Series Two (1975) Episode Reviews

What is your favorite series 2 episode?

  • Forked Lightning

    Votes: 3 20.0%
  • Who's That Dancing with Nora Batty Then?

    Votes: 1 6.7%
  • The Changing Face of Rural Blamire

    Votes: 6 40.0%
  • Some Enchanted Evening

    Votes: 1 6.7%
  • A Quiet Drink

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Ballad for Wind Instruments and Canoe

    Votes: 4 26.7%
  • Northern Flying Circus

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters

David Piper

Dedicated Member
(S02 E01) Forked Lightning

Original Airdate: March 5, 1975

Clegg, having endured several mishaps, seeks to repair his bicycle as well as to master riding it.

“Oh Ivy, thee’s got a chest like a proud pigeon! If it wasn’t for Nora Batty, I could fancy thee!”

~Compo Simmonite

The slapstick for which Summer Wine is famous starts to take hold, but there’s still plenty of witty dialogue to complement it. In Forked Lightning, Norman Clegg suffers That Most Serious of Injuries…twice…while riding his bicycle. Both times, other townsfolk witness this most unfortunate event. The first group are waiting for a bus and mockingly give Clegg an ovation after his accident. Clegg tips his hat; he clearly has a proclivity to cope! One of the townies says, “Nice one, Cyril”, which is not a mistaken reference to Michael Bates’ character, but rather a popular expression of the day.

“In 1972, Wonderloaf Bread created a television advertising campaign written by Peter Mayle with the slogan "Nice one, Cyril", where the slogan was used to congratulate a baker named Cyril for baking a good loaf of bread. The slogan was picked by fans of the football club Tottenham Hotspur, who chanted "Nice one Cyril" to praise a Tottenham player named Cyril Knowles. Harold Spiro, a fan of the club, wrote the song with Helen Clarke based on the slogan.” [Wikipedia]


It’s unusual for the traditionally vacant streets of Holmfirth to “suddenly” become filled with onlookers. A few of these actors even get multiple lines of dialogue, such as the two ladies who are seen after Clegg’s second, off-camera accident. I hope the ladies got their equity card for their effort.

At the library, Cyril and Compo wonder where Clegg has gone. They also talk about Compo’s lucky rabbit’s foot. It’s not a particularly funny scene, but it demonstrates what superb actors Owen and Bates are, as they can make almost anything sound interesting. This scene proves it.

Clegg finally does show up and is still in pain. Peter Sallis makes hilarious sounds to express this. The mere motion of moving his leg elicits in him groans of agony. This is only surpassed by the joyful sounds he makes when he’s able to walk without misery again! Brilliantly played by Sallis.

Physical and visual comedy galore: The bike is crushed by a passing truck; The Trio ride in the back of a horse trailer with a horse, of course; the boys falling over in the bike while triple towing…I love the look of pure joy on Compo’s face while Cyril and Clegg’s initial amusement quickly turns to stark terror; Bill Owen conveys a “child at play” visage to perfection here.

The mechanic at the garage where Clegg bought the bike (in 1946) is played by Kenneth MacDonald, the future Only Fools and Horses barman. His character might have been a severe annoyance, but MacDonald is such an engaging performer that he’s actually charming. His mechanic character clearly loves life and his job. In between shouting at Gordon, his offscreen colleague, he sings a medley of classic songs:

By the Time I Get to Phoenix
Secret Love
Everybody’s Talkin’
Baby Love
Hound Dog
Try a Little Tenderness

Cyril tells Clegg that 1946 was a terrible year for him, because he spent his military leave that summer at Bridlington.

The two bus (coach) conductresses (Doreen Sloane, Cynthia Michaelis) are tough but lovely. The camera is inside the coach as the doors close to the trio, who are not permitted to bring the bike aboard.

Ivy gets some wonderful character moments. First, after Compo admires her physical form, she chases him out of the cafe and afterward pauses to admire herself in the mirror. Ivy was either clearly taken with Compo’s attention or by his remark about her bosom.

Another great Ivy moment is her look of obvious concern and total love for her dear Sid, who suffered the same very painful injury as Clegg did at the episode’s start. Sid has his best effort yet in being the unofficial “fourth” member of the trio. He tries to repair Clegg’s bike and is later the recipient of the boys’ “pit crew”-style assistance after Sid’s “Butch Cassidy on a bike” moment reaches its ignominious conclusion. The trio simultaneously looking after Sid is a nice bit of affection from the lads, who no doubt appreciated Sid’s attempts to repair Norman’s bicycle, but it’s also a fine character moment for Norman, Cyril, and Compo to attend to their pal.

