I loved this television comedy series from the 70s, broadcast on BBC television. There were only two series of ‘Whatever…’ but there had been a series before that called ‘The Likely Lads’. I was too young to see that so only knew the characters Terry and Bob through the later version.
Set in Newcastle, the series was about two friends who took different paths in life but maintained a friendship. As was the way with 70s sit-coms, the comedy came from the pretensions of Bob, the aspiring middle class one, and Terry’s down to earth views on his friends new place in the social order. The first series started with Terry returning to Newcastle from the army. Bob is about to marry Thelma, someone who isn’t keen on any continuing friendship with the uncouth Terry.
The series were broadcast between 1973 and 1974. There had been about a six year gap between ‘The Likely Lads’ and the return to see what had happened to Terry and Bob. Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais were the writers of both versions. I also liked the theme tune called ‘Whatever Happened to You’ which was co- written by La Frenais. James Bolam played Terry and Rodney Bewes played Bob. Brigit Forsyth was Thelma.
The programme had a strong theme of nostalgia for lost youth which appealed to me when I was young. Looking back, that seems odd- and the characters themselves were not that old. They were, though, on the cusp of settling down to mortgage and marriage so perhaps that is the rite of passage that set off the nostalgia.
‘Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?’ is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?
The final scene of this film moved me when I was a child. It all seems a little sentimental now but the moment when Ted Ray stepped out to face his pupils who had wrecked his chance of promotion to prevent him from leaving them is one of my all time favourite film moments.
I was a fan of the early Carry On films. This 1959 film was the third in the series that eventually totalled thirty-one. I saw it on British television in the 60s since it was released in cinemas before I was born! The black and white story of an ambitious headteacher who sees the arrival of inspectors as his opportunity to snatch the headship of a brand new school is a good one.
Two of his pupils overhear him telling a teacher that, should he get the job, there will be opportunities for others. They decide that the only way to keep their headteacher is to ensure the inspection is a disaster and they enlist their friends to make sure it is. The comedy comes from the thwarted efforts of the head to impress and the inability of the teachers to cope with the breakdown of order.
In the current British education system the inspectorate is a malign growth and there is little to amuse there but this is from a kinder age and the story leads to the final scene which I loved as a boy.
The ‘Carry On’ films continued into the 60s and 70s and I loved most of them until the bawdy humour became distasteful. Kenneth Williams, Hattie Jacques and Charles Hawtry were favourites of mine but, in this film, Ted Ray was the star. It was his only ‘Carry on’ role.
‘Carry On Teacher’ is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?
I have been thinking recently about the 80s and how it felt for the whole of that decade to feel politically adrift of the mainstream view in this country. One thing that kept up my spirits, apart from all the campaigning I did, was the radio comedy programme broadcast every Friday in a late night slot on Radio 4. Before the days of catch- up and download, it was essential listening.
The show consisted of satirical sketches, mostly mocking the government and senior politicians of all parties and always topical. Apparently, it was written and recorded very close to broadcast.
Bill Wallis, a great character actor, had the most distinctive voice and, along with Sally Grace and David Tate, is the audio memory I have when I think of the programme. It ran from the 70s until the late 90s but I remember it from the 80s when I was a keen listener.
Poking fun at politicians is a healthy thing but seemed necessary to me back then when the values I subscribed to seemed unwelcome in a right-wing Britain. I was glad of ‘Week Ending’ and remember it fondly.