Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (March 2012)|
|Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?|
|Theme music composer||Mike Hugg
Ian La Frenais
|Opening theme||"Whatever Happened to You?"|
|Ending theme||"Whatever Happened to You?"|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||2|
|No. of episodes||27|
|Running time||30 mins|
|Original run||9 January 1973 – 24 December 1974|
|Preceded by||The Likely Lads|
Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? is a British sitcom which was broadcast between 9 January 1973 and 9 April 1974 on BBC1. It was the colour sequel to the mid-1960s hit The Likely Lads. It was created and written, as was its predecessor, by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais. There were 26 television episodes over two series; and a subsequent 45-minute Christmas special was aired on 24 December 1974.
The cast were reunited in 1975 for a BBC radio adaptation of series 1, transmitted on Radio 4 from July to October that year. In 1976, a feature film spin-off was made. Around the time of its release, however, Rodney Bewes and James Bolam fell out over a misunderstanding involving the press and have not spoken since. This long-suspected situation was finally confirmed by Bewes while promoting his autobiography in 2005. Unlike Bewes, Bolam is consistently reluctant to talk about the show, and has vetoed any attempt to revive his character.
The word "likely" in the title referred, in the 1960s series, to those showing promise, but also to those likely to get up to well-meaning mischief; yet, as the 1970s title implies, the mischief days were (or at least, perhaps, should have been) behind them now. Yet in reality life was still seen by both Bob and Terry as something in which the only things that really mattered were beer, football and sex – though not necessarily in that order. As Terry says at one point, in disbelief, "After all, there are some people who don't like football!"
The humour was based on the tension between Terry's firmly working class outlook and Bob's aspirations to join the middle class, through his new white-collar job, suburban home, and impending marriage to prissy librarian Thelma Chambers (Brigit Forsyth).
Since the ending of the original series, in 1966, Bob has left factory life behind for an office job, in his future father-in-law's building firm (something which makes Bob even more desperate to curry favour with Thelma and her family). But what Bob does for a living is not a major part of the show; more important is the simple fact that he is now a white-collar worker, and (at Thelma's urging) is joining badminton clubs, attending dinner parties, and – in all sorts of ways – appearing to Terry as aspiring to join the middle class. Terry sees Bob as a class traitor, and looks upon his own Army experience and solid working class ethos as giving him moral superiority.
To a considerable degree, in fact, the comedy is built upon a basis of class warfare – a theme which was very familiar to British television audiences in the 1970s, a period of virtually continuous industrial strife in Britain. Terry is being left behind, a relic of the attitudes of the mid-1960s, due to his five-year absence in the Army; whereas Bob, Thelma, and Terry's sister Audrey – i.e. all the other main players in the show – have moved on, and are all to various degrees embracing more affluent, middle-class lifestyles. Terry is alone in clinging to his old beer-and-skittles Andy Capp lifestyle, as the others frequently tell him; and the tensions which this causes, between him and Bob, him and Thelma, and him and Audrey, are a main engine driving the comedy.
Terry finds it particularly hard to adjust to all the changes which have occurred in the five years he's been away. As implied in the lyrics to the programme's theme song, the 1970s series plays on both lads' feelings of nostalgia for the lost days of their reckless youth. Both of them are depressed by the demolition of so many of the landmarks of their youth, though Bob, who works for a building firm, sometimes sees it as progress. Bob has also bought his own house, on a newly built estate – something else which sets him apart from his old friend.
Reflecting the distinctions now separating the two young men, the opening credits show Terry amongst the older and more industrial buildings of the city, with Bob seen in modern, more attractive surroundings.
The conflict between what Bob had become, and what he saw himself as, led him to be impulsively inclined to follow the lead set by the more headstrong Terry (especially after a heavy drinking session), who led them recklessly into one scrape after another. Terry frequently behaved badly, his working class instincts dominating Bob's better judgement. Whatever the plan, they rarely got away with it. Nemesis, in the shape of Thelma (and to a lesser extent, Terry's sister Audrey) was usually waiting just around the corner. Bob usually blamed his drinking, heavy smoking, poor diet and reckless behaviour on Terry: a view Audrey and Thelma only too willingly agreed with. This may have been true in part, but actually Bob needed little persuasion to stay out drinking with Terry or to behave accordingly.
