Definitions

Keeping Up Appearances

Keeping Up Appearances

Keeping Up Appearances is a British sitcom starring Patricia Routledge as eccentric, social-climbing snob Hyacinth Bucket. It was created and written by Roy Clarke, (Open All Hours, Last of the Summer Wine), and aired on BBC1 from 1990 to 1995, spanning five series and 44 episodes; four of which are Christmas specials.

Recently it came 12th in the 2004 Britain's Best Sitcom poll that aired on BBC 2. It's regularly repeated on BBC 1 and UKTV Gold, and all five series--including Christmas specials--are available on DVD. The show has been shown in many countries throughout the world.

Cast

Plot

For social-climbing snob Hyacinth Bucket, always creating the right impression is vital. She goes to great lengths in trying to impress neighbours, friends and the upper-classes, and will try hopelessly to pass herself off as aristocracy. Unfortunately her down-market relatives are always turning up unexpectedly, embarrassing Hyacinth and ultimately shattering her hopes of creating that perfect impression.

Hyacinth is a middle-aged house-proud housewife, and a character who takes snobbery to a whole new level, even insisting her last name "Bucket", is pronounced "bouquet". She regularly boasts how her wealthy, but rarely seen sister Violet, has a "Mercedes, sauna and room for a pony". Violet is unhappily married to the cross-dressing bookmaker Bruce.

Hyacinth will answer her phone saying: "The Bouquet residence, the lady of the house speaking", and from her shining kitchen to the well-polished wood-block, her home is a paragon of perfection; constantly warning her visitors not to brush up against the walls, she tells them to remove their shoes on arrival. Her long-suffering and hen-pecked husband is Richard, who initially works for the local council. At the beginning of series three he reluctantly takes early retirement. Richard often tries in vain to stop Hyacinth in her snobbish endeavours, but she never listens to him nor anyone else. He regularly gets dragged into assisting his wife in her numerous attempts at climbing the social ladder, despite reluctance to do so.

The couple have an unseen son, Sheridan, who makes frequent phone calls from his polytechnic, (one which Hyacinth claims is "of university standard"), asking for money. There are strong suggestions that Sheridan is homosexual, a drug user and has many other unsocial attributes, however Hyacinth seems blissfully unaware of this.

As well as Violet, Hyacinth also has two other sisters: Daisy and Rose. The lustful Daisy is married to the unromantic slob Onslow, and the pair have a daughter called Stephanie, a hippie, who only appears in the series one episode: "The Christening". The pair live with the promiscuous Rose and their senile father, who is referred to by Hyacinth as "Daddy", in a three-bedroom house on a run-down council estate. An abandoned car, lived in by Onslow's dog, occupies the front garden. Neither Daisy nor Onslow work - instead they spend their time lounging about in the sitting room, drinking, eating and watching television. Daisy also reads romantic novels, these seemingly being her last hopes of romance.

Rose, however, has a brief job in series four, selling custom-made jewellery door-to-door. She spends most of her time chasing married men, Hyacinth’s neighbour Emmet and the local vicar. Meanwhile "Daddy" chases elderly women and frequently believes he is back in World War II. Hyacinth goes to great lengths to avoid her lower-class relatives, especially in public. Nevertheless she loves her family dearly, and never fails to rush to their assistance when they need her help, whether it's Daddy that has got into an embarrassing situation, Rose on the brink of suicide or Daisy concerned about Onslow.

Hyacinth's next-door neighbour is Elizabeth Warden, who's frequently invited round to the Buckets' for coffee. Liz gets nervous in her neighbour's house, often causing her to spill the coffee, to the dismay of house-proud Hyacinth. Liz’s brother Emmet arrives in the first episode of series two, to live with her after a messy divorce. Emmet runs a local amateur operatic society, and Hyacinth frequently drops hints by singing, that he should include her in the performances. Thus Emmett quickly develops a fear for Hyacinth to such an extent that he's terrified of leaving the house, fearing he'll be sung at. Hyacinth however, is under the impression that Emmet is attracted to her, yet the only character who is attracted to Hyacinth is the lecherous Major, who recurs in the first two series. Although Hyacinth makes strenuous efforts to avoid the Major's advances, she also does her best to stay on friendly terms with him, possibly due to his high rank.

Episodes

Keeping Up Appearances aired for five series, four Christmas specials, and one short Children in Need special, from 29 October 1990 to 25 December 1995. The series ended after the episode "The Pageant" because Patricia Routledge wanted to focus on other work. Clive Swift, who played Richard, stated in a BBC interview that Routledge "didn't want to be remembered as simply Mrs Bouquet".

