Dad's Army - In The Press

The last surviving platoon member of Dad's Army says the BBC would not make the classic comedy today because the corporation ignores older viewers in favour of the young.

Written by Stephen McGinty and Jason Allardyce. The Sunday Times, 2nd August 2015

Stephen Lowe reveals his father's battle with narcolepsy and why the wife of the Dad's Army actor missed his funeral.

Written by Richard Webber. The Daily Telegraph, 18th July 2015

The Dad's Army actor Ian Lavender who played Private Pike in the hit TV series, has been recognised on Birmingham's Walk of Stars. Birmingham-born Mr Lavender said he was "very proud" of hi home city when he received the honour. He joins the likes of Ozzy Osbourne and ELO's Jeff Lynne, who have also been honoured on the Broad Street trail. As Private Pike, he famously wore an Aston Villa scarf. The actor said when he attended his first game at Villa Park last year, he took the scarf with him.

BBC News, 22nd June 2015

Few sitcoms have aged as well as Dad's Army.

Written by Chris Hallam. Chris Hallam's World View, 8th June 2015

Walmington-on-Sea's Home Guard wasn't in the habit of grappling with the enemy - barrage balloons and ARP wardens, yes, but not the Nazis. People only remember Philip Madoc's surly U-boat captain in The Deadly Attachment. There were other occasions, however, and tonight's was the first. There are even subtitles, the dialogue for which was written by actor Nigel Rideout (here playing a German) - reportedly for an extra £10 in his pay packet!

These were nascent years for the sitcom. It's endearingly low-rent - all the action of an air raid is conveyed by sound effects - and packed with interest: Jones swears at one point and Godfrey rather lets the side down.

Mark Braxton, The Radio Times, 30th May 2015

Captain Mainwaring is clearly enjoying being in charge of his Local Defence Volunteers, but pressure is mounting on him at their lack of weapons. Then Colonel Square (Geoffrey Lumsden) pays a first visit, offering rifles on the condition that he takes over command. It's a well-scripted dilemma introducing a nice note of drama, and leads to an untypically emotional outcome.

It's also a noteworthy episode for Jones, who cries, faints and makes a surprising confession. The usual sloppy drill and ineffectual training are geed up by some amusing horseplay (look out for the film being reversed). And it's helpful for the purpose of one punchline to know that Odol was a toothpaste!

Mark Braxton, The Radio Times, 23rd May 2015

The appropriately titled Museum Piece, from August 1968, sees Walmington-on-Sea LDV - still without uniform or any sense of cohesion - trying to take arms against the sea of troubles. Typically, however, the volunteers are outwitted by an 88-year-old man (the father of Lance Corporal Jones, no less!). What's needed is a dash of cunning, not to mention a few slugs from a bottle of whisky - and that's just by Private Frazer.

A quaint feature of these early outings, a Pathé-style catch-up with the platoon, gives us plenty of knockabout silliness. A temperamental Chinese rocket gun and a recalcitrant horse add to the fun.

Mark Braxton, Radio Times, 16th May 2015

He is the man whose face probably first comes to mind if one is asked to think of a fictional television vicar. Actor Frank Williams first put on his dog collar to play the part of the Reverend Timothy Farthing in Dad's Army 46 years ago. Now 83, he's still going strong, appearing in the new film of Dad's Army, released early next year and starring Catherine Zeta-Jones. He is touring the UK in a show in which he recalls his long career. Along with Ian Lavender, who played Private Pike, Frank is the only surviving regular cast member from the original series.

Written by Neil Clark. The Daily Express, 5th May 2015

Dad's Army attracted an audience of nearly 20 million in its heyday but the Telegraph's 1968 review of the much-loved sitcom's first-ever episode was only lukewarm. This review was published on August 1, 1968. It was written by the-then Telegraph TV critic Sean Day-Lewis, half-brother of Oscar-winner Daniel.

Written by Sean Day-Lewis. The Daily Telegraph, 2nd May 2015

A chance to discover how it all began, as BBC Two repeats the show's black-and-white curtain raiser. If you've never seen it before, check out the amazing prologue - the only time Dad's Army was set in the present day (1968).

"Alderman" George Mainwaring is guest of honour at Walmington's "I'm Backing Britain" campaign launch, and addresses older versions of his former platoon members. They include Godfrey (with glasses), Pike (smoking, with 'tache), Walker (without 'tache) and Frazer (ancient, like George Bernard Shaw). We won't quibble about how old some of these characters would have to be - although we don't see Jones, sadly.

Then we hurtle back to the war years, when a comparatively polite Mainwaring first galvanised the men of the town into a defence force ("Ah, thank you, Mr Wilson"!).

It won't be the sitcom you're used to (Frazer introduces himself as the owner of a philatelist's shop; Godfrey is the only volunteer to possess a gun...) and yet it's a superb scene-setter, raring to burst out of the blocks and full of rousing speeches about unbreakable spirit and bulldog tenacity.

