As one might expect from the title, the BBC’s Keeping Up Appearances is a sitcom about a woman trying to promote an image to which her reality doesn’t quite measure up. That woman is Hyacinth Bucket (which she insists is pronounced ‘Bouquet’), who comes from a modest background, but rubs elbows with the rich and elite. The show is now available, remastered, in a ten-disc DVD set.
Hyacinth (Patricia Routledge, Hetty Wainthropp Investigates) is a snob, pure and simple. She thinks she is better than those with moderate means, and actively seeks out only the companionship of the most wealthy, even showing up at their houses unannounced to try to make friends. She hosts elaborate dinner parties, and is basically the most annoying woman around, as well as being a major hypocrite.
The “lady of the house” makes things very difficult for her put-upon family. Brother-in-law Onslow (Geoffrey Hughes, Heartbeat), sisters Daisy (Judy Cornwell) and Rose (Shirley Stelfox originally, then Mary Millar), and father Daddy (George Webb) aren’t made of the same stuff as Hyacinth, and don’t think anything of their own behavior, of which Hyacinth is not approving. She often complains of them, among other things, to her husband, Richard (Clive Swift, Born and Bred).
Luckily for Hyacinth, her entire family isn’t so dreary. Her sister Violet (Anna Dawson, The Benny Hill Show) is wealthy, and so rates Hyacinth’s attention and advice, providing fodder for bragging. Violet is not without her troubles (a cross dressing husband hurts her social standing), but is better than the others. Violet also has a son named Sheridan, who is never seen, but judging by the comments about him, is probably gay, something Hyacinth, who talks up her relationship with her nephew, is oblivious to.
Rounding out the cast are friends and neighbors. Elizabeth Warden (Josephine Tewson, Last of the Summer Wine) is clumsy and destructive whenever inside Hyacinth’s house, though fine outside of it. Elizabeth’s brother, Emmet (David Griffin, Hi-de-Hi!), lives with Elizabeth, but avoids Hyacinth because of her mistaken belief that he is in love with her, and the fact that she sings when he’s around and she has an awful voice. Michael (Jeremy Gittins), the Vicar, loves to embarrass Hyacinth and but her in her place, not exactly Christian of him, but amusing.
As you might be able to tell with this cast of characters, Keeping Up Appearances is very funny. The situations Hyacinth gets into are usually quite humorous, and she’s unlikeable enough that viewers will delight whenever she is knocked down a peg, which is often, but no so terrible that she detracts from the viewing experience.
Keeping Up Appearances ran for five series and included four Christmas specials, all of which are included in this release. The picture and sound have been cleaned up, making for a nice set.
There are a wealth of bonus features, as well. Rare for a British release, there are a number of outtakes. Some interviews in this set are newly recorded, giving perspective gained with time, but there are also earlier conversations included for context. There’s a featurette called “The Memoirs of Hyacinth Bucket,” looking back at when this show was made, and we get “Life Lessons with Onslow.” Plus a few other extras.
The packaging is fantastic. The characters in Hyacinth’s family have flower names, and that theme is carried out both in the artwork and the exterior container. The plastic DVD case slides into a seed bag, which has front pockets with daisy, rose, and violet seeds. Also included are planting tags with the other characters.
In all, this is a great release with everything a fan could ask for. Keep Up Appearances: Collector’s Edition is available now.