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On the Buses

Hooray! No trousers! 'Of course I don't hate you. They just make me say that. I actually think you're very talented'

SINGLE-HANDEDLY KEPT ITV in business in the early 70s, so this endlessly-mocked transportation-tweaking torpitude has got to count for something. All the critics loathed it, naturally, but fifty thousand billion viewers watched its 74,000 episodes, not to mention the (count ’em!) three film spin-offs. Roll call: REG VARNEY was the cheeky bus driver with an eye for the ladies; BOB “EDDIE” GRANT was the cheeky clippie with an eye etc; MICHAEL ROBBINS and ANNA KAREN were the comedically dire couple with a motorbike and sidecar; STEPHEN “DON’T DRINK” LEWIS was Blakey, the miserable inspector with an annoying donkey-style voice. Franchise travelled the world. Unlike the buses.



  1. ansonort

    October 2, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    More than one article in The Sun depicting Anna Karen as a glamour-puss with much lauding of the miracle of make-up and costume that made her look like an ugly old trout.

  2. Adrian

    October 2, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    Scarily, Stephen Lewis was only 35 when he played Blakey..

  3. Rob Johnson

    September 9, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    Loved it as a kid, but watching re-runs recently surprised me how truly awful it was. Reg Varney was well into his 50’s when he was still playing an overly randy young bloke.

  4. Paul Bovey

    November 17, 2011 at 9:51 am

    On watching the reruns on ITV3, it’s amusing to note how Stephen Lewis calls Bob Grant’s character Arthur in nearly every episode, with no one seeming to notice his character was called Jack.

  5. Arthur Nibble

    November 17, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    So does that make Trigger out of ‘Only Fools and Horses’ the new Blakey?

  6. Paul Bovey

    November 18, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    Funnily enough, there was an ‘On the Buses’ reference in an early episode of ‘OFAH’: Del orders a drink in a gay bar and asks for a “Caribbean Stallion”, as ordered in ‘Live and Let Die’ by Roger Moore; then Rodney orders half a lager, to which the waiter replies sarcastically: “Reg Varney drank one of them in ‘Holiday on the Buses’.”

  7. WHS

    February 16, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    Blakey calls him “‘Arper” not “Arthur”! The character was called Jack Harper…

  8. Glenn Aylett

    May 11, 2019 at 11:31 am

    Geek fact, the green buses they used were Bristol Lodekkas, where passengers got on at the front rather than the back, but the driver still sat in a closed cab and a conductor took fares. Cumberland Motor Services used these until the early eighties when they were replaced by characterless driver operated buses.

  9. Tom Ronson

    March 31, 2022 at 2:05 am

    Reg Varney had an interesting career, and is, I think, unfairly maligned. During the fifties, he was a huge star on what was left of the music hall and variety circuit, and once passed up a promising newcomer named Peter Sellers (yes, that one) in favour of a chubby aspiring comedian named Alf Hill (later Benny, and arguably the world’s most famous British comedian) to stooge for him on a national tour. He was also a bloody good pianist, and not too shabby as an artist, either – samples of his art can be found online quite easily. He finally became a household name thanks to The Rag Trade and On the Buses. He also turned in an excellent performance in a 1968 ITV play called The Best Pair of Legs in the Business as a failed comedian slogging it out in a low-rent holiday park. He reprised the role in 1973 for a big-screen version, which you can now get on DVD for a couple of quid. It’s not a barrel of laughs, but it captures bleak British holidays perfectly, and he’s great in it. Spent his last years just doing his variety act, tickling the ivories, bit of painting here, bit of writing there… all in the privacy of an enormous house in Budleigh Salterton.

  10. Glenn Aylett

    March 4, 2023 at 1:44 pm

    I watched On The Buses yesterday and for all it’s dated and predictably a big busted clippie in a short skirt gets chatted up by Reg Varney, the show still raises a laugh as the humour is timeless in some ways: two slackers trying to get one over a jobsworth boss and doing as little work as possible. Stephen Lewis as Inspector Blake with his Hitler moustache must be one of the best comic creations of the sixties.

  11. Glenn Aylett

    March 4, 2023 at 1:50 pm

    Reg Varney first became a household name as the foreman in the sixties version of The Rag Trade, where he played someone was the opposite of Stan Butler. Also the revived version of The Rag Trade had Anna Karen revive her role as Olive, where Olive becomes a sewing machinist, but without any mention of her earlier life in On The Buses.
    The actor I feel sorriest for out of the On The Buses gang was Bob Grant. He never found much work after the seventies and struggled with chronic bouts of depression.

  12. Richardpd

    July 9, 2024 at 11:05 pm

    Supposedly there was an idea for a revival in the late 1980s with Stan & Blakey running rival bus companies, being topical due to the deregulation the bus industry.

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