August 3rd, 2008

Happy Birthday, Dad's Army

I watched Dad's Army when it was new. If you'd told me then that I'd be watching an evening of tribute shows 40 years later, I'd have raised a quizzical eyebrow.

TV back then wasn't made to last. A lot of the early episodes have gone forever. The BBC taped over them.

No-one last night had anything but kind words for the show. A pity really. It's solid enough to bear a little criticism.

Croft and Perry are jokesters. If Dad's Army is better than their other shows it's because they hired some wonderful actors.

Notably Arthur Lowe. He took a stereotype- pompous little man who's riding for a fall- and put flesh on the bones. His captain Mainwaring is one of the immortals. John Le Mesurier's pretty wonderful too. And Clive Dunn. I don't think Dunn gets enough credit for just how funny he is.

The scripts, though, can be thin- and contrived. If there's depth, pathos, subtext, it's because the actors put it there. Had Croft and Perry hired the vaudevillians they usually hired we wouldn't be rating Dad's Army any higher than cheerful romps like Are You Being Served? or It Ain't Half Hot, Mum. 

Lowe and Le Mesurier have brilliant timing- but that's not true of everyone in the cast.  Sometimes what we see on screen is barely good enough.

I don't suppose anyone involved in the show thought they were creating art.  Isn't it interesting how little that matters?