Lads' Army

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Lads' Army
Also known as Bad Lads' Army (2004)
Bad Lads' Army: Officer Class (2005)
Bad Lads' Army: Extreme (2006)
Genre Reality game show
Voices of Kevin Whately (2002)
Dennis Waterman (2004–6)
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 4
No. of episodes 32
Running time 60 minutes (inc. adverts)
Production company(s) Twenty Twenty
Distributor Warner Bros. Television Productions UK
Original channel ITV
Picture format 16:9
Original run 3 June 2002 (2002-06-03) – 29 August 2006 (2006-08-29)

Lads' Army was a reality game show specifically of the kind that constitutes a historically derived social experiment – other examples being The 1900 House and The Frontier House. Shown on ITV, Bad Lads Army is based on the premise of subjecting today's delinquent young men to the conditions of conscripts to British Army National Service of the 1950s to see if this could rehabilitate them.

The programme was derived from an earlier one called simply Lads Army (a play on Dad's Army) in which a number of volunteers underwent four weeks of basic training for 1950s National Service. Unlike the three sequel series (the ones whose titles began with "Bad"), the original programme's experiment was merely to see if members of the modern British public could cope with the 1950s training, and how they compared to the public of that period. The success of the original series led to the experiment being repeated with the recruits being petty criminals, often given the option to undergo the training by courts as an alternative to serving pending sentences, to explore the proposition that it would be beneficial to reinstate National Service for petty criminals and delinquents as an alternative to more conventional sentences.

The programme format is simple. The recruits are issued period uniforms and equipment and fed, quartered and trained according to the standards of the era. Their free time is limited to visits to the NAAFI with period refreshments and facilities. The recruits form a single platoon made up of two sections, each under the care of a section commander, either Richard Nauyokas or Joe Murray. During training the sections compete against each other, building a sense of competition but also of teamwork and loyalty. Success brings modest rewards. Praise is given for whole-hearted attempts at tasks. The NCOs and officers running the training are all, or have been, professional British soldiers.

Each season had a slightly different format to its predecessors, although the theme of 1950s military training is common to all. The 3rd season had the volunteers train to become officers while the 4th season had the volunteers train to become paratroopers.

Within each series a small number of recruits have either walked out (after a 24-hour cooling off period, generally in the guard house), or been ejected. The majority of the remainder claim some benefit from the experience and some have chosen the British Army as a career at the end of it.

The narrator for the first series was Kevin Whately, then Dennis Waterman took over until the show ended in 2006.

Since ending the show two recruits; Rocco and Adam Oakley have since become pornography stars featuring on the gay-orientated EnglishLads website.


Season Start date End date Episodes
1 3 June 2002 5 July 2002 10
2 8 July 2004 26 August 2004 8
3 28 July 2005 8 September 2005 7
4 11 July 2006 29 August 2006 7

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