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Last Updated: Saturday, 16 June 2007, 01:18 GMT 02:18 UK
Clement and La Frenais' comic chemistry
Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais
Clement and La Frenais moved to the US in 1975
With a CV that includes Porridge, The Likely Lads and Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, Dick Clement and Ian Le Frenais can rightfully stake a claim to being the best comedy writers the UK has ever produced.

The duo were born at opposite ends of the country in 1937, Clement in Westcliff-on-Sea, La Frenais in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

They met on holiday, while La Frenais was an out-of-work insurance salesman and Clement was a BBC trainee.

Together they devised a sketch about two cocky Northern lads for Clement's director exams. The BBC was so impressed they commissioned a series - The Likely Lads.

Drama dream

"We were trying to write what we'd seen not on television but in movies - those black and white Sixties movies of the grainy North," Clement told The Independent in 1993.

"We felt we should have been in drama."

Ronnie Barker
Ronnie Barker was the inimitable Fletcher in Porridge
Ultimately, The Likely Lads was too funny to be a gritty Northern drama, but its believable characters and razor-sharp dialogue became a hallmark of Clement and La Frenais' writing style.

Both are evident in the duo's most fondly-remembered creation, cockney criminal Norman Stanley Fletcher.

Played with obvious relish by Ronnie Barker, the character was the lynchpin of prison comedy Porridge - voted the sixth best sitcom of all time by BBC viewers in 2004.

The series ended in 1977, and was followed by the less successful Going Straight, about Fletcher's return to civilian life.

By this stage, Clement and La Frenais had moved to the US - initially to pen a US version of Porridge.

Pet project

Auf Wiedersehen, Pet
Auf Wiedersehen, Pet came to the BBC in 2002
Although that series failed, the pair remain in Los Angeles to this day, where they are often employed to "punch up" dialogue in Hollywood movies like Bad Boys 2.

But their majority of their work continued to be for the UK, with Auf Wiedersehen, Pet their next big hit.

First broadcast in 1983 on ITV, the show tackled the UK's all-pervasive recession.

The script saw seven out-of-work builders head for Germany to find work, and made stars of Jimmy Nail and Timothy Spall.

As with all of their most successful creations, Clement and La Frenais were persuaded to return to the Auf Wiedersehen universe for a second run, and the show was successfully resurrected for the BBC in 2002.

The Commitments
The writers adapted The Commitments for the big screen
Amongst the hits, the duo have created the occasional clunker. Their ITV car-hire sitcom Full Stretch was accused of making "The Darling Buds Of May look cerebral" by one reviewer.

A TV spin-off of Alan Parker's hit film The Commitments - for which they wrote the screenplay - was also short-lived.

Outside the partnership, La Frenais has scored success with his work on Lovejoy and Jimmy Nail vehicle Spender.

But the duo continue to score collaborative successes as they enter their fifth decade, with their Aardman film Flushed Away receiving a Bafta nomination earlier this year.

Hello again to Auf Wiedersehen, Pet
26 Apr 02 |  Breakfast
Auf Wiedersehen, Pet actor dies
17 Jul 04 |  Entertainment
Pet back for fourth series
02 Feb 03 |  Entertainment
Obituary: Ronnie Barker
04 Oct 05 |  Entertainment

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