On the Buses
|On the Buses|
Poster for the 1971 On the Buses film
|Created by||Ronald Wolfe
|Written by||Ronald Wolfe
Bob Grant (1971-1973)
Stephen Lewis (1971-1973)
|Starring||Reg Varney (series 1–7)
Cicely Courtneidge (series 1)
Doris Hare (series 2–7)
Michael Robbins (series 1–6)
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||7|
|No. of episodes||74 (List of episodes)|
|Producer(s)||London Weekend Television|
|Running time||25 minutes per episode|
|Picture format||576i (4:3 SDTV)|
|Original run||28 February 1969– 6 May 1973|
|Followed by||Don't Drink the Water|
On the Buses is an English sitcom created by Ronald Wolfe and Ronald Chesney, broadcast in the United Kingdom from 1969 to 1973. The writers' previous successes with The Rag Trade and Meet the Wife were for the BBC, but the corporation rejected On the Buses, not seeing much comedy potential in a bus depot as a setting. The comedy partnership turned to a friend, Frank Muir, Head of Entertainment at London Weekend Television, who loved the idea; the show was accepted and despite a poor critical reception became a hit with viewers.
Seventy-four twenty-five minute episodes were made, as well as spin-off films by Hammer Film Productions: On the Buses (1971), Mutiny on the Buses (1972), and Holiday on the Buses (1973), set on a Pontin's holiday camp. On the Buses became Britain's top box office film of 1971.
The films were somewhat non-contiguous to the series – in the films, Arthur and Olive manage to have two children (she is pregnant with their second child at the end of Mutiny On The Buses) and Stan is working for The Town & District Bus Company instead of The Luxton & District Bus Company. The buses in the films are mostly red ones and one green one (not counting the Windsor Safari Park tour bus in Mutiny On The Buses).
At the beginning of the seventh and last series Arthur, who is not seen, has left Olive; they are divorced and have no children. Olive again gets a job as a clippy on the buses as they are short of money now. Stan takes a job in the North in a car factory in the Goodbye Stan episode, and the Inspector takes Stan's old room.
In addition, two five-minute Christmas specials were made by LWT as part of All Star Comedy Carnival in 1969 and 1972, ITV's answer to the BBC's Christmas Night with the Stars programme. The 1969 edition has been wiped but the 1972 edition – featuring a goose that the cast are chasing for Christmas dinner – exists in the Thames Television archive which is owned by FremantleMedia. A spin-off series, Don't Drink the Water (1974–75), ran for thirteen episodes, featuring Blake retiring to Spain with his sister, Dorothy (Pat Coombs).
The earlier series were recorded at London Weekend Television's studios in Wembley. In late 1972, LWT relocated to new studios on South Bank of the River Thames; here the outside doors to the main and secondary studios were too small to accommodate the double-decker buses used in the series. Therefore, single decker buses were used and a plywood mock up of an upper deck was lowered from a lighting rig.
Filmed external shots were part of the series. LWT arranged with the now defunct Eastern National bus company to use their buses at their long gone Wood Green bus garage in North London. For the series they were shown as under the ownership of Luxton and District. Luxton is supposed to be in Essex, and actual Essex towns including Southend, Basildon, Braintree and Tilbury are all mentioned. One of the termini for the buses was Cemetery Gates, for which LWT used the entrance to Lavender Hill Cemetery in Enfield, North London, near Reg Varney's home. Lavender Hill also features in the last episode of the last series, featuring the Town Hall, now the Battersea Arts Centre.
The format of On the Buses was sold to American television, where it was remade by NBC as Lotsa Luck, starring Dom DeLuise as Stanley Belmont with Kathleen Freeman as Iris Belmont his 'Mom', Wynn Irwin as Arthur Swann, Beverly Sanders as Olive Swann and Jack Knight as Bummy Pfitzer, his best friend. After a pilot was made, it ran for one series of twenty-two episodes in 1973–74. Episodes based on the original On The Buses scripts were adapted by such American writers as Carl Reiner, Bill Persky and Sam Denoff. The American version was unsuccessful and has never been screened in Britain. The Blakey character did not appear in the American version, as Stan worked at the lost property office at the bus depot rather than being a driver.
