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More Northern English Comedies of the Sixties and Seventies

Updated on November 26, 2018
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I was a TV writer and subeditor for British newspapers and magazines for more than a decade.

Rodney Bewes and James Bolam in "Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?"
Rodney Bewes and James Bolam in "Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?" | Source

Six Northern Sitcoms

Nearest and Dearest

How's Your Father

In Loving Memory

Queenie's Castle

Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?

Nearest and Dearest

Forty six episodes of this comedy were made between 1968 and 1973. It starred Hylda Baker and Jimmy Jewel as a sister and brother - Nellie and Eli Pledge - who absolutely hate each other.

Unfortunately for them, their father left a large sum of money for them in his will - but they can only get their hands on it as long as they can run the family pickle business in Colne, Lancashire, together for five years.

Hylda Baker was a veteran comedian who rung much of the comedy from the script with constant malapropisms, catchphrases, funny voices and mugging.

Jimmy Jewel had been half of a popular music hall act, then became a comedy and serious actor.

In the show the pair would hurl abuse at each other and, rumour has it, spent much of their time off camera slinging insults as the two actors detested each other.

Many of the episodes are available on YouTube.

How's Your Father?

Harry Worth stars as a recently widowed father, trying to cope with two teenage children who he struggles to understand because of the age gap.

The show ran for two series, with 13 episodes in total.

A former ventriloquist, Worth was encouraged to concentrate on his comedy by Oliver Hardy when he toured with Laurel and Hardy in the UK in the 1950s. During the sixties he became a household name, and a much loved star of numerous TV series.

Although he appeared on radio throughout the eighties, he stopped making T programmes as he fought a long battle with cancer. He died in 1989.

Many of the episodes are available on YouTube.

In Loving Memory

When undertaker Jeremiah Unsworth (Freddie Jones) dies in 1929 Yorkshire, his widow Ivy (Thora Hurd) and his hopeless nephew Billy (Christopher Beeny) are left to run the business.

The pair are hopelessly accident prone and no funeral goes past without some terrible mishap. Meanwhile, Billy searches for love with the 'help' of his best friend Ernie Hadfield.

Thora Hurd was a British institution having appeared in film and television since 1942. She went on to make several more series, including a long-running part on Last of the Summer Wine.

Many episodes are available on YouTube.

Queenie's Castle

British 'sex symbol' Diana Dors stars as Queenie Shepherd, mother of three boys living in a tower block in Leeds in the 1970s without a husband. He is assumed to be in prison, though Queenie makes various excuses for his absence.

The family are engaged in a variety of criminal activities - much to the disgust of the neighbours, including moaning Mrs Petty (Lynne Perry, later of Coronation Street) who lives in a ground floor flat and runs a cake shop. Mrs Petty's best friend is Mrs Blakely (Kathy Staff, later Nora Batty in Last of the Summer Wine).

The script was written by Leeds' legendary writer Keith Waterhouse - who wrote Billy Liar - and Willis Hall.

Many episodes are available on YouTube but - to brutally honest - it's not the greatest way to remember Waterhouse.

Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?

I gave that man the best years of my life and now he tells me he's getting married"

The original Likely Lads was a mid-sixties comedy about two young men working together in a factory. In 1973 Dick Clement and Ian Le Frenais revived the character of Bob Ferris (Rodney Bewes) and Terry Collier (James Bolam).

Most of the comedy comes from class tension. Since leaving the factory Bob has got a job working for his father-in-law's building firm, has bought a house on a new estate and has aspirations to be middle class. Terry, on the other hand, has just left the army and likes to put forward his working class credentials - which he believes gives him a moral superiority over his friend.

There's further tension between the two main characters, as Bob's wife Thelma strongly disapproves of Terry - and he has no great love for her either.

Twenty six episodes of the series were broadcast between January 1973 and April 1974 and a spin-off film was made in 1976. Bewes and Bolam fell out after the film was made and never spoke to each other again.


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