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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Succinct Analytical Summary Of A National Treasure, 25 Jun 2013
By 
Keith M - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Likely Lads (BFI TV Classics) (Paperback)
This 2008 entry in the BFI's series of TV Classics written by film and TV writer and academic Phil Wickham provides a succinct (at around 120 pages) dissection of the inestimable TV series, covering both the 1960s' The Likely Lads and the 1970s' follow-up Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads, featuring Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais' timeless comic creations. As you will have gathered by my use of superlatives, I am something of an ardent fan of the Geordie wonders, and therefore prone to be a tad biased, but I think Wickham does an admirable job here - both in terms of hitting the nail on the head content-wise, in terms of identifying the key reasons why the series is so fondly (and timelessly) regarded, and (as importantly) in his relatively simple, easy-to-read writing style. Wickham's insightful critical account therefore sits as a useful companion-piece to Richard Webber's 1999 book which provides a more extensive, and detailed, account charting the making of the series.

Here, Wickham undertakes a(n) (admittedly relatively high-level, but easily understandable) socio-political analysis of Clement and La Frenais' creation, specifically from the perspectives of the treatment of class and masculinity, as well as attempting to place the series within the context, and history, of British TV sitcom. Of course, as Wickham, and the writing duo from whom Wickham derived some of his analysis via first-hand account, point out, the principal feature of the most lauded TV sitcoms (and something that TLL was ahead of its time in respect of) is that they are essentially character (rather than gag)-driven - and there is no better example of compelling (funny and tragic) comic characters than Terry Collier, Bob Ferris and (not to be left out) Thelma Chambers - and, perhaps most important of all, totally believable characters. Also, not only do Bob and Terry fit into the classic mould of 'loser' (or, more accurately I would say, eternally frustrated) characters (alongside the likes of Hancock, Harold Steptoe, Captain Mainwaring, Basil Fawlty, Rigsby, David Brent, etc), but their empathetic appeal is heightened by their ambivalence to their best pal's (contra) condition i.e. Terry secretly aspires to be more like Bob, and vice-versa.

Suffice to say that Wickham's book contains many such fascinating insights and is highly recommended for all fans of the series.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Retro Is Better-O, 14 May 2011
By 
Lutz Svensson (Deptford, London, UK.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Likely Lads (BFI TV Classics) (Paperback)
Perhaps it's appropriate that something as retro as the academic monograph should be revived to cast a nostalgic eye over Bowlam and Bewes' finest hours. Although, truth be told, it's not *really* an academic monograph at all... despite being approximately the right length (a single afternoon's sitting will finish it off nicely) and being peppered with endnotes nodding to august intellectual sources. No - it's An Appreciation, this, loosely tied to a dash of original research (some fresh Clement/La Frenais interviews) and a few factual revelations.

And as such, it's a perfectly decent book... but the problem, maybe, in being such a reasonable and even-handed critique of the Likely Lads, is that I found myself agreeing with almost everything the book said, while it failed to offer any radical insights or stimulate any deeper understanding of the series. For the general fan (or for trainspotter-y background info), the Orion-published "Whatever Happened To..." is a better buy. And perhaps the serious academic treatise on the subject has yet to be written...
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The Likely Lads (BFI TV Classics)
The Likely Lads (BFI TV Classics) by Phil Wickham (Paperback - 5 Aug 2008)
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