Keeping Up Appearances the excellent sitcom starred the superb Patricia Routledge as eccentric, social-climbing snob Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced bouquet by Hyacinth, but pronouncedbucket by everyone else). Created and written by Roy Clark, it aired on BBC1 from 1990 to 1995 — spanning five series and 44 episodes — four of which are Christmas specials.
In 2004 the show came 12th in the Britain's Best Sit-Com poll that aired on BBC2. It is regularly repeated on BBC 1 and on G.O.L.D. All five series — including Christmas specials — are available on DVD. The show has aired in many countries throughout the world, including present-day reruns weekly on PBS in the USA.
Hyacinth Bucket (Patricia Routledge) — who insists her surname is pronounced Bouquet — is a social-climbing snob who passes her time visiting stately homes, hosting "executive" style candlelight suppers (with her Royal Worcester, her Avignon China and Royal Doulton china with "the hand-painted periwinkles"), bragging of her "white slim line telephone with automatic redial", and maintaining the integrity of her woodblock floor, wallpaper, and status in the community, name dropping at any hint of an opportunity.
Such excessive snobbery makes life difficult for those around her, especially long-suffering hen-pecked husband Richard (Clive Swift). Most people either dislike or are afraid of Hyacinth, to the point of running or hiding when seeing her or hearing her voice, exclaiming "The Bucket Woman!". The only recurring character who actively seeks out Hyacinth's company is the Major (Peter Cellier) (although a few other people show interest in Hyacinth in some episodes, e.g. Signore Ferrini, the Commodore, the incoherent rural man, etc.)
However one relative Hyacinth isn't ashamed of is wealthy sister Violet (Anna Dawson); the leading lady will often boast to visitors of Violet's home — a luxury bungalow — and of how this sister has a "Mercedes, Sauna, and room for a pony", whilst trying to keep the oddities of Violet's cross-dressing husband, Bruce, a secret. (Bruce's cross dressing is revealed to Hyacinth in series 2.) Hyacinth also tries to impress people with the intellectual prowess of her beloved, but unseen, son Sheridan (he takes courses in needlework at a Polytechnic), inviting the derision of those she is desperately trying to impress. She often begins the stories with "I'm sure you've heard about Sheridan" to which the listener responds "frequently". Sheridan makes frequent phone calls from his polytechnic asking for money, much to the despair of Richard. It is also implied many times throughout the series that Sheridan, who lives with a man named Tarquin (who makes his own curtains, wears silk pyjamas, and has won prizes for embroidery), is gay. Hyacinth, however, seems blissfully oblivious to the fact.
Richard tries to keep his head down and cope with his domineering wife, always getting dragged into her elaborate but unsuccessful plots to avoid the family or to help his wife up the social ladder. Richard initially works for the local council; however, he reluctantly accepts early retirement at the turn of series three.
Hyacinth's brother-in-law, Onslow, sympathises with Richard, only too aware of how difficult Hyacinth is to live with. Onslow calls Richard "Dickey", which Hyacinth does not like. Onslow and his wife, Hyacinth's sister Daisy, are idle slobs who live with younger sister Rose and their senile father, referred to by Hyacinth as "Daddy". Their home is a run-down council house, where Daisy and Onslow spend their time drinking, eating and watching television, whilst Rose spends her time in short skirts and high heels, trying to seduce married men, including Hyacinth’s
Rose might best be described as a full-time "other woman" and part-time door-to-door cosmetics sales girl; she is forever unlucky in love, as her lovers often "sneak back" to their wives. The men in her life have included the following: an unnamed 17 year-old "toy boy," Boris, C.P. Benedict, Charlie, Dennis, Derrick, Edgar, Mr. Bickerstaff, Mr. Blankensopp, Mr. Butterfield, Mr. Crabtree, Mr. Finchley, Mr. Halliwell, Mr. Heppelwhite, Mr. Marinopolous, Mr. Merchesson, Mr. Merriweather, Mr. Murray, Mr. Ripley, Mr. Smith, Mr. Sudbury, Reg, Roger, and Mr. Whatsit? (having an unpronounceable name of Polish extraction, he is also referred to as "Cuddly Chops").
Meanwhile the senile "Daddy" pinches women's bottoms and frequently believes he is back in the trenches of the Second World War. Onslow owns a dog, who lives outside in a ruined Hillman Avenger. The dog always manages to startle Hyacinth into the hedge by barking (though he never barks at Richard, who once actually happily waved at the dog - knowing what was coming for Hyacinth).
Neighbour Elizabeth (Josephine Tewson) is frequently invited round to the Buckets' for coffee. Terrified of spilling drinks in house-proud Hyacinth's home, her nerves get the better of her and she invariably does. She eventually moves to a beaker and in one episode, a pink sippy cup with taped on lid. Her brother, Emmet (David Griffin) arrives at the beginning of series two to live with his sister after a "messy divorce". He produces and directs an amateur Operatic Society, and quickly becomes terrified of Hyacinth, who gives broad hints by "singing at" him, that he should give her a part in his productions.
|Series||Premiere||Last in series||Episodes|
|1||29 October 1990||3 December 1990||6|
|2||1 September 1991||3 November 1991||10 + 1 Special (25 Dec 1991)|
|3||6 September 1992||18 October 1992||7|
|4||5 September 1993||17 October 1993||7 + 2 Specials (26 Dec 1993 & 25 Dec 1994)|
|5||3 September 1995||5 November 1995||10 + 1 Special (25 Dec 1995)|