Remembering British actor Geoffrey Hughes of 'Keeping Up Appearances' fame
In any number of states in this country, wherever a Brit or Anglophile infiltrates the local PBS station, you can count on endless reruns of certain BBC TV comedies.
That PBS-BBC tie-in enabled me to learn the Monty Python oeuvre at a pretty early age, followed over the years by the incomparable "Fawlty Towers" and assorted gems that proved hard to resists -- "To the Manor Born," "Are You Being Served?," "'Allo, 'Allo," and other endearing Britcoms.
Then there's "Keeping Up Appearances," which introduced me to the divine Patricia Routledge as the preposterously pretentious Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced "bouquet") and a superb cast that included Geoffrey Hughes as Hyacinth's determinedly uncouth brother-in-law Onslow.
Mr. Hughes' died last Friday at the age of 68 from prostate cancer. "He was a most lovable man," Ms. Routledge told the British press, "just delightful and great fun to work with."
What a fabulous pair of adversaries Hyacinth and Onslow made -- the snob and the slob. Onslow was a guy you would ...
definitely like to have a beer with -- he never could get enough of the stuff (or a "bacon butty," for that matter). And the reason he's such a likable character is because Mr. Hughes gave Onslow an inner life, not just the rough surface.
On these shores, we see only a small portion of Mr. Hughes' work. In the UK, he became something of a legend on the soap opera "Coronation Street," which has never made it across the Pond. After "Keeping Up Appearances," he enjoyed long runs on comedies that got little or no exposure here. His career also included such interesting gigs as providing the voice of Paul McCartney in the animated film "Yellow Submarine."
But I don't think Mr. Hughes would mind if we recall him most often and most fondly for his role on "Keeping Up Appearances," that signature phrase ("Oh, nice!"), that distinctive fashion sense, that way of smacking the TV set on, and, above all, Onslow's total comfort in his own skin.
It's impossible to imagine anyone else but Geoffrey Hughes making such an indelible impression with that assignment. I imagine that's what his colleagues and fans would say about everything he did.