Forked Lightning has an assured, confident quality, both in the performances by the principal actors as well as the handful of one-off characters who appear in this episode. While not a perfect 10, Forked Lightning is a highly-enjoyable entry and one that will no doubt rise in rating through repeat viewings.

My Rating: 9/10
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David, I'm sorry I haven't had the chance earlier to say these reviews are absolutely wonderful! I really enjoy them. I especially appreciate the inclusion of historical and cultural background. I originally thought the "Nice one Cyril" was a mistake in the voice over or live recording that didn't get replaced so that bit of inside information is really welcome.
I will add that it might have been especially appropriate as Peter Sallis was rumored to be a Hotspur fan.
Thank you for the time and energy you are certainly devoting to this project.
One of the best.

It was mentioned in one or two other threads that Gordon Wharmby is an extra as a bus passenger in this episode - which makes it extra special.
(S02 E02) Who's That Dancing with Nora Batty Then?

Original Airdate: March 12, 1975

Compo's neighbor Gloria is moving to Australia, so he decides to throw her a farewell party at Sid's Café.

“Come fly with me, Nora! You and me, we could make magic together, and I’d lay me ferrets at your feet!”

~Compo Simmonite

Two new librarians are introduced, as the Library Mob concept hangs on. Miss Probert (Judith Watson; who’s had a prolific career, just nothing I’ve seen) and Miss Jones (Janet Davies; best-known as Mavis Pike in Dad’s Army). Neither one is a patch on Mrs. Partridge from series one. Miss Probert is a sexually-repressed man-hater who routinely censors the “filthy” library books; Miss Probert is Mr. Wainwright in reverse. Probert has a pretty funny scene when she’s shouting at the boys and starts to hyperventilate, so Compo puts a cigarette in her mouth to calm her down!

Nora Batty and her wrinkled stockings are the focus of the opening scene. She even makes an attempt to straighten them! Nora greets the sweet young lady neighbor, Gloria (Angela Crow), with “Hello, Gloria luv.” It’s refreshing to see Nora Batty being nice, as she’s usually in an anti-Compo state of mind. Gloria and Compo get on well.

Bill Owen looks quite gaunt in the face, particularly in the shot when he’s speaking through the stair rail. Maybe he’d been ill. Bill’s performance is still packed with its usual high energy, though.

Compo considers emigrating to Australia, just so he can forget about Nora Batty.

Clegg mentions power cuts, which were commonplace during the winter of 1973-74, of which everyone watching this episode in 1975 would have been aware:

“The Three-Day Week was one of several measures introduced in the United Kingdom in 1973-1974 by Edward Heath's Conservative government to conserve electricity, the generation of which was severely restricted owing to industrial action by coal miners and railway workers.

“From 1 January 1974, commercial users of electricity were limited to three specified consecutive days' consumption each week and prohibited from working longer hours on those days. Services deemed essential (e.g. hospitals, supermarkets and newspaper printing presses) were exempt. Television companies were required to cease broadcasting at 22:30 to conserve electricity, although this restriction was dropped after a general election was called. The Three-Day Week restrictions were lifted on 7 March 1974.”

There’s an interesting-looking set for the abandoned building where the trio meet Gloria and later, Shep.

Compo’s whistle sounds like it’s someone else doing it for Bill Owen.

The trio runs into Shep (Jack Woolgar), a most unusual lollipop man in that he cannot stand children. It’s not a classic scene, but it’s well acted with high energy and includes good material of the quartet reminiscing about days gone by. Prolific character actor Woolgar has a fine rapport with the trio.

Gloria cries to the trio about how her leaving England is causing her mother to lose sleep. Gloria’s pending emigration might be a last vestige of the “White Australia Policy”:

“The White Australia policy is a term encapsulating a set of historical policies that aimed to forbid people of non-European ethnic origin, especially Asians (primarily Chinese) and Pacific Islanders, from immigrating to Australia, starting in 1901. Governments progressively dismantled such policies between 1949 and 1973.” [Wikipedia]

Cyril is quite gentlemanly with Gloria, and there’s almost a tenderness in how he treats her; well done from Michael Bates. When Gloria begins to pour on the waterworks, Cyril silently gestures for the trio to make their exit. This might have been done out of courtesy for Gloria’s privacy, but there’s also the view that, like many men from the World War II generation, the lads are simply uncomfortable with deep expressions of sadness.