Bob does not actually move in to the new house until after his wedding to Thelma - living together is still looked down on, as "not the done thing" (although, in the final episode of series 1, both Bob and Thelma make it clear they have an active sex life). Meanwhile, Bob lives at home; as does Terry, who lives with his mother, father and big sister in a 19th-century terrace – which he claims has far more character than Bob's new house, where "the only thing that tells you apart from your neighbours is the colour of your curtains". For its comic effect, Terry is always big on one-uppmanship, always looking to score over Bob.
The fact that both of them still live at home is very important to the humour. The show is firmly based in the tradition of Northern comedy, in that much of the humour arises from the fact that Bob and Terry are living in a strongly matriarchal society – two men drowning in a sea of women. The battle of the sexes is a strong thread running through the show, a battle which the comedy requires the lads to lose. Bob is henpecked alternately by Thelma and Thelma's mother; and Terry is henpecked by his own mother, by his older sister Audrey, and by the women he dates. All of this necessitates them each living amid their close family. For there are no male influences in either Bob's or Terry's life: neither Bob's father (who is long dead), nor Terry's, ever appear; and on the few occasions we see Thelma's father he is usually being henpecked by either Thelma or her mother.
The thirteen episodes of Series 1, aired in 1973, have a loose narrative thread. The early episodes feature Terry's attempts to settle down again in civvy street, following his discharge from the Army; then the emphasis shifts to the preparations for the wedding of Bob and Thelma.
The Series 2 episodes, the following year, are mostly self-contained. However, the series begins with a two-part story concerning a romance between Terry and Susan, Thelma's sister, partly continued from an episode in series 1. Then, in mid-season, a storyline develops over four episodes, in which Thelma and Bob separate, beginning in "Affairs and Relations".
The show's catchy theme song, "Whatever Happened to You", was written by Mike Hugg (of Manfred Mann) and La Frenais and performed by Hugg's session band, featuring session singer Tony Rivers supplying the lead vocals. A group named Highly Likely subsequently appeared on Top of the Pops to promote the song, and participated in a short UK tour as a result, but Rivers was not involved in these appearances. The song made the lower reaches of the UK Top 40 in 1973. Mike Hugg also wrote the theme tune to the spin-off 1976 feature film, entitled "Remember When".
The complete first and second series of the 1970s show (including the Christmas special) are available in the UK on Region 2 DVD.
Changes in format and style from The Likely Lads
Although Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? was a continuation of the earlier series and even though many of the same characters remained, the style and format had changed.
Unlike the original show, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? was made in colour. Also, The Likely Lads had been quite "stagy" (in the theatrical sense) in its format: being studio bound, with little in the way of location filming; whereas the 1970s show made extensive use of location filming, in and around the North East, in most episodes of series 1, and quite a few in series 2.
In terms of humour, the two shows are very different. The Likely Lads had been a broad comedy, full of jokes and obvious gags, whereas Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? used much subtler humour, derived from the dialogue and characterisation, often interspersed with sentimentality (as the Lads mourned their lost past), and even touches of pathos.
The latter aspect was usually a consequence of one of the Lads, often the more sentimental Bob, reflecting on the past. Nostalgia was a strong thread running through the show. The Lads frequently did ask each other the question in the show's title, Whatever happened to us? – particularly during their more mellow moments in the pub, over a pint of beer.
- James Bolam – Terence Daniel "Terry" Collier
- Rodney Bewes – Bob Ferris
- Brigit Forsyth – Thelma Chambers, later Ferris, Bob's fiancée in series 1, and his wife in series 2
- Sheila Fearn – Audrey Collier, married name unknown, Terry's older sister
- Bill Owen – George Chambers: Thelma's father
- Joan Hickson – Mrs Chambers: Thelma's mother (Series 1)
- Noel Dyson – Mrs Chambers: Thelma's mother (Series 2)
- Anita Carey – Susan Chambers: Thelma's sister, who lives in Toronto, Canada with her accountant fiancé Peter
- Olive Milbourne – Edith Collier: Terry, Audrey and Linda's mother
- Barbara Ogilvie – Alice Ferris: Bob's mother
- Ronald Lacey – Ernie: Audrey's husband
- Elizabeth Lax – Wendy: Bob's secretary
- Christopher Biggins – Podge Rowley: Bob and Terry's friend
- Julian Holloway – Alan Boyle: Bob's friend from Surrey
- Juliet Aykroyd – Anthea: Thelma's assistant at the library
- Cyril Collier – Terry and Audrey's dad.
