The first series was broadcast in black and white in 1969, and the show eventually ran until 1973. Eventually, On the Buses would be both celebrated and reviled for its leery, pre-feminist sauciness, and for the exasperated gurning of Lewis' little Hitler-esque inspector. The first series in particular, however, is more keen to develop the theme of Stan as Mummy's boy, with Lewis only a secondary character. Much of the comedy derives from gender role reversal--Stan and Arthur forced to do the household chores when Olive and Mum fall ill ("Family Flu"); "The Canteen", in which the busmen decide to run the canteen themselves; or "The Darts Match", in which Stan and Jack are bested at darts by--imagine--a pair of dollybird clippies.
Despite its immense popularity, On the Buses hasn't dated well. Like the buses themselves, the jokes don't arrive very often and when they do, they're visible a long way off. The studio audience whoops cathartically at anything remotely alluding to sex--even a bared male nipple--making you wonder at the repressed nature of British society in 1969. In later decades it would come to be treasured as somewhat creaky kitsch by audiences nostalgic for an age of politically incorrect innocence.
On the DVD: On the Buses has no extra features here. The original black and white versions have scrubbed up reasonably well, although defects such as fading sound and poor dubbing have proven beyond amendment. --David Stubbs
Series One - Episodes 1 to 3 : The Early Shift, The New Conductor, Olive Takes A Trip
Series One - Episodes 4 to 7 : Bus Drivers' Stomach, The New Inspector, The Canteen, The Darts Match
Series Two - Episodes 1 to 3 : Family Flu, The Used Combination, Self-Defence
Series Two - Episodes 4 to 6 : Aunt Maud, Late Again, Bon Voyage
Video Aspect Ratio : 4:3
Main Soundtrack: English Mono