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Dad's Army (1968-77)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Dad's Army (1968-77)
8 series of 30 min episodes plus 6 specials
ProducerDavid Croft
Written byJimmy Perry
 David Croft

Cast: Arthur Lowe (Captain Mainwaring); John le Mesurier (Sergeant Wilson); Clive Dunn (Lance-Corporal Jones); John Laurie (Private Frazer); James Beck (Private Walker); Arnold Ridley (Private Godfrey); Ian Lavender (Private Pike)

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The mostly elderly inhabitants of Walmington-on-Sea join the Home Guard to help protect Britain from the Nazi menace.

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Dad's Army (BBC, 1968-77) is one of a handful of TV comedies that fully deserves its 'classic' status. Purely in terms of its sustained popularity the show is without equal - no other UK show dating from the 1960s can still command a primetime repeat - but it's the comedy benchmark it created that sets it apart.

The series, created by Jimmy Perry and David Croft, followed the war-time exploits of the Walmington-On-Sea Home Guard as they prepared to protect Blighty from Nazi invasion. Commanded by the fiercely patriotic Captain Mainwairing (Arthur Lowe) with help from the fey, upper-class Sgt Wilson (John Le Mesurier), the platoon included Corporal Jones (Clive Dunn), an over-eager old soldier who fought under General Kitchener, Private Frazer (John Laurie), a Scottish purveyor of doom, Private Walker (James Beck), a Cockney spiv, Private Godfrey (Arnold Ridley), a frail pensioner with a weak bladder, and clumsy mummy's boy Private Pike (Ian Lavender).

BBC1 controller Paul Fox was initially concerned the series would denigrate the achievements of real wartime heroes. He needn't have worried; Dad's Army never mocks its characters but instead suggests that extreme situations can turn the most unlikely person into the hero of the hour.

Drawn heavily from their own wartime memories, Perry and Croft crafted a comedy that never denigrated its characters' patriotism or bravery while still managing to laugh at the results of their often haphazard achievements. As with much of the best comedy writing, Dad's Army's humour derives from character interaction rather than plotting. Mainwairing's inability to cope with his Sergeant's public school background and Jones' willingness to volunteer for everything create priceless comedy moments, irrespective of context.

This ability to effortlessly generate laughs is due to a combination of superb character writing and performances from a universally excellent cast - a pairing that continues to keep Dad's Army's many catch phrases in common currency. "Don't panic!", "Permission to speak", "You stupid boy!", "We're doomed" and "They don't like it up 'em", are as well recognised as Monty Python's parrot sketch.

A Dad's Army film (d. Norman Cohen) was made by Columbia Pictures in 1971 and a stage show based on the series toured the UK between 1975 and 1976. The programme was adapted for radio and there was also a radio spin-off, It Sticks Out Half a Mile (BBC, 1983-84), that reunited some of the inhabitants of Walmington-On-Sea after the war.

Anthony Clark

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Video Clips
1. Parachute lecture (3:31)
2. An intimate matter (3:27)
3. Training the dog (4:05)
Complete episode (28:02)
Opening credits (0:52)
Production stills
Croft, David (1922-2011) and Perry, Jimmy (1923-)
Laurie, John (1897-1980)
Le Mesurier, John (1912-1983)
Lowe, Arthur (1915-1982)
Perry, Jimmy (1923-) and Croft, David (1922-)
Spiers, Bob (1945-2008)