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28 October 2014

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The Likely Lads

James Bolam and Rodney Bewes

One of the most celebrated of British sitcoms, The Likely Lads started life out of expediency.

Taking a BBC course in directing for television, Dick Clement was tasked with making a short production using one studio and a £100 budget. Stuck for an idea, he turned to drinking companion Ian La Frenais, and the duo worked up a notion they'd originally conceived as a comedy skit for the BBC's in-house drama club, the Ariel Players.

James Bolam as Terry Collier

The result was a slice-of-life comedy about two friends, which so impressed the Corporation they offered Clement a job in TV, and asked him to develop the project into a series.

Set in the North East (but filmed in Willesden Junction, London), The Likely Lads was one of the first shows to bring regional dialects to the network. James Bolam was cast as the proudly working class Terry Collier and Rodney Bewes as the slightly more aspirational Bob Ferris.

Friends since school, the two characters now worked together in an electrical components factory, and spent their time dealing with the foibles of life - lack of money, supporting a rubbish football team, worrying about the future and chasing women.

Very much influenced by the kitchen sink dramas of the 1950s, for its time this was strikingly naturalist comedy. The conversations between Terry and Bob felt real, and their concerns where ones shared by most viewers.

Rodney Bewes as Bob Ferris

Appearing on the freshly launched BBC TWO, the show proved an immediate hit, albeit to the limited audience who could actually receive the new channel. The boys truly went nationwide in March 1965, when the series was repeated on BBC ONE.

Two further seasons followed, before Terry was shipped off by the Army. But the double act would return in 1973 for the superior sequel Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?


James Bolam
Terry Collier
Rodney Bewes
Bob Ferris
Sheila Fearn
Audrey Collier
Irene Richmond
Mrs Ferris
Olive Milbourne
Mrs Collier
Alex McDonald
Mr Collier


Dick Clement
Ian La Frenais
Dick Clement

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