26 December 2015 | l_rawjalaurence
Affecionate Retelling of the Origins of One of Britain's Best-Loved Sitcoms
In the pantheon of dramas based on well-loved television programs, such as THE ROAD TO CORONATION STREET (2010), WE'RE DOOMED was unexpectedly affecting.
Based on the origins of DAD'S ARMY, it had Jimmy Perry (Paul Ritter) trying to make the best of a career as a jobbing actor, being unexpectedly asked to join the cast of BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR, a BBC sitcom starring Reg Varney and Hattie Jacques, produced by David Croft (Richard Dormer). Perry showed Croft a draft script of a comedy based on the Home Guard, and the idea for DAD'S ARMY was born.
Steve Bendelack's production showed the difficulties the duo had in trying to get the sitcom off the ground in the face of opposition from BBC One controller Paul Fox (Keith Allen) and a skeptical head of Light Entertainment Tom Sloan (Stuart McQuarrie). Casting also proved problematic, with the part of Mainwaring being turned down by Thorley Walters and Jon Pertwee among others, before Arthur Lowe (John Sessions) accepted the role. Eventually the cast was assembled, and episodes recorded, but the show's teething troubles were not finished yet, as Lowe in particular found it difficult to remember his lines. Nonetheless, a first series of six was recorded, the first of which went out in July 1968. The rest, as they say, is history.
WE'RE DOOMED made a lot of the often difficult relationship between Perry and Croft, with Perry forced to give ground on several issues, including playing the part of Private Walker. In the end the decision proved the right one, and Perry gave up his career as an actor to become a full-time - and highly successful - writer. Sessions's Lowe also came across as difficult, with many of his basic insecurities as an actor concealed beneath a veil of bluster. He was certainly one of the ensemble that made the sitcom such a hit, but it was difficult for him to accept the company ethic.
Some of the impersonations of real-life actors were better than others, but one of the highlights of this production was Roy Hudd's turn as Bud Flanagan, recording the much-loved theme tune. The veteran actor-comedian is one of the few left these days who actually grew up in the music-hall era; and had played Bud Flanagan many years ago in the stage show UNDERNEATH THE ARCHES. His rendering of the theme song was both poignant yet funny, a reminder of what the sitcom as a whole represented for millions of viewers.