Classic TV Revisited: The Likely Lads

James Bolam and Rodney Bewes starred in wily, gritty 1960’s sitcom The Likely Lads about two working-class, Northern lads who liked beer, birds and football. It’s widely regarded as a comedy classic and was worthy of a follow-up in the ’70s with the even better Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads?

What was so good about it?
Quality humour and the cast drank real beer. Also set outside London.

Who were The Likely Lads?
Terry Collier (James Bolam) and Bob Ferris (Rodney Bewes). Terry was the irresponsible one, while straight-laced Bob had career ambitions and hoped to escape his working-class roots.

What inspired the show?
The series, which ran from 1965 to 1969, originated from a sketch Dick Clement wrote with pal Ian La Frenais for his BBC director’s course. It was about two young electrical workers in Northumberland.

What was it about?
Being a pair of lads, beer and birds were the duo’s great passions. The pursuit of females always landed them in trouble, but not the nasty, behind bars kind.

So were they likely, or even likeable?
Neither seemed likely to succeed. Terry appeared resigned to a life of moaning and propping up bars. Bob had ambitions but always came across as rather timid, a bit of a mummy’s boy.Together they had a certain charm, probably good company for a boozy night out.

How laddish were they?
These boys were thoroughbreds. The actors even drank real beer on the set. Rodney Bewes, who played Bob, has recalled downing nine pints during one day’s shoot.

Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.