It’s opening night of the BBC Showcase in Liverpool, the annual gathering of hundreds of international television buyers here for the opportunity to screen upcoming BBC programming to bring back to their respective countries. This year didn’t open with a laundry list rundown of programs and series ‘in the pipeline’ for people to screen over the next several days. It opened with a huge tip of the hat to a bit of brilliance from the past which has proved to be a shining example that signaled the importance of this gathering which began 40 years ago this year with a small group of approximately 25 buyers at The Old Ship Hotel in Brighton.
It was announced last night that, since that initial Showcase in 1976, Keeping Up Appearances has the distinction of being THE most successful program in BBC history when it comes to international broadcast. The comedy series, which starred the endless talents of Patricia Routledge as Hyacinth Bucket, the eccentric, snobbish middle class social climber whose lot in life was to prove her social superiority and to gain standing with the perceived ‘upper class’ individuals she crossed paths with along the way, has been bought a staggering 992 times by international television channels across Planet Earth, which is more than any BBC program for at least the last 40 years.
When you think back, this is quite a feat for the KUA as the series is only 25+ years old having premiered in late 1990 and airing for only 5 series. Creator and writer Roy Clarke had a simple explanation, “The Old Girl keeps on raising and ridding the dust. I think the secret to her wide fan base is that everyone knows a Hyacinth.”
Here from our earlier PBS production, Funny Ladies of British Comedy, Patricia Routledge talks candidly about Keeping Up Appearances and Hyacinth Bucket. Patricia begins her portion of the interview talking about comedy as an art form, what she likes best and her enjoyable time aboard the QE2, approximately 2:30 into the first clip.
In case you’re wondering, the second most-bought program was revealed as Sir David Attenborough’s The Life of Mammals, with 958 acquisitions with the most purchased drama series being the first revived series of Doctor Who from 2005, which starred Christopher Eccleston as The Doctor, with 629 sales.
So, next time you watch Keeping Up Appearances, you are a part of history…in a good way!