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Film Studies 101
Classic British Sitcoms: Would They Make Good Movies?
It's not just Dad's Army - Brit sitcoms are a goldmine for cinema...

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With the announcement that a feature-length Dad’s Army reboot may actually be going ahead, Empire got to reminiscing about some of the other ’70s British sitcoms gathering dust. In fact, a lot of them got a big-screen makeover back when they were on TV. Do they hold up today? In some cases! And would any of them benefit from being polished, re-cast, and dragged into cinemas? Perhaps! Read on for a trip down memory lane – or, for non-Brits, a whistlestop tour of some of our greatest cultural exports since Shakespeare.

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What was it about?
Two inmates – Norman Stanley Fletcher (Ronnie Barker) and Lennie Godber (Richard Beckinsale) – while away their time at Slade prison. Mr MacKay (Fulton MacKay) is a prison officer forever trying to catch Fletcher committing misdeeds, while his deputy, Mr Barrowclough (Brian Wilde) is far more timid and nice.

Was it any good?
Absolutely. Aside from The Two Ronnies, this marked the undisputed high point in Ronnie Barker’s career. It was also extremely popular within British prisons, particularly for the antagonistic relationship between Fletcher and Mr MacKay. It’s also said to have popularised the word "naff" as a verb.

Best bit?
Fletcher is subjected to a medical exam:

Was it made into a film?
Yes indeed. Known as Doing Time in the US, it was made by the same team as the TV show, and thankfully had an original plot. It’s pretty good, and is guaranteed a small place in cinematic history as it marks Richard Beckinsale’s last appearance on film.

Worth remaking?
Could be. Despite the poorly received TV sequel, Going Straight, Norman Stanley Fletcher returned in 2003 with a mockumentary, Life Beyond The Box. It wasn’t great either. It’s still a good concept, especially if, say, Dexter Fletcher took up the main role.

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Have Your Say
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Your Comments

1 Porridge is the greatest sitcom ever made
And it just can't be remade without those two stars. Just can't. If you think it can then look at the gapingly obvious hole at the centre of the ill-judged Open All Hours reboot. More

Posted by elab49 on Friday May 2, 2014, 20:33

A film version of Father Ted would be awesome :) More

Posted by DanTDavies on Friday May 2, 2014, 10:48

3 MPAA (no, not that one)
'My Parents Are Aliens' (1999-2006) was a bloody good British sitcom! The sci-fi angle would put bums on seats, if nothing else. The show sadly disappeared (the endless re-runs don't count) when itv did away with in-house children's television production; 'junk food' ads were banned during kids shows, so it was more profitable for itv to show the likes of 'Midsomer Murders' in the vacated slot. More

Posted by Litshttam on Friday May 2, 2014, 00:59

4 Missing some greats!!!
No Allo' Allo', One Foot in the Grave or Father Ted!? I miss out Dad's Army due to the honourable title mention. But... You have missed out actual classics to include some that aren't (Terry and June). However, I can't Fawlt (see what I've done there) your run down of Fawlty Towers! More

Posted by J_BUltimatum on Thursday May 1, 2014, 22:38

5 coming to a cinema near you soon
Fawlty towering inferno Some mothers do dial m for murder The good life and death of colonel blimp I spit on your one foot in the grave I know what you did last of the summer wine The brittas empire strikes back More

Posted by dean caldicott on Thursday May 1, 2014, 21:40

Shame you've only included 70's sitcoms here as theres quite a few 80's ones too that would do well with a reboot of some kind. The Young Ones, Blackadder, Only Fools and Horses, Red Dwarf. Or for an honourable mention... Desmond's. One of the few great British sitcoms with an all black main cast. More

Posted by GrizBe on Thursday May 1, 2014, 13:44

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