Don’t panic! Don’t panic! Alexander Armstrong is getting out the bunting for a 50th anniversary celebration of one of Britain’s best-loved TV shows – Dad’s Army.
Saluting Dad’s Army on Gold (BT TV channel 310) is a four-part documentary that gets insights from cast members, their families, crew and BBC staff involved in the creation of the sitcom back in 1968.
Featuring rarely seen clips, behind-the-scenes footage and secrets from the set, Saluting Dad’s Army is an all-guns-blazing trip down memory lane in Walmington-on-Sea.
Revealing how it all began for Captain Mainwaring’s Home Guard, the four programmes are a ripping tribute to the series. Here are five of the many secrets the show will share...
1. That famous title sequence was nearly a lot less cheery
The classic opening sequence of swastika-clad arrows heading towards Britain accompanied by the strains of Who Do You Think You Are Kidding, Mr Hitler? was originally intended to be a lot darker.
The original opening titles included footage of refugees and Nazi Troops, showing the real threat that Britain faced during the war.
However, BBC One Controller Paul Fox - already nervous about making light of a relatively recent conflict - put his foot down and had that footage removed. The row over the titles between Fox and Head of Comedy Michael Mills included some tasty exchanges of letters, but Fox eventually pulled rank.
2. Walker and Jones were supposed to look very different
Dad’s Army co-creator Jimmy Perry originally wanted to star in the series and had eyed up the role of spiv Private Walker for himself. However, he was eventually persuaded to focus on the writing and took up just a minor cameo in the first series as music hall performer Charlie Cheeseman.
It’s almost impossible to imagine Corporal Jones being played by anyone other than the unforgettable Clive Dunn, but it would have been very different if the producers had landed their first choice for the role – Jack Haig.
Haig would go on to work with Dad’s Army co-creator David Croft on another BBC war-time sitcom, ‘Allo ‘Allo. The veteran actor was cast as forger and inept master of disguise Monsieur Roger "It is I" LeClerc.
3. A Mainwaring and Wilson switcheroo
Arthur Lowe and John Le Mesurier forged a classic comedy partnership as the pompous Captain and his withering Sergeant, but the original plan was for them to be in opposite roles.
Established movie character actor Le Mesurier had been pencilled in to play Captain Mainwaring, with Lowe - best known as Coronation Street's pompous Leonard Swindley - as his sidekick.
Thankfully, the casting team realised that the partnership worked much better if Lowe played the blundering leader as Le Mesurier rolled his eyes from the sidelines.
4. Pike was based on Jimmy Perry
The comedy writer spent his teenage years in the Home Guard, charging around Barnes Common with a collection of older soldiers.
Perry admits that he was the 'Pike’ of the Platoon, running around, playing games, unaware of the gravity of the situation facing Britain.
5. The cast and crew believed the first episode had flopped
The reaction in the studio to the first episode wasn't what they had expected. In fact, Bill Pertwee was getting a big response in his warm-up routine than the rest of the cast got for all their gags in the show.
Crew and cast members including Clive Doig and Janet King admit in Saluting that they believed the show was going to flop after witnessing the muted reaction.
Saluting Dad’s Army airs Tuesdays at 9pm from November 6th on Gold – BT TV channel 310.
Gold Channel is one of the 60+ premium channels available on BT TV along with Alibi, National Geographic and Comedy Central.
Photo Credit: UKTV/BBC