At the end of the scene in which Compo is stuck on a branch of a tree, a fly lands on his nose and remains there for about 2 seconds just before the camera cuts away.

The trio brings a piano into the cafe. A fun musical cue is heard as the boys ride the wheeled palette down the road.

In a series rarity, the cafe has other customers. It’s a good thing they’re there, as Sid and Ivy could use the business, but Blamire’s piano playing quickly motivates the now-annoyed couple to leave the cafe.

Cyril, fresh from his musical "triumph", orders his tea “stirred allegro.”

In two delightful scenes that border on the surreal, Cyril (or Ronnie Hazlehurst) plays piano with a percussive approach which calls to mind Cecil Taylor, the avant-garde jazz musician; it’s actually pretty good! Clegg’s hand clapping is far worse (but funny nonetheless) than Blamire’s piano playing. Plus, Compo dances a twisted sort of tango with Nora Batty! This last scene is a bit of inspired Summer Wine madness, so much that the viewer might be surprised when the end credits come up on screen.

My Rating: 10/10
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I've gone through and done some editing/correcting on the reviews, since the reviews are mostly first drafts with a minimum of polishing done. I don't want to exhaust myself of the fun in writing about this great show, which has already given me much joy. I'm trying to maintain a good balance in terms of how much detail I go into and how long I bleat on about a given episode.

I'm also reading Summer Winos Volume 1. The lads there have pointed out references and lines of dialogue that I hadn't noticed. There is so much detail packed into these early episodes, and even seasoned Winos will discover new things about the shows.
(S02 E03) The Changing Face of Rural Blamire

Original Airdate: March 19, 1975

Cyril decides the trio should seek out an occupation.

"Depression could be a sort of major art form. There’s so much raw material going for it.”

~Norman Clegg

The rendition of the Summer Wine theme sounds faster than normal.

The opening scene–with the trio bantering while draped on a fence on an overcast, windy day–demonstrates how comfortable this first trio have become with one another. The chemistry is set. I’m dreading Cyril’s departure.

When Cyril asks Compo what he wanted to be at age 11, Compo replies, “A heavy smoker.” Compo’s lifelong ambition is to have no ambition. Compo is one of the great, self-actualized characters of British TV.

There’s something unsettling–even depressing–about the trio looking for work. It takes our heroes out of their “comfort zone.” Anyone watching has no doubt felt the same unease applying for a job. This might be especially unnerving at the lads’ age, with the spectre of redundancy still hanging over their heads.

Jacquie-Ann Carr (Receptionist) plays rude very well. She was a similarly-unpleasant character in the episode Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? (S01 E08) episode of Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?

Clegg has a good line directed at the receptionist: “I think you’re a bit wasted here. You ought to be out tending the dying with a whip.”

The plot just doesn’t ring true. It’s highly unlikely that our heroes would be so gullible as to fall for such an obvious, transparent scheme such as Mr. Green’s. Clegg and Compo tag along more as amused observers than as willing participants. They already seem to know how badly Cyril’s plan will turn out.

The scene with Mr. Green (Gerald James) doesn’t seem like Last of the Summer Wine. The setup and subsequent “Shinyglow” spray paint schtick is more reminiscent of a Three Stooges short film, when that hapless trio would fall for a con artist’s scheme. There is something “off” about Gerald James’ performance, as it comes across as obvious “acting.”

Cyril’s leading the way and taking charge sets the template for the kind of madcap ideas that the Foggy and Seymour would later attempt.

The famous scene in the van with Cyril accidentally spraying himself in the face is superbly played. Michael Bates doesn’t overdo it and despite the silliness of the comedy, Bates–and therefore Cyril–never loses his dignity. It’s a brilliant balancing act by Michael Bates, who could have easily descended into slapstick silliness. It brings to mind Arthur Lowe of Dad’s Army, who never lost his poise during even the most humiliating pratfalls.

In the episode’s first cafe scene, Sid and Ivy do not appear. In the second scene and the episode’s best scene, Ivy mentions how she consulted with a Mrs. Brockelsby about the concept of “eternal peace”, which is a hodgepodge of spiritual mumbo jumbo including meditation, deep breathing, an absence of the fear of death, and an angel named Kathleen! Sid asks if Ivy will give him some of that eternal peace! John Comer, as always, can make the most out of even the most limited screen time. All of Ivy’s newfound spiritual calm vanishes the instant she sees Cyril’s green spray-painted face.

