‘Dad’s Army’ is released in Irish cinemas this week, and stars Catherine Zata-Jones, Bill Nighy, Toby Jones, Mark Gatiss and Michael Gambon, among others. The film is based on the classic UK TV series of the same name, which ran for 9 series from 1968 to 1977. Like the TV show, the film focuses on the British Home Guard during the last days of World War II.
To celebrate the release of ‘Dad’s Army’ on the big screen, we have taken a look back over other classic UK sitcoms we would like to see revived for the big screen and new audiences.
Although ‘Fawlty Towers’ didn’t have as long a screen life as ‘Dad’s Army’ – the two series of the show were broadcast in 1975 and 1979 – industry professionals voted the show the best British TV series of all time by a BFI poll. The show focused on the fictional hotel Fawlty Towers in the British seaside town of Torquay, and the people who run it; tense and put upon Basil (John Cleese), his bossy wife Sybil (Prunella Scales), Spanish waiter Manuel (Andrew Sachs) and chambermaid Polly (Connie Booth).
‘Fawlty Towers’ was based on the eccentric and odd behaviour of a real life hotel manager, whom the Monty Python team encountered when they stayed in Torquay while filming. There was an idea touted for a feature length version of ‘Fawlty Towers’ in the mid-1990s, where Basil and Sybil travelled to Barcelona to stay with their former employee Manuel and typically ended up in a madcap situation, but this never came to fruition. Although this never came to be, and John Cleese has said he is not interested in revisiting the characters, fans of the show still hold out hope of returning to Fawlty Towers, perhaps still run by the older but no wiser Basil Fawlty.
Rowan Atkinson’s anti-hero, the arrogant Edmund Blackadder, appeared in four series of this BBC1 period sitcom, along with his dogsbody Baldrick (Tony Robinson), Melchett (Stephen Fry) and Lord Flashheart (Rik Mayall). Each series of ‘Blackadder’ was set in a different historical era, and showed Blackadder himself fawning over those in power while using every opportunity to increase his wealth and social standing.
As well as the four series of the show, there have been several ‘Blackadder’ stand alone episodes and sketches, as well as documentaries made to celebrate the show after it ended. ‘Blackadder’ has been praised by fans and critics alike for its farcical and cynical humour, and there have been rumours for many years about the show being reprised for a fifth series, possibly set in the 1960s. For what it’s worth, we at Movies.ie could definitely see a film version of ‘Blackadder’ being made, perhaps during the days before the economic crash of 2007, with Blackadder somehow being behind the fiasco.
ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE
Lovingly lampooned over the years for its over the top central character, ‘One Foot in the Grave’ ran for six series and seven Christmas Specials over eleven years. The show focuses on Victor Meldrew (Richard Wilson) who voluntarily took early retirement and, in trying to fill his days, invariably ends up making problems for himself and battling to solve them in an impatient and over the top manner. Annette Crosbie also starred in the show as Meldrew’s long suffering wife Margaret.
While the show was controversial at times for its dark humour, ‘One Foot in the Grave’ has been voted one of the UK’s best TV shows in a BBC poll and won a BAFTA for Best Comedy. There have been versions of the show made around the world, including Germany and Sweden, and Bill Cosby’s show ‘Cosby’ was inspired by ‘One Foot in the Grave’. A film version of the show could work incredibly well since most of Victor’s problems were so-called “First World Problems”, but the kind that could make him an online sensation.
THE YOUNG ONES
Another show starring Rik Mayall, and another to end its run on a high like ‘Fawlty Towers’, ‘The Young Ones’ ran for two series – each comprising six episodes – from 1982-1984. The show focused on four undergrad students sharing a house, and used their clashing personalities both as humour and tension. Vyvyan (Adrian Edmondson) was a violent punk, Neil (Nilgel Planer) a paranoid hippie, Rick (Rik Mayall) a wannabe anarchist and Mike (Christopher Ryan) was suave, diminutive and a little shady. The show was madcap, often surreal and filled with slapstick, but was well received over its life span, and was one of the first non-music shows ever to be shown on MTV.
After the show, cast of ‘The Young Ones’ recorded a single with Cliff Richard, featured in a video game and did skits for Comic Relief in the UK, and a pilot inspired by the show titled ‘Oh No! Not THEM!’ was made in the US but never picked up. Although many fans saw the TV show ‘Bottom’ – which also starred Mayall and Edmondson – as a continuation of their characters from ‘The Young Ones’, a big screen exploration of just what these four characters did once they finally got their degrees could be a nostalgic treat.
This Ronnie Barker-led TV show ran for three series between 1974-1977, and focused on Norman Stanley Fletcher (Barker) a habitual criminal serving time in HMP Slade. Over the course of the series Fletcher took naïve prison newcomers under his wing and came into conflict with the prison warden, and the show was praised for its realistic depiction of the conflicts between prisoners and staff. A spin-off of the show, titled ‘Going Straight’ ran for one season in 1978 and showed Fletcher trying to live an honest life outside prison. As well as this, a movie version of the show was released in 1979, but we’d love to see the show revived once more; perhaps this time the film could focus on Fletcher turning his life around and becoming a warden himself, thereby completing the circle of transformation.
Do you have a favourite UK sitcom you’d love to see on the big screen? Let us know in the comments below.
Words: Brogen Hayes
‘Dad’s Army’ is released in Irish cinemas on February 5th 2016. Watch the trailer below…