in a “butch” open-shirt look comes from this episode.

Foggy is most unkind to Compo in a way Cyril never was. Foggy is irritated by Compo’s clothes. Wouldn’t he have accepted or at least been resigned to Compo dressing the way he does? It’s Foggy’s golf outfit that gets the smirks and lingering stares from the other golf club members. Foggy wants Compo to remain out of sight behind some plants at their table at the bar. When insisting that Compo be his caddy, Foggy says: “I want you to hide behind them. When I look in your direction, I want to see plenty of golf bag, and very little you.”

Clegg says that “Gary Player gave his caddie all his winnings.”

Well, not all his winnings, at least not to his caddie:

For the [1965 U.S. Open] win, Player received $25,000. But he kept his word to [USGA executive director] Dey, who had presented the winner’s check to him. Player handed it right back, donating $20,000 to junior golf and $5,000 to cancer research.

“Player also received a $1,000 bonus for participating in the playoff. He gave that money – along with an additional $1,000 – to Pagel the caddie. The $2,000 was, at the time, believed to be the most any TOUR pro had given his caddie for a single win.”

“In essence, it cost Gary Player $1,000 to win the U.S. Open that year. Money well spent, of course.”

The trio and Foggy in particular receive a chilly, unfriendly reception at the club.

There are several “wacky” scenes of Foggy attempting to golf that aren’t funny. Perhaps one must be a golf enthusiast to appreciate those sequences.

It’s also odd that Foggy persists on using the warped clubs. These antics push things too far into situations that seem out of place for LotSW, at least at this stage of the show’s history. Surely the socially-obsessed Dewhurst would have foreseen his embarrassment and bought another set of clubs. Do British golf clubs not rent out golf clubs for use?

Ronnie Hazlehurst must have put in some serious overtime for this episode, as he contributes cartoony music for the golfing sequences.

Clegg, Compo, and Sid, who has joined in watching the wackiness, do not golf at all. Sid could really use a break from Ivy, as she has been terrible to him throughout Series 3.

Compo vanishes and accumulates numerous golf balls in clever and funny ways. The distant shot of Compo “disguised” as a moving bush along the vast golf course expanse is the episode’s best visual gag.

The cars zipping by in the rock-filled stream as Foggy attempts to play his submerged golf ball makes no sense.

The last scene is one of the rare scenes of Summer Wine filmed at night. If one is feeling charitable, it could be said that the night scene demonstrates Foggy’s persistence in getting back into his youthful golf-playing form.

The Kink in Foggy's Niblick doesn’t sweeten Foggy’s character for the viewer nor are the golf scenes all that funny. The episode does have some fine moments, such as the trio cafe scene with Sid and those golf scenes showcasing Compo’s antics.

My Rating: 7/10
(S03 E06) Going to Gordon's Wedding

Original Airdate: December 1, 1976

The Gordon Trilogy concludes, with Compo’s nephew set to marry Josie, the girl he met on holiday at Scarborough.

"Why don’t we go to some other wedding?”

~Norman Clegg

Compo peeks from behind the enormous corsage he insists on wearing and says, “Veddy interesting”, the catchphrase made famous by Arte Johnson (1929-2019), who spoke the words from behind a bush while wearing a German soldier uniform in the US sketch comedy show, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (1967-73).

Another Laugh-In sketch featuring Arte Johnson has similarities to Summer Wine. Johnson plays a “dirty old man” character not unlike Compo, who lusts after a drab, Nora Batty-type character played by fellow Laugh-In regular Ruth Buzzi (b. 1936). Instead of shooing away her would-be lothario with a broom, Buzzi would wallop Johnson with her (empty) handbag. It’s surprising that Laugh-In aired in the UK, as it’s very “California” (specifically beautiful downtown Burbank) and 1960s counterculture in tone.

Gordon’s Mum (Margaret Burton) is a real doll who steals every scene in which she appears. She’s a whirlwind of nervous, oblivious energy and a joy to watch. Too bad Burton couldn’t have returned in future episodes, even if it were as a different character; she would have fit in brilliantly.

The sequence involving the gift travel clock is a gem. Foggy’s wrapping the gift without the clock inside, and his frustrated “karate chop” motion especially are funny. It can be written without a hint of sarcasm that Foggy wrapping gifts is much funnier than Foggy playing golf.

Director Sydney Lotterby employs another shot of the trio walking toward the still camera from a long distance while reading their dialogue. This type of camerawork wouldn’t be out of place in a Woody Allen film.

The trio make their way to Gordon’s mum’s house. They have their coats slung over their arms; it looks hot outside.

Big Malcolm (Paul Luty) makes another appearance. He is Compo’s cousin, so he is also related to Gordon. It was a nice touch to have brought him back. Malcolm’s beer bottle looks as though it’s about to foam over with every sip! Malcolm and Eric (Barry Hart) shove one another while arguing over which of them is more suitable for Gordon’s mum.

Eric, referring to Foggy, asks Malcolm, “Who’s that poof?”

Compo says “our Malcolm and our Eric”, so is Eric also a relative of Compo’s? While the two men appear to get on with Compo, the two otherwise come off as the “shaggy, terrifying creatures” Clegg says they are.

Inside Gordon’s house, there’s a charming framed photo on the mantelpiece of Gordon wearing a long wool cap. The character is growing on me, but this episode is his final appearance. Gordon never speaks much, but Philip Jackson’s stone-faced expression conveys great comic tension.

The trio have lipstick smudges on their faces from when Gordon’s mum kissed them. Clegg’s attempts to tell Compo about it without alerting the other guests (John Rutland, Gwyneth Owen–no relation to Bill) in the room is amusing in a “comedy of manners” sort of way.