In town, the street--it's more of an alley--where the Shinyglow office is located looks to have steep, treacherous footing.

The trio are once again at the pub. Compo always has a liter of beer, whereas Cyril and Clegg look to be swift half devotees. The pub scenes are always a welcome part of the show, though one wonders if such scenes will continue after Cyril’s departure.

Chril says, “Farewell, unemployment and former friends”, as he exits the pub, redoubling his effort to work for Mr. Green, but in the very next scene, the trio are together at the library reading room. Their friendship is indomitable.

When the trio return to see Mr. Green, he is giving yet another poor fellow the Shinyglow routine, but Cyril is no fool, and his desire to work comes to an abrupt end.

The episode ends with a beautiful shot of the town from just above the footpath along the ridge.

My Rating: 8/10
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(S02 E04) Some Enchanted Evening

Original Airdate: March 26, 1975

Compo pursues Nora Batty after her husband, Wally, seeks to escape her.

“Don’t chat to him, *terrify* him!”

~Nora Batty

Cyril, Clegg, and Compo wait outside Compo’s hovel for Compo’s TV set–repossessed in Of Funerals and Fish–to be brought back. It’s cold and wet enough outside to see the actors’ breath.

Joe Gladwin makes his debut as Nora Batty’s beleaguered husband, Wally. Gladwin (b. 1906) was 22 years older than Kathy Staff, but to these aging eyes the two appear well matched.

Wally shows no interest nor jealousy at Compo’s obsession with Nora.

Man-hating librarian Miss Probert is even more unlikable than her predecessor, Mr. Wainwright. Probert attempts to “recruit” her colleague, Miss Jones, into her way of thinking, and is shocked to learn that Miss Jones actually likes men. Roy Clarke earns a point for satirizing Miss Probert’s views. This is the final episode with this set of librarians, who are neither funny nor interesting. The library scenes–that is, those without the trio–could have been a welcome, regularly-occurring feature of its own had the characters been engaging; Mrs. Partridge being the lone exception, as she had comparatively more depth and backstory than her colleagues.

Compo, lovestruck over Nora Batty, listens to easy listening-style music over his transistor radio in the reading room. Clegg and Cyril deny knowing Compo as he is ejected from the library by Miss Probert. Compo, looking through the window, gives Clegg and Cyril the two-finger salute. Clegg takes a marker from the library desk and he and Cyril draw a mustache and “googly” eyes over Compo’s face on the window. This amusing bit of Summer Wine bit tomfoolery brings to mind Michael Bates’ memorable performance in Patton (1970), when his pompous Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery fogs (because he was "full of hot air"?) up a mirror and draws his battle plan in it.

Clegg and Cyril are amused by Compo’s antics. It’s especially nice to see Michael Bates adding a lighter touch to his portrayal of Cyril, as he is bemused by Compo’s antics in what reveals to be true affection for the scruffy herbert.

Michael Bates and Peter Sallis knew one another decades before Summer Wine began, and they demonstrate their crackling rapport in the reading room banter after Compo has been kicked out of the library.

At the cafe, Ivy tears into Sid, who had been–metaphorically speaking–brushing the coffee off of a bus conductress’ uniform. Maybe it was one of the tough-but-pretty conductresses from Forked Lightning. Does Sid “play around”? In just two episodes in two series, Roy Clarke has already added considerable backstory to Sid’s and Ivy’s marriage. In Pâté and Chips (S01 E03) Ivy lamented not having any children (note that Sid quietly stalked off at the sight of Ivy holding Chip and Connie’s baby). The Sid and Ivy story, with their staying together despite the endless fights, could be the story of many married couples from the World War II generation who stayed together for better or worse.

Ivy to Sid, who's sitting at a table with Clegg and Cyril: "What do you think you are, the spirit of passive resistance?" Not only is Ivy's remark cuttingly funny, it shows her keen intelligence (and Roy Clarke's).

Compo has taken “unsanctioned” snapshots of Nora Batty, which he mournfully and longfully leaves through (Nora scowling at Compo, Nora bent over straightening her stockings, Nora hanging clothes on the line). There is simultaneous humor and pathos here. Did Compo use Cyril’s camera? It’s nice to see Roy Clarke hadn’t forgotten the photography episode (S01 E06: Hail Smiling Mourn or Thereabouts).

