|Last Of The Summer Wine character|
|Last||A Brief Excursion in the Fast Lane|
(1987–2002) An extremely short-sighted bumbler, Eli maintains a highly cheerful, friendly attitude despite not having a clue what's going on around him. He generally makes only brief cameo appearances, walking into a scene and commenting on his near-sighted interpretation of the action, and then walking off again. On occasion, his short-sightedness would see him walking into slapstick (and carefully choreographed) mishaps such as walking into the back of a lorry and over the tops of cars, or falling into a skip. For much of his time in the series, Eli also had a Jack Russell dog (which once went missing, leading Eli to mistake a sheep for the dog). Despite his short-sightedness, Eli is eternally cheerful and optimistic, and glad to see anyone who stops to talk to him. In one episode, a passing comment by Compo seemed to suggest that Eli was a sniper during WWII.
In the 1995 New Year Special episode featuring Norman Wisdom, 'The Man Who Nearly Knew Pavarotti', Eli is the conductor of the Holme Silver Band. Originally brought in as a friend of Wally Batty, the character was popular enough that Eli remained on the show after the death of actor Joe Gladwin. Eli and Wally appeared together in only one episode: "Jaws" in 1987.
Eli has not appeared again since the death of O'Dea, though the character has not been explicitly killed off. In the rest of the 2002 series, Eli was not present. His place of sorts was taken by two drunks (who were also in earlier episodes of the series, sometimes credited as Villagers), but only appeared in a few episodes.
In the 1988 episode "The Pig Man Cometh" of All Creatures Great and Small O'Dea played the character Rupe who, like Eli, was nearsighted, clearly alluding to his role on Last of the Summer Wine.