Production

Filming locations

Exterior shots around Hyacinth's house were filmed in Binley Woods village near Coventry. Exterior shots around Daisy and Onslow's council terrace were filmed in Stoke Aldermoor in Coventry. Other exterior street and town shots were filmed in Leamington Spa and in various towns throughout Warwickshire, along with many scenes from the large town of Northampton. Some scenes were also shot in Swindon and Oxford and Bristol.

The setting of the show is not entirely clear, but there are several references to the characters being in the West Midlands throughout the series.

After Keeping Up Appearances

In March 1997, Geoffrey Hughes and Judy Cornwell reprised their roles as Onslow and Daisy for a special compilation episode filmed for broadcast in the United States on PBS. The Memoirs of Hyacinth Bucket saw the pair introduce classic clips from the series.

In 1998, the BBC released three episodes of the show: "A Job For Richard", "Country Retreat" and "Sea Fever" on audio cassette, and Clive Swift reprised his role as Richard, recording a narrative to compensate for the lack of images.

In 2004, the documentary series Comedy Connections featured an episode dedicated to Keeping Up Appearances. Stars Clive Swift, Josephine Tewson, Judy Cornwell and David Griffin, writer Roy Clarke and producer/director Harold Snoad all discussed the series. Clips from an interview with Patricia Routledge from 2002 were also included. The episode revealed that there were serious artistic differences between Clarke and Snoad. In early 2008, Geoffrey Hughes reprised his role of Onslow again for a clipshow of the series, to be broadcast on American television. The special, 'Life Lessons from Onslow', sees him teaching a credit course at Open University and he has selected “successful relationships” as his subject matter. The special will also be released on Region 1 DVD.

Two cast members died within two months of each other in 1998: Mary Millar, who played Rose from 1991 to 1995, on 10 November 1998, of ovarian cancer, and George Webb, who played Daddy throughout the show's run, on 30 December 1998, of natural causes. Charmian May, who appeared as Mrs Councillor Nugent recurringly earlier in the first three series, died on 24 October 2002.

Media

VHS

In the 1990s, 2 Entertain Video released several episodes to VHS cassette, including:

  • "Rural Retreat" - Released on 12 June 1995, and comprises three episodes, "Rural Retreat", "Let there be Light" and "Please Mind Your Head".
  • "How to Enhance Your Husband’s Retirement" - Released on 3 June 1996, and comprises three episodes, "How to Enhance Your Husband's Retirement", "What to Wear When Yachting" and "How to Go On Holiday Without Really Trying".
  • "Sea Fever" - Released on 2 April 1997, and comprises "Sea Fever" and "Hyacinth Tees Off".

DVD

Series 1 and 2 were released to Region 2 DVD by Universal Playback on 7 March 2003, followed by Series 3 and 4 and the 1991 Christmas Special on 16 February 2004. The fifth series and 1993, 1994 and 1995 specials were released on 26 December 2006. A box set, Keeping Up Appearances: The Essential Collection, was released on 8 October 2007.

In 2004, the first five series and the specials were released as a box set entitled Keeping Up Appearances: The Full Bouquet to Region 1 DVD. Series box sets combining series 1 and 2 and series 3, 4 and 5 have also been released.

The entire series was released in Region 4 in 2005 under the title Keeping Up Appearances: The Complete Collection. Two additional sets, Series One & Two and Series Three & Four and Five are also available, as well as a Keeping Up Appearances: Christmas Specials DVD.

A second edition of the complete series was released in North America in 2008; entitled "Keeping Up Appearances: The Full Bouquet: Special Edition" this release in almost identical in terms of content to that released in 2005 except for the inclusion of the new "Life Lessons from Onslow" special filmed for PBS in early 2008. This new special edition also has significantlly reduced packaging making it generally retail cheaper than the 2005 edition.

Books

Two books related to the series were released in the UK. One is entitled Hyacinth Bucket's Book of Etiquette for the Socially less Fortunate, which is a rather light-hearted guide to manners, as seen through Hyacinth Bucket's eyes. It is based on the TV series' scripts. It contains many black-and-white photos of scenes from the series and was first published in 1993. The other is entitled Hyacinth Bucket's Hectic Social Calendar, which is presented in a diary format chronicling a year in her life, with typical comments about her relations and neighbours. This was published in 1995. Both were written by Jonathan Rice and published by BBC Books.

References

External links

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