Keeping Up Appearances (BBC1, 1990-1995)
This is another sitcom that was one of the most popular with viewers in the early-90s. Keeping Up Appearances was written by Roy Clarke, who also wrote many other sitcoms including Last Of The Summer Wine and Open All Hours. I would imagine that he was written more episodes of British sitcoms than anyone else has throughout a very long career.
There was an indication of what the main character Hyacinth was going to be like just from the opening sequence. Everything has to be rather tidy and polished, and when a pile of books start to tumble, she can only roll her eyes with frustration. Another example of her snobbery was her surname was Bucket, but she insisted to everyone that it was pronounced “Bouquet”.
She always answered the phone with “the lady of the house speaking” (catchphrase time!), and hoped for a better social standing. Other characters included her husband Richard, who was rather henpecked, and usually had to go along with her ludicrous schemes. He was very dedicated, and didn’t walk out in despair like most men would. She was rather embarrassed by the rest of her family.
These included Onslow, who was rather scruffy, and did little beyond watching TV at home. There were also the next door neighbours, including Liz, who was always rather nervous in Hyacinth’s company, and this would often lead to lots of set pieces where she would usually drop her teacup and its contents everywhere. She would often have to ponder if this was an occasion worthy of using the finest cutlery.
Keeping Up Appearances did well enough with viewers for there to be some Christmas specials, including one on a cruise. This was one of the 90s sitcoms that ended up in the repeats loop, still being shown on BBC1 many years after, usually in a Sunday afternoon slot. Even though people had seen them five times, they’d still watch. Oh no, not the episode when they’re on a cruise again!
All of the 45 episodes have been released on DVD. There was then a one-off special called Young Hyacinth, looking at her earlier days. And curiously, in more recent years, there has been a further repeat run on BBC4. I thought that this was supposed to be an educational channel, and I can’t think of what context this is being shown in, maybe as a part of the classic sitcom repeat hour special season.