In the episode’s best scene, Compo, dressed in his long johns, is in bed reading a True Romances magazine and listening to his transistor radio. He has, using the nom de plume “Lonely Brown Eyes”, requested “Some Enchanted Evening” be played on the local radio station for Nora. The DJ’s dedication monologue is especially funny, as are Compo’s reactions to the same. The DJ–voice of the BBC’s John Dunn–closes with: “...and before you embark on any of several of your ‘secret wishes’, as outlined here, our advice to you would be to get a good solicitor.”

Compo, while enraptured in the song, accidentally pours a large bottle of stout over his groin. Bill Owen excels at performing comedy without dialogue. He also puts on his wellies, knit cap, and jacket–but no trousers–over his long johns before answering his door for whom he thinks is Nora Batty.

Composer Ronnie Hazlehurst scores the Compo-and-Nora-getting -ready-for-their-date scene to perfection, using fragments of “Some Enchanted Evening” and then employing the full melody as the hair-fixed, dressed-up Nora makes her way to Compo’s place; Kathy Staff is transformed and even walks differently in this scene. Well done! Hazlehurst also scores Clegg and Cyril reacting to the cleaned-up Compo on his way to his date with Nora. There’s next to no dialogue, but Hazlehurst’s music carries the scene; in addition to being a wonderful melodist, he is also a great story embellisher.

Naturally, Wally returns to the fold and Compo-Nora doesn’t happen. Their subplot could have ended with this episode, but Roy Clarke knew he had one of his most-famous storylines with the Compo and Nora saga.

Compo, angry at Clegg and Cyril’s scheming to have him “break up” with Nora, is once again ejected from the library. The two once again doodle over Compo’s face on the window. Compo breaks into his trademark laugh, his anger at his mates clearly gone; it speaks volumes about the trio’s deep friendship.

My Rating: 10/10
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Some Enchanted Evening rated (much) higher than Changing Face of Rural Blamire????? We have a problem!
Just kidding, to each their own.
(S02 E03) The Changing Face of Rural Blamire

Original Airdate: March 19, 1975

There’s something unsettling–even depressing–about the trio looking for work. It takes our heroes out of their “comfort zone.” Anyone watching has no doubt felt the same unease applying for a job. This might be especially unnerving at the lads’ age, with the spectre of redundancy still hanging over their heads.

The plot just doesn’t ring true. It’s highly unlikely that our heroes would be so gullible as to fall for such an obvious, transparent scheme such as Mr. Green’s. Clegg and Compo tag along more as amused observers than as willing participants. They already seem to know how badly Cyril’s plan will turn out.

For me, Clegg and Compo are like kids, just following along with Blamire for amusement. It was as if their mindset was "what else do we have to do" or "what do we have to lose?"

Blamire may have been so eager for employment opportunities and too tired of redundancy, that he was ignorant of Mr. Green's shadiness.
Some Enchanted Evening rated (much) higher than Changing Face of Rural Blamire????? We have a problem!
Just kidding, to each their own.
"To each their own", indeed. We may as well be Cybermen if we're all going to have the same favorite episodes!

I watch each episode 3 times before I write a review, and even then I change my opinions on things. I'm on the (five-bar) fence about bumping Rural Blamire to an 8, as my ratings and opinions aren't etched in stone. Michael Bates was brilliant in this episode, and the rating bump is worth it just for that alone.

On another subject, Summer Wino Bob Fischer and I came to the same conclusion regarding the final scene of Who's That Dancing with Nora Batty Then? The esteemed Mr. Fischer is a 1970s pop culture-history obsessive just as I am. I don't read the Winos' reviews until after mine have been written, so it's interesting to compare what they've written about these episodes. I'm watching these series for the first time; the Winos have no doubt watched them many times.

Update: rating for The Changing Face of Rural Blamire bumped to an "8."
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It's a very uncharacteristic episode - but a lot of fun.

It's interesting how good both Compo and Nora look when dressed up, I don't think they ever looked so well dressed again.

Another reason I am fond of this episode is that it look longer to make it onto BBC VHS Video than other episodes of Series Two, so for me it was an elusive episode.
(S02 E04) Some Enchanted Evening

Each to their own, but I really didn't like this episode Compo doesn't come across as a particularly nice person and Nora having secret assignations seems unbelieveable and out of character. So glad Roy didn't pursue this direction or Compo would have never been the much loved character he became. It's a 5/10 for me.