The title of this show describes it perfectly. Hyacinth Bucket (“It’s pronounced Bouquet!”) is a middle-aged, middle-class housewife. Nothing is more important to her than keeping up appearances. She’s obsessed with perfection and proper etiquette. She’s a high maintenance woman who always has to be the center of attention, the most important person in the room, unless there’s someone of even higher social status nearby. If you don’t have a title, Hyacinth Bucket couldn’t care less about you. She’s desperate to climb the social ladder, even if while she’s trying she almost always falls off. She’s known far and wide for her tasteful candlelight suppers served on her Royal Doulton china with the hand-painted periwinkles.
What makes this show so funny is that no matter what Hyacinth does to impress everyone, the harder she tries, the more she embarrasses herself. And unbeknownst to her, most people, including the vicar, either dislike her or are afraid of her, trying to avoid an encounter with “The Bucket Woman” at all cost.
The rest of the characters are equally as entertaining. There’s Hyacinth’s family, a constant source of embarrassment to her. She once said, “I love my family, but I don’t have to acknowledge them in broad daylight.” She’s ashamed of how they look and live – in a rundown council house with a broken down car parked in the front garden. Brother-in-law Onslow never wears a shirt, spends most of the time either in bed or watching the telly. Sister Daisy is a romantic, married to the “bone-idle” Onslow and loves reading romance novels. Sister Rose is man crazy, always waiting on phone calls from different men, most of them married. And their senile father keeps running away and getting into all kinds of mischief, including dressing up in a spaceman outfit at a department store.
The only sister Hyacinth is not ashamed of is Violet. Hyacinth boasts that Violet owns a Mercedes and a house big enough for a swimming pool, a sauna, and room for a pony. One thing she doesn’t boast about is the fact that Violet’s husband Bruce seems to have a penchant for cross-dressing.
Hyacinth is always gushing over her beloved son, Sheridan, who is never seen. He’s at university taking courses in needlework. He’s always calling his “mummy” asking for money.
Next door neighbor, Elizabeth, can never say no to Hyacinth who’s always inviting her over for coffee. But Elizabeth is so nervous being around her that she never fails to spill her coffee or break something. Elizabeth’s divorced brother, Emmet, lives with her and directs the amateur operatic society. He tries so hard to avoid interactions with Hyacinth because she keeps “singing at him” trying to get him to include her in one of his musical productions.
And then there’s Richard, Hyacinth’s long-suffering, hen-pecked husband. He’s so beaten down that he just does what he’s told without argument. Like when Hyacinth makes him call the Chinese ambassador because she’s tired of getting wrong numbers, people calling in orders for a Chinese takeaway restaurant.
This is one of the classics of British TV, one you’ve probably seen airing on PBS. One of my favorite episodes is when Hyacinth finds out her neighbor is going on a lavish Caribbean holiday. Hyacinth will not be outdone. She gets some travel brochures, even though she’s not taking a holiday, and tries, in so many ridiculous ways, to get everyone to happen upon them and be impressed by her own lavish holiday.
The laugh track is a bit overdone here, but that was expected on situation comedies back then. It’s a funny show. You can’t wait to see what kind of embarrassing situation Hyacinth gets herself into. But don’t watch too many in a row, like I did. Hyacinth can really get on your nerves.
Patricia Routledge – Hyacinth
Clive Swift – Richard
Geoffrey Hughes – Onslow
Judy Cornwell – Daisy
Josephine Tewson – Elizabeth
David Griffin – Emmet
Shirley Stelfox – Rose (Series 1)
Mary Millar – Rose (Series 2-5)
Total Seasons: 5 (44 episodes)
Seasons Available on US Formatted DVD: 5
In Production: 1990 – 1995
Viewer Discretion: Suitable for all audiences