It is 1944 and World War II is reaching its climax. The Allies are poised to invade France and finally defeat the German army. But in Walmington-on-Sea morale amongst the Home Guard is low. Their new mission then – to patrol the Dover army base – is a great chance to revive spirits and reputation, that is until glamorous journalist Rose Winters arrives to write about their exploits, setting the pulses racing and putting the local women on red alert. MI5 then discover a radio signal sent direct to Berlin from Walmington-on-Sea. There’s a spy on the loose! The outcome of the war is suddenly at stake, and it falls to our unlikely heroes to stand up and be counted.
The cast includes Bill Nighy as Wilson (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Love Actually),Catherine Zeta Jones as Rose (Side Effects, Chicago, The Legend of Zorro), Toby Jones as Captain Mainwaring (The Hunger Games, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows),Tom Courtenay as Corporal Jones (Quartet), Michael Gambon as Godfrey (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, The King’s Speech), Blake Harrison as Pike (The Inbetweeners), Danny Mays as Walker (Atonement), Bill Paterson as Fraser (Miss Potter), Sarah Lancashire (Last Tango in Halifax, Lark Rise to Candleford), Alison Steadman (Gavin & Stacey) , Mark Gatiss (Sherlock, Doctor Who), Annette Crosbie (What We Did on Our Holiday), Felicity Montagu (Bridget Jones’s Diary, Alan Partridge),Julia Foster (Alfie), Holli Dempsey (Derek), Oliver Tobias (Arthur of the Britons) and Emily Atack (The Inbetweeners). (synopsis via The Hollywood News)
One of the many British sitcoms I grew up with in a childhood studded with them was Dad’s Army, which ran from 1968-1977, and centred on the well-intentioned misadventures of the Walkington-on-Sea Home Guard, made up of men too young or too old to head off to fight directly in World War Two, or who were in professions deemed necessary for the home war effort.
The job of the Home Guard was to provide some sort of security in the event that the Germans somehow made it to the small towns of coastal England and caused all manner of country-wrecking subterfuge.
In the hands of the show’s creators and writers, David Croft and Jim Perry, who based Dad’s Army in part on his experiences serving in the Local Defence Volunteers which later became the Home Guard, the humour sprang not so much from gently ridiculing the men who served their country in this way as the inevitable petty power conflicts that arise whenever humanity engages in any kind of organised activity.
The characters too were richly-realised, a motley crew of men who though possessed of the necessary patriotism and willingness to serve were perhaps not quite as well equipped in the areas of training or materials as they thought they were, or should be.
Throw in that great stalwart of British sitcoms, a sense of the gleefully ridiculous, and you had one of the best sitcoms to ever grace British TV screens; indeed a BBC poll in 2004 ranked Dad’s Army as the 4th most popular sitcom of all time, while a British Film Institute survey in 2000 of TV industry professionals ranked the programmed 13th in the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes.
It will be interesting to see how this translates to the big screen with actors like Bill Nighy, Michael Gambon, Catherine Zeta Jones and Toby Jones although the trailer looks to have delightfully captured what made the TV show so special and gives me hope this is will be one of those rare TV-to-movie adaptations that actually works.
Dad’s Army opens in UK and USA in February 2016.