Regular cast and characters
- Reg Varney as Stan Butler
- Bob Grant as Jack Harper
- Anna Karen as Olive Rudge
- Cicely Courtneidge as Mum (Mabel Butler) (series 1)
- Doris Hare as Mum (Mabel Butler) (series 2–7)
- Stephen Lewis as Inspector Cyril "Blakey" Blake
- Michael Robbins as Arthur Rudge
On the buses, similar to other products of its era such as: the Carry on films and Love Thy Neighbour may be considered dated in terms of its political correctness. The show, which featured a black character called Chalky (played by Glen Whitter) in several episodes. Nevertheless, in the episode entitled "The Snake" Stan is attracted to (and Jack goes out with) an Indian snake charmer character played by Julia Mendez; such interracial relationships were very rare on television of the period. But with the very obvious exception of Olive, most female characters are mainly featured as objects of sexual desire or in the case of female inspectors, ridicule.
The red Town & District buses were Bristol KSWs with Eastern Coach Works bodies. These were ex-Eastern National. Stan and Jack's "regular" bus appeared to be VNO 857.
The Green Luxton & District buses were Bristol Lodekkas with bodywork by Eastern Coach Works of Lowestoft. In reality these were Eastern National buses (in some episodes buses could be seen with Eastern National on the side), although as mentioned earlier, some of those in the interior depot shots were in fact 'dummy' buses. Some 'dummy' buses were real single deck buses with a wooden frame on top, such as in the Series 3 episode "Radio Control", when the bus has crashed into the bridge. The most commonly used bus in the series was AVW 399F. In later episodes the NBC symbol appears next to Luxton & District.
In Episode 1 of Series 6, former London Transport RTL1557 (OLD 666) is featured, and burnt out.
Visual Entertainment released On the Buses: The Ultimate Collection, an eleven-disc box set featuring the complete series on DVD on 12 September 2006.
Network DVD released On the Buses: The Complete Series box set on DVD on 13 November 2006 for the very first time. On 25 May 2008 the box set was re-released in a new repackaged version. They have also released each series individually.
Beyond Home Entertainment released the entire series on DVD in seven series sets between 2 July 2007 – 8 April 2009.
On the Buses: The Complete Story by Craig Walker was launched on 3 October 2009 at the London Transport Museum, Covent Garden. The book includes: brief synopses of all the episodes and films, crew details, filming locations, and a complete list of the supporting cast. The forewords are written by Ronald Wolfe and Ronald Chesney however the writers have no further input in the story. The book was published by Apex Publishing Ltd.
I 'Ate You Butler! – The Making of On the Buses by Tex Fisher was published on 5 September 2011 by Deck Chair Publishing. The book focuses on the conception of the series, and features, for the first time, in depth discussions with the creators, Ronald Wolfe and Ronald Chesney and many cast members including Anna Karen and Kate Williams. The book also follows the development of the programme and covers the designing of the sets, the use of the buses, the films, spin-offs and reception. ISBN 978-0-9565634-1-5 .
A stage play called, Busman's Holiday, written by Sam Cree starred Stephen Lewis, Bob Grant and Anna Karen. It was performed as a 1973 Summer season at the Pavilion Theatre, Torquay. The character names were different from those in the TV series.
In 1990 there were plans to revive the series as "Back on the Buses", and the original cast appeared on "Wogan" to promote the new series. However, although a pilot script was written, LWT decided not to take up the idea.
- Comedy Classics ITV 1, narrated by Ronni Ancona, broadcast 2008
- "On The Buses – Episode 3.6 – The Snake". The British Comedy Guide.
- "Tom Sutcliffe – but not 'On the Buses'". The Independent. November 18, 2008.
- http://bcv.robsly.com/enlod.html List of Eastern National Lodekka survivors
- "Apex Publishing Ltd: Independent International Book Publisher". Apexpublishing.co.uk. Retrieved 2009-12-02.
- "I 'Ate You Butler – The Making of On the Buses: Details of the Book at the Publisher's Website". Deckchairpublishing.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-07-02.
- Léon Hunt, "British low culture: from safari suits to sexploitation" (Routledge, 1998) ISBN 0-415-15182-1. pp. 40–44
- Carl Rhodes, Robert Ian Westwood, "Critical representations of work and organization in popular culture", Routledge advances in management and business studies 37 (Routledge, 2008) ISBN 0-415-35989-9. pp. 100–103
- On the Buses at TV.com
- On the Buses at the British Comedy Guide
- On the Buses at the Internet Movie Database