It's formative and fascinating.

Mark Braxton, Radio Times, 2nd May 2015

It's funny to think that what was unpopular back in 1977, when this episode was first broadcast, remains unpopular today. When Private Frazer rounds on Mainwaring with the words "I don't trust banks, I don't trust bankers and I don't trust you!" he gets a warm round of applause from the studio audience. You see, the captain has been dropping unsubtle hints when he learns that the wily Scot keeps his savings in the form of a stash of gold sovereigns.

It's a not-so-familar episode that gives plenty of airtime to the manic gibberings of John Laurie (who plays Frazer), but there are other delights, too: the rare spectacle of a tiddly Sergeant Wilson, a scene set in Hodges' greengrocer's, Fulton Mackay in his second (different) guest role for the show and Jones blowing accidental raspberries during a gas-mask drill.

Mark Braxton, Radio Times, 18th April 2015

"He's used to being unpopular... he's a bank manager." A nice gag; funny then, topical now. It opens this 1977 episode, a surprising little rite-of-passage tale in which a proud-as-punch Mainwaring gets a staff car, and Pike borrows it for his date with Hodges' flirty niece Sylvia.

It's a chance to see other sides of Walmington (a café serving brightly coloured pop) and its characters (Pike with a girlfriend; Wilson giving him a men-of-the-world chat). It's heady stuff for dear old Dad's Army, but comfort yourself with more traditional fare, such as Mainwaring being needled by Wilson's public-school ways (sadly, John Le Mesurier looks noticeably gaunt) and some prolonged, panto-style musical chairs in the staff car.

Mark Braxton, The Radio Times, 4th April 2015

Some Home Guard admin elicits the expected peevishness from Mainwaring in this late-era episode. The Captain reveals his written character assessment of his sergeant to the man himself: "Your general bearing is very slack." Wilson's disparaging laughter at all the red-tape nonsense sounds so genuine that you wonder whether something tickled John Le Mesurier during recording.

It leads to a platoon recruitment drive that requires a face to go on the accompanying poster, but whose should it be? "We should all vote in a secret ballet," suggests Jones. Among other delights are Godfrey's mortified expression at the suggestion that he's being rude, and some top-drawer doddering from Harold Bennett as Mr Blewitt.

Mark Braxton, The Radio Times, 21st March 2015

The show goes a bit Swallows and Amazons this week (Arthur Lowe meets Arthur Ransome, if you will) in a largely lake-based adventure. The platoon's fieldcraft training is capsized by the arrival of the Vicar, Verger and Hodges with the sea scouts and, later, three Germans who have bailed out of their aircraft and float helplessly in a dinghy.

If the story is all a bit loose and lacking urgency, there's still pleasure in predicting what's going to happen when (a certain someone ending up in the water, for example), and listen out for Wilson's somewhat out-of-character spikiness to Captain Mainwaring: "I don't think even you can walk on the water."

Note the day-for-night filming, and the mismatch between videotaped studio recordings and the filmed location scenes, both of which root it firmly in the 70s. And the cast must have loved the outdoor shoots, because it was always sunny!

This week's "who knew?" is Hodges' ability to speak German, having been a guard in a prisoner of war camp during the previous conflict.

Mark Braxton, The Radio Times, 7th March 2015

This episode's mini-drama serves as a neat mission statement for the show, when the tussle over Godrey's home becomes a metaphor for the struggle against Germany. "This cottage stands for England," says the loyal, smiley private, as his comrades dither over telling him his house will have to be demolished to make way for a new aerodrome.

Mainwaring and Wilson visit the picture-postcard property, only to be sidetracked by tea and upside down cake. How nice to see Godfrey's sister Cissy (Kathleen Saintsbury) as well as the more often mentioned Dolly, there's plenty of comic business with a paper door and Jones takes Frazer down a peg or two: "How dare you interfere with my offal queue!"

Mark Braxton, The Radio Times, 28th February 2015

It's teatime in the Pike household, and young Frank joins mum and Sergeant Wilson after a day-long medical. Despite his croup, wonky ankles and a touch of "verdigris" if he stands on anything, "They passed me fit. I'm A1!"

Before he goes on active service - and before his celebratory fish-and-chip-and-fizzy-pop supper, Pike and Mainwaring give blood in the church hall. If only the captain hadn't boasted that his platoon would rustle up 100 pints to beat the total offered by the despised Hodges...

It's a delightful episode: a tidily constructed story, spicy glimpses of home life and a soupçon of pathos. A prize-winning pun from Wilson, too.

Mark Braxton, The Radio Times, 21st February 2015

Warmhearted actor who played the amorous Mrs Fox in Dad's Army.

