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Keeping Up Appearances is a Britishmarker sitcom starring Patricia Routledge as eccentric, social-climbing snob Hyacinth Bucket (bou-quet). Created and written by Roy Clarke, it aired on BBC1 from 1990 to 1995 — spanning five seasons and 44 episodes — four of which are Christmas specials.

In 2004 the show came 12th in the Britain's Best Sitcom poll that aired on BBC 2. It is regularly repeated on BBC 1 and on G.O.L.D. All five seasons — including Christmas specials — are available on DVD. The show has been aired in many countries throughout the world and is popular in North America.

Plot summary

Hyacinth Bucket — 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 double-glazed Avignon china and Royal Doulton china), and maintaining the integrity of her woodblock floor, wallpaper, and status in the community, name-dropping at any hint of an opportunity. Her aim in life is to impress neighbours, friends, and important people, yet always hindering her best efforts are down-market relatives Daisy, Rose, and Onslow. The threesome, along with Hyacinth's senile father, are forever turning up inconveniently and embarrassing Hyacinth, who goes to great lengths to avoid them. Such excessive snobbery makes life difficult for those around her, especially long-suffering hen-pecked husband Richard.

However one relative Hyacinth isn't so ashamed of is wealthy sister Violet; the leading lady will often boast to visitors of her home — a luxury bungalow — and of how her sister, Violet, has a "Mercedes, sauna, and room for a pony", whilst trying to keep the oddities of Violet's cross-dressing husband, Bruce, a secret. Hyacinth also tries to impress people with the intellectual prowess of her beloved, but unseen son, Sheridan (he takes courses in needlework at a Poly), getting despised by those around her in the process. Sheridan makes frequent phone calls from University asking for money, much to the despair of Richard. It is also implied many times throughout the series that Sheridan, who lives with a boy named Tarquin (who makes his own curtains, wears silk pyjamas, and has won prizes for embroidery), is gay.

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 and 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 local vicar Michael, along with divorced neighbour Emmet. 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 first World War.

Neighbour Elizabeth is frequently invited round to the Buckets' for coffee. Terrified of spilling drinks in house-proud Hyacinth's home, nerves get the better of her and she always does. Her brother, Emmet, arrives in 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.


Keeping Up Appearances aired for five seasons, four Christmas specials, and one short Children in Need special, from 29 October 1990 to 25 December 1995. The series ended after the episode "The Pageant", because Patricia Routledge wanted to focus on other work. Clive Swift, who portrayed Richard, stated in a BBC interview that Routledge "didn't want to be remembered as simply Mrs Bucket".




Exterior shots around Hyacinth's house were taped in Binley Woodsmarker village near Coventrymarker. Exterior shots around Daisy and Onslow's council terrace were taped in Stoke Aldermoormarker in Coventrymarker. Other exterior street and town shots were taped in Leamington Spamarker, and in various towns throughout Warwickshiremarker, along with many scenes from the large town of Northamptonmarker. Some scenes were also shot in Swindonmarker, Oxfordmarker and Bristolmarker.

The setting of the show is not entirely clear, but there are several references to the characters being in the West Midlands throughout the series, as when Hyacinth said that she could become the "Barbara Cartland of the West Midlands Social Circuit Scene" in The Hostess.

After Keeping Up Appearances

Various shows related to the programme were released.
  • The Memoirs of Hyacinth Bucket
In March 1997 Geoffrey Hughes and Judy Cornwell reprised their roles as Onslow and Daisy for a special compilation episode recorded for broadcast in the United Statesmarker on PBS. The show saw the pair introduce classic clips from the series. In 2004 the documentary series featured an episode dedicated to Keeping Up Appearances. Stars: Clive Swift, Josephine Tewson, Judy Cornwell and David Griffin, along with writer Roy Clarke and producer/director Harold Snoad, all discussed the series. Clips from an interview with Patricia Routledge from 2002 were also included. The episode revealed that there were serious artistic differences between Clarke and Snoad.
  • Life Lessons from Onslow
In early 2008 Geoffrey Hughes reprised his role as Onslow once again for a clipshow of the series; this was to be broadcast on American television, and sees him teaching a credit course at the Open Universitymarker, and has selected “successful relationships” as his subject matter. The special was also released on Region 1 DVD.

Two cast members died within two months of each other in 1998. Mary Millar - who played Rose from 1991 to 1995 - on 10 November 1998 due to ovarian cancer. George Webb - who played Daddy throughout the show's run - died on 30 December 1998, of natural causes. Charmian May - who appears as Mrs. Councillor Nugent recurringly in the first three series - died on 24 October 2002.



In 1998 the BBC released three episodes of the show: "A Job For Richard", "Country Retreat," and "Sea Fever" on audio cassette. Clive Swift reprised his role as Richard recording a narrative to compensate for the lack of images.


2 Entertain Video released three videos featuring episodes from the series.

  • Rural Retreat
This was released on 12 June 1995, and featured the episodes: "Rural Retreat", "Let There Be Light" and "Please Mind Your Head".

  • How to Enhance Your Husband’s Retirement
This was released on 3 June 1996 and features the episodes: "How to Enhance Your Husband's Retirement", "What to Wear When Yachting" and "How to Go On Holiday Without Really Trying".

  • Sea Fever
The final of three videos was then released on 2 April 1997 and comprises "Sea Fever" and "Hyacinth Tees Off".


DVD cover of the Region 2 Essential Collection release.
  • Series one and two
The first two series were released on Region 2 DVD, by Universal Playback on 7 March 2003.
  • Series three and four
The third and fourth series, along with the 1991 Christmas Special, were released on 16 February 2004.
  • Series 5
The final series along with the 1993, 1994 and 1995 specials, were released on 26 December 2006.
  • Keeping Up Appearances: The Essential Collection
On 8 October 2007, all episodes were released in a singular boxset.
  • Keeping Up Appearances: The Full Bouquet
In 2004 all five series and the specials were released as a box set on Region 1 DVD.
  • Keeping Up Appearances: The Complete Collection
The entire series was released in Region 4 in 2005 under the title.
  • Keeping Up Appearances: Christmas Specials
  • Keeping Up Appearances: The Full Bouquet: Special Edition
A second edition of the complete series was released in North America in 2008. This release in almost identical in terms of content to that released in 2005, except for the inclusion of the new Life Lessons from Onslow special, filmed for PBS in early 2008.


Two books related to the series were released in the UKmarker. Both were written by Jonathan Rice and published by BBC Books.
  • Hyacinth Bucket's book of etiquette for the socially less fortunate
This was first published in 1993, and is a light-hearted guide to manners, as seen through Hyacinth Bucket's eyes. It is based on the TV series' scripts and contains many black-and-white photos of scenes from the show.
  • Hyacinth Bucket's Hectic Social Calendar
This was published in 1995 and is presented in a diary format chronicling a year in Hyacinth Bucket's life, with typical comments about her relations and neighbours.


Series 1-5
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)


  1. Comedy Connections

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