Tuesday, 2 April 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads? - End Of An Era (3 April 1973)

 It’s curious watching this one with the additional knowledge of the originally recorded - but cut before broadcast - ending.
 It was originally to have ended with Terry's estranged German wife, Jutta, arriving at the airport once he had waved Bob and Thelma off on their honeymoon, but Clement and Frenais then thought better of leaving the series on a cliff hanger which they would then have to see through in the second series. A ghostly trace of what nearly was remains through April Walker's credit for the non-appearing Jutta.

 As it is, the programme gained a certain accidental power through its non-comic ending of Terry simply saying goodbye to the married couple and wishing them well. It fits the mood of the friends saying goodbye to carefree youth and accepting new commitments and has a surprisingly muted, 'real-life', feel. It also means that there's little in the way of standout jokes or comical situations in the last couple of scenes. I remember watching a repeat of this with my mother 20 years ago, and her saying, "That was still good, but by the end it was less funny than it normally is". I suppose that doing it like that made us feel that the marriage meant something, I replied.

 With this additional knowledge, there are a couple of brief passages of dialogue that now stick out, when Terry mentions in passing that Jutta is thinking of coming over - just enough to seed the idea in the viewer's mind without their being conscious of it. Oddly, these are the only bits of actual plotting in the entire episode, which allows the natural rhythms and rituals of a wedding day structure themselves into a recognisable narrative. Wedding days might be constructed around memorable touching moments, but they do require an inordinate amount of hanging about and waiting to get to them, and each scene either shows Bob and Terry filling in time or other people mildly panicking and fretting. The whole thing is wonderfully sequenced, conveying the limbo of a long day into a series of connected vignettes - Thelma's mother crying cuts to Bob's mother crying in the Groom's household; Thelma being told that Bob will be in a much of a panic as she is cuts to Terry and Bob looking bored out of their minds; Bob reading five past nine on his watch cuts to the church clock reading eleven, followed by a lovely shot of Thelma and her sister under dryers seen through a hairdressing salon's window.

 (Another terrific shot that I'd never registered before is of Thelma and Susan in conversation in Thelma's bedroom, shown in reflection from the bedside table, with both sisters' faces in separate mirrors.)

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