Monday, 10 October 2011

Strictly and Summer Wine: ageism overcome

click for Last of the Summer Wine on YesterdayIt’s fortuitous that Freeview station Yesterday chose to show the first episode of Last of the Summer Wine as the BBC light-entertainment leviathan Strictly Come Dancing is in its opening weeks.

click for Last of the Summer Wine on YesterdayThe 1973 pilot introduced us to the surreal adventures and whimsical musings of three older men and their friends who refused to behave according to the conventions laid down for people of their age. It presented people d'un certain âge as independent, sometimes bolshie and always with a touch of Yorkshire grit.

What Summer Wine never did was display nastiness or agression, which is where it parts company with Strictly. The bullying and subsequent resignation of John Sergeant from the dancing show in 2008 was the predatory atmosphere of the BBC in microcosm, and displayed the ageist culture that dominates the Corporation in all its ugliness.

Last year, however, Ann Widdicombe entered and was totally unfazed by nastiness and condescension. This year Edwina Currie answered a question about how she’d deal with the judges with the observation that she’d been shouted at by Margaret Thatcher.

click for more about Edwina Currie on the Strictly fansiteCurrie [right] was voted out on Sunday, which I found a great shame: not only did I enjoy her dancing, but it’s always good to see people who are famous for something, as opposed to being famous for merely being famous. What has Nancy dell’Olio, her rival, actually done that doesn’t involve the reflected glory of the men she’s been photographed beside? Edwina, in contrast, not only had her Parliamentary career but performed the political equivalent of jumping on a grenade when she broke silence in 1988 about potentially deadly salmonella in eggs.

In fact, she’s a strong woman of the type that scriptwriter Roy Clarke loved to put in Summer Wine. Will there be a role for her should he resurrect the series?

Tony Urquhart
300 words

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