2 May 2008 | fiendishgames
I got the DVD of the surviving episodes from series one to three and was a bit disappointed, in truth.
I am a great fan of "Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads?", which I would rank alongside "Steptoe & Son" and "Till Death Us Do Part" as the best British situation comedies, so I was curious to see whether the forerunner to "Whatever Happened ..." was any good.
The good news is that even at this stage of Clement & La Frenais's career, their ear for realistic dialogue was clearly well developed. You can watch the programmes as light drama and enjoy them without worrying about the fact that the scripts aren't that funny, although modern audiences might find the shows a bit slow.
As hinted above, however, the scripts aren't that funny, though the later episodes are better than the early ones, which suggests that the writers were getting to know their characters better and exploit the tension that exists between sensible, open-minded Bob and wild, bigoted Terry.
Even more surprisingly, the acting is only middling to good, whereas in "Whatever Happened ..." it was top notch. I was resigned to Rodney Bewes being a bit wooden (in fact he's not bad, if one assumes he is deliberately underplaying) but James Bolam was a bit disappointing, doing a bit too much mugging for the camera and fake laughing.
Worth renting but not buying if only for the shock of seeing Wendy Richard in her dolly-bird days (also Wanda Ventham).