- Leslie Ferris – Bob's dad (Note: It was established in the 1960s series that Bob's father is deceased).
- Linda Collier – Terry and Audrey's sister.
- Frank Clark – Bob's original choice for best man.
- Nigel "Little Hutch" Hutchinson – a sex-mad pal who always has a racing tip for Terry.
- Cloughie – A workmate of Bob and Terry from the 1960s series. It is mentioned in passing that he now runs a newsagents.
- Hugh and Janey – Bob and Thelma's new middle-class friends.
- Jutta Baumgarten – Terry's German wife, from whom he's separated. She was due to appear at Bob and Thelma's wedding played by April Walker, and remains on the credits despite not appearing in the episode.
- Maurice "Memphis" Hardaker – a member of a skiffle group called Rob Ferris and the Wildcats, he was also mentioned in the original '60s series as work colleague Morrie Hardaker.
- Deirdre Birchwood – an ex-girlfriend of Bob's with somewhat loose morals. The frequent references to her became a running gag (with the line "Don't mention Deirdre Birchwood!" becoming a catchphrase).
- Wendy Thwaites – another ex-girlfriend of Bob's, with whom he had his first sexual experience.
|Episode Number||Episode Title||Summary|
|1.||Strangers on a Train||The lads are reunited by chance, after five years, aboard a homeward-bound train. Unfortunately for Bob, he inadvertently becomes stranded at Doncaster railway station, with fiancée Thelma waiting for him on the platform at Newcastle.|
|2.||Home is the Hero||Terry, newly demobbed from the Army, finds it hard to adjust to all the changes which have occurred in his home town during the five years he's been away.|
|3.||Cold Feet||Due to a misunderstanding, Terry causes havoc between Bob and Thelma, leading Bob to get cold feet about the wedding.|
|4.||Moving On||A depressed Terry decides to go around the world with his old army pal, Hughie McClaren, who's living conveniently nearby in Berwick upon Tweed.|
|5.||I'll Never Forget Whatshername||Terry, now back home again, looks up some of his old flames. His lack of success with them makes him self-pitying and Bob smug, until it emerges that Terry may once have had a drunken fling with Thelma on a coach trip to Blackpool Illuminations.|
|6.||Birthday Boy||Terry becomes depressed when he thinks everyone has forgotten his birthday. A surprise party organised by Bob goes wrong when someone else is accidentally invited to it instead but when he finally arrives, Terry manages inadvertently to offend most of the other guests.|
|7.||No Hiding Place||The Lads try to avoid learning the result of an England football match before the TV highlights are shown that evening. Flint (Brian Glover) tries to spoil it for them, having bet them £10 that they won't get through the day without learning the result. The Lads get to the TV highlights none the wiser about the score, except for Terry seeing a newspaper headline that says "England F...". When Flint tracks them down to Bob's new house, an angry Terry pays him off with £10 (borrowed from Bob). After all that, the match turns out to have been postponed due to a waterlogged pitch: "England – flooded out..."|
|8.||Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?||Concerned about Terry's lack of social activities, Bob invites him to a posh dinner party at Alan and Brenda's. The occasion turns into a disaster, with Terry inadvertently causing havoc; resulting in Bob and Thelma falling out with Alan and Brenda (who later reappear in the episode "The Ant and the Grasshopper").|
|9.||Storm in a Tea Chest||Thelma forces Bob to throw out all his treasured childhood possessions (kept in two battered old tea chests) while hypocritically hanging on to all of hers.|
|10.||The Old Magic||At a posh restaurant, the Lads test out whether they still have 'the old magic' and can still 'pull' the birds... but they end up with a date with a girl who they certainly didn't expect!|
|11.||Count Down||The countdown to Bob's wedding-day begins. Terry, who despises the over-elaborate wedding preparations, finds an unexpected ally in Thelma's dad George, a staunchly working-class builder. Stirred up by Terry's ridicule, the three men decide to rebel...|
|12.||Boys Night In||The night before the wedding: Bob refuses to have an old-fashioned stag night, preferring a quiet night in with a cup of cocoa and a game of Ludo. Terry tries to get him in the party mood nonetheless; and as a result, they end up in a police cell.|
|13.||End of an Era||Bob and Thelma are finally married. Things will never be the same again: old ways, old days, gone for ever. Or are they?|
