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Recreating TV once thought doomed

Dan Meier gets permission to speak to Dad’s Army: The Lost Episodes director and executive producer Ben Kellett

These days it feels like we are being served a bottomless supply of absolutely fabulous British sitcom revivals at all hours, but UKTV’s Dad’s Army: The Lost Episodes has the distinction of being lovingly recreated from original episodes of the series that haven’t been seen since they were first broadcast 50 years ago.

“I’m very keen to make it as authentic as possible because it’s so iconic and so much-loved,” says Ben Kellett, director and executive producer of the three revived episodes from the second series of Dad’s Army: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Walker, A Stripe for Frazer and Under Fireoriginally shown in 1969 in black and white then sadly wiped by a tape-limited BBC.

“When I first got in discussion with UKTV about it I was absolutely hell-bent on digging out the old cameras from museums, which had been done before, and making it black and white and 4×3,” Kellett explains. “But actually they made the clear business decision that no one’s going to want to watch it in 4×3 and black and white, and let’s make it modern-day quality.” 

As a result Kellett used four modern cameras (there were five on the 1960s shoot) and shot in widescreen, HD and colour, but graded the picture to more closely resemble the look of series three which was in colour, “because you can’t really grade colour to look like black and white because you make it black and white,” says Kellett. The other consideration was to emulate the original shot rate, which was around half that of a modern sitcom; 200-250 shots per episode, compared with 500-600 in today’s half-hour shows.

Kellett was able to source the original broadcast scripts from the BBC, so he could use the actual camera scripts along with amendments made by either David Croft or Harold Snoad, who initially directed the episodes. “I was able to replicate a lot of the blocking sort of in reverse; by knowing where the cameras were and what camera shot what, I could try and work out where people might be in order to achieve that,” says Kellett. “It’s a slightly backwards way of doing it. I might have obsessed too much about that!”

Read more of our interview with the team behind Dads Army: The Lost Episodes in the July/August issue of TVBEurope.

The first episode airs at 8pm on Sunday, 25th August on Gold.