Keeping Up Appearances is a British sitcom created and written by Roy Clarke for the BBC. Centred on the life of eccentric, social-climbing snob Hyacinth Bucket (who insists that her surname is pronounced Bouquet), the sitcom follows her obsessive and determined attempts to impress in middle class society and portray herself as more affluent than she truly is.
The show stars Patricia Routledge, who received two BAFTA nominations for her performance as Hyacinth. Broadcast between 1990 and 1995 on BBC One, the sitcom spawned five series and 44 episodes—4 of which are Christmas specials. Keeping Up Appearances was a great success in the UK and also captivated a large audience in the US and Australia, but production ceased in 1995 when Routledge wanted to move on to other projects. Since its original release, all five series—including Christmas specials—are available on DVD. In 2004, the sitcom was ranked 12th in the countdown of Britain's Best Sitcom. It is regularly repeated worldwide (PBS in the US; BBC One, Gold and Yesterday in the UK).
Hyacinth Bucket (Patricia Routledge)— who insists her surname is pronounced Bouquet — is a social-climbing snob, originally from a very poor working-class background, whose main mission in life is to impress others with her lifestyle and perceived affluence and refinement. Hyacinth likes to spend her days visiting stately homes (convinced she will meet and strike up a friendship with the owners) and hosting "executive-style" candlelight suppers (with her Royal Worcester double-glazed Avignon china and Royal Doulton china with "the hand-painted periwinkles"). She ostentatiously brags about her possessions to others, including her "white slimline telephone with automatic redial", which she always answers with "The Bouquet residence, the lady of the house speaking". (Frequently she receives calls asking for a Chinese take-away, causing her great consternation.)
Hyacinth's excessive snobbery makes life difficult for those around her, especially long-suffering, hen-pecked husband Richard Bucket (Clive Swift), who lives in fear of saying the wrong thing (and how he can afford his wife's expensive tastes), and her quiet and kindly neighbour Elizabeth (Josephine Tewson), who is constantly nervous in Hyacinth's presence (particularly when handling Hyacinth's fine china, which she generally ends up dropping). From series two, Elizabeth shares her home with her divorced brother Emmett (David Griffin), the director of an amateur operatic society, who quickly becomes terrified of Hyacinth because "she'll sing at me!" (an attempt by Hyacinth to win a part in one of Emmett's productions). Most other people either dislike or are afraid of Hyacinth, to the point of running or hiding when seeing her or hearing her voice, exclaiming "The Bucket Woman!".
Always hindering Hyacinth's best efforts to impress - and providing an unwelcome reminder of her less-than-refined roots - are her underclass sisters Daisy (Judy Cornwell) and Rose(Shirley Stelfox in series 1; Mary Millar thereafter), and Daisy's proudly "bone-idle" husband Onslow (Geoffrey Hughes). This threesome, along with Hyacinth's senile father, regularly turn up inconveniently (usually in their clapped out Ford Cortina Mk IV - which always makes a characteristic backfire when it pulls up), with Hyacinth going to great lengths to avoid them ("Richard, you know I love my family, but that's no reason why I should have to acknowledge them in broad daylight!").
Two relatives Hyacinth is not ashamed of are her wealthy sister Violet (Anna Dawson) and her unseen son, Sheridan. Violet frequently telephones Hyacinth for advice, allowing her to loudly announce to anyone in earshot that "it's my sister Violet - the one with a Mercedes, swimming pool, sauna and room for a pony". However, Violet's social acceptability is damaged by the eccentric behaviour of her cross-dressing husband, Bruce. Hyacinth also tries to impress people with the intellectual prowess of her beloved Sheridan (who actually only takes courses in needlework at a polytechnic). Hyacinth boasts about the closeness of their relationship and how often he writes to her and phones her. However, he never writes to her and his phone calls to her are usually only to ask for money (much to the despair of Richard). Hyacinth is blissfully oblivious to the obvious hints that Sheridan, who lives with a man named Tarquin (who makes his own curtains, wears silk pyjamas and has won prizes for embroidery), is gay.
- Patricia Routledge as Hyacinth Bucket
- Clive Swift as Richard Bucket
- Geoffrey Hughes as Onslow
- David Griffin as Emmet Hawksworth (Series 2–5)
- Josephine Tewson as Elizabeth Warden
- Shirley Stelfox as Rose (Series 1)
- Mary Millar as Rose (Series 2–5)
- Judy Cornwell as Daisy
- Jeremy Gittins as Michael, the vicar