Last of the Summer Wine is a "Britcom", or British sitcom, which has run longer than any other British comedy series, now in its twenty-third series. Set in and around Holmfirth, Yorkshire, the series centers around the adventures of three elderly, unmarried friends: Norman Clegg (Peter Sallis), "Cleggy", shy and self-effacing; and Compo Simmonite, sly and amorous towards one of the women, Nora Batty (Bill Owen, who was replaced on his death by his son Tom Owen, playing Compo's son), and a third member, who varied through the series. The original third member was Cyril Blamire (Michael Bates), then Foggy Dewhurst (Brian Wilde), pompous and boastful, then Seymour Utterthwaite (Michael Aldridge), then Truly Truelove (Frank Thornton).
A spin-off series, First of the Summer Wine, used different actors to follow the exploits of the main characters in their youth.
Important regular sub-plots in Last of the Summer Wine revolve around Howard's love affair with Marina; discussions of the women's informal group: Nora, Ivy, Pearl, Edie and Glenda Compo's pursuit of Nora (in later episodes, after Wally Batty is no longer on the scene); Aunty Wainwright's machinations to sell her merchandise, and Eli's gaffes.
At various times, Auntie Wainwright mentions that both Howard and Smiler are relatives of hers, but she never specifies how.
This show was very unusual for its large regular cast:
- Norman Clegg (Peter Sallis)
- Compo Simmonite (Bill Owen*)
- The third member of the trio:
- Cyril Blamire (Michael Bates*)
- Foggy Dewhurst (Brian Wilde)
- Seymour Utterthwaite (Michael Aldridge)
- Truly Truelove (Frank Thornton)
- Nora Batty (Kathy Staff), Compo's love interest (especially after Wally's death)
- Wally Batty (Joe Gladwin*), Nora's husband (in early episodes)
- Howard (Robert Fyfe), henpecked husband, and lover of Marina
- Pearl (Juliet Kaplan), Walter's long-suffering wife and a bit of a shrew
- Marina (Jean Fergusson), flashy but overage, Walter's love interest
- Aunty Wainwright (Jean Alexander), sly and grasping everything-store owner
- Sid (John Comer*), bluff tea-shop owner (in early episodes)
- Ivy (Jane Freeman), joint owner of tea-shop with husband Sid
- Edie Pegden (Dame Thora Hird*), highly opinionated older woman
- Wesley Pegden (Gordon Wharmby), Edie's husband, who spends all his time in his workshop
- Glenda Wilkinson (Sarah Thomas), daughter of Edie and Wesley
- Barry Wilkinson (Mike Grady), hen-pecked husband of Glenda (only occasionally seen)
- Smiler (Stephen Lewis), sour and not-too-bright comic foil
- Eli Duckett (Danny O'Dea), extremely near-sighted bumbler
- Tom Simmonite (Tom Owen), Compo's son on the show and in real life
- Policemen (Ken Kitson and Tony Capstick), recurring characters
- Barman (only occasionally seen)