Growing up in the 1970s, The Likely Lids was just the best.

Audiences of over 20m used to regularly be watching, with those of us on Tyneside feeling that it was just a little bit extra special to us.

Of course what most of us think of as The Likely Lads is not the original one from the 1960 which was made in black and white.

Those are still very watchable if you get to see the episodes that survived, but it was when the extremely talented Dick Clement and Ian Le Frenais revived the characters, that we really remember it line by line, episode by episode.

Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads is quite simply the greatest comedy sitcom ever.

You watched it in the 70s entranced, even the introduction showing the views of Tyneside and the demolition/transformation were required viewing. Terry returning from the army and once again meeting up with Bob, so much having changed in his absence.

As a kid you couldn’t help but love Terry Collier, he was the rogue who got most of the laughs.

His straight man was Bob Ferris and the butt of so many jokes and put downs, we all wanted to be Terry.

It wasn’t that you didn’t like Bob, it was more the fact that Terry was the jack the lad getting up to all kinds, whilst Bob Ferris was the one who was settling down into married life and the trappings of the middles classes that he was upwardly moving into.

Of course, the heart of the comedy was the fact that deep down Bob Ferris didn’t want to be forgetting about his old life, he was really a willing partner as he repeatedly got dragged into hilarious situations and trouble by Terry Collier.

When you got a little bit older you still obviously enjoyed Terry Collier’s role in the brilliant sitcom but you eventually realised that it was the superb Bob Ferris who was the star of the show.

He was the one trying to keep his foot in both camps, still a bit of the jack the lad, as well as trying to live up the expectations of his wife Thelma.

When we talk about the brilliant Bob Ferris character, we are in reality talking about the very brilliant Rodney Bewes.

Yes you needed the excellent script, but for it to come alive it only happened because of those very special performances from Rodney Bewes and James Bolam, as well as a quality supporting cast headed by Brigit Forsyth as Thelma.

Another coming of age moment when it came to The Likely Lads was when you found out that actually neither Bob or Terry were from Newcastle. Rodney Bewes born in Yorkshire and James Bolam in Sunderland!

Watching it as a kid (and the same now…), all the references to Newcastle United made it feel even more that it was OUR programme, Bob and Terry fighting the NUFC corner.

The true quality of Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads is proved by the fact that when you see it now, it is still superb, hasn’t aged one bit in terms of the enjoyment you get from it.

Sadly, when I watch it now, it will be tinged with that sadness of knowing Rodney Bewes has sadly passed away. Tuesday bringing news that the comedy great had died at the age of 79.

Thanks for all the laughs kidda, you’ll be a massive loss to us all.

Enjoy a few reminders here:

  • Peter

    I grew up in the 1970’s and loved Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads… RIP Rodney Bewes

  • csh

    RIP Rodney Bewes, thanks for the laughs

  • Leazes Ender

    The original series was based in Leeds and the Yorkshire accents are very thickly laid on…. now when they came back in ‘Whatever happened’ ….. they were miraculously Geordies…. what happened was the BBC wanted some representation for the North….

    ….its suited the lads better I thought…..Yorkshire sounds ugly……you never heard a Geordie voice on the box it was less frequent than United on Match of the day. Most of the extras were Yorkshire folk in the follow up series as the BBC didn’t have any Geordie actors. they did canny though, the lovely Brigit Forsyth is a Scot.

    It did give us acknowledgment that we existed, Nowadays the BBC thinks Manchester is the North…. shame on them, they’ve turned the clock back fifty years.

    RIP Rodney Bewes Honorary Geordie.

    • Jezza

      Thanks for that very informative insight. For 40 odd years the one question that had been bugging me was that in a programme set in Newcastle why did not one character have a Geordie accent? Finally I’ve got my answer.