Josie’s sister Julie and her boyfriend make out during the entirety of the scene. Neither of them has a speaking part or a screen credit at the end.

Rab C. Nesbitt regular Brian Pettifer plays Gordon’s injury-accumulating best man (Brian Pettifer). I recognized him as “Bert” from the Wummin episode of Still Game.

Gordon’s bus from The Great Boarding-House Bathroom Caper makes another appearance; it takes everyone to the church.

Compo shows Josie mum (Joan Scott) a “bit of leg”; she is not amused.

Liz Goulding-as-Josie shows great restraint as she nearly boils over in rage at the missing wedding ring, which has gone away in an ambulance along with the best man, who slipped and injured himself again.

The roar of the alarm clock is obviously an overhead alarm, and it’s plenty loud! Compo’s facial expression and body language as he clutches the gift clock box is brilliant.

Going to Gordon’s Wedding does well in capturing all the comedic tension that goes with wedding day jitters, for the bride and groom, their family, and the wedding guests.

My Rating: 9/10
(S03 E07) Isometrics and After

Original Airdate: December 8, 1976

Foggy starts a fitness regimen for the trio.

"I do enjoy hearing people discuss politics; it makes you realize there are things more boring than growing old.”

~Norman Clegg

Over the opening credits is a beautiful view of the rolling countryside.

Compo has a religious debate with Foggy like the kind he would have had with Cyril Blamire. In fact, this episode features lots of Blamire-era material and at times feels like either a nostalgic return to that already-distant-feeling time of Summer Wine.

Foggy to Compo: “Don’t you believe in any power greater than the chairman of your local National Assistance Board?”

"The National Assistance Board was established by the National Assistance Act 1948 and abolished by the Ministry of Social Security Act 1966. It was preceded by the Unemployment Assistance Board and succeeded by the Supplementary Benefit Commission.

“The National Assistance Act 1946 required local authorities, under the control of the board, to provide residential accommodation for older and disabled people ‘in need of care and attention which is not otherwise available to them’. They were also able to register and inspect homes run by charitable (non-profit) and private (for profit) organizations and to contribute to independent organisations providing ‘recreation or meals for old people’ or themselves provide these, or day centres, clubs etc.”

Compo’s infamous matchbox makes its first appearance. He shows its contents to Miss Moody, Foggy, Clegg, and Nora Batty, who all react with varying degrees of revulsion and disgust.

This marks the final appearance of librarian Mr. Wainwright (Blake Butler) and his assistant, Miss Moody (Kate Brown). Wainwright throws the trio out of the library one last time. Miss Moody is clearly more literate than her boss, as she quotes The Wasteland (1922) by the poet T.S. Eliot (1888-1965). Wainwright not only doesn’t know The Wasteland, he doesn’t even know who T.S. Eliot was!

"American-English poet, playwright, literary critic, and editor, a leader of the Modernist movement in poetry in such works as The Waste Land (1922) and Four Quartets (1943). Eliot exercised a strong influence on Anglo-American culture from the 1920s until late in the century. His experiments in diction, style, and versification revitalized English poetry, and in a series of critical essays he shattered old orthodoxies and erected new ones. The publication of Four Quartets led to his recognition as the greatest living English poet and man of letters, and in 1948 he was awarded both the Order of Merit and the Nobel Prize for Literature.” [Britannica]

These days, Eliot is probably best known for his connection to the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats (1981), which is based on Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (1939).

There’s a scene shot from quite a distance of the trio walking through town while conversing about exercise and death. Off to the far right corner of the frame is a building emitting a wide plume of smoke. Clegg has a couple of good lines: "We’re gonna die in about a hundred years. Is it really worth bothering to get fit?” and “You need a book to teach yourself how to die? Now there’s a novel thing!” Clegg is still philosophical, but no longer the adventurous risk-taker he was in Series One and Two.

Speaking of blight, the cafe looks even grubbier than usual and the lighting of the place adds considerably to the depressing atmosphere.

Nora Batty is working at the cafe, and even if she hadn’t been wearing hair curlers, our Mrs. Batty still looks quite out of place working for Sid and Ivy. Maybe Nora’s just cleaning up and doesn’t interact with the paying customers.

Ivy goes on yet another man-hating rant and Sid is not inclined to stand up to her and is instead happy to crack wise with the trio. If Sid has his way, he would make the trio a quartet.

Sid brings out a box of “Doggy Scoff.” Hopefully Sid and Ivy are just using a dog food box to hold napkins or towels…

The sequence in which the trio runs up the hill is impressive. None of my family of that age ever ran with the speed at which Compo does here.

It looks as though the heatwave of previous Series Three episodes has given way to overcast and chilly weather.

The isometrics set piece, in which the trio yank the top from the reading room table, is an appropriate send off for the library set.

The trio riding on horseback is a cozy finish to the episode, with another long shot of the trio sauntering away from the camera. Their lack of control over the horses is relaxing and neither tense nor packed with slapstick…it’s just Foggy gently telling Clegg and Compo that the horses always know where home is as the trio make their way through a Cricket match in progress.

A laid-back end to Series Three. Isometrics and After has a modicum of plot and for the most feels like a Series One episode with the return of the reading room and the last hurrah of Mr. Wainwright. The episode qualifies as wistful nostalgia. One half expects Cyril Blamire to make an appearance to complete the tribute. It’s a classic ending to an episode that seemed to cover the ideas presented during the Blamire Era. It may have been Roy Clarke making use of some leftover ideas in his considerable bag of tricks.

My Rating: 8/10