FIFTY years ago tonight, a phrase now indelibly engraved in the annals of our island nation was first uttered by one of Britain’s best-loved characters.
It consisted of only four words. But what words! Those of us fortunate enough to have heard them on the BBC on Wednesday, October 31, 1973, can never forget the hilarious impact of ‘Don’t tell him, Pike!’
Yes, it was the immortal scene from Dad’s Army where the hapless young Private Pike (Ian Lavender) sings a ditty mocking Hitler while a captive U-boat commander (Philip Madoc) looks on, glaring daggers. The German takes out a notebook and asks Pike his name, marking him for future retribution.
That’s when Captain Mainwaring (Arthur Lowe) speaks the famous four words. They’ve justly been voted the funniest in a survey of classic television comedy one-liners. However, I must admit I’m equally fond of the line in the 1971 Dad’s Army movie where Air Raid Warden Hodges (Bill Pertwee) starts manhandling the Walmington-on-Sea soldiers and an angry Mainwaring tells him: ‘I must ask you to keep your hands off my privates!’
In fact, Dad’s Army on the small and big screen gave us such a cornucopia of catchphrases, woven into the action by the show’s brilliant creators, Jimmy Perry and David Croft – ‘Don’t panic!’ ‘We’re doomed!’ ‘They don’t like it up ’em’ – that there are more than enough to suit everyone.
The series, which was first broadcast on July 31, 1968, is rightly hailed as one of television’s all-time greats. It was made when the BBC was still relatively untouched by so-called progressive thinking. The following year, the corporation launched the first series of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, a comedy series of a zanier kind that also became a classic.
These days, the BBC is a disgraceful propagator of bias, wokery, political correctness and downright lies. This is most blatant in its news and current affairs coverage, outrageously so in many cases.
I don’t watch enough of its output to be able to say whether its comedy or drama offerings are similarly infected. But I doubt if anything depicting the lost age that Dad’s Army portrays – one of British sangfroid, stiff upper lip, wariness of foreigners, undemonstrative courage and kindness, muddling through and a determination never to give in – would now get past the corporation’s mindset.
As for the rants of Corporal Jones (Clive Dunn) about fighting the Fuzzy-Wuzzies, they’d have Broadcasting House’s inclusiveness and diversity apparatchiks sending out for the smelling salts (on expenses of course) and calling for counselling.
But, half a century after ‘Don’t tell him, Pike’, nothing can stop us marching on with our fond memories of Dad’s Army. Meanwhile, we look askance at our national broadcaster, a woeful, harmful parody of what it once was. To paraphrase another of Captain Mainwaring’s celebrated sayings: ‘You stupid Beeb!’