* Prices may differ from that shown
ON THE BUSES
Written by created by Ronald Wolfe and Ronald Chesney and originally broadcast from 1969 to 1973.
On the buses ran for 74 episodes each being a half hour long and lasted for 7 series.
They also made 3 movies, On the Buses, Mutiny on the Buses and Holiday on the Buses.
The bus station that Stan, Jack and Blakey worked at was The Luxton & District Bus Company and most of the episodes where centered either around here or at their home where Stan lived with his mum Mabel, sister Olive and her husband Arthur.
Poor old Stan was always trying to 'get off with a "Bird"' but failed miserably time and time again. His best mate Jack didn't help, as he was the one who generally knicked the girl from him. His family where always spoiling his plans, sometimes innocently or if Arthur found out, on purpose.
In the end Stan spend most of his time desperately failing to get anywhere.
In the first series Stans mum was played by Cicely Courtneidge who was a house hold name and a star in her own right but she left and that's when Doris Hare took over the role and made it her own.
The series pretty much carried on in the same vein until Arthur decided to leave and eventually Stan left.
The series hobbled on for one more series before calling it a day with all comedy towel well and truly rung out.
There where to be 3 films made that bore no relation in the time line towards the series and where done purely to make a bit of cash.
Stan Butler played by Reg Varney
Jack Harper played by Bob Grant
Blakey played by Stephen Lewis (I ate you Butler!)
Stans mum, played by Cicely Courtneidge (series 1)
Stans mum, played by Doris Hare (series 2-7)
Olive played by Anna Karen
Arthur played by Michael Robbins (series 1-6)
1. No Smoke Without Fire.
A smoking ban goes wrong and a bus ends up burning to the ground.
2. Love Is What You Make It.
Stan tries to help Arthur and Olive who are going through a bad patch.
3. Private Hire
Stan needs money and fast and comes up with a startling idea to get some.
4. Stan's Worst Day
Arthur and Olives marriage is nearing collapse and Stan isn't helping things.
5. Union Trouble
The union take on the management with Stan caught in the middle.
6. Bye, Bye Blakey
The boys get the wrong end of the stick and think Blakey is dying.
7. The Prize
Mum wins a prize of a holiday but then the organiser does a bunk with the money from the raffle.
Blimey as Stan would say where do you start with an opinion?
Well to be fair the series absolutely mirrored the times in which they where made. The girls where all "Birds" and were flashing their legs whilst the boys where desperately chasing them. There were the now cringing racist jokes, everybody seemed to smoke like chimneys.
Occasionally the bus drivers would get drunk, drive straight past a bus stop or even make the passengers wait while they stopped off for a bit of "Nookie". A bit like today really?
Watching the shows is like watching a docu-soap of the times they where shot in, fascinating.
Aurthur left at the conclusion of series 6 and as series 7 began with 'Olives divorce' the show lost a little of its spark.
The comedy was always a bit thin and when Stan left half way through series 7 the show really began to suffer and even with Blakey moving into the butler family home it still really went down hill.
The one highlight was Olive, she was a superb actress and I felt never really got true recognition.
The show made Stan and Blakey iconic household names and it was the chemistry of hate between these two that the whole show sailed along on.
Worth a watch but will only raise a titter.
On the Buses is a classic situational comedy that ran for seven series between the years of 1969 and 1973. Despite its age it simply has to be my favourite ever comedy and is something I can watch over and over again.
On the Buses follows the day-to-day antics of lecherous lay-about Stan Butler, a bus driver at the local depot, and his equally lazy and lecherous best friend and conductor Jack Harper. Together the pair will do near enough anything to avoid doing work. The bus company's Inspector however has other ideas and is constantly reminding them to 'Get that bus out'. Somehow though the Inspector is the least of Stan's worries because when he gets home he knows all too well that his overbearing mother will be there for him to deal with and that's before he has to cope with his sister Olive who delights in constantly mentioning her tight-fisted and increasingly lazy husband Arthur's 'operation'.
Series 6 of on the Buses contains 7 fantastically scrpited episodes, making it the shortest series since Series 2, and follows the same pattern as the previous two series' with each 25-minute episode telling a different story. Obviously therefore the episodes can be viewed at stand alones but more enjoyment is definitely to be had if they are viewed in chronological order.
