Sunday, August 03, 2008

Happy 40th Birthday to Dad's Army!

I hope British readers are enjoying the BBC’s excellent Dad’s Army weekend- to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Jimmy Perry and David Croft’s wonderful sit-com.

You can watch an extract from the excellent ‘Don’t Panic!’ tribute programme the BBC showed last night, above, and you can read my own appreciation pieces on why Dad’s Army is still so popular here and here.

Just a couple of further points while we're on the subject of Dad's Army:

1. How many of today’s nasty, sneering sitcoms and so-called 'comedy' shows will be celebrated forty years from now? I’m sure it will be a big fat zero.

2. Why on earth haven’t Jimmy Perry and David Croft been knighted? We give knighthoods away so cheaply nowadays, including to pretentious writers of turgid, unreadable books read by probably no more than half a dozen people (yes Mr Rushdie, I’m talking about you); yet we don’t properly honour the two men who have, over the past forty years, bought so much happiness and laughter to millions of people. Don’t forget Perry and Croft didn’t just give create and write Dad’s Army, but It Ain’t Half Hot Mum and Hi De Hi too. I'm not a fan of the honours system, but if we are to hand out knighthoods- let's make sure they go to people who really deserve them.


Anonymous said...

"Carry On" a few weeks ago, "Dad's Army" now, all so predictable. No wonder DVD has taken off so spectacularly, "commodity" product though it is.

Neil Clark said...

Somehow I could have guessed you weren't a Dad's Army fan 'Philip'.
You probably prefer the nastier, aggressive and more spiteful comedies of today- that certainly goes along with your penchant for nasty, malicious editing of wikipedia pages of people you don't like.

Organized Rage. said...

Last night I watched the episode about one of the unit being a conscientious objector in WW1, great stuff, it was all there, class prejudice, bigotry, quiet courage and comradeship. wonderful stuff and marvelous acting.

Anonymous said...

That's one of the best episodes, precisely because it deals with deeper issues than usual and because at one point Hodges genuinely seems *psychotic* - one of only two or three occasions (all involving that character, and all early on before they moved more towards him falling in water, etc.) where any David Croft series evokes such an extreme emotion.

The broader humour favoured by Croft is less to my taste than the more character-based elements which were mostly the work of Jimmy Perry. Most of the best episodes are from 1969 and 1970. I must admit I find the 1974 episode "Man of Action", where Mainwaring declares martial law, very hard to watch because I am convinced that Arthur Lowe equated it, as he played the role, with what he believed should have been done against the then Labour government, and I think such an equation would have made by much of its audience at the time.

Neil Clark said...

Mick and Robin: Totally agreed-'Branded' is a great episode. It has everything.
While it's true that there were many great episodes from around 1969-70, there was also some excellent ones later on too.
David Croft's humour is definitely broader, as Robin says- and that's why I think Perry and Croft was such a good team because they complemented each other so well. I much prefer the Perry/Croft work (DA,It Ain't Half Hot Mum/Hi De Hi/Your Rang My Lord) to the comedy series Croft did with other writers eg Allo Allo, Are You Being Served.

Anonymous said...

I must admit I find the 1974 episode "Man of Action", where Mainwaring declares martial law, very hard to watch because I am convinced that Arthur Lowe equated it, as he played the role, with what he believed should have been done against the then Labour government,

Clive Dunn claimed that Lowe once asked "Why don't they just shoot them?" in response to the 1973 miners' strike. That said, their political views were about as polarised as it's possible to imagine, so there may have been a bit of exaggeration.

Anonymous said...

Yes. The Croft/Lloyd series never work for me, but then I'm not a fan of broad/end-of-the-pier humour *with no other balancing aspects*.

Anonymous said...

Actually I enjoyed both of them once, but some of us grow tired of the same things.
I don't watch television at all, in fact.

On my Wikipedia edits, I wonder who you could be referring to, other than yourself. I can't see you as a Julie Burchill admirer.

KNaylor said...

Most sitcoms in recent years have become as bland and charachterless as the society from which its cardboard cut out and generic personality types are manufactured.

The only good sitcome I can think of is The Office, but that was funny because it was sending up the attempt of bored suburban office workers to overcome the listless quality of life and David Brent fancying himself as some minor celebrity to liven things up ( and making things seem bleaker ).

