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Friday, September 13, 2013

'Dad's Army:' Home Guard Hilarity

Dad’s Army DVD
The 1968- 1977 nine series (my people call them seasons) classic Britcom "Dad's Army" is another example of our Anglo-Saxon friends mining terrific humor from the hardships that they sustained during WWII. A great three-disc eighteen-episode DVD release provides a good sense of this exceptional program.

Other must-see titles from the genre of British wartime humor include "'Allo 'Allo" from "Army" scribe David Croft, "Goodnight Sweetheart," and the beyond awesome recently reviewed release of "Stalag Luft."

Arthur Lowe stars in "Army" as bank executive by day and commanding officer by night George Mainwaring; Lowe is best known for starring in the Britcom "Bless Me Father."

"Army" tells the tales of the (mostly elderly) members of a local unit of the WWII Home Guard in England. The actual Home Guard consisted of volunteers who were either too old or otherwise not physically fit to join the regular army. The Guard served the dual purposes of allowing these volunteers to feel that they contributed to the war effort and providing the regular army limited support in keeping the homeland safe.

Much of the humor in the six "Army" episodes on which this review is based relate to the haphazard training that is characteristic of the actual Guard; the unexpected flood of volunteers is a primary factor regarding that lack of preparedness.

The less than military bearing of the well-intentioned but not so bright or rugged Guard members results in great slapstick humor, rambling WWI memories by one particularly senior member, and generally hilarious chaos. The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, illustrates these elements well.

Other bits of era-appropriate humor relates to rationing and extra-legal activity that circumvent those restrictions, sleeping in air-raid shelters, and arguably excessive displays of national pride.

One of the funniest episodes of the first six in the DVD set is titled "Don't Forget the Diver" and involves a war games exercise with a rival Home Guard unit. Great moments include one scene at the local pub and another in which a home team member literally finds himself up the creek without a paddle.

"Sons of the Sea" is another standout episode; this one has an effort to patrol the local river in a newly acquired boat getting our heroes stranded at sea; their confusion is reminiscent of a great scene in the recently reviewed DVD complete series set of the Britcom  "Kingdom" in which a SCUBA diver who is caught in a current believes that he ends up far from home.

The final conclusion regarding this debriefing is that "Army" offers a wonderfully humorous look at an aspect of British culture with which many of us on this side of the pond have little or no knowledge.

Anyone interested in unclassified information on "Army"is welcome to send an unsecured email; you can also communicate on Twitter's open line by using the code @tvdvdguy.