The cast for series 6 remains the same as in series 2 and all involved with the programme again put in outstanding performances. Reg Varney as Stan and Bob Grant as Jack Harper once again gel seamlessly together as the bus driver and bus conductor pair. Their love hate relationship with Inspector Blake is as good as ever and the way the pair interacts with one another makes their friendship seem superbly believable and therefore natural to the audience.
Ultimately however it is Anna Karen's performance that stands out for me. Her portrayal of the somewhat dim yet somehow increasingly loveable Olive is fantastic in every single episode. Karen handles Olive's character, who is more complex than she may at first seem, with a sense of easiness and adds great energy to all the scenes she participates in. The banter that generates between her character and that of Arthur portrayed by Michael Robbins is wonderful and at becoming more and more hilarious as the series' progress. In this series she must also handle the pressures of a stretched marriage and Anna Karen allows Olive to do this with a great deal of flare, well for Oliver anyway, and a few well-chosen and placed words.
The comedy is like in the previous series' a mix of slapstick and subtle humour and I think this works exceptionally well, as quite often it is what is not said that makes you laugh.
As mentioned earlier the scripting of the episodes within this series really is fantastic and each episode quite unique to the one before. The comedy as in the previous series' is a blend of slapstick and subtle humour, which I think works exceptionally well and helps to keep the comedy moments fresh. Because the character relationship have developed exceptionally well in the previous series' we as an audience are allowed to simply delight in what we know is going to be said and how they will react. There is of course many well-known and often repeated phrases that also draw in more than a few laughs. Arthur's constant "what a lot of rot you do talk", the Inspector's "I 'ate you Butler" and Olive's "How Rude!" are just a few of them.
Each episode within this series flows very well and in my opinion this is because of the brilliant relationships between the characters. These are of course a great exaggeration of normal family life but because the family do, do normal activities they are somewhat more believable and therefore the humour that they generate within the storylines is all the more worthwhile.
Due to my general liking of all the episodes in this series it is quite difficult for me to pick a favourite episode but after some deliberation I have decided that the episode that I probably enjoyed the most in this series is "Love is What You Make it", which was first transmitted on 27 February 1972.
In "Love is What You Make It" Stan ponders over what a sorry state of affairs his life has become. His home-life is full of turmoil, as Olive and Arthur fight it out like cat and dog, day and night, day after day. Work has suddenly become a safe haven as at least there he can get some semblance of peace and quiet. Things can't go on like this for much longer though and so Stan decides to step in a try and sort out Olive and Arthur's rocky and quickly becoming mountainous marriage.
The rest of the episodes in the series see Blakey ban smoking on duty, Stan loose his wages at the dog track and try and resolve his differences with Blakey. To top things off mum wins a holiday for two and must decide whether it should be Stan, Oliver or Arthur that accompany her.
On the Buses series 5 retails around the £7.99. For this price you receive 325 minutes of classic entertainment that will not fail to raise any mood.
In this sixth series of the hit sixties/seventies comedy, Stan and Jack are still working on the buses, trying to get the better of Inspector Blake whenever they can. Stan is still living at home with his mother, sister Olive, and her husband, Arthur, but things are getting difficult - Olive and Arthur seem to be arguing from noon to night and the atmosphere in the house is so bad that he is glad to go to work! On top of that, he is trying to stop smoking, which doesn't do much for his temper. Union trouble and strikes mean that he has to spend nights at work too - will his time away result in better relations between Olive and Arthur? And will Stan finally find the money, and the strength, to move away from his family?
The most successful comedies, as far as I am concerned, are those that know when to stop. That way, they are remembered for being still at the height of their popularity. Others carry on until they die a painful death - and unfortunately, On the Buses was one of them. In this, the second to last series, it is clear that the jokes are wearing very thin and, resorting to ridiculous slapstick comedy, the quality of the humour has become juvenile in the extreme. Nevertheless, there are saving graces for fans of the show in particular - the same old characters are still there and, judging by the popularity of the show at the time, there are probably still a lot of fans out there.
Reg Varney plays Stan, and is very much the face of the series. He is funny, provided that you like lots of gurning and slapstick, but in this series, I found him more annoying than anything else. It isn't all his fault - the writers are a lot to blame for trying to make the same old situations funny when they've already been done to death. And I think that, whereas when he appeared younger, he got away with being a bit daft and still living with his mother, in this series, he is looking too old for such silly behaviour. I'm probably being overly critical, but I certainly found him a lot less funny in this series than in earlier ones.
