02 September 2006
Bad Lads’ Army

So we come to the end of yet another series of Bad Lads’ Army - British TV’s most subversive programme.

While the massed ranks Establishment would have us believe that there is nothing that can be done about the current crime wave, Bad Lads’ Army drives past delivering a well-aimed two-fingered salute. 

The programme (originally Lads’ Army) starts from the simple premise that there is nothing wrong with today’s youth that could not be solved by a month of 1950s-style National Service.

What happens every year is that some of the 30 or so recruits get chucked out but that most make it through to the end.  Along the way, a regime of physical exercise, kit inspection, psychological challenges, instant punishments, paltry rewards, ill-fitting uniforms and lots and lots of cold water tame their initial arrogance and cockiness and replace it with team spirit, pride and a respect for others.  For many of them passing out from Bad Lads’ Army is the first thing they have ever seen through.

Whether what the viewer sees is a true reflection of what happens (I think yes) and whether the effect lasts (I suspect not) is debatable - TV is such a liars’ medium.  But ITV is to be congratulated for devoting an hour of primetime to the idea that no one is irredeemable.

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