I’ve reached a milestone in my epic binge watching of Last Of The Summer Wine. Foggy has left the series for the final time, to be replaced by Frank Thornton as Truly Of The Yard. I thought this might mark a downturn in my enjoyment of the show, but it’s added a freshness back into it, even after 25 years.
I always found Foggy’s obsession with death a little uncomfortable, and shifting Truly’s obsession onto justice and making him willing to gets his hands dirty changes the show’s dynamic in an interesting way. Thornton is immediately likeable as Herbert Truelove too. It’s also fascinating that the first few episodes of his stint take their time to re-state the show’s premise, often through Compo lamenting about the ageing process, boredom and not wanting to grow old.
Foggy does have a hidden depth to him though, which every now and again filters through. He clearly has PTSD, given the way he freezes and sticks his hands in the air any time he hears a loud bang. And his penchant for making up stories about his war years isn’t born from the lack of action the other characters seem to feel it is, rather it’s masking a nasty truth that only comes out once when no-one is around to hear. To wit, Foggy was captured by the enemy and tortured. Unable to resist, he gave up everything he knew. And in his twilight years, he is trying to remould his own self image as that of a hero.
When Brian Wilde left the show the first time (for reasons I’ve yet to reach in Andrew Vine’s book about the series), he made another sitcom called Wyatt’s Watchdogs. Written by Miles Tredinnick, it aired on BBC One in the autumn of 1988. It was directed by longtime Summer Wine director Alan JW Bell and lasted a single series. Wilde soon returned to Holmfirth.