Saturday, 30 October 2010

On The Buses

'On The Buses' has always struck me as a pretty poor show, and time has not been kind to it at all.

It had memorable elements, certainly, as, forty years on, some of the catch phrases and characters still stick in the public consciousness, but viewed nowadays via the wonder of satellite TV it's a parade of antiquated attitudes, cliched sitcom conventions and pathetic blundering about by elderly actors (Reg Varney was 53 when the programme was first broadcast, pushing 60 when it finished), a really rather tawdry and slightly grim reminder of a very different time.

That said, all long running programmes occasionally go mental, and thanks to my old pal Gary Zammit and his dubious viewing habits, here is the moment, six series in, when 'On The Buses' goes off piste and crashes into a tree. Several points of interest --

1. the bizarre Radiophonic blips, bleeps and camera movements that punctuate the scene -
2. the bit with Blakey at the window (does 'The Wickerman', released a year later, pay 'homage' to it?) -
3. the extraordinary bleakness of the aerial shots -
4. the concrete soundtrack of birdsong and uncomfortable laughter.

It's a fantastic clip. So fantastic, in fact, that I haven't even asked how the hell he got to find something like this. Truth be told, I'm a little frightened of the answer.

Oh, as it's nearly Halloween, do you want to hear something really terrifying? Forget about 56 year old Reg, Bob Grant and Stephen Lewis (conductor Jack Harper and Inspector Blakey) were only 40 and 36 years old, respectively, when this sequence was filmed.


  1. I sometimes watch it late at night on ITV3 and it really is a reprehensible pile of shamelessly anti-union, slightly creepy (old, old men lusting after young, young dollybirds) and unfunny tat.

    Arthur, played by Michael Robbins, is a particularly nasty piece of work, in one episode even threatening to black Olive's eye, or something similar, as the audience laugh on.

    In fact, I've no idea why I watch it. Maybe it offers succor to imagined memories, as I do very vaguely recall my mom watching it when I was nowt but a sprog.

  2. Those aerial shots at the end are exceptionally bleak, like the aftermath of a terrible bus-related massacre. Blakey falling into a bush does little to warrant such a desolate treatment.

    I recall there's another completely mental episode, where Stan dreams he's a bus driver at the start of the 1900s, when they're just about to do away with the horse-drawn variety.

    I recall seeing at the end that it was filmed at some bus museum. Can't remember which one though. Possibly Isle of Wight.

  3. yes i'm similarly attracted/repelled by this series for similar reasons. sounds like they used a badly edited snippet of library music called "Delia's Psychedelic Waltz" by a certain Li De La Russe here.

  4. That bus is fairly creepy before the fire. It looks bizarrely narrow to me, like something from Belleville Rendezvous.

  5. This is astonishing - very Wicker Man indeed! I always remembered On The Buses with a certain nostalgic pleasure until the recent repeats; it's shocking to see how truly hideous it was.

    I designed a brochure for a local bus & tram museum not long after Reg Varney died, and jokingly suggested they should erect a tribute statue. I was met with stoney faced silence worthy of Blakey at his most bellicose...

  6. I have always found this series quite haunty! I mean the images it projects the bleakness of the outside photography! marvellous! Just goes to show there was something in my 'for the love of buses' entries! ;)

  7. They must have wanted to get their moneys worth out of the burning bus. "I dunno ... take some aerial shots of it with Reg and the others standing around arguing." I'm going to screenshot some of those scenes where they're watching it go up in flames. Not sure I'll be watching any more clips though.

  8. The aerial shot had me thinking about the final scene in Solaris for some reason...

  9. Here I am in 2015 wading my way through FO. This is still as odd and bizarre as the 1st time I saw this post.
    From 2.04 onwards it just gets very slightly odd and unnerving. Lets face it On the Buses was crap. I am pleased to say that my parents hated it, so we never watched it.