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28 October 2014

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Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads

The Likely Lads, Bob and Terry.

It's rare for a show to simply pick up where it left off, but The Likely Lads managed just that.

Five years after Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais' heroes Bob and Terry had parted ways, they got back together, in colour.

Whereas The Likely Lads had seen its heroes joined by a sense that anything was possible, Whatever Happened To... was more wistful.

James Bolam and Rodney Bewes

In the first series, Terry and Bob were basically the same in their positions and what they wanted. The differences in their temperament and ambitions five years later, however, has become deeper.

Both Terry and Bob are superior to each other. Bob, nouveau-riche and aspiring to live on executive estates, looks down on Terry's lack of ambition.

Terry, after years in the Army, is still as grumpy and gloomy as ever, but now sees himself as the moral superior of practically everyone else on the planet, particularly Bob and has no time for his old friend’s desperation to get on in the white collar world. 

Rodney Bewes and Brigit Forsyth

Despite their differences the two, even after Terry's five years of Army life and nearly destroying Bob's hopes of marrying his fiancé, Thelma, are soon thick as thieves.

Throughout, the tension of Rodney Bewes and James Bolam was naturally enough the fuel for the comedy.

It mocked both the working class roots of its Tyneside base and had even more derision for Bob's middle class pretensions, which mirrored the upwardly mobile times.

What made Whatever Happened... constantly funny was, as is consistently the case with the ones we remember, script and casting.

With both The Likely Lads and its colour sequel we were given the perfect sitcom playing of two best mates.  They'd often had it up to here with each other (Bob continually fed up with Terry's scrounging and Terry always wound up by Bob's pretension), but who were closer to each other than they'd ever be to anyone else.

Partly because it's seldom repeated, but mostly because it's bulletproof in terms of script and acting, Whatever Happened... hasn't dated badly at all.

At its best - the episodes where Terry and Bob don't want to know the results of an England match, or the ridiculous results of them both trying to see if they can still pull women - it's a match for Clemens and La Frenais' even greater hit: Porridge.

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