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Sunday, 12 May, 2002, 18:12 GMT 19:12 UK
Ant and Dec's likeable lads
Ant and Dec in their version of The Likely Lads
Ant and Dec lack the gravitas of Bolam and Bewes
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By William Gallagher
BBC News Online

Neither Ant nor Dec were born when this comedy was first aired and oddly that could be the only thing that holds this back from being excellent.

For despite being called A Tribute to The Likely Lads, this is not a remake of the original sitcom, from 1964 to 1966.

It is much more a reversioning of the superior follow-up series Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? in 1973.

When James Bolam and Rodney Bewes starred in the first version, it was a popular but quite straightforward sitcom.

It focused on two laddish blokes growing up, fancying their chances and if they ever thought about the future at all, it was almost optimistic.

The sequel, set only a few years later, had their spirits a little crushed by a failed life and instead of being about what they would do tonight, it was about how things used to be.

It was still a comedy, it never became really bleak, but there was a terribly poignant undercurrent.

This was brought out best by the show's theme song with lines such as "What became of the people we used to be?" and "Is the only thing to look forward to the past?".

Bolam, one of the finest television actors the UK has ever produced, was especially good at keeping up Terry Collier's blustering, laddish diatribe.

At the same time, he let you know that Terry was deluding himself and that even Terry suspected it.

Well chosen

Ant and Dec have chosen very well which episode to remake: No Hiding Place, the seventh episode of Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?, first shown in February 1973.

This is perhaps the most famous and least melancholic episode.

It shows the pair going to extraordinary lengths to avoid hearing the result of a football match before it is screened.

The sadness is important in this remake because, while the show does hint at the same problems the characters have had, Ant and Dec can treat this as a Men Behaving Only Mildly Badly.

Their performances are fine and both new and old jokes are funny. But neither has the casual gravitas that Bolam and Bewes had.

While they are fun, at times great fun, and always likeable in the roles, Ant and Dec could be doing another episode of Chums, their Friends spoof from SM: tv.

See also:

10 May 02 | TV and Radio
Ant and Dec offer TV lucky dip
03 Dec 01 | TV and Radio
Ant and Dec finish on high
13 May 01 | TV and Radio
Ant and Dec grow up
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