|Episode Number||Episode Title||Summary|
|14.||Absent Friends||Terry looks after Bob's new house while Bob and Thelma are on honeymoon, and romances Thelma's younger sister, Susan. This picks up some of the threads from the episode "The Old Magic".|
|15.||Heart to Heart||Bob and Thelma return from honeymoon, and Susan decides to leave Terry and return to Peter in Canada, a decision which Terry agrees with after a heart-to-heart chat between them.|
|16.||The Ant and the Grasshopper||An overworked Bob grows increasingly tired of funding Terry's lazy lifestyle; the allusion in the episode title is to Bob being as busy as a worker ant, and Terry being as lazy and feckless as a grasshopper. Uniquely, there is no dialogue in the first three minutes, where a montage of scenes show Bob frantically busy and Terry lazing around.|
|17.||One for the Road||Bob is caught drink-driving. Terry, in the same cell for football hooliganism, attempts to help him out.|
|18.||The Great Race||The Lads relive their active youth, with a bicycle race to Berwick-upon-Tweed, but cheat each other to a standstill. Unfortunately, they're unable to return home by train, so have to cycle all the way back too.|
|19.||Some Day We'll Laugh About This||Bob and Thelma go away for a weekend's skiing in Scotland. In their absence, Terry romances Bob's bored neighbour, Sandra, whilst doing some building work at Bob's new house. The episode features a cheeky milkman called Les and sight-gags of people falling through floors.|
|20.||In Harm's Way||Terry reluctantly takes a job as a hospital porter: thereby causing a series of disasters, the victim of each one of which is Bob. This picks up from the previous episode, with the injured leg Bob sustained in falling through a floor putting him in hospital, and into the path of nemesis...|
|21.||Affairs and Relations||Our heroes, gone fishing, catch Thelma's dad "playing away" with his blonde secretary at the Barrasford Arms Hotel in the village of Barrasford in Northumberland. Then Thelma turns up unexpectedly and thinks the blonde is with Bob. As an added complication, the hotel's attractive barmaid (Carole Ann Ford) is attempting to seduce Terry; but though he's far from indifferent, the situation between Bob and Thelma results in the encounter being fruitless.|
|22.||The Expert||Thelma leaves Bob, due to his supposed infidelity in the previous episode. Terry offers his help as an expert on marriage guidance – despite the disaster which was his own marriage!|
|23.||Between Ourselves||Terry moves in with a depressed Bob and amusingly plays housewife in Thelma's absence, while Bob tries (unsuccessfully) to conceal from their friends and neighbours that Thelma has left him. Terry finds Thelma sympathetic for once, as they finally discover they have something in common: they both find Bob impossible to live with!|
|24.||The Go-Between||Terry tries to fix things up between Bob and Thelma, but Bob ends up with his head in a gas oven. This episode brings to a conclusion the "on/off" storyline between Bob and Thelma which began in "Affairs and Relations".|
|25.||Conduct Unbecoming||Both of the Lads end up in court on separate assault charges involving the same local ruffian, Dougie Scaife (played by Alun Armstrong). Armstrong also played Terry's milkman in the 1976 feature film spin-off, "The Likely Lads", although it's unclear whether that character is supposed to be Scaife.|
|26.||The Shape of Things to Come||Bob, worried that Terry is ruining his life, just as Terry's recently deceased Uncle Jacob did to his own best friend, decides to sever their ties. As ever, though, he finds he can't escape, and Terry emerges triumphant as always. We see in Uncle Jacob and his best friend a picture of how Bob and Terry will be in forty years time, bringing the second series to a humorous conclusion.|
|In 1974, all 26 episodes from series 1 and 2 were repeated on BBC 1 in a continuous 26 week run leading up to Christmas, culminating in a new Christmas Special:|
|27.||Special Christmas Edition||Amongst other adventures (including Terry passing his driving test and Bob growing a scary beard) Terry drives Bob and Thelma to a Christmas party as their minicab driver, and waits for them outside; leading to further misunderstandings, and more accusations from Thelma. (First broadcast on Christmas Eve 1974)|
The 13 episodes of Series 1 were adapted for radio, with the original television cast, and broadcast on Radio 4 in 1975, from 30 July to 22 October. This series is periodically re-broadcast in the "classic comedy" hour on digital radio channel BBC Radio 4 Extra.
