On The Buses, 1969
On The Buses was a hugely successful sitcom that was initially rejected by the BBC, who did not see any great comedy potential in the idea, despite the writers having had previous success for the BBC with The Rag Trade and Meet The Wife.
The idea was offered to Frank Muir, then head of Entertainment for London Weekend Television. He loved the idea and commissioned the series that would run for six seasons and seventy four episodes.
Unlike many television programs of the time all seventy four episodes still exist in the archives, enjoying regular repeats on digital channel ITV3.
The series followed two threads: the antics of Stan Butler a bus driver with the Luxton And District Bus Company, his conductor Jack and the Inspector Cyril ‘Blakey’ Blake. It also followed Stan’s less than ideal home life. Living with his Mother, frumpy Sister Olive and her lazy Husband Arthur.
In the later years Arthur left, Stan left to make buses in the North as the money was better than driving them in the South. Olive got a job with the bus company and forced out of his lodgings Inspector Blake became the Butlers’ new lodger.
Stan Butler – Reg Varney
JackHarper – Bob Grant
Inspector Blake – Stephen Lewis
Mum – Cicely Courtneidge (series one)
Mum – Doris Hare (from series two)
Olive – Anna Karen
Arthur – Michael Robbins
Written By: Ronald Wolfe and Ronald Chesney
Original Transmission Dates: 28th February 1969 – 6th May 1973
Don’t Drink the water 13 episodes over two series 1974 – 1975. This featured Blakey retiring to Spain with his Sister played by Pat Coombs. There were also three Film adaptations were produced by Hammer Films. These were: On The Buses – 1971, Mutiny On The Buses – 1972 and Holiday On The Buses – 1973.
There was a stage play; On The Buses, based on the series of which we assume featured all or at least some of the original cast. After touring Australia in 1988 rumours began circulating that a revival show Back On The Buses, featuring the original cast, was to be made. Despite an appearance on Wogan in 1990 by Reg Varney and the publicity, the series was never made and scripts were never written.
Today the series enjoys regular repeats on ITV3, check your TV guide as it comes and goes.
A board game On The Buses from toymaker Denys Fisher was available around the time the series was on air. A book “On The Buses The Complete Story” written by Craig Walker published by Apex Publishing Ltd October 2009.
Where To Watch
Repeated regularly on ITV 3, selected episodes available on You Tube.
In October 2011 Network DVD released a Box Set entitled On The Buses – The Complete Omnibus. This mammoth set is a must for fans of the series as it contains contains all seven series – a total of 74 shows – plus the three feature film spin-offs On The Buses, Mutiny On The Buses and Holiday On The Buses. Also included is the complete series of Don’t Drink the Water – a spin-off sitcom featuring Blakey in Spain – plus exclusive special features, including archive news footage and Reg Varney’s TV play The Best Pair of Legs in the Business.