Friday, October 27, 2006
"What became of the people...?"
It was a special moment, the first time we heard the banns of marriage announced in the local church for my brother Noel and his putative bride Vicky.
I was proud, oh so proud... of myself, for not bursting out laughing when the rector asked whether anyone knew any just cause or impediment, why these two may not be joined together in lawful matrimony...
But only because such a scenario can only but call to mind the scene from "Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads?", when Thelma and Bob's banns are greeted by, at the back of the church, Terry bursting out: "Scarborough???!!"
A lovely moment, and just shades the very-similar middle-name-revealing moment in "Only Fools And Horses", to the embarrassment of Rodney Charlton Trotter.
I love Seventies sitcoms - "Rising Damp", "Steptoe And Son", "Porridge", the underrated "The Lovers"... but "... Likely Lads" is specially charming, albeit dependent on coincidental meetings even more often than a Thomas Hardy novel.
Even if Bolam and Bewes were perhaps not quite the besta buddies their screen personalities may have suggested, I defy anyone not to sit in front of a Likely Lads repeat, even at 5.25pm on a bustlingly busy Saturday evening and not want the world to stop, in fact rewind a couple of decades, and just indulge even in the most faded-grey of North-East warehouse backdrops, for at least a greasy slurp of Newky Broon or several...
But it's too, too easy to assume the "Whatever Happened To..." Seventies incarnation is the only one worth treasuring. I dimly recall, about a decade or so ago, BBC2 replaying a few of the original black-and-white "Likely Lads" episodes, and they seemed rather tame curiosities, but I've recently been re-watching the first series, and those shows are much more treasurable and, indeed, incisive then expected.
Okay, the odd scraps of dialect and dialogue seem dated - yet worth resurrecting, especially the lovely replacement-oath, "by the cringe"...
But there's so much more subtlety, while yet camaraderie and nicely-timed crudity (no, not finely-cut salad) than in any of yer too-blunt "Men Behaving Badly"...
Okay, Rodney Bewes isn't a great actor at all, in fact splinteringly wooden for mant scenes. But James Bolam is a joy to watch throughout, as much for his simian reacting as his acting while delivering his indignant or impish lines.
And Sheila Fearn as his sister Audrey is one of the most underrated character roles of any British sitcom, alternately pert and prudish, and bringing the best out of her "brother".
"She's a nice girl, Pat."
- "'Course she is. Good legs, too."
"Can't you think about higher things for a change?"
- "... Yeah, they're not bad an' all..."
If nothing else, the series has encouraged me to use the word "kidder" more often.
And the Terry'n'Bob approach to returning to grim Blighty from foreign holidays is probably the best approach towards dreary disappointment...
"Did you have any troubles with the language barrier?"
- "Language barrier? Had a bit of bother understanding them Brummies, didn't we, Bob?"
"By the time you've chatted up one foreign bird, you could have had three English ones..."
Well, er... maybe, maybe not...
"Seaside? What does she think we are - working class?"
I can forgive Ferris and Collier anything.
Well, almost anything.
Everything... except this:
"Hey, Terry - the Spurs lost!"
I preferred them when their only football result was England F-...