Before the Seventies series was made, the cast had already been re-united twice, in 1967 and 1968, to record sixteen of the original television scripts for two series (of eight episodes each) on BBC radio, the scripts for which were adapted for radio by James Bolam.
To emphasise continuity, the opening section of the title credits at the start of each Seventies episode includes a short montage of black-and-white stills photos of Bob and Terry in scenes from the 1960s series, presented as if in a photograph album. The leather-bound photo album which Bob gives Terry before the wedding, in the episode "End of an Era", is also the one seen in the opening credits.
To avoid bad feeling over billing, Rodney Bewes and James Bolam were alternated in the opening credits, so that one week Bewes was billed first and the following week Bolam was. In the closing credits the billing was reversed, with whoever had been billed second in the opening credits being billed first.
Bewes maintained his connections with The Likely Lads, appearing in a cameo role as the old newspaper seller in a 2002 ITV re-make of the series' most popular episode, "No Hiding Place", starring Tyneside presenters/actors/entertainers Ant and Dec, which aired under the title "A Tribute to the Likely Lads".
In 1995 and 1996 the series was repeated in its entirety on BBC 2. It went on to become a short-term staple of cable channels, and was again shown on satellite and cable TV in 2008–9. In April 2013, the first series began a repeat run on BBC Four, its first showing on terrestrial television since 1996. It has also been released on DVD. The movie spin-off usually appears at least once a year on TV, around Christmas.
One of the most notable continuity points about the show is that Terry has been away in the Army for "five years". However, there was a real-life gap of seven years between the end of the original series in 1966 and the sequel in 1973. Also, there are numerous references in the Seventies show to the Lads' shared adventures in 1967, plus citations of that year as the time when Terry was last in town. And, from the audience's point of view, Terry was last heard in the radio series, broadcast during 1967 and 1968. Taken all together, it suggests Terry's army service lasted for the five years from 1968 (i.e. the end of the radio series) to 1973.
Terry's full name is Terence Daniel Collier, born 29 February 1944. Bob's full name is Robert Andrew Scarborough Ferris, born a week earlier. These dates can be worked out from dialogue in the episode "Birthday Boy". The "Scarborough" in Bob's name is because he was conceived there (although this is contradicted in the opening flashback sequence in the 1976 feature film). Terry's "silver tankard" joke in his best man's speech at the end of Season 1 (in the episode "End of an Era") also seems to imply that he, not Bob, turned 21 first.
Terry is younger than his sisters Audrey (Sheila Fearn) and Linda (who is never seen). Their parents are Edith and Cyril Collier. Terry's father is not seen in either series of the 1970s show; neither is Bob's father, Leslie, who had died 12 years previously (as established in the Sixties episode "Friends and Neighbours"), so wasn't around when Bob – an only child – was growing up. Terry's dad is neither dead nor absent: he is continually referred to in the Seventies series, and also in the feature film, but is never actually seen (although, in the opening flash-back in the film, a back view of him is briefly visible, which is clearly James Bolam; and Bolam also provides the voice-over dialogue in that scene). Bob's mother, Alice, occasionally appears; Terry's mother (Olive Milbourne) is frequently seen in the 1973 series.
Thelma's full maiden name is Thelma Ingrid Chambers. Thelma's father, played by Bill Owen, is George Chambers. Her younger sister is Susan, who lives in Toronto, Canada with her accountant fiancé Peter.
