The Likely Lads
UK theatrical poster
Directed byMichael Tuchner
Written byDick Clement
Ian La Frenais
Produced byAida Young
StarringRodney Bewes
James Bolam
Brigit Forsyth
CinematographyTony Imi
Edited byRalph Sheldon
Music byMike Hugg
Distributed byAnglo-EMI
Release date
8 April 1976[1]
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

The Likely Lads is a 1976 British comedy film directed by Michael Tuchner, starring James Bolam and Rodney Bewes. It is a spin-off from Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?, although it shares its title with the earlier 1960s British television series The Likely Lads, of which Whatever was the sequel.

The screenplay is by the scriptwriters of the television show, Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais; and the principal roles of Bob and Terry, as well as those of Bob's wife Thelma and Terry's sister Audrey, are played by the original television cast.

This film would also mark the final screen appearance of Bewes and Bolam together; at the time of the film's release, the two had fallen out over a misunderstanding involving the press and never spoke to each other again after that. Bolam denied there was a rift between the two men when Bewes died in November 2017.


An opening pre-credits sequence shows the conception of both Lads during a Second World War air raid. After the opening titles the film cuts to Bob and Terry, both aged about thirty, playing football with some boys.

The main plot begins with Bob and Terry's favourite watering hole, the Fat Ox, being demolished. The middle class Bob feels great sentimentality for this loss, whereas the working class Terry, who is now living in a high rise council flat, is more optimistic about the city's redevelopment, pointing out that he now has a "modern kitchen, a lovely view and an inside lavatory". From this establishing sequence the plot unfolds: Terry receives his final divorce decree, freeing him from his wife in West Germany, and is looking forward to a bright future; Bob on the other hand is growing tired of his married life with Thelma, and jaded with his social activities (the two things he boasted about in the television series).

Terry is now in a relationship with Christina (known as "Chris"), a Finnish beauty who works at the local boutique, of whom Bob is openly envious. Thelma sees this as an opportunity to get Terry married and settled down, thus removing the perceived threat to her marriage to Bob which Terry, as Bob's lifelong best friend, represents. In her pursuit of this, Thelma insists the four of them going away on a caravanning holiday in Northumberland; but while Thelma and Chris enjoy the trip, Bob and Terry do not. They hitch up the caravan, with the girls asleep in it, and set off to drive home. However, while they are stationary at a set of temporary traffic lights, Thelma and Chris get out and Bob drives away before they can get back in, stranding them in front of the churchgoing congregation of the market town. Not realising they're now alone, Bob and Terry nevertheless pick up Sandra and Glenys, two attractive young female hitch-hikers, before Thelma and Chris catch up with them again.

As a result of the trip, Terry and Chris split up, and Bob and Thelma separate. Bob decides to stay temporarily at Terry's new flat; but Terry (who is not expecting him) is busy seducing Iris, a colleague of Chris, and Bob unwittingly walks in on their lovemaking. Due to a misunderstanding, both Bob and Thelma believe the other is having sexual relations elsewhere, and have a furious argument in the back of Terry's employer's van. Unbeknownst to them, the van's public address system is still switched on as Terry had been advertising the latest washing powder, ExtraLite, broadcasting their argument across the neighbourhood. Terry loses his job because of this incident.

Bob and Terry drive up to Whitley Bay for a weekend break, and take a room in a bed and breakfast. Bob promptly seduces the landlady's daughter, whilst Terry is seduced by the landlady. After hearing noises from her daughter's bedroom the landlady walks in and Bob has to make a quick getaway through the bedroom window. The same then happens to Terry, with the daughter walking in on him in bed with her mother; this time it is Terry who makes a rapid and trouserless departure through the bedroom window. But when the landlady goes down to the front door to let Terry back in, Bob appears instead, without his trousers, causing her to cry rape. The Lads make a hasty—and trouserless—departure in Bob's car. They return to Terry's flat safely only to find Thelma and Terry's sister Audrey there, with neither Bob nor Terry able to explain the absence of their trousers.

Taking Audrey's advice, Terry makes plans to emigrate. He signs on as a deckhand aboard a ship leaving Newcastle docks, and the two lads spend his last night in England drinking on board the ship. Unknown to Bob, Terry decides not to go. He disembarks; but Bob, heavily intoxicated, falls asleep on board, and awakes in a lifeboat to discover the ship has sailed. The last scene in the film has Terry explaining to Thelma that they'll realise Bob is on board by accident and put him off at the first port of call, Bahrain.

Throughout the film Bob's car, the recently introduced Vauxhall Chevette, suffers as much indignity as the human characters, having the wheels stolen, crashed across the carriageway to Terry's horror, an accident with the caravan and while escaping trouserless from the guest house, Terry insists Bob break the window to get in, only for Terry to discover his door wasn't locked, and suggest that Bob should be more careful.



The film was greenlit by Nat Cohen of EMI Films. Cohen had enjoyed a deal of success making films of popular British TV series. EMI had an arrangement with Thames Television.[2] It was announced in 1975 as part of a slate of films worth £6 million including adaptations of The Likely Lads and The Sweeney plus Aces High, Spanish Fly and Evil Under the Sun.[3]


The Beehive pub was used in filming.
The Beehive pub was used in filming.

The film was made at EMI's Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire and on location on Tyneside, in and around Newcastle and Whitley Bay.[4] Locations used include the Spanish City funfair at Whitley Bay, the Beehive public house, the Coast Road (A1058) flats and Tynemouth Pier.


The film premiered at the ABC 1 cinema in Newcastle on 8 April 1976, attended by the film's writers & cast, except for James Bolam who was performing on stage at the Mayfair Theatre in London at the time in the play Treats.[1]

Critical reception

Like many film adaptations of British television shows of the 1970s, the film was largely poorly received at the time by the critics. Coventry Evening Telegraph felt the film only "magnified the failings of these situation comedy ideas".[5] Daily Mirror were positive in their review, commenting: "Films based on TV series rarely transfer successfully to the big screen. The Likely Lads is an exception." They praised the film's "warmly-amusing situations", "crisp dialogue" and "real-life characters".[6] Later, in 2004 it received five stars in the Radio Times film guide,[7] and also received good reviews in What's on TV.

The film is rated M in New Zealand for sexual themes, "Suitable for mature audiences 16 years and over."


  1. ^ a b "The Likely Lads". Art & Hue. 2021. Retrieved 1 April 2021.
  2. ^ "Sir Lew Grade the new knight in shining armour for British films", The Irish Times, 27 Oct 1975, p. 14.
  3. ^ "Boost for studios", The Guardian, 9 July 1975, p. 5.
  4. ^[bare URL]
  5. ^ "What's on - films". Coventry Evening Telegraph. 16 July 1976. p. 14.
  6. ^ "Great stuff, lads". Daily Mirror. 15 April 1976. p. 19.
  7. ^ Radio Times: Guide to Films, 2004. p. 825.