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Chronicle Live
David Morton

Where was this Tyneside location from TV's Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads?

It's 50 years since Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads? first appeared on our television screens.

The classic BBC1 sitcom would tell of the mid-life exploits of old pals Terry Collier and Bob Ferris, as famously played by James Bolam and Rodney Bewes. If the original 1960s black and white depiction of the Likely Lads had been set in some generic, unspecified Northern location, the all-colour, much-improved 1970s sequel 'Whatever Happened To...' was very deliberately set in Newcastle.

As one half of the writing team, Tyneside-born Ian La Frenais, would say years later: "I wanted to put my home town on the map." The first episode of 'Whatever Happened To...' was broadcast on BBC1 on January 9, 1973. Strangers On A Train saw Terry and Bob travelling separately by rail to Newcastle and meeting up by accident following Terry's five-year stint in the Army. There would be two series - with the last ever episode being shown on Christmas Eve, 1974.

READ MORE: Tyneside 25 years ago: From Gateshead High Street to South Shields seafront in 10 photos

For those of us who grew up watching the show, it's probably fair to say that the iconic title sequences showing 1970s Newcastle under transformation, accompanied by the poignant song Highly Likely, written by La Frenais and Manfred Mann's Mike Hugg, are seared into our memories. "Is the only thing to look forward to the past?" is one of the nostalgia-packed lines.

The title sequences were captured around the city in the summer of 1972 and featured locations in Byker, Ouseburn, Cruddas Park, Newcastle city centre, and the West End, as well as in Killingworth. If the bulk of the filming for the show's episodes took place at the BBC Television Centre in Shepherds Bush, London, other memorable scenes were captured on location around Tyneside and Northumberland, giving the series a special appeal for those watching in our region.

Fifty years later and the view of Lawrence Avenue, Blaydon, remains largely unchanged (Newcastle Chronicle)

One memorably hilarious episode - the fifth in series two and broadcast on January 29, 1974 - was The Great Race. After a game of football finds Terry and Bob back in the pub and very much out of shape, the pair inadvisedly challenge each other to a cross-country bike race to Berwick to prove they are still as fit as they were in their younger days.

Despite the aspirational Bob's new fondness for badminton and yoga - and with Terry filling his water bottles with Newcastle Brown Ale, the escapade- was always doomed to failure. All sorts of cheating takes place - including tampering with each other's bikes and hitching rides on the backs of lorries - until the pair find themselves finally in Berwick, but stranded at the railway station for the weekend, with no trains back to Newcastle.

Many will recall how the lads begin their ill-fated bike race at Audrey's (Terry's sister) house on an unnamed Tyneside housing estate. But for those with an interest in such TV trivia, where was it? Our then-and-now photographs reveal the location to be Lawrence Avenue in Blaydon, looking down to the Tyne and across the river towards Lemington and Newburn. The two scenes captured 50 years apart show how the location remains largely unchanged.

James Bolam and Rodney Bewes as Terry Collier and Bob Ferris in Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads? (BBC)


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