A forgotten classic is Shelley, as I mentioned before. One episode, The Nelson Touch, can be watched on Youtube. Even then,in the late 70s, the character played by Hywell Bennett, was fed up with theme pubs ( his local is being transformed or "improved" in the episode ).

The second Youtube clip with Shelley in the bleak dole office is also very funny.

Neil should play it.

BTW, I wish you would write something on Belarus, though I might not agree with you on it. A BBC Report today mentioned a 20 year old girl jailed for 5 days for 'swearing' but really prosecuted for being pro-EU. Belarus hardly ever enters the news and only when certain events like this happen in what one journalist in the report calls 'the dead zone'.

If she thinks life in Belarus is a drab Soviet theme park relic, she might want to live in Britain where people are so bored out of their minds and incapable of engaging with their own lives that they get ratfaced every Weekend on alcopops and unpleasant and aggressive.

Life is not always elsewhere....

Anonymous said...

re. Clive Dunn being Old Labour and Arthur Lowe Old Tory: the story is that Dunn finally accepted an OBE, after many offers, when the series ended, and Lowe (who was never actually honoured) turned it down because he would only accept a "higher" level of honour.

Anonymous said...

I live in the states in Massachusetts and I bought my father a two set DVD collection of Dad's Army for his birthday because I heard so much about it on this blog and elsewhere. He's enjoying it a great deal. It's a series that never made its way over here. We got stuck with 'Are You Being Served?' for years on public television!

Neil Clark said...

philip: no, I'm not a Julie Burchill admirer, you're right about that!
karl: totally agreed. re maunfacturing 'generic personality types' Erich Fromm once wrote that the danger of the past was that men became slaves, but that the danger of the future was that men would become robots. All big business wants is a population of brands-obsessed automatons-it doesn't want free-thinking characters, or 'eccentrics' in any shape or form. I'll certainly try and post some Shelley soon. btw were you a fan of another Peter Tilbury series- It Takes a Worried Man? That was excellent too.
I hope to post something on Belarus shortly too.

slapheads & robin: re the Clive Dunn/Arthur Lowe political disputes- I can remember on the day Arthur Lowe died in April 1982 the BBC news showed a tribute from Clive Dunn, when he said words to the effect that Lowe would come in and say something terribly right-wing about strikers etc, but that despite that he was very sweet etc.

Richard: I'm very pleased your father is enjoying the Dad's Army DVD. Did you know that there was a US version called 'Rear Guard'- I'm not sure if that's commercially available. They showed a clip from it on the BBC1 tribute programme on Sunday. In place of 'Don't tell him Pike' in the legendary sketch- it became 'Don't tell him Henderson'.

Anonymous said...

I thought I share this article with you Neil.

Anonymous said...

I see Neil insists on distorting sitcom history for the umpteenth time by implying that the 1960s/70s were full of fluffy cuddliness and the past decade has been nothing but "nastiness" and "malice".

The recent Comedy Connections on Till Death Us Do Part should have comprehensively disabused that notion - not just for the clips from that particular ratings-topper, but also glimpses of spin-offs like the notorious Curry and Chips. Believe me, you'll have to delve very deep into the small-hours BBC3 schedules to turn up a recent sitcom that's quite as unpleasant as that one.

Compare and contrast with Gavin and Stacey, one of the most sheerly delightful programmes the BBC has ever broadcast and with which, to my shame, I've only just caught up. Isn't selective quotation fun!

Anonymous said...

The episode of 'The Rear Guard' Neil mentions - based on "The Deadly Attachment" - was, in fact, the only one ever made: it never got beyond the pilot stage.

Neil Clark said...

hi slapheads: I've never said that EVERY comedy of the 60s of the 70s was warm, affiliative comedy full of fluffy cuddliness- nor that EVERY comedy of today is nasty and malicious. But there's no doubt that comedy shows, on average, have become nastier and more sneering over the past 30 years. Ali G/Borat. Little Britain. The Catherine Tate Show- to show but three examples. And these aren't three minor examples (like Curry and Chips)- all three were among the 'biggest' comedies of their age. The 'biggest' comedy of the 1970s was Perry & Croft's Dad's Army, not Curry and Chips.