I grew up during a time of great television sit coms. Dad’s Army, Fawlty Towers, Steptoe and Son, Love Thy Neighbour, On the Buses – oh hang on, not all of them were great, especially not the shockingly racist Love They Neighbour or the toe-curlingly sexist On the Buses where one of the big jokes was the alleged ugliness of one of the, obviously female, characters. Apart from the odd exception – Jim Davidson’s Up the Elephant Round the Castle was another odd exception – there was some decent stuff about and the decent stuff is still funny today. But for me, the best series of them all was Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads. Rodney Bewes and James Bolam’s Bob and Terry was a masterpiece of wit and a microcosm of society. The acting was as good as the writing – how could it be otherwise with Dick Clement and Ian Le Frenais writing the scripts? – and it was infinitely better and funnier that the original Likely Lads. Can’t we bring it back?
The first Likely Lads was in the 1960s when Bob and Terry were just that: likely lads. Bob, the slightly stuffy, sensible, awkward one, Terry the scallywag, the loveable loafer It was an incredible combination. In the 1970s, Terry had left the army and was still a drifter, Bob had married ever so domineering Thelma, who hated Terry. But the magic between them still leapt out from the screen.
Bewes is in a show in Edinburgh until the end of August called Whatever Happened to the Likely Lad where he tells the story, presumably, of himself and Bolam. And reveals they have not spoken in over 40 years. I think it’s time they spoke again.
We have seen Bob and Terry as youngsters and then when Bob was trying to settle down. How about a series about Bob and Terry in their dotage? Retired from work, if Terry actually worked at all, going to the pub, talking about the old days, bumping into the characters of their youth. So far as I can tell, the writers and Bewes would make a new series in a heartbeat. The man who doesn’t want is Bolam. I can understand that. He’s been there before, he doesn’t get on with Bewes. Let sleeping dogs lie and all that. But what about us, the viewers, who are owed nothing by the Likely Lads? Can’t you guys just get it together to complete the story? Surely it would be the final act of the trilogy, the Newcastle circle of life?
It is unlikely that any of the show’s protagonists will read my plea, but if you bump into either of the Likely Lads, please tell them to have one more go before it’s too late?