As Marian Gold, the lead singer of Alphaville once said: “It’s so hard to get old without a cause.” And the old farts that the long-running British sitcom The Last of the Summer Wine centers on are living proof of that statement. The series, which ran for thirty-one seasons over the course of thirty-seven years (wow) and has since gone down in the annals of television as the longest-running comedy ever, brings us the misadventures of several elderly gentlemen in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire. BBC Video’s release of The Last of the Summer Wine: Vintage 1991 brings us all six episodes from the show’s thirteenth outing, along with the Christmas Special from the same year.
While the cast of the show changed quite a bit over time, the crew of Vintage 1991 are the best known ensemble out of the bunch, and consist of Peter Sallis (the voice of Wallace from Nick Park’s famous Wallace & Gromit, as well as the show’s one constant performer over the years) as Clegg, Brian Wilde as Foggy, and Bill Owen as Compo. In these seven outings, the boys manage to screw up even the most simple of projects, such as hanging up a clothes line for the unsightly and unbearable Nora Batty (Kathy Staff), the cantankerous old lady whom Compo has an unhealthy fixation for. Meanwhile, Foggy tries to invent one harebrained gadget after another, and becomes the library’s least-favored patron.
Having grown up in the pre-TV Dish days and in a rural community that only picked up two or three VHF stations to boot, I learned to quickly appreciate the humor of British comedies that appeared nightly on PBS. Strangely enough, The Last of the Summer Wine never made it to the small screen in my house. Until now, that is. Yet, despite this being the first time I ever saw the program, I felt right at home with it — and it almost seemed like it could have been a part of my childhood in no time. And with a feeling like that, I have no choice but to recommended it. Sadly, The Last of the Summer Wine: Vintage 1991 only brings us seven episodes and nothing more, so if you’re looking for any other bonus materials than the Christmas Special, you might be a little disappointed.
Additionally, while it’s delightful to see the BBC Video label putting these classic sitcoms out, I do wish that they would release larger volumes of shows like this one: the thought of buying 31 volumes of this show at $25 each (retail) seems a bit insane. Sure, those diehard Star Trek fans shelled out for all 40 DVDs of The Original Series when Paramount first released the series to disc from the late ‘90s to the early ‘00s — and every single one of ‘em winced once box sets with bonus materials were announced a few years later. Hopefully, that will not be the case with The Last of the Summer Wine, but I digress. I think I just want BBC to hurry up and release some of the later seasons with Burt Kwouk (Cato from the original Pink Panther movies) as one of the leads more than anything.
In short: this is fun British humor for those of you who adore watching old people get into trouble.