Sitcom. Even better sequel to The Likely Lads. Back in the times when men were men and shirts were brushed nylon, Terry and Bob were trying to make sense of 1970s Britain. Not surprisingly, it often seemed to make the most sense when viewed from within the safety of a pub. The lads are now older but certainly not wiser. Bob is now a rising executive on the verge of marriage to childhood sweetheart Thelma. Terry, following a spell in the army based in Germany, hasn’t changed and is proud of his working classness.
In Terry and Bob, writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais created down-to-earth characters who also reflected the rapidly changing social climate. And they liked a drink. And they were funny. As the series opens, it’s 1973 and Terry’s just back from a long spell in the army. He bumps into his old mate, Bob. They used to have a laugh in the old days but Bob seems different somehow…
The whole of the first season moves towards Bob and Thelma’s wedding whilst the second sees them uneasily settling into domesticity. The dialogue is consistently superb as are the performances, a big screen movie was made in 1976 which was pretty much a remake of the first few episodes with Terry returning home once more and having trouble settling into society. There was also a 13 episode radio version broadcast in 1975 which reworked original scripts.
With a friend like Terry you don’t need enemies. The man’s a born trouble-magnet. What’s more, he has an unerring knack of dragging the gentler, more cautious Bob into his hopeless schemes and hair-raising scrapes. For Terry, life is still all about booze, birds and football. But that doesn’t mean he’s not as sharp as a knife. James Bolam’s driven portrayal of Terry’s skewed Geordie world-view remains one of the greatest comic creations on British television. Bolam went on to star in countless TV productions, including When the Boat Comes In and, more recently, the crime drama, New Tricks.
Always more ambitious than Terry, Bob worked hard while his friend was in the army and now has a white-collar job. He’s also engaged to his boss’s daughter, Thelma (Brigit Forsyth), whose bourgeois preoccupations horrify Terry. But Bob loves Thelma and endures terrible anguish as he’s torn between her and his old mate. Sporting a truly awful 1970s haircut and a succession of equally dodgy suits, the soft-featured Rodney Bewes conveyed Bob’s inner turmoil perfectly. Bewes was the ideal foil for Bolam, although their relationship wasn’t always plain sailing. Bewes has worked mainly in the theatre since Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads but has said publicly that he’d consider making another series. Bolam, however, is understood to be reluctant to revisit the part of Terry.
A likely story
As mentioned before Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads had its origins in a much earlier black and white sitcom, The Likely Lads, which followed the fortunes of Terry and Bob as callow young factory workers. It seems surprising now, but Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais’s naturalistic style and earthy dialogue were groundbreaking features when The Likely Lads was first broadcast in 1964. So was the use of “straight” actors like Bolam and Bewes. Until the mid-60s, the fashion had been to cast established comedians in sitcoms. The public warmed to Terry and Bob’s energetic but haphazard attempts to get to grips with the world and the programme became a hit. As The Likely Lads drew to a close, Bob signed up to join the army and see the world. Terry, appalled at the prospect of coping with life alone, reluctantly enlisted with him. But, in a twist of fate, Bob was rejected because of flat feet and Terry had to join the army on his own.
Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais co-wrote the first script for The Likely Lads while Clement was still training at the BBC. The immense success of both Likely Lads shows made the pair as scriptwriters and they’ve never looked back. They have a long line of impressive credits, including the hugely popular sitcom, Porridge, and the warmly received 1991 movie, The Commitments. The catchy, poignant theme tune of Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads became a minor Top 40 hit off the back of the sitcom’s success. “What Happened to You?” was co-written by Ian La Frenais and former Manfred Mann member Mike Hugg.
Haway the new lads
The best Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads script is generally reckoned to be February 1973’s No Hiding Place, in which Terry and Bob are trying to avoid hearing a crucial football result. In 2002, Ant and Dec starred in a remake of the episode, entitled A Tribute to the Likely Lads. The spoof featured a cameo appearance by Rodney Bewes.
UK / BBC-1 / 26×30 Minute Episodes 1×45 minute episode / Broadcast 9 January 1973 – 24 December 1974
Writers: Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais / Producers: James Gilbert, Bernard Thompson / Theme Music: Mike Hugg, Ian La Frenais / Incidental Music: Ronnie Hazlehurst
James Bolam as Terry Collier
Rodney Bewes as Bob Ferris
Brigit Forsyth as Thelma
Sheila Fearn as Audrey
SEASON ONE 9 January – 3 April 1973
1. STRANGERS ON A TRAIN
2. HOME IS THE HERO
3. COLD FEET
4. MOVING ON
5. I’LL NEVER FORGET WHATSHERNAME
6. BIRTHDAY BOY
7. NO HIDING PLACE
8. GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER?
9. STORM IN A TEA CHEST
10. THE OLD MAGIC
11. COUNT DOWN
12. BOYS NIGHT IN
13. END OF AN ERA
SEASON TWO 1 January – 9 April 1974
1. ABSENT FRIENDS
2. HEART TO HEART
3. THE ANT AND THE GRASSHOPPER
4. ONE FOR THE ROAD
5. THE GREAT RACE
6. SOME DAY WE’LL LAUGH ABOUT THIS
7. IN HARM’S WAY
8. AFFAIRS AND RELATIONS
9. THE EXPERT
10. BETWEEN OURSELVES
11. THE GO-BETWEEN
12. CONDUCT UNBECOMING
13. THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME
CHRISTMAS SPECIAL 24 December 1974
THE LIKELY LADS: A SPECIAL CHRISTMAS EDITION
PLUS THE MOVIE RELEASED IN 1976