First Broadcast – BBC1, 9.25pm, Monday 10th December 1973
In which our heroes take to the roads…
NOTE: The following text was first published in 2014. It has since been revised, corrected, and expanded for Volume One of the Summer Winos book series. To read the new version – which amongst other things includes details about material cut from the episode – click HERE.
Andrew: Clegg’s keenness to have a go on a driving simulator seems entirely at odds with his later fear of getting behind the wheel of a car. Then again, the way in which even playing this children’s game gets him agitated does seem to point towards his latter-day nerves. He still wants to buy a car, but can we put this down to him looking back on his past as a motorist with rose (or toffee) tinted spectacles? The trio’s lack of success during this instalment might even be seen to scar him for life. Some would say that this isn’t the sort of series I should be inspecting for watertight continuity of characterisation but… actually, they’re probably right.
Bob: No, it is slightly jarring seeing them buying a car, as I think a big part of the appeal of the show is that they’re NOT mobile. It’s a certainly a big part of the ‘retirement as second childhood’ theme… yes, childhood is a gloriously liberating time, with no real responsibilities, but it can also be a frustrating time. When you’re a kid, you’re effectively trapped in your home town and its surroundings, bound by the limits of how far you can walk (or at least cycle) during the day. ‘We had to make our own entertainment,’ to coin a phrase. Our three heroes are equally trapped and similarly making do with their lot.
By the way, I’ve NEVER seen anything like that driving simulator, even in the 1970s. How did it work? It just seemed to be seamless footage filmed through a car windscreen, it can’t have responded to the controls, surely?
And £30 for a car! Even a knackered old one.
Andrew: Clegg on his expired partner, ‘My dear wife, God rest the silly bitch…’ I know I keep pointing out these lines, but bloody hell!
Bob: He’s nasty to the kid on the driving simulator as well, (‘Ever heard the phrase, suffer the little children…?’) and – amazingly – it IS Clegg’s initiative to buy a car and get out on the open road. Very much at odds with his ‘not getting involved’ persona that was firmly in place by the end of the 1970s. You’re right, Drew… let’s keep within the spirit of the show and say that Roy Clarke deliberately lightened Clegg’s character as he got older, mellowing his temper but narrowing his ambitions. I like that.
Ronald Lacey IS the Fourth Man!
There’s a classic ‘dotty old lady’ turn from the fabulously-named Mollie Maureen in this episode. She pretty much made a career out of similar roles, I remember her popping up in Kenny Everett’s various TV shows in the 1980s. And Ronald Lacey as well! No-one does a greasy, seedy leer quite like Ronald Lacey. He even does it in Raiders of the Lost Ark. I wonder if any other of the Lucasfilm family pop up in Summer Wine? Do we get to see Michael Sheard or Leslie Schofield at any point? Oh, the anticipation…
And I get another 1970s childhood flashback from the kids with the grimy hair, sitting on the stone steps in their vests. It just took me back, for some reason. A tiny snapshot of nothingness that just encapsulates Northern England of the mid-1970s. It’s the little things that set me off.