Keeping Up Appearances TV Poster Image

Keeping Up Appearances

Superb British comedy classic skewers snobbery.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The show explores family dynamics and various social relationships in an extreme and intentionally funny way, and there are themes of prejudice that are dealt with equally comically and to no one's detriment. Although Hyacinth's efforts never result in the high status she wants, they do illustrate (to viewers, not to her) a few other life truths, including reminders that money and status don't ensure happiness. Ultimately the show celebrates the enduring and inexplicable bond within families and among friends, that allows us to accept the worst of someone else and love him or her anyway.

Positive role models

Hyacinth's quest for social status is a drain on everyone around her, but her intentions aren't detrimental to anyone or anything except her neighbors' patience. The others mostly tolerate her crazy schemes for the sake of her feelings, even when it's an inconvenience to them, and to her credit, she proves to be supportive of them when it's needed. On the upside, she's a strong-willed, self-assured woman who sees what she wants and makes every effort to achieve it. A few characters are noticeably negative, including a lazy, overweight couple who drink and eat a lot, and a man-crazy woman who dresses to turn heads, but these characteristics are always played for laughs.


Some scenes imply that in the heat of arguments, a husband and wife throw things at each other and make threats with knives, but it's not shown.


Little physical contact beyond kissing and hugging, but there are often references to making love between established couples. A recurring character is a promiscuous middle-aged woman who dresses provocatively, makes suggestive comments, and alludes to sexual encounters with multiple men.


Rarely "hell."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Onslow is rarely seen without a beer in his hand, which likely contributes to his chronic unemployment and sluggish lifestyle. Other characters drink, too, but in smaller quantities and with less fallout.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Keeping Up Appearances is an acclaimed British comedy about an overbearing woman on an unrelenting quest to further her social standing, which usually results in frustration for her family and friends. It's typical British comedy in that it comprises a cast of quirky characters who often rub each other wrong but who superficially tolerate their relationships just the same. The full effect of its humor will escape all but the older teen crowd, who should be fine with its occasional language ("hell," mostly) and references to sexuality among adults. Expect references to marital discord, divorce, an elderly character's senility, and other mature topics, all of which are meant to be funny rather than concerning.

What's the story?

KEEPING UP APPEARANCES centers on Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced "Bouquet," per her request) (Patricia Routledge), a snobbish middle-aged Englishwoman on a lifelong quest to escape her working-class background and ascend the social ladder by impressing people of wealth and status. To this end, she often hosts elegant dinner parties and imposes herself on high-society people, usually involving her long-suffering but compliant husband, Richard (Clive Swift), in her efforts to separate herself from her less-refined relatives, sisters Daisy (Judy Cornwell) and Rose (Mary Millar), and Daisy's sluggish husband, Onslow (Geoffrey Hughes). On the other hand, her privileged sister Violet's (Anna Dawson) lifestyle is more to Hyacinth's liking, despite her contentious marriage. By sheer proximity and despite their best efforts otherwise, Hyacinth and Richard's neighbor Elizabeth (Josephine Tewson) and her brother, Emmet (David Griffin), are usually pulled into the chaos as well.

Is it any good?


A self-important social diva with designs on accelerated status. A group of followers who just can't say "no" to her, despite the fact that her plans usually leave them in shambles. An impossibly severe differentiation between the "cool" people and those whose association is the equivalent of social suicide. If Keeping Up Appearances was written about, say, a teenage girl, its message would be altogether different, but because it's rooted in English propriety and niceties, the effect is a hilarious commentary on status and social graces. It's no wonder that Routledge's performance garnered two BAFTA nominations and a British Comedy Award, given her spot-on portrayal of the single-minded, self-absorbed, but nonetheless lovable Hyacinth.

Because this series is in keeping with the style and structure of British comedy, it will be an acquired taste for some adults and likely not a hit among the teen crowd. If yours do take a liking to it, know that topics like sexuality and marital unrest are fair game, as are some fairly loose stereotypes about socioeconomics and promiscuity. For adults, though, an exceptional cast and riotous slapstick comedy make Keeping Up Appearances a true delight.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what the show has to say about status. Is social standing something we can change with effort? If so, what factors play into it? Do you think it's worth the effort? Are there privileges to being at the top of the social ladder? Are there drawbacks?

  • Teens: In your experience, would Hyacinth's treatment of her family and friends fly in the real world? Why do they tolerate her behavior? How does it compare to bullying? Are there any tangible rewards to following suit when someone acts like she does?

  • How does British comedy differ from the American brand of it? Is there any type of content that's more prevalent or obviously absent from this show that is common to American sitcoms? How is the issue of sexuality handled in this series? In what ways does entertainment reflect the culture from which it's created?

TV details

Premiere date:October 29, 1990
Cast:Clive Swift, Judy Cornwell, Patricia Routledge
Networks:BBC America, PBS
Topics:Brothers and sisters
TV rating:NR
Available on:DVD, Streaming

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Teen, 13 years old Written byABCand123 September 29, 2014


What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 13 years old Written byanneperson January 18, 2014

Great for 8 and up

I've been watching this show since I was 5 years old, but I didn't get a lot of the jokes then. Great for all ages, but some adult content.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Parent Written byNikki M. October 1, 2016

Lol is all I can say

I've watched this show since I was 15. I'm 35 now! Pure genius. She keeps you laughing trying to hide her family, and make people think she has so much. lol hilarious
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models