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The Likely Lads DVD

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Dating from 1976, The Likely Lads belongs to an often-reviled genre--the feature-length spin-off from the 1970s sitcom. However, these were often a great deal better than TV purists make them out to be. The Dad's Army film, for example, more than measures up to the original series, the first Steptoe and Son movie is as sublime as any 1960s kitchen sink drama and much funnier, while this incarnation of The Likely Lads reaches heights of hilarity not even scaled by the splendid sitcom from which it was derived. Starring Rodney Bewes as Bob and James Bolam as Terry, this is an aimless but endlessly entertaining saga that takes in a calamitous caravan holiday in drizzly Northumbria, a farcical escapade in a seaside guest house and innumerable minor capers in between. The real business here, however, is in Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais' script and characterisation. Most of their best work involves men in confinement of some sort (Porridge, Auf Wiedersehen Pet) and here it's Bob who finds himself timidly chafing at the clutches of domestic "bliss" as personified by wife Thelma (played magnificently and underratedly by Brigit Forsyth, avoiding all the usual battleaxe clichés). He's jealous of the footloose Terry, even though the latter is clearly frustrated at his rootless existence ("I've learned nothing. Y'know what it'll say on my gravestone? "None the Bloody Wiser"!"). Beyond a mere nostalgia-fest, this is vintage, essential Brit-comedy. On the DVD: The Likely Lads is presented in widescreen 1.78:1. Unfortunately, this comedic milestone comes only with the original trailer by way of extras. --David Stubbs

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