Last week saw the sad news that comedy actor Clive Dunn had passed away at the grand age of 92 – an all round funny man with even a Christmas number one under his belt, but he was most well known as the man who played Lance-Corporal Jones in the classic BBC sitcom Dad’s Army.
The show ran from 1968 to 1977 and became so popular that it even spawned a film in 1971, and is still regularly hailed as one of the best sitcoms of all time.
Set during World War Two, the show followed the exploits of the Walmington-On-Sea home guard tasked with protecting the country from German invasion. They were a group of loveable, bumbling but ultimately courageous old men lead by the pompous Captain Mainwaring (Arthur Lowe) with the assistance of the gentle Sergeant Wilson (John Le Mesurier).
Characters included mummy’s boy Pike (Ian Lavender), the youngest of the platoon normally at the end of Mainwaring’s “You Stupid Boy” catchphrase; Frazer (John Laurie) famed for shouting “We’re all doomed!” when things went wrong (every episode); Godfrey (Arnold Ridley) who would ask to be excused at the most inappropriate moments; Walker (James Beck), also a young member of the platoon, who would wheel and deal to get what he wants.
Last but not least there was Jones, more often than not at the forefront of the show’s slapstick moments, always enthusiastically shouting “Don’t panic!” whenever things got out of hand. Although Jones was one of the eldest of the platoon, Dunn was only 48 when he first played him. It is a credit to writers Jimmy Perry and David Croft that they created not one but an ensemble of memorable characters.
The series was aware of its setting, most episodes would feature the platoon training and preparing for a German invasion, often with hilarious consequences.
In a few episodes they would come face to face with the enemy, the most famous being The Deadly Attachment where they are tasked with holding a German U-Boat crew and ordering them fish and chips.
Some episodes could be quite poignant, one seeing Jones, Frazer and Mainwaring facing the situation of stopping a German invasion, Mainwaring saying “Probably will be the end of us, but we’re ready for that aren’t we men?” with the others simply saying “Yes sir.”
Dad’s Army is a sitcom whose roots in the no-swearing, inoffensive era of British Comedy mean that the verbal and visual humour continues to be enjoyed by the whole family to this day. Despite ending 35 years ago it is still repeated Saturday nights on BBC Two.
It is a tribute to Clive Dunn, the other superb actors and the wonderful writers that, unlike many other comedies, Dad’s Army’s legacy will undoubtedly live on for many years to come.
So, if you’re bored with The X Factor this Saturday, why not switch over and enjoy a good comedy treat from the old days? You won’t be disappointed.