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 North East & Cumbria: Monday September 6, 2004


Likely lads
Men behaving badly?

It's 40 years since The Likely Lads first hit our TV screens. Inside Out pays tribute to this comedy classic which is as fresh and funny today as it was when it was first screened.

The Likely Lads is one of the most enduring shows in television history. Frequently repeated and often hailed as a classic, it gave the North East a voice for the first time when it was originally screened in 1964.

Over the course of 20 episodes, our folk heroes and Geordie partners in crime, Bob Ferris and Terry Collier, extolled the rights and wrongs of everything from beer and birds to Newcastle United and nightlife.

Bob and Terry became Geordie icons, as well known as Andy Capp and as revered as football heroes like Malcolm McDonald and Bobby Moncur.

Goodbye to all that

The enduring success of The Likely Lads owes much to its timeless humour, its nostalgia for the past, and the camaraderie between its two Geordie characters.

Bolam and Bewes with milk bottle
The Likely Lads compare the price of a pint

"The only thing to look forward to… is the past", goes the lyric of the title song of the TV series.

The song and the sitcom spoke volumes about the social and economic revolution of the Sixties and Seventies when Tyneside was undergoing a huge transformation.

Tyneside was grappling with massive slum clearance, the loss of its manufacturing industries, and a cultural revolution.

The times they are a' changing

In Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads Terry returns from a stint in the army and tries to find work in a North East that has changed dramatically since he's been away.

The Facts

There were three series of The Likely Lads between 1964 and 1966

A Likely Lads film was made in 1976 with the story focusing on a disastrous camping holiday

Two series of Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads were made between 1970 and 1973 plus a Christmas Special

Many of the show's master recordings were 'lost' when the master recordings were wiped at the end of the 1960s

There were 16 radio episodes of The Likely Lads in the late 1960s

His attempts to find a new role is a tale of the times, and is as powerful a piece of social commentary as a groundbreaking drama like The Boys from the Blackstuff.

In the film of The Likely Lads Terry and Bob visit a demolition site - it's where their favourite pub used to stand, and they moan about the changing times.

The theme of nostalgia for the past recurs throughout the TV series. In the follow-up Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads we revisit Bob and Terry seven years on, and the social references become more marked.

Newcastle has become a symbol of the times and a backdrop against which the likely lads live their lives.

"The area became important. It became a character," says writer Dick Clement.

Geordie stereotypes?

Bob and Terry are sometimes accused of being Geordie stereotypes, but there is a warmth and restless edge to the characters which cuts through the stereotypical image of the macho male.

Likely Lads and girls
The lads chat up a couple of girls. A young Wendy Richard is pictured to the left

Terry is renowned for his bigoted views and old-fashioned attitudes, but he's also a moaner and a cynic, criticising all and everything around him.

Bob is struggling to shake off the shackles of the Geordie macho image and is trying to become a 'new man' with middle class aspirations, always trying to better himself.

They both have one foot in the past, but they are constantly battling to makes sense of the changing world around them.

Friends and neighbours

The Likely Lads struck a chord with audiences around the country, with 27 million viewers at its peak.

Bob and Terry were like real people, the sort of lads you might meet down the pub on a night out in Newcastle.

Inside Out Quiz
The likely lads share a drink
Are you a likely lad or lass? Take our quiz and test your knowledge of the Likely Lads...

Geordie heroes Ant and Dec are big fans and they can remember watching the programme when they were kids. They were inspired by watching the first 'Geordie' actors to make it big on TV.

Ant explains, "When Dec and I first moved to London and shared a flat, we had likely lads nights. We've been fans all our lives."

It comes as no surprise that the Geordie duo chose to make A Tribute to the Likely Lads based on the famous football episode of the original in 2002. Rodney Bewes even made a cameo appearance.

Faraway places

The Likely Lads was a revolution in television - there were no other programmes set on Tyneside when it was first broadcast.

Writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais explain how difficult it was to break the mould.

Terry and a girl
Fancy coming back to my place love?

"You couldn't have cast anything on Tyneside - there weren't enough Geordie actors then," they recall.

In fact none of the main actors in The Likely Lads was a Geordie. Rodney Bewes was born and bred in Yorkshire, James Bolam was a Sunderland lad, and Brigit Forsyth came from Edinburgh.

The North East setting was also new to television, and it paved the way for Geordie dramas and comedies such as When The Boat Comes In, Auf Wiedersehen Pet and Spender.

The series launched the careers of writing team, Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais who went on to make Porridge and Auf Wiedersehen Pet.

New era, Newcastle?

Today's Newcastle is vastly different from Tyneside in 1964, but what would Terry make of the city 40 years on?

"He'd find plenty to moan about, but he'd see what the city had achieved architecturally and culturally, and he'd be proud," says his creator Ian La Frenais.

La Frenais believes that Bob and Thelma with their aspirations and attempts at self-improvement would also have embraced the new North East.

Looking back Rodney Bewes thinks that The Likely Lads gave Tyneside a sense of pride in itself.

"We gave it a bit of Newcastle pride perhaps. I think when you see the bridges, the art galleries, the coffee bars and the social life and the quays, I think it's progressed a bit - and I hope we all have."

Don't quote me - Famous banter...

Terry "I'd offer you a beer but I've only got six cans".

Bob "In the chocolate box of life, the top layer's already gone… and someone's pinched the orange cream from the bottom".

Terry "This town might have a new Civic Centre mate, but it doesn't disguise the fact that it's a dead end".

Terry "I don't just hate Chelsea. I hate Arsenal, Spurs, Crystal Palace, West Ham… In fact I hate all London clubs".

At the hairdressers ...

Hairdresser "Do you want the beer, egg or herbal tonic?"

Terry "Nothing to drink for me, thanks".

Bob "They're shampoos you fool!".

On people…

Terry "I haven't got much time for the Irish or the Welsh, and the Scots are worse than the Koreans".

Bob "And you never could stand southerners".

Terry "To tell you the truth I don't much like anyone outside this town. And there aren't many families down our street that I can stand".

On the Civic Centre ...

Bob in disbelief "The new Civic Centre on the site of the old Roxy"?

Terry "Hell's teeth! Is nothing sacred?".

See also ...

tyne - Likely Lads
comedy - Likely Lads

On the rest of the web
International Movie Database
Museum TV

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Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

Marvellous series - the sequel was better than the first series. Now a third would be better again. Come on lads - it's what your public wants!

Barrie Denton
Brilliant! The Likely Lads are sorely missed. Will there ever be a repeat of the first series? Is any part of either series on DVD?

One final series of six?

BOB - has been a successful businessman/building firm

TERRY took his redundancy money from the shipyard - put it into buying there old local Pub?

BOB returns on a nostalgia trip?

Smooth talking TERRY persuades him that a small chain of pubs would be a good idea -with TERRY as overall Manager?

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