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 North East & Cumbria: Monday September 6, 2004


Likely lads
'Now, we're not lads, we're more Likely Granddads'

It's forty years since the Likely Lads first hit our TV screens. Rodney Bewes, star of the classic sitcom, answers some of the many questions that you e-mailed in ...

The Likely Lads and its follow up Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads are two of the most enduring shows in television history.

Hailed as classic sitcoms, they gave the North East a voice for the first time when they were originally screened in 1964.

Here, Rodney Bewes answers some of your many questions...

Q. Do you think James Bolam's reluctance to participate in further series' is correct? For all the fans disappointment of not seeing you two back together is it perhaps the wisest thing in the whole? (Mo from Washington, Tyne and Wear)
It's not up to me to say whether he is correct or not, it's not up to me to judge him - but I think it would be ever-so funny to do another series, because of being pensioners… my wife says I'm going deaf… I've got a bad knee; I'm prone to bronchitis, and asthma… it would be funny to meet on a park bench with having to wear spectacles to read… we're certainly not lads, we're granddads. But I think that it was good we didn't make hundreds.
Q. Why were you called the Likely Lads - shouldn't it have been the Unlikely Lads? (Ronnie from Consett)
There's a book about the likely lads, written by a guy called Richard Webber, Ian (La Frenais) came up with the Likely Lads, it was lie to guys in a factory, when the older guy would say, about a younger one, "there's a likely'n" (there's a likely one). I didn't think it was a good title at first… but I was wrong - it was a very good title. I've written a book that's going to be published next spring - that's called "A Likely Story" for obvious practical reasons.
Q. How much filming was actually done up here in the North East? (Pete from Alnwick)
Quite a lot of the filming was done up here in the series called "What Ever Happened To…", but "The Likely Lads", was filmed largely in London in a place called Wilsden Junction where there were rows of back to back houses, just like a proper northern back to back street and the end of the end of the alleyway were all the outside lavatories, and a fence of railway sleepers and a fence and a canal. So we didn't need to go north of Wilsden Junction.
Q. Just can't believe its 40 years, I was living in the North at the time, could it be you started the popularity of Tyneside, and put the area on the map. How old are your triplets now? (Katie from Worcester)
Yes, we did, Ian La Frenais wanted it to be specifically Newcastle, and it did put Newcastle on the map and it did give Geordies a pride, as did the football club in the days of Bobby Moncur and "Super-Mac". It gave a pride to a depressed Geordie-land with mass unemployment and I think it's a shame I've not been offered the freedom of the city of Newcastle - I can't understand why I've been overlooked. And the triplets are wonderful - they are 28 years of age and very funny and wonderful.
Q. You were originally straight actors when you came to the series - how did the Likely Lads shape your own acting career? (Sandra from Leicester)
I think we're still straight actors - we've never been comedians or comics, and the word celebrity is a dirty word - I don't know why. I've always maintained that if you get run over by a bus today, you get three lines in The Times because of celebrity - but we're really straight actors, and we are to this day. I've spent my life in the theatre - I've just come back from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe where I've done a one man show for the third time which is not a comedian, but an actors job. It's my fifth Fringe, and after each one, I tour - and I'll tour next year April, May and June, and then tour in Australia and New Zealand. It's an adaptation of "Three men in a boat", so we've never been anything other than actors.
Q. How different is filming today as to when you were filming the series? (Jane from Glasgow)
Very different. Technology has advanced, and jobs have gone. I'm one of those socialist Labour people (old Labour) that believe that jobs are the most important thing - nowadays you go into a studio and there's remote controlled cameras - one guy said so proudly to me "See we've got five cameras and no cameramen or sound-men," and I said "That's ten people out of work." Today directors can see a playback of the film on the camera, and in the old-days, the film went off to the laboratories, and you didn't see it till the next evening. I cannot bear it at say a football match - someone as important as Sir Alex Ferguson holding a mic to himself - we're so sad. It's probably only me that thinks like this - in a minority of one.
Q. What was James Bolam like to work with - were you the best of buddies? (Des from Newcastle)
Oh he was fantastically good, very professional, we were certainly the best of buddies - we had a kind of mutual admiration society going - if you did 13 episodes of "Whatever happened to the Likely Lads" - that's six and a half hours television - you have to get on and that's despite the newspapers wanting us not to get on - I never understood that. But we did get on well - we did.
Q. Have you ever thought of having a home up here in the North East? (Jake from Bedlington)
Well, I come from a place called Bingley in Yorkshire, so I didn't have to change the way I spoke, I didn't have to put on any accent. I remember being dressed as Captain Hook once, going down the pub in a break in filming in Geordie-land, and I remember a woman saying to me "Oh I love your Geordie accent," and I said, "What is it you like about my Geordie accent?", and she said "I know what you're doing - you're doing 'Posh' Geordie." - So it shows, you can get away with doing just about anything. But if I tried to do "Awa hinnie pet" it would have stuck out like a sore thumb - so there's no question of me wanting to live in Newcastle, though I have great affection for it - I know whenever I go over the bridges, it gives me a great romantic kick.
Q. Ant and Dec are great Fans of your series, who do you admire in the acting world and why? (Sally from Wylam)
Albert Finney - he said "no" to a knighthood - that's the why. Paul Schofield said "no", I like Albert, and what he does, and I like him for saying no. I would say "yes" - I just think that it would be quite nice for my wife to become Lady Daphne.
Q. As your character "Bob" - what do you reckon you would think of Tyneside today? (Andy from Wallsend)
Oh I'd be very proud of it, restaurants on the quays, loft flats. I reckon Bob would have been really pleased to walk along the Quayside.
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