  • nevfur

    Legends of the north. Believe it or not the first single I ever bought as a kid was the theme tune to whatever happened to the likely lads on the bbc label lol still got it n all ha ha.
    RIP Bob/Rodney

    • Leazes Ender

      I’ll have it at my funeral.

      • Rich Lawson

        Don’t go for the sight seeing tour in that helicopter !

    • Jezza

      That theme tune is wonderful especially the hauntingly poignant and, in this day and age, very relevant line:

      “it’s the only thing to look forward to…the past”

      • nevfur

        Yeah still love it.

      • nevfur

        “Living was living in hope that would never pass away” like supporting the Toon lol

  • Rich Lawson

    It was a wonderful show,I can still watch it over and over. Football,the episode where they are trying not to know the England v Bulgaria game score before watching the highlights and a brilliant one where they both finish up in the cells,Bob on suspected drink driving and Terry has been to a match v Celtic or Rangers where he ”got my retaliation in first ”.Lucky enough to have met them both.Rodney a couple of years ago in his home town of Bingley.He took the time to chat about the series and sign a couple of items for me.Humble and pleasant man.R.I.P. Bob.

  • Oooh bobbi fleckman

    Terry Collier was not that nice a lad though

    • Jezza

      True he was a bit of a waster. I never really wanted to be like him.

  • Billy Ellwood

    Great show. Still watch the episodes now. The theme music is unique, the show very well put together, and the characters totally believable. It even had my house on the intro – a block of flats in Cruddas Park.
    RIP Rodney Bewes.

  • Leicester Mag

    Got the boxed set last Christmas still bloody funny. End of an era, one that in many ways seemed simpler than now. RIP

    • Jezza

      Yes simpler and infinitely better.

  • Jezza

    Great article. Definitely one of the greatest television programmes ever made and still as funny and relevant today as it was 45 years ago. I have always said Clement and La Frenais should be honoured for their services to the entertainment industry.

    Rodney Bewes will be sadly missed. He was by far the better of the two starring actors in The Likely Lads though they did have a great chemistry together. He was also a much nicer person than James Bolam in real life.

    RIP Rodney Bewes, we’ll miss you, kidda.

  • Whickhamrobbie

    Recently watched the whole series from likely lads right up to the xmas specials ,
    Simply fantastic , true a lot of yorkshire accents from bill owen to brian glover but who cares i can even forgive casting biggins but Howay kidder youll get ya money
    ,youll get ya money . the scene with the blood test for drink driving still has me in stitches .. WARM its got a head on it . classic

  • HappyToons

    Sometime around early 70’s I was in the Gallowgate corner and it was the biggest downpour ever with some of my mates going home at half time because they were drenched. It was against Chelsea. In those days you had the lucky programme number which was on the scoreboard with about 10 minutes left. It was my number but the first digit on my programme was almost worn off due to the wet. We went to the director’s entrance after the match and it was confirmed we had won £50. We were then introduced by John Gibson to John Tudor who was injured that day and then to Rodney Bewes who I guess was a Chelsea fan and a guest. So I actually shook his hand as a big wet drip in my school parka!

  • anyobrien

    Great great series I watched in my childhood never getting it but loving it then in my older years watching it and getting it… Classic classic series and makes ya proud. Rip kidda

  • TheFatController

    In the film I remember Thelma asking Terry’s new European girlfriend ‘I bet you’ve seen nothing of the city?

    Terry: ‘She has, I’ve shown her the brewery and the football ground…’

    But yes, now it’s clear Bob is the star of the show – the film has him at his best because he’d been kicked out by Thelma, staying at Terry’s flat

    bob: has Thelma phoned?
    Terry: no, sorry
    Bob: how can you be sure …..?
    terry : we’re not on the phone

  • Stephen

    Always thought it was a shame that none of the supporting cast were from the area. Could nobody from the north east in the 1970s act?

    • Rich Lawson

      Alun Armstrong popped up a few times.

  • Stephen

    Thelma, I refuse to discuss the matter. :-)