I CONFESS to being a big fan of Last Of The Summer Wine.

This is partly because it is set in Holmfirth and filmed in the villages of the Holme and Colne Valleys.

"Ooh, look. That's the Wills o' Nats at Meltham."

It is also because familiarity has bred great affection: Summer Wine is the world's longest running television comedy series and the very first Comedy Playhouse episode was broadcast 31 years ago this month.

For many of us, it's like Coronation Street - we have grown up with it.

And the main reasons it has lasted is the marvellous writing of Roy Clarke and the strength and depth of its characters.

But can you imagine the reaction when Mr Clarke put forward his idea?

"It's about three retired blokes who have nothing to do. In Yorkshire."

Sounds promising.

No sex, violence or car chases.

Just three old codgers mooching around discussing the price of fish and Compo's love affair with ferrets and bookmakers.

But it worked wonderfully well and has legions of faithful fans across the country.

What I didn't realise, was that it has legions of faithful fans across the world, and particularly in America.

Just take a look at the Summer Wine message board on the Examiner website.

Wilma from Bigelow, Arizona says: "LOTSW is one of the few shows that I can watch with my children, grandchildren and greatgrandchildren and not be ashamed of the content or language.

"I hope and pray that it will be around for a long, long time."

Jim Slater from Scranton, Pennsylvania says: "I watch the show everyday and love it. I have recorded like almost 200 shows - some twice. It's great."

Nell from Spring, Texas says: "I agree with most fellow Americans that the episodes broadcast leave one hungry for more.

"I am so grateful for the good, clean, charming fun of these programmes and cannot understand why BBC America isn't showing the series in its entirety.

"It would be a pleasant change from the sex and scandal that clogs the airwaves."

Renee Backer from Salt Lake City, Utah says: "My first visit to England was one month before 9-11 and the world changed. But I want to go back in 2005 and I want to drive to see where you make your great show.

"I started to watch the series first because the scenery was so beautiful and then I began to love the characters. In the cold mountains of Salt Lake City, we love your show."

Jim from Tucson says: "Would that some of the trash writers in the US would learn to write hilarious sitcoms and get rid of the juvenile actors that flood the American tubes. LOFTSW could teach them something."

Johnnie Lee Scott from Richlands, North Carolina says: "LOTSW is one of the best programmes ever on TV. It reminds me of the people who live in most small places.

"I remember how older people hung around the store and sat on benches and enjoyed each other in past times. Please keep it going. We all need their way of life, if only for once a week."

Steve from Salt Lake City says: "This is such a superb comedy that touches all of our hearts. The superb acting from the cast is outstanding. I never get tired of watching."

And Rhonda Baker from St Francisville, Louisiana says: "I have only recently found LOTSW. These are folks I would like to meet and get to know better. They seem to be people who would make good friends."

Which is exactly what they are to millions who watch them, year in and year out.

Ordinary, decent, slightly daft, idiosyncratic, sometimes aggravating and loveable folk who seem real because we know people just like them.

As Ron Jones from Australia says: "Why don't we all vote for Last Of The Summer Wine instead of politicians? I'm sure they'd do a better job."

Which is a thought.

Howard in charge of Home Affairs (just don't let Pearl find out), Marina in charge of Foreign Affairs (anywhere outside Yorkshire) and Clegg as Minister for Indecision.

Norah Batty would, of course, be Prime Minister. Which would solve the problem of what to put on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. Norah would opt for a statue of Compo. And a large percentage of the nation would probably agree.