Stephen Lewis as Blakey is also wearing a bit thin in this series. His drawl and laugh are unnecessary most of the time; even worse, his role seems to be expanding. He is still funny, but, like Reg Varney, is becoming less so. I do like Bob Grant as Jack though. Perhaps it is because his role in the show is generally secondary to that of Stan, so the viewer doesn't have quite as much opportunity to get sick of him. I think he is a much more natural comedian; he makes me laugh anyway. Sadly, his entire life seems to have revolved around Jack and On the Buses - when it ended, he found it hard to find another job and eventually committed suicide.
Anna Karen is also funny as Stan's sister Olive. She manages to carry off being daft much more efficiently than the other characters, although her acceptance of Arthur's taunts are hard to take at times. It's been great to see her occasional appearances in Eastenders as Peggy Mitchell's sister recently. Arthur (Michael Robbins) is downright obnoxious - in this day and age, it wouldn't be tolerated by most people - but I suppose it is important to remember that the series was made in another time. Doris Hare, who plays Stan and Olive's mother is her usual scatty self - sometimes her delivery of lines is a bit off and I found myself wondering if the role was too much for her.
Despite my criticism of the characters, the humour is still there, albeit more sporadic than in earlier series. The rivalry between Stan and Arthur is responsible for many of the laughs and I'm always happy when Jack appears. It is interesting to note that Stephen Lewis and Bob Grant wrote half of the episodes themselves, whereas George Layton and Jonathan Lynn wrote the others. I found that those written by the latter were the funnier episodes though - it felt as though those written by Lewis and Grant were forced, as if the humour was becoming secondary to the characters. Perhaps ego was getting in the way of noting what was important for the audience in this case.
One of the reasons I enjoy watching sitcoms from this period is to remind myself of a simpler time, one in which I was growing up. It is somehow comforting to have this reminder occasionally. However, there is also the reminder of a time when women were treated like secondary citizens. Arthur's treatment of Olive is disgusting - he's always calling her a big fat lump and the like - and by this series, I was finding it deeply distasteful. The 'clippies' or bus conductresses were also treated badly - mainly as sex objects - and in this day and age, it can be hard to watch at times. Apart from this though, the humour is fairly clean, which is a minor bonus.
There are seven episodes in this series. Probably the funniest is 'Bye Bye Blakey' - Stan and Jack believe that Blakey is suffering from an incurable disease and is about to die. I think the reason I liked it is because it was a pleasant change from the usual Blakey taunts. The final episode, 'The Prize', where Mum wins a holiday abroad is also good, and Doris Hare seems a bit more on the ball. 'Stan's Worst Day' is worth noting, because there are a few flashbacks and we get to see how Stan met Jack and Blakey and how Arthur comes into the family. The most annoying episodes are the couple that are dedicated to Arthur and Olive's arguing - just because of Arthur's aggressive behaviour. All in all though, the good episodes don't really make up for the bad ones, unlike in previous series.
I was delighted to see that there were a couple of extras with the DVD - something that is sadly disappearing from most sitcom DVDs of this era. The first is a selection of clips from The Reg Varney Comedy Hour, or The Other Reg Varney as it was originally known, televised in the early 1970s. The show was obviously put together as a result of Varney's success on On the Buses. The clips are quite funny and it is good to see Varney as himself, rather than as a character - he is definitely less annoying, although he still isn't as funny as he seems to think he is. The other extra is made up of two clips, showing how popular the show was in the early seventies, with the actors being asked to open shops etc on a regular basis. Unfortunately, the clips are without sound - you can get the general idea though.
I really enjoyed the first two series of this show, when the comedy was fresh and we were still getting to know the characters. Each series thereafter has gone slightly downhill, so that by this one, it really is only something that big fans of the show or those who haven't seen it before at all will find funny. For me, it was a reasonably pleasant reminder of a show that I have enjoyed in the past, but it has made me realise that the show is dying a death - it is just as well there is only one series after this one. Obviously the characters realised the same thing - Michael Robbins doesn't appear at all in the next series, and Reg Varney leaves half way through. It's a shame the show wasn't cut before this. Just about recommended, but don't expect to be rolling around on the floor. Three stars out of five.
The DVD is available from play.com for £7.99.
Running time: 175 minutes (minus extras)