The Likely Lads (1976)
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Must more licence-payers money be thrown at a seamless line of Antique / Boot Sale / Move to the country / Flog it / DIY / Cookery programmes? To say nothing of those awfully bad sensationalist fly-on-the-wall 'Reality' programmes which only serve to provide a stage for and inevitably generate yet more moronic and talentless 'wannabes'.
I recently met up with an old work colleague after 30 years and it's been great - please let Bob Ferris and Terry Collier do the same.
As both would now be heading down the retirement road, a nice twist would be Terry having finally turned out to be the more successful of the two whilst Bob (& Thelma's) fortunes have stagnated on the Elm Lodge Housing Estate courtesy of occupational pensions that didn't live up to their expectations.
They could meet at an airport ......having recently sold his string of Costa Del Sol bars, a flush, sun-tanned Terry returns and literally bumps into Bob re-stocking vending machines in the airport lounge "I do this part-time purely to keep active, you understand, kidder" Come on..MAKE IT HAPPEN FOR A NATION CRYING OUT FOR A DECENT SIT-COM....I've started it off, all you've got to do is carry it on.
Plot sees lifelong friends Bob Ferris (Bewes) and Terry Collier (Bolam) finding that times are a changing very fast. When the street where they grew up starts to be demolished, the pair feel the pangs of nostalgia more than most, even bringing the onset of a sort of mid-life crisis. Bob has to face life in the normality of a marriage to the no nonsense Thelma (Brigit Forsyth), and Terry, recently divorced, takes on a new girlfriend whilst firmly ensconced at his parents high rise flat. When Thelma sees that Terry, once the bane of her relationship with Bob, is going steady and happy with Christina (Mary Tamm), she plans a caravan holiday for the four of them .Which surely will not go as planned?
Although taking the title of the first show that ran on British TV between 1964 and 1966, this film spin off is closer in tone to the sequel show, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? During the 70's, Britain was awash with situation comedies, many of which had the obligatory film spin off. Sadly, very few of them were any good, bogged down by trying to extend a half hour comedy formula into three times the running time. The Likely Lads movie is one of the rare successes, mainly because the writers were so in tune with the times, they were able to plant the much loved characters in the 70's time frame and involve the comedy as such. Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? Always carried an air of melancholy about it, but the comedy was still rich and prominent, so it be with this film version.
Bewes and Bolam were an excellent partnership, where Bob is a snob in waiting, borderline henpecked one at that, Terry is the slob, the boozy cynic always dragging Bob back to reality. But their bond is born from the days of hard drinking and chasing women, they hanker for those days again, it's almost as if they refuse to accept they are getting a bit too long in the tooth for such antics now. Here in the film, Clement and La Frenais play on this with much reward, you see, the modern world has not just caught them up, it's also winning the race between them. The answer is simple, take a holiday. But of course this too will be one for the miserablists to bemoan, it's a classic British holiday, small caravan, pouring rain, chance of nooky? Zero. Chance of great comedy? Very high.
The plot doesn't in truth quite cover the 90 minute run time, but there's enough here to warrant it being called one of the better film spin offs from the 70's. Great acting, not just the boys, Forsyth always a revelation, and writing as crisp as a winters day. God bless those Geordie boys. 8/10
As a sitcom spin off, one of the best, but not quite as good as the television series as predictably it involved a holiday that goes wrong( typical of the genre) and would have been made better with the presence of Bill Owen as Thelma's dad and wisecracking Podge Rowley. However, Lads still makes me laugh as the characterisations stay true to the television series and the melancholy humour that was present in the sitcom is even stronger on here, with the lads harking back to the past ansd the miserable weather making the humour more bitter. Also Terry seems to have mellowed during the film, the aggressive politicised character from the sitcom has seemed to have settled down with a job as a sales executive( in reality selling washing powder from a van), but true to form he loses his job during the film.
The Likely Lads isn't a comedy great, like all sitcom spin offs it has its slow bits, but this is more than made up for by the top quality acting by James Bolam and Rodney Bewes and some hilarious scenes such as Bob and Terry's visit to a guesthouse and the end scene where Bob ends up on a tanker going to Bahrain.