27 December 2001 | JBall75487
Changing Scenes and Characters
The quality of 'Summer Wine' is reflected in its longevity and ongoing popularity.I consider myself fortunate that, having once lived near Holmfirth, the small Yorkshire town where the action was set, during the 1980's,I had the opportunity to sample at first hand, the various locations and was fortunate in seeing the filming of some of the earlier episodes. There may be some support for my view that the earlier episodes, which featured 'Blamire'( Michael Bates)as one of the three leading characters, were characterised by the interplay between these three characters,expressed in terms of dialogue rather than the 'comic' situations which became a feature of later episodes, coupled with the development of other characters who played little or no part in the first series. I consider that the quality of the scripwriting suffered as a result of the changes, particularly when the focus moved away from the central trio. Nevertheless, the programme maintained its popularity over many years and developed almost a cult following. Curiously, though, this popularity was not wholly shared by the population of Holmfirth, who saw the programme as a mixed blessing when the interest generated by the programme resulted in an influx of sightseers into their small, quiet narrow streeted town, with predictable results. Suffice it to say that while one or two enterprising people benefitted from the publicity, the sightseer were, it must be said, disappointed with the fact that there was very little to see of real interest and, of course, the 'characters' were nowhere to be seen. That the programme retained its popularity for so long can only be explained by how well the characters created the illusion of three eccentric old men enjoying their freedom in nostalgic adventures in beautiful surroundings where the sun always appeared to smile on them (the grim reality of the harsh Holmfirth climate being conspicuous by its absence) The secondary characters were always believable and the humour was, by and large, unsophisticated and free from innuendo, reasons, perhaps, for its acceptance in the context it was presented. It may be that the reason for the success of the programme is that it presents a world that no longer exists, a set of endearing characters,lost in their own little world, steeped in a kind of rural simplicity from which the harsh values and events of the real world are permanently excluded,playing the sort of schoolboy adventures in which we may, at one time, have all shared. Their hopes and doubts, dreams and uncertainties running through the tapestry of their lives, played out for us with a skill which belies the simplicity of the message that the programme conveys.