Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads? (BBC1, 1973-1974)
This is one of the most successful sitcoms of the mid-70s, which has been repeated on many occasions since. This was created and written by Clement and La Frenais, a very successful double-act, and this has to be a contender for the peak of their career, which when you consider that they were also behind Porridge, really is an achievement.
Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads? was a sequel to the sitcom The Likely Lads, which ran on BBC2 from 1964-1966, and caused something of a stir at the time. This would deal with more serious themes than most sitcoms, there would be no vicars falling over round here. We followed the lives of Terry and Bob, two friends who live in the northeast of England.
Despite being in their early-20s, they try to be realistic, and are beginning to ponder where their lives are going, usually down the pub. The only other regular cast member is Terry’s sister Audrey. This did very well with viewers, but seemingly came to an end when Terry and Bob both decided to join the army, but only Terry was accepted, meaning that they went their separate ways.
By the time of the sequel, almost seven years had passed. What became of the people they used to be, wondered viewers, possibly. Well it was time to find out. Terry finally returns home, and meets Bob for the first time since his departure. But there have been many changes in his life, and he is now planning to marry Thelma. Can things ever be the same again?
A year after the TV version ended, there was a series on the radio, and then another year on from that, there was a film version, but this was considered to be rather inferior to the TV series, the formula had become strained, and things seemed to end on a rather disappointing note. But the story didn’t actually end there, as there was going to be one final unusual twist.
By the early-2000s, Ant and Dec were becoming a popular hosting duo on ITV, and some felt that it could be a good idea to give them the leading roles in a sitcom, because they seemed to have enough charm and wit to achieve this. But of course, they are from the northeast, so why not do a remake of The Likely Lads that they can star in, it’s such an obvious idea.
It was decided to do a one-off special that was called A Tribute To The Likely Lads, and a famous episode from 1973 would be reworked, where they desperately try and avoid discovering the result of an England football match. But this wasn’t very successful though, with their efforts coming off second best, and the idea hasn’t been returned to since. The repeat runs continue though, and all of the episodes have been released on DVD.