1st episode of Last of the Summer Wine
The 4th of January 1973 AD
The first airing of what became the longest running TV sitcom in history was a pilot episode – Of Funerals and Fish - seen in the BBC ’s Comedy Playhouse slot. Brilliant executives at the Beeb wanted it to be called The Library Mob; and hated the melancholy theme music written by Ronnie Hazlehurst.
Roy Clarke who wrote every episode – it has now been confirmed that the show on August 29 2010 was the last ever – was also behind Open All Hours and Keeping up Appearances. The first series which began on November 12 1973 was far from a smash hit, but it grew in popularity: people responded to the charm and whimsy of Compo, Clegg and Blamire (soon replaced by Foggy); it was at times moving and surreal, three old men musing on nothing and amusing themselves doing something.
Sadly many feel it descended into boring and formulaic repetitions of themes that were only a step up from catch-phrases; and seemed partly to be dedicated to providing work for ageing actors. The best episodes involved reflection and quirkiness; the dullest gimmickry and inventions.
The show made stars of Peter Sallis and Bill Owen, and boosted the later careers of Frank Thornton, Brian Wilde, Michael Aldridge, Thora Hird , June Whitfield and even Russ Abbot . It also happily boosted tourism in Holmfirth in West Yorkshire which provided the settings, the hills above the town frequently shown in all their splendour.
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