The lads attended Park Infants School, Park Junior School, and Park Secondary Modern. Thelma was with them for infants and juniors, but then went to the grammar school. Notable school romances for the Lads included the revered (but sadly never seen) Deirdre Birchwood, who was the basis of a running joke in Series 1, where any mention of her (or of any other former girlfriend of Bob's) was guaranteed to upset Thelma. (A Deidre Birchwood actually appears in an episode of the Bewes vehicle, Dear Mother...Love Albert, and is referred to in many episodes of that programme. Her name comes from a little girl Bewes knew in real life, he was re-united with her on This is Your Life.) The lads also were in the Scouts together.
Bob lost his virginity to Wendy Thwaite, according to the Series 1 episode "I'll Never Forget Whatshername", who scored 8 stars (out of 7!) on his scoring system.
Terry's German wife is called Jutta (pronounced Uta) Baumgarten. The couple married in November 1969, but split up after seven months, in June 1970, when West Germany defeated England in the 1970 FIFA World Cup. Confusingly, Terry later says they were married for two years "on and off", which further clouds the continuity issue of Terry's time away. She was due to appear in the episode "End of an Era", played by April Walker, but the scenes featuring her were omitted from the broadcast version.
Terry's address is given in the dialogue as 127 Inkerman Terrace ("No Hiding Place"); but external shots (in "The Ant and the Grasshopper") clearly show a different house number. Bob and Thelma live at Number 8 of an unspecified avenue on the Elm Lodge Housing Estate (The house in the opening titles is on Agincourt at the Highfields estate in Killingworth).
Bob's immediate neighbours at his new house are the Lawsons and the Jeffcotes, again never actually seen in the show. A couple called the Nortons are also later referred to as living next door.
It is revealed (in the episode "Storm in a Tea Chest") that the boys used to be in a skiffle group called Rob Ferris and the Wildcats. Other group members included Maurice "Memphis" Hardaker, named after a real-life friend of the show's co-creator and co-writer Ian La Frenais.
The Lads' workmate from the 1960s series, Cloughie (played by Bartlett Mullins), does not feature, other than a passing mention in the first episode that he now runs a newsagents.
Two running jokes in the show are never fully explained: Terry's supposedly injured leg, which he claims to have injured in the Army ("I never talk about it"), and his aggressive preoccupation with being referred to as "wiry" rather than as "thin" or "slim". The latter is, in fact, a continuation of a running gag in the original 1960s series, in which Terry was paranoid about being thought weedy.
The pubs frequented by the lads include The Black Horse (which is their most regular "local", featuring buxom barmaid Gloria), The Fat Ox, The Drift Inn, and The Wheatsheaf. Others mentioned in passing include The Swan, The Ship, and the Institute.
Friends of the Lads who are regularly spoken of but never seen include Frank Clark (Bob's original choice for best man, who had the same name as a Newcastle United F.C. player of the time), and Nigel "Little Hutch" Hutchinson (a sex-mad pal, who frequently has a racing tip for Terry). Bob's new middle-class friends who we hear of but do not appear include Hugh and Janey; but a new pal we do meet (in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" and "The Ant and the Grasshopper") is affable Londoner Alan Boyle (Julian Holloway).
The episodes "I'll Never Forget Whatshername" and "Storm in a Tea Chest" were based in part on elements in the 1960s episode "Where Have All The Flowers Gone?"
The titles for the 1974 Christmas Special call the show simply The Likely Lads. The opening scenes are set in late September, on the day of Terry's successful driving test.
Exterior shots were filmed on Tyneside and around the North East, while interiors were shot at the BBC Television Centre in London.
The genuine affection held by Clement and LaFrenais for the golden age of movies is reflected in the show. For instance, nearly all of the episode titles (from "Strangers on a Train" to "The Shape of Things to Come") are based on the titles of well known films; and the script frequently features jokes about popular movies (such as Terry's dig at Bob, on learning that he's becoming middle-class, that his new friends include "Bob and Carole, and Ted and Alice" – a reference to the 1969 film of that name).
The BBC decided not to commission a third series of the show, partly because Dick Clement and Ian LaFrenais had written a pilot script for another 1973 series, entitled Seven of One, in which Ronnie Barker appeared in seven different situations from different writers, each of which was a try-out for a possible series. The BBC decided they liked best the one by Clement and LaFrenais, who found themselves suddenly offered a new series, starring Ronnie Barker, which became the television comedy Porridge.