The Guardian, 16th February 2015

Die-hards always look forward to certain things in a Dad's Army episode: for example, one of Jones's windy speeches. This one results in one of Mainwaring's most despairing puffs of the cheeks.

But before that the simmering resentment the captain has for his sergeant surfaces once more. The occasion is a visit from Lady Maltby (Mavis Pugh, who played shi-tzu-loving Mrs Chase in Fawlty Towers) to offer the platoon her Rolls-Royce towards the war effort. But despite the ill feeling between Wilson and Mainwaring, they are at least united in their dislike of the abhorrent Hodges, who is the butt of the final joke. Even Mainwaring smiles.

Mark Braxton, Radio Times, 14th February 2015

You'd think the squad would welcome the chance to get out of their battledress, but donning morris-dancing outfits to raise money for a new Spitfire is another matter. Frazer moans like a drain about this "pansy Sassenach get-up", Wilson finds his dummy horse most awkward and Jones, too, is in a spot of trouble - and not just with his whiffling.

It seems the loyal lance corporal is having woman trouble: cue a deliciously awkward tête-à-tête between Mainwaring and Mrs Fox in the Marigold Tea Rooms - overheard by half the platoon. The captain is a picture of discomfort as the flighty Fox gets hold of the wrong end of the whiffling stick. Increasingly fraught discussions ensue over who should play Lady Godiva at the town carnival (listen out for Pike's brilliant Town Clerk impression). Writers Croft and Perry display their intimate understanding of the comedy motto "End with a topper, then top the topper". Dad's Army didn't go in for pay-offs very often, but this one is a corker.

Mark Braxton, Radio Times, 7th February 2015

"Over the years that I've come to know the members of this platoon, I've grown quite fond of them, but I can't help feeling sometimes that I'm in charge of a bunch of idiots." It's not often that Captain Mainwaring is quite so scathing about his platoon, but he's prompted by a classic piece of long-windedness from leering loon Private Frazer. It's a towering moment in the midst of some lightweight field-exercise shenanigans, but you'll enjoy the effete expression from Wilson tanning his face while his captain blethers on, and another brief but heavenly example of under-the-influence acting from Arthur Lowe.

Fans of 70s comedy will enjoy the sight of Dave Allen stooge Michael Sharvell-Martin as the Lieutenant.

Mark Braxton, Radio Times, 31st January 2015

The sight of the Vicar and Verger in battledress is just one of many rarities in this extraordinary affair. Among the others are Mainwaring laid up in a hospital bed (with ingrowing toenails), Frazer brandishing a live white mouse on parade and Godfrey having a big speech to remember. Also, poignantly, a note on the floor where James Beck should be standing. This was the first story not to feature Walker; thereafter, bizarrely, he was never mentioned again.

Overlooking a few old-school lines that don't bear repeating, there are a handful of treasures, including Wilson's annoyance at Mainwaring treating him like a labrador, and Frazer comparing the Verger's face to a sour prune.

Mark Braxton, Radio Times, 3rd January 2015

Anyone who enjoys the class collisions of Mainwaring and Wilson will be in heaven with this episode. In "The Honourable Man", Wilson becomes entitled following the death of his uncle. The news induces pride in Pike and his beaming mother, but brings out an assortment of colours in the Captain, including red for apoplexy and green for jealousy.

The welcoming preparations for a visiting Russian worker cause further explosions of pomposity. But the many other weapons in Dad's arsenal are discharged with equal efficacy, from Walker's leavening cockiness to Jones's "cobblers". It's a beauty.

Mark Braxton, Radio Times, 29th November 2014

Original Dad's Army star Ian Lavender is making a cameo appearance in the new film.

Written by Ellie Walker-Arnott. The Radio Times, 22nd November 2014

If you're wondering why almost none of this episode was recorded on video - even the interior scenes - a studio strike in 1973 meant it had to be shot on location with 16mm film. It's a needs-must approach that's appropriate to both the series and the episode. Because when the Home Guard takes an efficiency test, they need all their wits (ahem!) to overcome the bullying supervisor (Fulton Mackay in the same year he'd made his Porridge debut).

Anyone who's endured the nonsense of role-playing seminars at work will cheer Wilson's dismissive air, while the way Godfrey turns an anti-tank artillery piece into a chintzy armchair is a sight to behold.

Mark Braxton, The Radio Times, 22nd November 2014

Dad's Army goes a bit Mack Sennett in this episode when a sealed-order mission turns into a frantic choo-choo chase. King George VI is due to pass through the station, but a mix-up between sleeping pills and saccharine puts a spanner - or a defective brake wheel - in the works.

One false alarm sees Captain Mainwaring moving along a stopped train while sheepishly inquiring, "Your Majesty, are you there?" But the sight of the Vicar, Verger and Hodges on a pump trolley takes some beating.

Mark Braxton, Radio Times, 15th November 2014

Older Press Clippings