Last of the Summer Wine is a British sitcom written by Roy Clarke that was initially broadcast on BBC1. Last of the Summer Wine premiered as an episode of Comedy Playhouse on 4 January 1973 and the first series of episodes followed on 12 November 1973. From 1983 to 2010, Alan J. W. Bell produced and directed all episodes of the show. The BBC confirmed on 2 June 2010 that Last of the Summer Wine would no longer be produced and the 31st series would be its last. Subsequently, the final episode was broadcast on 29 August 2010. Repeats of the show are broadcast in the UK on Gold and Yesterday. It is also seen in more than twenty-five countries, including various PBS stations in the United States and on VisionTV in Canada. Last of the Summer Wine is the longest-running comedy programme in Britain and the longest-running sitcom in the world.
Last of the Summer Wine was set and filmed in and around Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, England and centred on a trio of essentially harmless simpletons whose line-up changed several times over the years. The original trio consisted of Bill Owen as the scruffy and childlike Compo Simmonite, Peter Sallis as deep-thinking and meek Norman Clegg and Michael Bates as authoritarian and snobbish Cyril Blamire. When Bates dropped out through illness in 1976 after two series, the role of the third man of the trio was filled in various years up to the 30th series by the quirky war veteran Foggy Dewhurst (Brian Wilde), the eccentric inventor Seymour Uttherthwaite (Michael Aldridge), and former police officer Truly Truelove (Frank Thornton). The men never seem to grow up and develop a unique perspective on their equally eccentric fellow townspeople through their tiresome stunts. The cast grew to include a variety of supporting characters, each contributing their own subplots to the show and often becoming unwillingly involved in the schemes of the trio.
After the death of Owen in 1999, Compo was replaced at various times by his real-life son, Tom Owen, as equally unkempt Tom Simmonite, Keith Clifford as Billy Hardcastle, a man who fancied himself a descendant of Robin Hood, and Brian Murphy as the childish Alvin Smedley. Due to the age of the main cast, a new trio was formed during the 30th series featuring somewhat younger actors, and this format was used for the final two installments of the show. This group consisted of Russ Abbot as a former milkman who fancied himself a secret agent, Hobbo Hobdyke, Burt Kwouk as the electrical repairman, "Electrical" Entwistle, and Murphy as Alvin Smedley. Sallis and Thornton, both past members of the trio, continued in supporting roles alongside the new actors.
Although some feel the show's quality declined over the years, Last of the Summer Wine continued to receive large audiences for the BBC and was praised for its positive portrayal of older people and family-friendly humour. Many members of the British Royal Family enjoyed the show. The programme was nominated for numerous awards and won the National Television Award for Most Popular Comedy Programme in 1999. There were many holiday specials, three television films and a documentary film about the series. Last of the Summer Wine inspired other adaptations, including a television prequel, several novelisations, and stage adaptations.
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... Several members of the royal family are viewers of Last of the Summer Wine ... While presenting an OBE to Roy Clarke in 2002, Prince Charles said that his grandmother, the Queen Mother, had introduced him to the show ...