Has It Really Been 20 Years?
It’s now 2020 and twenty years have passed since the passing of one of comedy’s great characters: Compo.
This post deals with how the show moved on after the loss of it’s central character.
Frank Thornton’s Truely character had joined the cast in 1997, replacing Brian Wilde and becoming part of the established line up with Bill Owen and Peter Sallis. However, this would last two seasons, during which it became evident that Bill Owen’s health was not good (it emerged that he had pancreatic cancer).
Despite heath problems Bill Owen continued working until his death in 1999, which enabled the trio of Compo, Clegg and Truly to appear together for a 1999 Millenium Special (Bill Owen’s last filmed episode) and the early part of season 21, although Bill Owen made only guest appearances due to his health.
In 2000 season 21 Bill Owen’s character Compo dies (Owen had passed away in 1999) leaving just Truly and Clegg as the main characters as writer Roy Clarke gave Compo a fitting send off. It left the burning question – How would the series continue? Over the years there had been many changes in the line up but Compo was always central.
With just Truly and Clegg there was a vacancy to make up the show’s established trio. Enter Bill Owen’s son Tom Owen.
Knowing he was ill Compo had not told his friends, but had written to his son with whom he had lost contact. Tom Owen plays Tom Simmonite who having received his Father’s letter arrives in the village too late, but decides to stay on with his associate Mrs Avery.
This gave audiences a new trio of Truly, Clegg and Tom that would continue until the end of season 21.
Enter “The Hawk” Exit “The Hawk” comings and goings
In season 22 Tom pairs off with Smiler doing odd jobs for Auntie Wainwright. Mrs Avery makes her final appearance.
Keith Clifford joins the cast as Billy Hardcastle creating a new trio of Truly, Clegg and Billy.
Whilst we had a new trio, we lost Nora Batty at the end of the season, as Kathy Staff decided to leave (as she felt most of her scenes were with Bill Owen who had passed on), however she returned to the show in 2002 season 23 Christmas special, in which there’s a guest appearance of a new character Entwhistle (Burt Kwok) who would play a bigger part in years to come, replacing Wesley after actor Gordon Wharmby who playedhim died in 2002.
This trio lasted until 2003, season 24, when three became four with the arrival of Alvin Smedley played by Brian Murphy.
By 2006 season 27, we were back to a trio Truly, Clegg and Alvin when Keith Clifford left the show. This became the established trio until 2008.
The series continued with Entwhistle becoming the replacement for Wesley’s character and the established cast until 2008. Season 29 would be the last of the established format.
A special episode entitled “it’s never ten years” saw Compo return using old clips as Clegg and Truly reminisce over ten years since his passing.
Season 29 was the final series in which Truly and Clegg would appear as part of the main trio as both Frank Thornton and Peter Sallis were both over 80 and so insuring them became difficult.
They both continued with the series until the end but only in supporting roles. It also marked the passing of Kathy Staff, who died in December 2008, she made her final appearance in the episode “get out of that then”
Frank Thornton had joined the show as the third man in an established trio and seen many of the show’s mainstream characters pass away and new characters come and go. Many felt it was time for the show to go, but writer Roy Clarke had one more story to tell and would attempt to breath new life into the show. LAST OF THE SUMMER WINE -THE NEXT GENERATION.