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Clement, Dick (1937-) and La Frenais, Ian (1936-)

Writer, Director, Producer

Main image of Clement, Dick (1937-) and La Frenais, Ian (1936-)

Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais are British comedy writers whose trademark naturalistic dialogue allied to finely constructed plots and memorable but believable characters have resulted in a number of series which have proved immensely popular with the public and critics alike.

Their breakthrough The Likely Lads (BBC 1964-66) followed the adventures of two working-class northern lads interested in birds, booze, fags and football. It was an early success for the newly created minority channel BBC2, but became a huge hit after a repeat run on BBC1. They were busy the rest of the decade, scripting films and TV shows, with Clement doubling as a BBC producer (for instance on the Peter Cook and Dudley Moore series Not Only But Also in 1966).

In 1973 they resurrected their Likely Lads characters, Terry and Bob, for Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads (BBC, 1973-74), which revisited the relationship some years later and again scored highly. At the same time they created another monster hit, prison sitcom Porridge (BBC, 1974-77), which gave veteran actor Ronnie Barker his best role and delivered some of British television's finest ever situation comedy.

In the 1980s, for ITV, they scripted Auf Wiedersehen Pet (1983-84; 1986) about British construction workers working abroad, which was yet another ratings smash and was also resurrected some years later (2002) for a reunion series, this time on the BBC.

Apart from penning feature film versions of their greatest hits (The Likely Lads, d.Michael Tuchner, 1976 and Porridge, 1979, the latter also directed by Dick Clement), Clement and La Frenais also scripted other memorable large screen works including Otley (d. Clement, 1968), Villain (d. Tuchner, 1971), The Commitments (d. Alan Parker, 1991) and Still Crazy (US/UK, d. Brian Gibson, 1998). Their other TV work together includes Further Adventures of Lucky Jim (BBC, 1967; 1982), Mr Aitch (ITV, 1967), Thick As Thieves (ITV, 1974), Mog (ITV, 1985), Freddie and Max (ITV, 1990), Full Stretch (ITV, 1993) and Over the Rainbow (ITV, 1993). In addition, La Frenais adapted Lovejoy (BBC, 1986-94) for TV and co-created (with Jimmy Nail) Spender (BBC, 1991-93).

In 1975 Clement and La Frenais set up independent production company Witzend (with producer Allan McKeown), which later (1988) transmuted into SelecTV and later still (1996) became part of Thames Television, now owned by Fremantle.

Dick Fiddy

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From the BFI's filmographic database

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Commitments, The (1991)Commitments, The (1991)

Lively, raucous tale of working-class Dublin teenagers forming a soul band

Thumbnail image of Villain (1971)Villain (1971)

Underrated gangster drama starring Richard Burton

Thumbnail image of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet (1983-86)Auf Wiedersehen, Pet (1983-86)

A gang of building workers leave Newcastle to find work in Germany

Thumbnail image of Dick Emery Show, The (1963-81)Dick Emery Show, The (1963-81)

'Ooh you are awful...'. Skits and sketches from the cross-dressing comic

Thumbnail image of Porridge (1974-77)Porridge (1974-77)

Ronnie Barker goes behind bars in the definitive prison sitcom

Thumbnail image of Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads? (1973-74)Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads? (1973-74)

James Bolam and Rodney Bewes return as Geordies Terry and Bob

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Thumbnail image of Bolam, James (1938-)Bolam, James (1938-)