Writing and production for the new show, which debuted in the autumn of 1974 and ran for three series, made it impossible to schedule a further series of The Likely Lads. Instead, Clement and LaFrenais began to develop a one-off script, which became the Likely Lads feature film, which was eventually made in 1976.
In 1976 a feature-length movie was released, written by Clement and La Frenais, which was directed by Michael Tuchner. By this time both lads had moved house (Bob and Thelma to their detached house, and Terry to a high-rise flat). Terry now has a Finnish girlfriend called Christina ("Chris"), played by Mary Tamm.
The movie opened with the Lads lamenting the demolition of their favourite pub, The Fat Ox. It then did what so many film spin-offs in the Seventies did, taking the regulars out of their normal environment and sending them off on holiday. The result is a caravanning holiday for Bob and Terry, accompanied by Thelma and Chris. The complications resulting from the trip lead to Terry and Chris splitting up, as a result of which Terry decides to emigrate, signing on as a crewman on a cargo ship.
Bob and Terry sneak one last late-night drink together aboard Terry's ship, anchored in the docks; but Terry has second thoughts and disembarks the next morning. Bob, however, awakes – hung over – aboard the ship, as it sails for Bahrain. This was an ironic reversal of the ending of the original Sixties show (where Terry, missing Bob – who had joined the Army – joined up too, only to discover that Bob had been discharged with flat feet).
Ian McDiarmid, who went on to play the Emperor Palpatine / Darth Sidious in four Star Wars movies, made his film debut here, playing a vicar. Future 1980s sitcom icons Vicki Michelle and Linda Robson also had small parts. Vicki Michelle had already appeared, as a different character, in the second series of the Seventies show (in the episode "The Ant and the Grasshopper").
Any future plans for the lads were never announced; but if they existed they were scuppered by Bewes and Bolam falling out.
In 2008, The Gala Theatre in Durham staged the world premiere of The Likely Lads, adapted for the stage by Dick Clement and Ian LaFrenais and directed by Simon Stallworthy. The title roles of Bob and Terry were played by David Nellist and Scott Frazer respectively.
In May 2011, The Tynemouth Priory Theatre, in Tynemouth, Tyne and Wear, were granted the rights to become the first non professional company to stage the production. It became one of the theatre's most attended productions, selling out well in advance for all performances. Terry was played by Brendan Egan and Bob by Stu Bowman.
In popular culture
- The song "It Could Be You" by the Britpop band Blur contains a reference to the Likely Lads at the start of the second verse: "The likely lads are picking up the uglies. Yesterday they were just puppies."
- The title song "What Happened to You?" was recorded and released as a single, sung by Highly Likely. It was also released as a single by the British punk band Snuff, entitled "Christmas Single".
- The Libertines have a song entitled "What Became of the Likely Lads".
- The characters of Bob and Terry appear in the Kim Newman short story anthology Back in the USSA, in the story "Teddy Bears' Picnic".
- Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant have said the show was an influence on The Office.
- McSmith, Andy (7 November 2007). "Look back in anger: Whatever happened to The Likely Lads?". The Independent. Retrieved 18 April 2013.
For years afterwards, it was assumed that Bolam and Bewes were friends off screen as well as on, a pretence they kept up because their public expected it. It was finally blown in 2005, when the ageing Bewes published his memoirs, in which he revealed that they had comprehensively fallen out 30 years earlier and had not spoken since. He blamed Bolam's fear of having his privacy invaded and of being eternally typecast.
The final breach, as Bewes told it, occurred after Bolam's wife, Sue, announced to her husband, while he was driving, that she was pregnant. He almost crashed the car. Bewes repeated this story in a newspaper interview, thinking that it was already public knowledge, then got a frosty reaction when he rang Bolam to forewarn him. "There was this dreadful silence. He put the phone down. I called him back. He didn't answer. He hasn't spoken to me since", Bewes claimed.
- "BBC Two - The Office - An interview with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant".
- A Likely Story: The Autobiography of Rodney Bewes. Century. 1 September 2005. ISBN 0712669922.
- BBC Comedy Guide, The Likely Lads
- BBC Comedy Guide, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?
- The Likely Lads on Tyne
- Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? at BBC Programmes
- Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? at British Film Institute Screen Online
- Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? at the Internet Movie Database