Dad’s Army, It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, Hi-De-Hi! and You Rang, M’Lord? were all written by just two men: Jimmy Perry and David Croft. Now a new BBC series celebrates their lives and success stories.
The four-part documentary, Perry & Croft: Made In Britain, to screen on BBC2, reveals that the writers drew on personal experience to create their classic comedies.
With Jimmy Perry and the late David Croft, who also directed the sitcoms, talking about their craft through a selection of archive interviews, the series examines how their multi-layered writing produced such much-loved comedy.
Their long-standing writing relationship and friendship began in 1967 when Perry, then an actor, was playing a small role in the BBC comedy, Beggar My Neighbour, directed by Croft.
Jimmy says: “I kept telling myself that I must write for TV because I could create a good part for myself – that was the main reason for writing Dad’s Army,” reports the Daily Express. “It was important I wrote about something I’d experienced and understood. Then I thought about the Home Guard, which I’d served in as a teenager at Barnes and Watford during the Second World War.”
Once he’d written a script, he showed it to David Croft while rehearsing for his brief appearance as Reg Varney’s uncouth brother in Beggar My Neighbour. Suitably impressed, a second script was written and the idea presented to Michael Mills, then BBC’s head of comedy and light entertainment.
The rest, as they say, is history… A long and fruitful writing partnership had begun.
“I know it’s a sign of dotage to keep harping on the good old days, but working in BBC television in the late 60s, 70s and 80s was a wonderful experience,” says Jimmy. “The creative freedom and encouragement were amazing.
“David and I were having lunch in the canteen one day when Huw Wheldon, the then managing director of BBC TV, stopped at our table and asked, ‘What are you boys doing now?’. We told him about whatever show we were working on at the time and he replied, ‘Well done. Cleared it with Michael Mills have you?’. We nodded. ‘Excellent. Good luck.’ And that was it. He moved on.
“No committees to argue with, the BBC had complete confidence in our work. They were indeed the golden days of television,” he smiles.