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The Likely Lads

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6.6/10 TV

Original language(s)  English
No. of episodes  20 produced, 12 'lost'
First episode date  16 December 1964
7/10 IMDb

Country of origin  England
No. of series  3
Producer(s)  Dick Clement
Original network  BBC2
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Starring  James Bolam Rodney Bewes Sheila Fearn
Followed by  Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?
Cast  Rodney Bewes, James Bolam, Sheila Fearn, Wendy Richard

The Likely Lads is an English sitcom created and written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, and produced by Dick Clement. Twenty episodes were broadcast by the BBC, in three series, between 16 December 1964 and 23 July 1966. However, only eight of these episodes have survived. The sitcom was set in Newcastle upon Tyne, North East England.

Contents

This show was followed by a popular sequel series, in colour, entitled Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?, broadcast between 9 January 1973 and 24 December 1974. This was followed in 1976 by a spin-off feature film The Likely Lads.

Some episodes of both the original black and white series and the colour sequel were adapted for radio, with the original television cast.

Premise

The original show followed the friendship of two young working class men, Terry Collier (James Bolam) and Bob Ferris (Rodney Bewes), in Newcastle upon Tyne in the mid 1960s. Bob and Terry are assumed to be in their early 20s (when their ages are revealed in the later film, this puts both characters at around 20 when the series started).

After growing up at school and in the Scouts together, Bob and Terry are working in the same factory, Ellison's Electrical, alongside the older, wiser duo of Cloughie and Jack. The show's gritty yet verbose humour derived largely from the tensions between Terry's cynical, everyman, working class personality and Bob's ambition to better himself and move to the middle class.

Bob and Terry were two average working class lads growing up in the industrial North East, whose hobbies were beer, football and girls. They were canny, which is to say street-wise, yet they stumbled into one scrape after another as they struggled to enjoy the Swinging Sixties on their meagre incomes.

At the end of the third and final series in 1966, a depressed and bored Bob attempted to join the Army but was rejected because of his flat feet. Terry, who decided at the last minute to enlist to keep Bob company, was accepted A1 and shipped away for three years.

It was gradually revealed that Terry and Bob's full names were Terence Daniel Collier and Robert Andrew Scarborough Ferris (Scarborough not revealed until the 1970s colour series). According to the later feature film, made in 1976, both Lads were conceived during the same wartime air raid and were thus born in the same year, 1944.

Although in the colour sequel much was made of Thelma, who was said to have been Bob's childhood sweetheart, she appeared only once in the original show, in which Bob had no steady girlfriend and was forever "chasing skirt", though she was mentioned in some episodes in series three, including "Rocker" and "Goodbye to All That".

The word "likely" in the show's title is somewhat ambiguous. In some dialects in Northern England it means "likeable" but it may be derived from the phrase the man most likely to, a boxing expression in common use on Tyneside, hence, in Geordie slang, "a likely lad". Another possible meaning is the ambiguous Northern usage of "likely" to mean a small-time troublemaker.

Cast

  • James Bolam (Terry Collier)
  • Rodney Bewes (Bob Ferris)
  • Brigit Forsyth (Thelma Chambers)
  • Sheila Fearn (Audrey Collier: Terry's older sister)
  • Bartlett Mullins (Mr Clough: Cloughie to the Lads, a colleague)
  • Don McKillop (Jack: Another colleague of the Lads)
  • Olive Milbourn (Mrs Collier: Terry and Audrey's mother)
  • Alex McDonald (Mr Collier: Terry and Audrey's dad)
  • Richard Moore (Blakey)
  • Mark Lightfoot (boy in yellow top in the opening scene)
  • Guest stars

  • George Layton in "The Suitor" and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?"
  • Garfield Morgan in "Chance of a Lifetime"
  • Wendy Richard in "The Last of the Big Spenders"
  • Susan Jameson (the real-life wife of James Bolam) in "Double Date".
  • Michael Sheard in "Other Side of the Fence" and "The Last of the Big Spenders".
  • Nerys Hughes in "Outward Bound"
  • Geoffrey Hughes in "The Razor's Edge" and "Love and Marriage"
  • Helen Fraser in "Talk Of The Town" and "Love and Marriage"
  • Irene Richmond (Mrs Ferris: Bob's mother) in "Talk Of The Town", "The Razor's Edge" and "Goodbye To All That"
  • Tony Caunter in "Goodbye To All That"
  • Episodes

    Only eight episodes survive on film in the BBC's archives, as a result of its wiping policy of the 1960s. However, the BBC Archive Treasure Hunt, a public campaign, continues to search for missing episodes.

    Christmas Night with the Stars

    Additionally, an eight-minute episode of The Likely Lads was broadcast on 25 December 1964, as part of a 90-minute Christmas Day special on BBC 1 called Christmas Night with the Stars 7.15pm to 8.45pm, in which Bob and Terry have an argument over Bob's encyclopaedic knowledge of 'Rupert the Bear' Annuals ("It was Edward Trunk!"). This recording still exists in the BBC's film & videotape archive. An edited version, which included 'The Likely Lads' sketch, was screened on BBC2 over Christmas 1991.

    Radio adaptations

    Sixteen of the television scripts were adapted for radio by James Bolam, and broadcast in two series during 1967 and 1968.

    Produced by John Browell, the radio adaptations were recorded at the Paris Studios in Lower Regent Street, London using the original television cast (although some minor parts had to be recast for some episodes, where the original actor was unavailable).

    DVD releases

    In a recent DVD release, only seven of the eight extant episodes were included, in spite of the cover stating that it contained all the surviving episodes. The eighth episode (Other Side of the Fence) was included on the Likely Lads and Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads? combined box set, as an 'extra' rather than in chronological order.

    References

    The Likely Lads Wikipedia


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