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No Xmas Special? A Likely Story...
on 14 August 2006
Contrary to a previous reviewer, the DVD of the second Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads series DOES include the 1974 Christmas Special. On the second disc it simply follows the last WHTTLL episode, The Shape of Things to Come. Compared to the DVD issue of the first series of Whatever happened to the Likely Lads, at least some frills have gone into this presentation. For starters, there are episode and chapter menus for the 14 episodes, something which was inexplicably abscent from the series one DVD.
Overall, series two is as good as series one, if slightly marred by the storylines becoming repetitious by the series' end. Part of the timeless appeal of the Likely Lads is that it's a working-class sitcom that hones in on the everday, non-melodramatic aspect of working lives. And it's that aching normality - the endless pots of tea and biscuits, swift-halves and betting slips - that furnishes the show with a warm, inviting glow.
Revisiting these episodes again, though, it's notable that series two has a slightly harder edge in places. Both Terry and Bob have run-ins with the law in two episodes, a reminder, perhaps, that the seventies was a comparatively rough period in British history. In lesser hands, though, this would come to solely define the existance of the British working-class. But here the emphasis is on, well, the pots of tea, swift halves etc etc - and all the better for it.
Nevertheless, there was still a serious point of The Likely Lads - it captured how British labourism no longer related to the material aspirations of the working-classes. Recently Mark Lawson argued that Bob was a proto-Thatcherite, but in actual fact - as indicated in the last episode - Ferris still saw himself as working-class, both socially and politically, but didn't believe the cloth-cap image was apt for the modern day.
Of course, British sitcomes have frequently been about class, but non have been so sensitive to social change as the Likely Lads have been.
Sociological insight aside, though, let's not forget that Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads is still laugh-out-loud funny, as I found out yet again on first airing of these long cherished classics. To combine such frequent hilarity with everday warmth and foresighted intelligence puts both series one and two in the toppermost of British sitcoms. That series two comes with the Christmas special only makes this purchase all the more sweeter.....