Minor British Institutions: Last of the Summer Wine

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The Independent Online

The world's longest- running sit-com has been going so long we've almost forgotten about it. Peter Sallis – perhaps better known nowadays as the voice of Wallace, as in Wallace and Gromit – is the only survivor of the first trio of crazed pensioners that turned up in a "Comedy Playhouse" pilot in 1973. Sallis was then a mere 52 years of age. His character of Norman Clegg joined Bill Owen as scruffy old Compo Simmonite and the magnificent Michael Bates as Cyril Blamire.

Since the death of Bill Owen in 1999, the cast widened to include many refugees from an earlier age, such as Stephen Lewis (formerly Blakey), Frank Thornton (aka Captain Peacock), Jean Alexander (ex-Hilda Ogden) and even Norman Wisdom. Some 29 series, a couple of telly films and a "prequel" later, every episode is written, as it was in the beginning, by Roy Clarke and topped and tailed by that famous slow theme ... and Nora Batty (Kathy Staff) still hasn't unwrinkled her stockings. Last of the Summer Wine has turned whimsy into art.