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Celebrating Last of the Summer Wine's record run
Cast of Last of the Summer Wine
Compo, Foggy and Clegg: Last of the Summer Wine's classic line-up

With only weeks to go before the legendary Holmfirth-based BBC TV comedy Last of the Summer Wine comes to an end, a book celebrating the series has been published.

Written by Andrew Vine, the book is perhaps a timely reminder of just how popular the series has proved.

Last of the Summer Wine finishes its 37-year run on August 29 2010.

Andrew Vine says: "In its heyday there was no finer or more popular comedy series on the television."

Nora Batty
Nora Batty: Last of the Summer Wine stalwart for many years

A long-time fan of Last of the Summer Wine, Andrew is well-placed to be able to write about the success of the show which has been filmed in and around Holmfirth since it first hit our screens back in 1973.

For nearly four decades it has followed, as the programme's website puts it, "the misadventures of the elderly residents of a Yorkshire village". Now, thirty one series on, the curtain is finally about to come down on what is officially the world's longest-running sitcom.

At its height, says Andrew Vine, the show was a truly big-hitter: "You're talking about a third of the country's population tuning in - that's 20 million people."

And, perhaps oddly for a TV sitcom which so revels in its very British humour, its appeal has been truly worldwide.

Andrew explains: "It's not just in Britain, it went all over the world. Any country that speaks English has taken it and they're still watching it.

"It's big in the Midwest of the United States, for example. So, it seems to have a really universal quality about it."

Featuring such classic characters as Compo, Clegg, Foggy, Nora Batty and many more, Last of the Summer Wine has without doubt made its mark on television history.

And, says Andrew Vine, even just hearing its theme tune is sufficient to transport generations of TV viewers back to Sunday evenings in front of the box in years gone by.

But, as Andrew reveals, the famous and evocative music was actually the product of just a few minutes' work.

Cast of Last of the Summer Wine in a rubber dinghy
A classic moment from Last of the Summer Wine's record-breaking run

He says: "The theme tune was written in 10 minutes flat. Its composer, Ronnie Hazlehurst, was sent away to write a theme tune and he came back with a sort of rumpty-tumpty, standard sitcom theme tune.

"The producer said, 'No, that's not what I want at all'. So Ronnie goes away and 10 minutes later he comes back, he whistles that tune note-for-note, and it's been there ever since."

Andrew's book, Last Of The Summer Wine: The Story Of The World's Longest Running Comedy Series, reveals that the show will be brought to an end by its longest serving star, Peter Sallis, who simply says: "Did I lock the door?".

It has emerged that the cast and crew did not know it would be the final outing for the programme when the episode, How Not To Cry At Weddings, was shot last year.

As the show's long run finishes, Andrew Vine says the secret behind Last of the Summer Wine's longevity is actually very simple.

He says: "One of the things that has made it endure as long as it has is its cosiness, its warmth. There's a generosity of spirit about the show.

"People look at it and think that's how life used to be 40 or 50 years ago. In fact, it's nothing of the sort."

If you listen to the dialogue and look at the adventures of Compo, Clegg, Foggy and the rest, it's absolutely barking mad!
Andrew Vine, author and Summer Wine fan

But, in the end, Andrew believes it is the quality of the sitcom's writing, its humour and, of course, its marvellous cast of characters that have ensured Last of the Summer Wine's record run on television screens across the world.

He says: "If you listen to the dialogue and look at the adventures of Compo, Clegg, Foggy and the rest, it's absolutely barking mad!"

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