Dad's Army at 40 | How Captain Mainwaring and Sergeant Wilson got called up

'Dad's Army' Audience Response Report

The BBC finds out what the viewers thought of 'Dad's Army'.

BBC ARCHIVE
WRITTEN DOCUMENT 1968

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British Broadcasting Corporation
Confidential
AN AUDIENCE RESEARCH REPORT
(Week 31)

Dad's Army
1: The Man and the Hour
Designers: Alan Hunter-Craig and Paul Joel
Produced by David Croft
Wednesday, 31st July, 1968. 8:20 - 8:50 pm, BBC 1

1. Size of audience (based on results of the Survey of Listening and Viewing).

It is estimated that the audience for this broadcast was 14.2% of the population
of the United Kingdom. Programmes on BBC 2 and ITV at the time were seen by 0.5%
(average) and 19.4%.

2. Reaction of audience (based on questionnaires completed by a sample of the
audience. This sample, 310 in number, is the 14% of
BBC 1 Viewing Panel who saw all or most of the broadcast).

The reactions of this sample of the audience were distributed as follows-
A+ 16%
A 36%
B 53
C 13
C- 2


giving a REACTION INDEX of 63.

5. 'What memories it brought back! I really enjoyed it. We chuckled all the way
through'.

The above is characteristic of the response of over half the reporting sample
who thought this a very promising start to a series whose basic theme had
considerable potentialities for comedy. Its nostalgic appeal for the older
generation goes without saying, but there were also comments to the effect that
its entertainment value was not restricted to those who remembered the Home
Guard, and that in many cases it made excellent family viewing. Authenticity
was vouched for by many. 'Such a true picture of village and small-town
preparations against Hitler; I could almost see the people of my own small
village at that time in the characters', is a comment echoed by others who
confirmed that this first chapter in the adventures of a small Home Guard unit
in Walmington (somewhere on the south coast of Britain) was 'typical of what
went on in those days', or at least 'not so far-fetched as some would think.
Among viewers who could speak from experience, an ex-officer in the Home Guard
commented:

'I found this very good. Although an awful lot of good fun was poked at the Home
Guard, a great deal of it was really true. I look forward to the following
episodes'.

A particularly enthusiastic minority hailed it as 'a winner'; another first-
rate comedy programme' which gave then 'the best laugh for a long while'.


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(Week 31) DAD'S ARMY

4. Roughly one in three were more guarded in their opinions. Although some of
them enjoyed the episode up to a point, even finding it 'quite funny in parts',
there was a feeling that the picture was rather exaggerated and the treatment
'too farcical', with more than a hint of 'taking the mickey out of the Home
Guard', several added. The following are two examples of this particular
objection:

'I enjoyed it, but wondered how those actually in the L.D.V. would feel about
this send-up. We can laugh now, but it was anything but laughable them'.
(Housewife / Schoolgirl during the war)

'Very true to life, but I didn't care for the lampooning of the L.D.V.
Everything in the early days of the war had its funny side, but not buffoonery
like this'. (Book-keeper/former A.T.S)

Others were at best mildly amused by an episode that seemed 'a bit corny', slow,
or disappointingly empty of 'really funny incidents'. There was also a noticeable
dash of scepticism. ('I cannot quite believe that we were so hard up for home
front recruits'; 'rather weak. Quite funny in parts, but a bit of a waste of
time. I mean, fancy giving them pepper to throw in the enemies' eyes!'). To a
small proportion of the sample the episode seemed too far-fetched and absurd to
be at all amusing. This dated, boring stuff was not their idea of comedy, it
seemed, although there were also isolated claims that the theme was potentially
good but had been badly handled.

5. To a minority group the acting seemed on the whole mediocre, at times rather
self-conscious and exaggerated, it was sometimes said, although possibly more the
fault of the script than the cast, (from whom better performances had been
expected, and who were 'worth better material', one or two added). But these
seemed very much minority views, and many had nothing but praise. 'Top marks for
all concerned in this hilarious production' is a comment endorsed by others who
thought all parts splendidly played, particularly the three principals: Arthur
Lowe, (perfectly cast, it was said, as Mainwaring, the Bank Manager who takes
command), John Le Mesurier (as his number two, Sergeant Wilson) and Clive Dunn
(as the local butcher). 'Excellent! with a cast that couldn't be bettered for
this particular series'; 'if the following instalments are as well acted and
true to life as this one, it should be a very good series' are also
representative comments. Settings, costumes ('complete with gas masks!') and
make-up were also exactly right, many noted, and the episode caught the 1940
atmosphere well, with many 'authentic touches' and careful attention to detail.
(As one delighted viewer remarked: 'this play forgot nothing).

Copyright of the BBBC
16th August, 1968
Audience Research Department


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Document Type | Audience Reaction Report

16 August 1968

Document version

Writtenin

1968

Synopsis

The BBC regularly conducts research into what audiences think of its TV and radio programmes. This report from 1968 shows how a sample of viewers responded to the first episode of 'Dad's' Army', called 'The Man and the Hour', from wistful nostalgia to sheer disbelief that it had any basis in reality.

Did you know?

On the day that 'The Man and the Hour' was broadcast, the Beatles' Apple boutique in Baker Street gave away its entire stock to members of the public before closing down for good after just eight months of trading, while Tommy James and the Shondells reached number one in the UK singles chart with 'Mony Mony'.

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