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Bewes, Rodney (1937-)


Main image of Bewes, Rodney (1937-)

Beyond the dramatic presentations of ITV's Armchair Theatre (1956-68) and BBC's The Wednesday Play (1964-70) during the British New Wave social realism period of such films as Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (d. Karel Reisz, 1960), A Taste of Honey (d. Tony Richardson, 1961) and Billy Liar (d. John Schlesinger, 1963), British TV managed to incorporate, albeit in a slender stream, a small number of Northern working-class themed sitcoms.

One of the earliest, and perhaps most successful, was The Likely Lads (BBC, 1964-66), an unsensational view, mixing toughness and softness, of life in an industrial town, written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais and featuring young actors James Bolam and Rodney Bewes. Other working class sitcoms followed - Meet the Wife (BBC, 1964-65), Nearest and Dearest (ITV, 1968-73), The Liver Birds (BBC, 1969-79) - but it was Bolam and Bewes's ever-hopeful Northern lads that captured the viewing nation's heart. Oddly enough, actor Tom Courtenay played a pivotal role in this formation. Bewes had played the part of Courtenay's friend Arthur in Billy Liar and Bolam his friend in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (d. Tony Richardson, 1962), leading, indirectly, to their being cast in the sitcom series.

Bewes's cherub-faced Bob Ferris, working class aspiring to middle class respectability, and Bolam's acerbic Terry Collier, always mocking his friend's twee pretensions, became so familiar that the actors were in danger of forever being typecast as 'Northern lads'.

When the series ended, Bewes created, wrote, produced and starred in Dear Mother... Love Albert (ITV, 1969-71), a less abrasive comedy about an aspiring young actor, newly arrived in London. Albert! (ITV, 1972) continued the naïve character's comic misadventures.

He relinquished his own series when Clement and La Frenais decided to revive their 1960s hit as Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? (BBC, 1973-74). The new series, now in colour and still retaining its edge and social bite, but now with a nostalgic sadness of times past, created a resurgence of interest in Bob and Terry's lives. Inevitably, a feature film, The Likely Lads (d. Michael Tuchner), was released in 1976.

In the years since, alongside multiple TV appearances (guesting on game shows and children's programming), he has largely been active in provincial theatre. Unlike Bolam, who swiftly moved on to more demanding performances, Bewes was always content, even proud, to have the ghost of Bob Ferris hovering over him.

Tise Vahimagi

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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-)