The BBC has announced that the next series of veteran comedy Last of the Summer Wine will be its last as the corporation axes the series after 37 years on-air.
The series has had a staggering 37 year run on the BBC. The Sunday afternoon comedy series, which currently stars Peter Sallis, Brian Murphy, June Whitfield and Russ Abbott, has been the subject of cancellation rumours for several years now with articles claiming the beeb wanted to axe the series due to its lack of appeal to a young audience.
Last year the rumours once again surfaced that the comedy was to be axed causing some uproar amongst fans but the corporation ultimately renewed the series – however, it is now to end with the current run of episodes. The storyline originally followed the adventures of three middle aged men, Compo (Bill Owen), Clegg (Peter Sallis) and Cyril (Michael Bates). As the storylines expanded so did the cast and by the mid-1980s there were several key characters featured including Howard and Marina whose affair was never quite realised, his suspicious wife Pearl and Ivy, the local café proprietor. The overall topic of each episode is while the regulars may be over 60, they can still be young at heart with their daily adventures around Holmfirth and the Yorkshire dales.
Last of the Summer Wine in its heyday enjoyed ratings topping 18 million but those days are long gone and the series usually averages 4 million viewers when it airs on the BBC. The series was created by Roy Clarke, who has written every single episode, and produced/directed by Alan J W Bell.
The key cast have changed several times over the years; Cyril gave way to Foggy (Brian Wilde) and for a time Seymour joined the trio (Michael Aldridge.) Other regulars over the years included Nora (Kathy Staff), Aunty Wainwright (Jean Alexander) and Edie (Thora Hird.)
Each series also saw many famous actors appear in guest spots, and recurring roles, including Dora Brian, Norman Wisdom, Josephine Tewson and John Cleese. There was even a short-lived prequel series First of the Summer Wine which was set during the war and followed some of the characters during their early years.
To mark the end of the series regular BBC shows Songs of Praise and Countryfille will have special editions looking at the series. Fans of the show will also be pleased to note that UKTV’s comedy channel GOLD intends to continue to re-run the show from the beginning for the foreseeable future.